Pendle from “The Nick”

This was on my ever expanding “To-do” list since December 2012 as another route up the mighty Pendle Hill from a starting altitude of close to 1,000 feet. However, I wasn’t going to get off lightly, the return leg would feature an ascent of the creepy Fell Wood and a yomp over the bleak Spence Moor. I posted the walk on the walking forum in September then duly swanned off to Spain with no regards for it until my return. In total eleven of us started and completed the walk and here are how things panned out.

I left Southport at around 8:30 after calling at a service station for a steak pie (for consumption during) and some full fat milk for after the walk…it’s a new variation of healthy when I walk these days! I reached the start point at around 9.30 give or take the odd minute or two and was astounded to find some of my group – Cogstar and Glyno (odd names 🙂 ) and within a few minutes Karl had arrived too – this was going to be a great turn out…by ten o’clock there were eleven people in our little group – this was almost as many as the last time that I went near “The Nick” with Southport Ramblers. We set off at a lovely pace heading slightly north east along Clitheroe Road, Sabden in search of the best path to take us off to our first hill – Apronful Hill. Legend goes that there was once a giant (the UK’s hills and mountains were seemingly full of these giants at one time or another!), whom seemed to have something against Clitheroe Castle (tosser – it’s lovely!). He took a huge stone from his apron and hurled it at the castle punching a great big hole in the front! This mindless act of violence however caused the remaining rocks to fall out of said apron and onto the ground where they remain to this day. In truth, I did not see a pile of rocks en route whereby I thought to myself “Hmm I wonder how these rocks got here, what an odd place for them!”. All the same,it’s a quaint little story! The next hill to ascend was on the same overall approach to one side of Ogden Clough – Badger Wells Hill. I don’t know why the slope is named Badger Wells Hill, and from a brief google around…neither does anyone else. The summit was fairly obvious but nothing really to shout about but it did provide a minor respite…by this time we were fairly tearing up the hill metaphorically speaking!

Photo of a fellow walker at Ogden clough
Karl at Ogden Clough

Next came Black Hill – The village of Sabden manages to have contained within its’ boundaries two Black Hills – one to the south of the village and ours to it’s north, probably not more than two miles away from each other. The one we ascended did appear to us as a nice little ridge jutting out above Badger Wells hill with a cairn or two – the southern one has a trig point but we weren’t jealous after all… so does Pendle Hill! The route to Pendle was obvious only to yours truly as I pointed due north west and declared “it’s down there…then up there” towards the great divide which is Ogden Clough. From Pendle to Boar Clough via this route is a grind, a trudge, something to do once and once only, however to do the reverse (which our route entailed) was a delight – the company really did help, it hardly seemed any time at all before we were standing akin to the unnamed stream at the start of the climb up the flagged path at Barley Moor. The gathering seemed reluctant to take the first step into the water, I stepped forward (as the leader) and had the wind taken out of my sails as forward stepped Peter and Cogstar…at least I think it was Cogstar (apologies to whoever if not!).

9 of the 11, we all made it without any fuss but who is missing?
9 of the 11, we all made it without any fuss but who is missing?

The progress along the flagged path was swift, it could have taken no longer than ten minutes from the beginning all the way to the trig point at Big End. Pendle is not a generous hill! For every three times one ascends this iconic lump of millstone grit on one occasion and once only will a view of any note be granted…and even then the wind chill factor will play a major role in how many photographs one might feel inclined to take. Sometimes one can see as far away as the Southern Lake District fells and the Yorkshire three peaks. Other times the views extends only as far as the nearby Longridge Fell, Beacon Fell and Parlick Pike. Today from the summit we were not even granted a local view nor the legendary dense mist that can descend on this particular summit with astonishing speed. Oh well, back off the summit it was then!

There’s always one!

I had already declared we would not be descending via the infamous Barley steps – it isn’t brave, it isn’t clever, you don’t get a medal and you do get tired joints so I advised anyone who so wanted to descend via that way we would see them at the bottom of the slope…nobody took me up on that assertion! Our route headed due south for a good few hundred yards as I kept a watchful eye out for the left hand turn which would take us swiftly down to the rear of Pendle House. I like to refer to this route as the “Grit stone Slope” whether there is any grit stone in the environment is not clear but I don’t remember seeing any thing more than a lot of sandstone. As I had previously fallen over on a number of occasions on this descent I took my time and was the last of the eleven to reach the dry stone wall where we would take our lunch break. The views had opened out more – this is not unusual, Pendle and her sense of humour once more! Once more I spotted someone taking the “middle” route that shoots steeply straight up the hill with no signs of any deviations in course and much heather and bracken with which to contend. I probably will do this route once, only once and I will have nobody with me…for now I think anyone going this way is a bit mad…or is ticking off all the different routes up the hill (as I am).

After our lunch break we set off for Barley visitor centre. I pointed out another potential route for another time – the “Under Pendle traverse” which I believe to be the superior route of ascent, this is the one which I took in March on my last visit to the area and prior to that occasion took that route all the way to Under Pendle on the day of the Pendle Witch Walk in August last year – definitely a route that I shall do much more often.

Back to today and after several kissing gates and the odd little wooden footbridge we were back at the Barley Visitor Centre and I was glad to see that it still had the car park attached. Last year a campaign to get a Pendle Witch Museum / Exhibition Centre constructed at the site of the car park was launched by a passionate local historian. In my opinion this would have not been a welcome move and would impact upon the local residents as they struggled to park in their own village, the Cabin Café management as their lovely little Café went out of business and any regular visitor (myself and the likes) who would then also not be able to park in the village. In essence one of those ideas that sound okay as a thought but should never be aired! Yes a museum themed on the Pendle Witch saga would be a wonderful idea but the village of Barley is not big enough to play host to it!

I ordered and slowly consumed a Cappuccino and then we set off onto the second half of the walk…the harder section.

Photo of The Lower Ogden reservoir
The Lower Ogden reservoir


We crossed the intersection of Barley Road and Cross Lane and made our way onto Barley Green – which is in itself not a green but a tarmac road which does carry very light traffic. Our first landmark would be the stunning Lower Ogden Reservoir. This is the biggest body of water in the immediate vicinity in an area that has something of an above average yearly downpour – incidentally it was worth noting that we had so far been subjected to just a couple of very tiny showers. To the left of The Lower Ogden reservoir was the ominous Fell Wood. For the record I have nothing against Woods, Glades and Forest…but Fell Wood gives me an uneasiness that is just not nice. The first time that I walked through here was with Christine in 2010 to the sound of a distant chainsaw on Halloween! Okay it later turned out that the “chainsaw” was a leaf blower but I wasn’t to know!


The demonic Fell Wood – honestly even getting the thumbnail to display has been an ultimate pain in the a$$!

The next time that I walked through this wood was when I did two traversals in one day having got myself all lost on Spence Moor and I can tell you… that… you don’t want to be walking through this ungodly, gloomy piece of woodland at dusk! Imagination overload is not a useful state of mind when walking through Fell Wood. However, as things panned out I don’t think that we were within the confines of Fell Wood for longer than twenty minutes as new leaders of our little procession seemed to have come to the fore and they seemed to be heading onward at full speed. I have never walked up through here before, on all the other three occasions I had gone from top to bottom, when there was a dusting of snow this had been tricky but doable…reverse the direction and thus the slope and oh my did it get to the calves!

Finally I appeared at the other side of the wood at the muddy path which skirts the eastern flank. This short path starts off innocently enough but after a few hundred feet turns into a slippery quagmire and my progress was slow. At the end of the path, opposite the minor summit of Saddlers Height we turned westward and pressed on towards Cock Dole and Driver Height. This was a romp over fairly wet grass, ordinarily this would be a “walk in the park” however after traversing Fell Wood at such breakneck speed I admit…I struggled.

There was some debate over our intended route from the wall atop Driver Height…I thought that we could follow the wall for a few yards and then essentially go over it at a style…erm no! There were no visible styles and instead we practically ran down a very marshy slope in a north, north, westerly direction until we did hit a style and turned west once moor, if we had kept to the original route of simply skirting the northern reaches of Fell Wood I doubt that we would have had to do any downhill sections! Next came the slog as we tramped our divided ways over Cock Dole, up and over Spence Moor and ultimately down over the shoulder of Badger Wells Hill. The rain held off but we were getting steadily wetter from the ground upwards as we waded (in places) our way over this desolate but somehow captivating wet moorland. The views behind to Pendle Hill were once again spectacular as it basked in sun whilst we sloshed across the ground. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I stated that my spirits and Peter’s sank a little at the seemingly endless trudge over Spence Moor, it’s a locale to make a man of you! As we neared a style en route to Apronfull Hill I glimpsed some figures in the distance whom appeared to be sat next to a wall…as we got closer I recognised the figures as being Karl and Joe and his wife and lovely daughters who seemed to have had their camp stove running – crikey how long had we been if they had the time to make soup??? It mattered not and will be filed in my memory as “nice things to remember from Pendle walks”. From here it was quite literally all downhill as we made mincemeat of the slope down Apronfull Hill and towards the cars parked near the Pendle quarries. Not many moments later perhaps surprisingly we were passing people whom were just beginning their ascent!

We reached our cars at roughly 16:05 about six hours and five minutes after setting off. If I could have guessed before what the time might be when we returned to our cars it would have been within twenty minutes of this! This had been a fantastic walk that started off easily, got even easier then got harder and finally became a nice gentle drop in. We had walked some 9.9 miles and ascended roughly 1,650′ which although less than my last few walks was something of an achievement.

I cannot think of Pendle Hill as being ‘just an hill’, I’ve tried…and to me it will never be so. I cannot ever express my feelings towards this spectacular locale without my eyes beginning to mist over (they are now). In short; I love it here. Today I got the chance to knowingly share this wonderful hill with some other people and to do so was a genuine pleasure. I’ve done all of the walks that I had planned for Horwich’s Winter Hill…it practically holds no secrets for me now. I don’t think, don’t want, to ever be in the position to say the same of Pendle…I will return in the spring to attempt the mighty Mearley Moor route, until then…Thank you Pendle for a truly great day out.

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