The Rambler’s “B” walk from Chipping on Sunday 8th of March, 2015
I last visited the beautiful little village of Chipping in 2009 when Christine and I spent a delightful day in the Bowland Fells walking the classic – Saddle Fell, Wolf Fell, Fair Snape Fell – Parlick, Chipping walk. I had often considered a return but then it’s a bit of a drive and since then there have been so few opportunities. So when I saw this walk on the Ramblers’ walk programme I very nearly jumped at it.
The weather prospects were not looking good at 8:15 when I left home and walked down to Lord Street to wait for the coach, but after a few minutes the rain had gone and blue sky was beginning to emerge from behind the layer of grey which was overhead. The coach eventually arrived and within minutes we were being passed the walk information sheets for the “A-C” walks, “C’s” more or less read like ‘here are some tracks and roads because the environment is currently waterlogged’ – I didn’t fancy that! By way of contrast the “A” walk was essentially going up Jeffrey Hill – one half of the lovely Longridge…when I next do Longridge I want it to be a leisurely stroll at 1.5 miles per hour admiring the views over to Parlick and the other Bleasedale fells…nope not “A” either. So “B” it had to be and as this featured an ascension of the sweeping, graceful cone of Parlick then so much the better. We arrived at Chipping a little after ten and immediately headed about fifty yards down the road to a coffee shop – The Cobbled Corner. Although the staff were warm and welcoming I don’t think they were prepared for so many of us arriving en masse. Subsequently when our drinks did arrive it felt like a case of ‘throw this down your neck then get on with it!’.
The three walk groups set off and we headed up a nice tarmac road passing an elevated duck pond on the way, things were looking up. Soon we said goodbye to the tarmac and went off-road and into green pastures…that were somewhat wet. Bowland is famed for its’ water holding capabilities, there are vast amounts of peat reserves under these fells and in the surrounding fields…though it’s not always visible, the environment would be a great deal drier without it. We crossed a few more pastures on what I could only describe as the pinnacles of micro-escarpments – and this did not aid progress for me as it felt like to do this section of the route I should have one leg shorter than the other. I was glad when we finally came off this section and headed out into the moors proper.
And how impressive were the Bowland fells today? I cursed my failing eyesight and lack of familiarity with this environment as this meant I could not identify most of the fells that were suddenly springing up around me. Save for two – old Longridge Fell – which for a little lump of an hill manages to be surprisingly ubiquitous in Lancashire and good ole’ Pendle Hill eventually strode out of the clag. Further afield I thought that I could make out Boulsworth hill but to be honest I really will have to climb that before I can readily identify it. A little after one o’clock we made our way slightly along a path to Saddle Fell just behind Saddle End Farm in order to have a seat out of the wind and have our lunch. I asked Lindzi – our walk leader, if the hill that I could (quite clearly) see through the trees was Parlick (I could only see a green slope which could have been anything).It was surprisingly more peaceful akin to this small glade of Spruce than just a few hundred feet down the path next to the farm. Lindzi confessed to having something of an accidentally extended walk when doing the reconnaissance walk the week before. With most of the hills looking very similar and in the higher ground the paths are inclined to simply disappear – it’s easy to go off piste and Lindzi had managed to make and eight mile walk morph into a twenty miles hike in the pre walk research trip.
We stayed for about fifteen minutes then set off back down the Saddle Fell path back to the farm then swung a right to begin essentially the return walk – although we were never any kind of distance without mud, occasionally this was replaced by simply wet ground where a tractor or some other vehicle had left us some nice tracks to follow. A certain something in the distance was beginning to get closer. Eventually we arrived outside the driveway of the impressive Wolfen Hall – an old farmstead that is still in full working order with the certain something of Parlick looming over it in the background. As we strode forward over more wet and muddy ground I asked Lindzi if this was the hill we were going up … and she replied in the affirmative. I mouthed something blue under my breadth as by now my calf muscles were beginning to moan. Lindzi reassured us that we were taking the less steep route up the hill…and to be fair this was true – the easiest route up Parlick is from Blindhurst Fell after Fair Snape Fell but that was a whole different walk – I know because that was the one that Christine and I did five and an half years prior to this! Essentially from this aspect – there is no ‘easy route up Parlick’ and nobody said there was!
We arrived at the start of the steep-looking path which would quite briefly lead us up the hill. I spotted a very obvious and very dry looking and obviously man-made path and questioned why we were not taking this path (we were all now a bit fed up of mud, mud and more mud) and then after prompting by our walk leader noticed that the path was blocked off at the top and bottom for repair – and instead of repair read removal, apparently this path is being taken from the hillside? So it was the more rugged and quite definitely steeper route that we took up Parlick, I stopped about three times and lost my place in the throng of walkers from being second to second from last!
A couple of times I lost a bit of ‘hill faith’ that driving ability which forces us up the hill and questioned my ability to complete the A.A. next year…but then Parlick is much steeper than Great Hill and the ground here had been decidedly wetter and more energy zapping than anything that even Turton Heights had thrown at me last week, so there is hope for next year. Ultimately we all made it to the top of Parlick, I gave way to Moyra so that she wouldn’t be the last, and we were then greeted by a gale force wind which rendered speech as a pointless and any attempt at sitting down out of the wind was just futile. Our next objective was to get off the top as soon as possible – actually that was my objective because another exercise that I am putting into practice for the A.A. walk next year is to learn how to descend hills at pace as this will serve me well for dropping off Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and Darwen Hill (one can’t help falling down Great Hill as the path accelerates gravity’s natural pull!). I slipped once on a patch of very short grass and thus decided not to walk on any more very short grass. For once I lead the way practically all the way down the very steep path down Parlick’s southern face – the last time that I did this it took the best side of an hour, today it seemed to fly by in less than twenty minutes.
We arrived near Fell Foot farm just as I was running out of water – the damned filter had fallen into the bottle’s reservoir, thus I did have water but it was now being contaminated by every microbe picked up off previous walks on Gable and Cross Fell. We now ambled our way down a road which must have been boring as the first chance we got to get back in the mud…we took it. A fording of a minor stream and some (guess what?) more mud and before long we were back into Chipping village and heading towards the boots removal location – the luggage compartments under the coach – my coat’s zip had stuck in situ around three hours previously so I had to worm my way out of this, then was able to liberate the zip with only minor effort and no swearing (a first for me). Within about twenty seconds of us sitting down to de-boot the “A” walkers arrived. I was somewhat impressed that we were back before them and voiced this in the form of me saying out loud “I know it’s not a competition but we got back before the A’s” which was greeted by the response “Yes half a mile shorter” by someone indignantly! – An interesting fact is that the “A” walk was actually just 8.3 miles and a good deal less ascent…but they had an half an hour lunch, so they would have made it back before us had they not taken so long for their break!
I did enjoy this walk…no honestly! My calf muscles are still feeling quite rigid and my right knee sounds like it has its’ own built-in metronome but it was really good to get up and down Parlick so quickly, that southern ascent is a really tough climb for the most part. But all this is very good practice for next year’s event and for my walking regime altogether. I’ve already declared I won’t be going on the Rambler’s next visit to Rhuddlan(?) in north Wales – family commitments (it’s my nephew’s birthday) but after walking each weekend for the last four weeks (another first for me) I have a right old dilemma over where to go next weekend, either the long traversal of Catherine Edge – Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, Greenhill Farm, Catherine Edge, Crookfield Road, Great Hill, Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge – Rivington, or a return to Pendle for the classic – Barley, Whitehough, Stang Top Moor, Black Moss Reservoirs, Under Pendle, Big End, Ogden Clough, Spence Moor, Cross Lane Farm, Barley. Either have their merits but the former is a good three quarters of an hour closer to home by car. Hmmm
Distance – was supposed to be 8 miles (my step logger disagrees with this by two miles)
Ascent – one thousand and fifty feet.