The walk of Saturday 2nd of April, 2016, with my lovely partner Chris(tine).
This was my second visit to Pendle and the weather, it has to be said, was a bit inclement. This walk was our compromise, I had wanted to go to the Lakes and have a go at a ‘Half Newlands’ featuring High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells. But, with the weather set to be somewhat abysmal in the northern half of the country, we settled on good old Pendle – as I know this hill better than any other and would more than likely get us there and back safely.
Whilst it’s true to say that we weren’t experiencing hurricane force winds, there was enough rain around to leave us saturated after roughly twenty minutes, but more of that later…We set off, finally, for I’d had reservations but Chris just wanted to ‘go for it’, at roughly 12:03. We had tried ‘sitting it out’ in the Cabin café but this had proved fruitless. I’d decided ahead of time, no matter what the weather: I wasn’t going to go via my normal route – I really don’t like the two fields adjacent to Pendle House. Of all the alternative routes, simply walking up Barley Road seemed to be the most obvious – all that needed to be done was to watch out for cars flying around the copious sharp bends.
Walking past the turning for the oddly named Salt Pie and Windy Harbour brought back happy memories of the last time that I did Pendle in the rain with Sue, Helen and Karl and I wished that the weather had been better so that we could have done the longer walk which I had planned. The road certainly made for much easier walking than any of my normal routes would have done. It was long before we reached the lane which would lead us by Pendle House and up to the splitting of the paths.
In the first section of the walk we scarcely saw any other walkers. Even on a quiet day the Barley steps route is normally draped in walkers in various states of fatigue. Today I don’t remember seeing one for the majority of the climb. Yes, we had chosen to take the steps route – I’ll hold my hand up and say for the record that I do prefer going up the slope for simply walking and up the steps for making out myself to be some kind of walking super hero (which obviously I am not!). The first hundred yards are the hardest part of this route purely because here is where the steps are at their deepest / highest (delete as per your understanding) – each step upwards seems big! The mist and rain made photograph taking something of a futile activity.
I noticed that the main ‘stepped’ route is now supporting a number of branch-off routes. I’m not sure that this route needs any adding to as this is the second most direct route from this aspect and the branching can only possibly link to the route up which I have named ‘the middle way’. Yes folks there is a steeper route up this hill, fortunately it’s also about a quarter of a mile shorter. All the same, I do hope this vogue of ‘adding a branch’ is not taken up – it would be a shame to add a great big scar to the side of this majestic hill.
Before very long we were at the apex, at the ‘Downham Wall’. If one were to hop over the wall stile then apparently a path will lead one to the Scout Cairn. I’ve fallen for this before and ended up dropping down the path all the way to Downham and had to duly head back up the hill again. One day, perhaps when the mist is in remission for an hour or two I may try and locate this illusive landmark. For now we were happy to be at the end of the serious climbing and onto the summit plateau. I’ve read various reports on just how far from the apex of the path to the trig point is…personally I don’t think it’s two hundred feet…more like around quarter of a mile (1,320). The mist was so thick that the trig point was not visible until we were something like twenty feet away from it. What I though had been it turned out to be a Marshal from the Pendle Fell race – yes people were planning on running up here today. The summit was freezing and I joked to hime (the language of which I shall clean up) ‘Who did you upset to get that job?’. He laughed but was gobsmacked at the same time.
I don’t think we were at the trig point for more than five minutes. My hands were freezing and within ten minutes of leaving the ordnance survey column I put my gloves on. Oddly enough this simple act aided my concentration and I didn’t miss the turn-off for the slope for our descent back to Pendle House. I hadn’t fancied the idea of tackling the steps on the way down – they scare me when they are dry, let along wet. The start / end of the slope has of course now been split into two paths – in this case it makes sense to have one for ascent and another for descent – the ascending one may only be fifteen yards or so in length – but it’s steep enough to put this walker off descending it.
We were on the slope now and dropping gently. The last time that I dropped down this route I lost two things: 1 My footing (as it was icy) and 2 My Ingersoll watch. I made sure that my cheap Casio one was on tight. From here, on a clear day, you get the chance to take in the essentials of Barley – the café, the four main reservoirs and all of the smaller pond-sized ones and all of the farmsteads. Today, well the colours were all washed out making most things hardly worth a second glance. Still, what did matter was that we had walked up a really hard hill. At times, in places, Pendle can compete with the best and highest that England has to offer.
At the bottom of the slope our path linked with the steps path and we made our way back down to Pendle House. As could be expected, there were more walkers on route now (we had met a couple near to the apex of the way up), but now there was the odd group and a number of couples walking. I didn’t fancy the fields route – it can be very slippery, so we opted to take the same way back as we had set out. This meant the road once more. From here on it was a case of looking at the scenery that we had missed on the way up! Linking Barley to the quaint little postage-stamp sized village of Newchurch in Pendle is one of the steepest roads that I’ve walked up, Cross Lane. Today, Cross Lane was one of the few ‘objects’ which I could discern amongst the mist.
Although there had been quite a bit of traffic on our drive up to Barley, it seemed to be bypassing the village and thankfully our journey back down to the car park and visitor centre was incident free. We were both soaked to the skin and to be honest the wind really hadn’t put in a good enough show to dry us out! The cup of coffee at the Cabin helped thaw me out, to be honest I had warmed up as soon as we set foot on the slope back downhill. I was surprised to see upon our arrival that the car park was now almost full, but then I remembered those crazy individuals taking part in the fell race. Upon leaving the centre we saw a vast group of contestants outside the village hall, they all looked eager to set off and get warm.
Map my Hike tells me that we walked for just over five miles and ascended one thousand, four hundred and seventy feet. Given the conditions I was very happy with this. I’m happier still that Chris and I got to the top of Pendle in only one hour and ten minutes, no mean feat.
Again, there was no ‘Song of the walk’ – I was too busy talking! But below is the montage of rather washed photos that I managed to take.