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  • Staggering up Stang Top Moor…

     

    … and barging up Big End!

    This was the walk of Saturday the 16th of September.

    After dropping off Chris at around 6:15 on Saturday I drove over to Barley via the usual, A59 route and arrived at 7:55. I set off with the clear intention of taking in a lesser, but none-the-less important (to me) summit of Stang Top Moor. I first stumbled onto the summit in 2012 on the day of the Pendle Witch walk and was enraptured by the fantastic view offered to me of my favourite hill – Pendle, from the summit of this otherwise diminutive hilltop. A few years later, quite by chance I managed to climb up to the top of the summit without using roads and it was this route that I intended to take on this day.

    Alas, what was once easy was now…not! The path that had stood so proud and clear on my last ascension, was for all intentions invisible and I ended up missing the turning I should have taken and tramping around through grassy paddock after grassy plantation until I spied the road. I remembered the road for it was the same one that I had walked down in 2012, now I had to walk up it. To be honest, it was not that difficult, the sun came out and thankfully started to dry the legs of my walking trousers which had taken in copious amounts of unnecessary hydration! Apparently the weather was going to play fair with me today.

    Within an hour, I had managed to navigate my way to the trig point at the top of Stang Top Moor and was once again flabbergasted at the sumptuous panorama across to mighty Pendle Hill. It was odd that something which I knew to be at least two miles away, appeared to be within reach. This peak is nothing if not a splendid viewing platform.

    On this day I had decided to take lots of photos and to actually create a video log of the walk – incidentally, I refuse outright to refer to them as VLOGS! This initiative would lead to some interesting and interested looks from people who I encountered on route. Admittedly, since leaving Barley I didn’t actually encounter anyone in Rough Lee and it was at the Upper Black Moss before I exchanged greetings with anyone – although I’m certain that the neighbours on route would have heard me keep chastising myself for using the pronoun ‘we’ when referring to which part of the route was coming up next! The drop down from peak number one to the reservoirs is, if anything, too short. One wants to take time and relax in-between hilltops…I charged around like a newly liberated man and arrived at the confusing section of the walk, the part between the reservoirs, Windy Harbour (it really is called that) and Salt Pie (yes!). I never know which is which out of the latter two – the reservoirs are thankfully self apparent!

    I spent a few minutes rubbishing the claims that the ruin of a dilapidated shed is the infamous ‘Malkin Tower’ of Pendle Witch folklore and basking in the sunshine before becoming somewhat agog at the audacity of the man (whoever he may be) that had decided to block off part of the public right of way which should have lead me across a field and no longer did. Undeterred, I stomped up a farm track and headed towards Barley Road, only noticing at the last moment that there was another track across a field…which would lead me to Barley Road (eventually). It appears that there had been no blocking of the public footpath and I had simply remembered incorrectly, the shame of it! I opted not to cross the last field which lay adjacent to the road and took the longer, but less prone to sink-inducing tarmac path towards Barley Road. I do not enjoy the wetness of the fields in this area and as such was more than happy to walk up to the turn off which runs almost parallel to the hill along a dry track to Pendle House. There’s nothing like being in the shadow of the beast.

    If what had gone before had been something of a pleasure, I was now at the privilege part. I love the walk up the slope of Pendle to ‘Big End’, every step is a joy…on the way up, coming down is a whole different kettle of fish – which is why I seldom descend via this route. that’s not to say that you don’t have to watch your feet from time to time, there are parts of the path where it’s all too easy to stumble and take it from me, millstone grit and human skin do not a happy combination make! The walk up the slope terminates, or at the very least gives way and merges with the main drag from Boar Clough and later still the approach from Ogden Clough and Spence Moor. It’s a wondrous thing to have walked practically all routes up this magnificent monolith…I must do the Worston Moor and Mearley Moor routes one day. All too quickly I was at the trig point, 1,827 feet in the air. the summit was very clear and I encountered just one other walker whilst I was there. Not that there were not many people on the fells, they’d all had a get together and let me have the top to myself for a while because before very long, the masses began to appear at the apex of the steps route – my choice of descent for today.

    It’s official, if not yet documented, that it takes me longer to walk down from the top than it does to get up the thing! My ingrained fear of falling (which does not prevent the act at all) imbues in me a snail’s pace when it comes to dropping down the Pendle Steps. I give way at the slightest chance to those who look scarlet in the cheeks and puff and pant…it’s a joy to behold people struggling…it’s like a drug! Alas, all too soon (it feels that way at least), I was at the bottom of the stepped staircase and rounding the bend which leads me to an area of land simply to small to be called anything greater than a paddock. Once, through the gate, (having quite skillfully traversed a patch of mud), it was then down on to those accursed fields – the ones which I don’t like in-between Pendle and Brown houses. For once, I never fell…and this only minorly marred my walk, I’d much rather see the countryside from afar as opposed to glare fearfully at it anticipating each and every step!

    I met and greeted many more walkers on route back into Barley, I’d given up any notion of making a nice well rounded and informative video commentary of the day and was now pretty much snapping everything that didn’t move, my video will serve as a testament to this! The smell of freshly ground cappuccino or latte was engulfing my olfactory sensors, I wanted coffee…now! by 11:16 I was within shot of the Cabin and my well deserved cup of coffee.

    Pendle will always be my most favoured hill, it’s dominated my walking thoughts since 2009 and shows no sign of relaxing its grip on me…this I wouldn’t want to change. There’s something vastly satisfying about regarding oneself as a ‘Pendle expert’ and a little vane! But with regards to walking around this verdant mound I believe myself to be one of the elite few who ‘really know Pendle’, I suspect I’m in good company (a nod to the late Mr A Wainwright of Blackburn and Kendal). The two walks I have completed around this area this year have been immensely rewarding, not least because my nephew Connor is also now a fan of the hill! Some years I have visited here four times, more often than not just the three…quality matters over quantity. I’ll be back in the new year (a year of big changes I expect, but at least hopefully Pendle won’t change – fingers crossed!), I’ve told Chris she has to come with me at New Year…we’ll see.

    Ps. There’s still two more completed walks this year to blog!

     


  • The Pendle Witch Walk

    Saturday August the 18th this year marked the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials. To commemorate this dark time in Lancashire’s history there was a world-record-breaking gathering of Witches and two sponsored walks featuring Pendle Hill in aid of Pendle Hospice. I took  part – yes you did read that correctly, for a short while the Fat Goat was a witch! with adorned hat, cape and a mighty impressive looking broomstick, if I say so myself. And it goes without saying that I did both the low level and high level walks on the mighty Pendle Hill.

    Here is the story of my day:

    I left Southport at the ridiculously early time of 05:55 as light was just beginning to break. I had no intention of listening to Tim (of Tom Tom fame) trying to get me to go via Leyland and onto the M65 – quicker the route may be, but at that time of morning I had no head for left turn, right turn, third at the roundabout etc. I was far happier taking the A59 up to just outside Clitheroe then jumping on the A671  then A6068 towards Barrowford then taking the turn off that would bring me over Noggarth Ridge and into Barley at 7:08. By 7:20 I was dressed in traditional walker’s gear (the hat, cape and broomstick being left in the car for later) and en route for what I had planned on being the “easy” walk which was a three mile romp across the lower face of Pendle Hill facing Barley.

    Photo of the number 6 on the side of Pendle Hill
    Can you tell what it is yet? By the time I’d got back from my first walk the construction of the numbers was complete – well done you very hard working people!

    It was kind of nice and peaceful to have the streets, paths and even the fields to myself. The description that I had been given of the “easy” route was that it started as a split in the usual path that leads up the side of Pendle (the dreaded steps). In reality (at this time of the day) the path was so vague (and as we all know I have had issues with vague paths) that I had no idea as to where it began – so I did the full steps route up to Big End instead. It was hard going! I had many stops and all the time was aware behind me there were men writing 1612 in truly massive letters on the side of the hill, when I first arrived at Barley the “6” had already been completed. By the time I would reach Barley once more the other three numbers were also in place! After some moments at the summit taking in the lovely morning atmosphere – it’s been three years since I last had Big End to myself I surveyed the land for obvious cairns to follow back to Boar Clough. The last time that I came up here aiming to descend Boar Clough I involuntarily went back down via Deep Clough Spring which was incredibly steep and quite wet. I didn’t want to do that again – even if it did take half a mile off the route. Fortunately I successfully followed cairn after cairn the only real problem being that wet peat is incredibly slippery and it nearly had me over on numerous occasions.

    Here are some photos that I took en route:

    Photo of an huge Pendle Hill cairn
    Can you believe that last time I missed this and it wasn’t even a foggy day? In the background are the famous flags that I’d never seen until this day!
    Photo of a Rowan Tree
    The “lonely Hawthorne” which is in fact a Rowan Tree…same family ‘tho!
    Photo of the road passed Lower Ogden Reservoir
    The track down passed the more scenic Lower Ogden Reservoir

    I arrived back at Barley at 9:55. Having reached Big End in one hour and ten minutes; that meant I had taken considerably longer to get down the hill than I had to get up it! I blamed the slippery path down Boar Clough for this but then congratulated myself anyway for not falling down, not having an heart attack and for finally finding where the flag path begins so that I can ascend – descend via Ogden Clough at some point in the future. Here is the route that I took:


    View PWW Route in a larger map

    Photo of ....
    Still at least I was no longer in that queue and look at that obedient dog!
    Photo of a lot of Witches
    I hadn’t seen that many Witches in one place since I worked at Hampsons!

    Next thing on my day’s itinerary was the Guinness World Record attempt at the largest number of people dressed as a witch congregated in one enclosed place…or something like that! Ted Robbins was compare and it has to be said he did a fantastic job! I hate queuing, I hate standing around, I hate being in crowds and I had just walked up and down 900 feet over five miles so was really in need of a good “sit down” which was being deprived to me (didn’t want to get the cape all muddy!). Ted kept my spirits up. We managed to amass a total of 482 witches– let’s hope that nobody beats that record for some length of time as it was really frustrating standing around for half an hour having just walked for five miles…or did I mention that already!

    Photo of the 1612 on the side of Pendle Hill
    Hooray to finishing the 1612 sign but the queues were getting a bit tedious!

    After the GWR I treated myself to another excellent cup of Nescafé from The Cabin before setting off for the second leg of my walks in Pendle for the day. It has to be said that I was feeling the mood, so many people aiming to walk up my favourite hill was instilling in me a desire to ascend it again…the queues soon put paid to that notion. After almost an hour we were at Pendle House, if anything was going to convince me not to do Big End again it was the sight of marshals strung out in an highly visible sign right across the base of the hill…the “easy” route was beckoning and I heeded its’ call!

    Photo of Lower Ogden Reservoir
    Another photo of Lower Ogden Reservoir from Under Pendle(ish)

    If I thought that Boar Clough was muddy (and it was) this had nothing on the “easy” path! That being said, the views were somehow better than normal as what I could now see to my left I could normally only see by either turning around (never a good move on the Pendle steps) or whilst having my socks blown off (metaphor) atop Big End. It was a relief that the queues had thinned out to nothing, now there were groups of four to six, couples and the odd solo walker (like yours truly), this made for swift progress. Although there was a climb and a very definite one at that it was not too long before hitting the apex of the climb where I shared a word or two with various marshals. The mood of the people was excellent and I rejoiced in my decision not to go up the (bigger) hill again. Perhaps this was a sense of elation owing to having broken away from the masses whom I imagined might not be quite so joyous trapped in a queue of hundreds whilst baking away on one of the steepest slopes in England. Finally after after a few gatepost entrances I began the long and steep drop back down towards Barley via one grass slope and the same long tarmac path which I had traversed some hours earlier…even receiving a free bottle of water which was well received as mine had warmed up a bit by this stage.

    Upon arrival at Barley I received my completer medal – and cheekily inquired as to the likelihood of my having two since I had done both walks. I received only smiles for an answer! I did meet with all three of the days organisers, one of whom I had previously informed of my plan to walk to Stang Top Moor, I enlightened him that I would still be doing that…in an hour or so. As one that had completed the course I was entitled to a free beefburger and I consumed this along with another cup of Nescafé and sat down in my car for a few minutes. So far I had covered roughly eight miles. Here is the “easy” route on Google Maps:


    View PWW Route 2 in a larger map

    Photo of Pendle Hill
    1612 – as viewed from across Lower Black Moss Reservoir
    Photo of Stang Top Road
    Stang Top’s Road

    After some moments of rest and relaxation and a general drinking in of the atmosphere around me, I headed off once more for my final walk of the day…to find that illusive ordnance survey column on Stang Top. I walked along Barley Road and took the first right hand turn off which would lead me passed both of the Black Moss reservoirs (Upper and Lower) both of which are bigger and more ornate than the Upper Ogden but not as impressive as the Lower Ogden…a very definite favourite has emerged here! The sky was beautifully blue by now and the sun banged down on me and oh how I wished that I had put any kind of sun block on. Fortunately the views across to Pendle and it’s temporary dressing were a joy to observe. I met a family from Colne walking along the path and we shared many a tale of our various walks within this Forest of Pendle (as it is still known on ordnance survey maps). After gaining from them an oversight into a good route back from Stang Top Moor I bid them farewell as the track led onto Black Moss Road. A right hand turn after some distance brought me onto the single track road that is Stang Top Road and from here after getting confirmation from a couple tidying the hedges I would eventually find that pesky trig point, the existence of which I had been aware for over a year but who’s physical form at close quarters had thwarted me on two previous botched attempts.

    Photo of the trig point on Stang Top Moor
    At last the illusive trig point on Stang Top Moor
    Photo of Stang Top Moor
    Stang Top Moor

    The wall style for which I had been told to keep an eye alert soon came into view and I had half a mind to use it until I noticed the huge gate akin to the field supported no lock. Given my previous experiences with Pendle styles – I tend to twist ankles upon descent, I opted for the gate – even though it proved to be a pain in the rear to close!

    Stang Top Moor is not a pretty place! Think Lake District view then divide by 1,000 and that is its’ wow factor! I had previously read other walkers’ reports condemning the place as a dumping ground – even Pendle advocate Jack Keighley referred to items near to the summit as “Junk”, evidently this has now been cleared up, but the view of Stang Top Moor on its’ own is not worth the effort. The view from its’ summit (actually three metres higher than the trig point) certainly is worth all effort expended in the climb up! My ordnance survey map (OL41) gave me the impression that there was a path which would lead me in the general direction of Barley but a few metres away from the o/s column and indeed there was…which very swiftly became indistinct and then vanished. I had already attempted to simply cross the field and climb over the wall but opted out of this course of action for two reasons:

    1. I could not say for certain that there was not a bull in the next field
    2. The farmer had seen fit to string barbed wire over the top of the wall!!!
    Photo of the Alice Nutter statue at Roughlee
    Alice Nutter – sorry for the image quality (or lack thereof!).

    Thus, as with most of my solo attempts, I had to do a retrace of the steps all the way to the gate and the road beyond. Now came a long, increasingly hotter descent back to Roughlee – although I had never walked Roughlee before the afore mentioned Mr. Keighley has and I could remember gleaning from his works the distance from Roughlee to Barley is negligible at best. When I finally hit the bottom of the hill (thank goodness that I was descending and not ascending in this heat), I was more than a bit relieved to see the sign informing me that there was just one and a half miles to Barley. I did see Alice Nutter – one of the alleged Pendle Witches executed 400 years ago! No, the heat was not having an hallucinogenic effect on me – this is a wonderful commemorative sculpture crafted by David Palmer and brainchild of Pendle councillor James Starkie.

    The one and an half miles back to Barley was not the hardest of the day…but it was probably the hottest. I made my wearily way to my car and removed my three seasons coat as quickly as possible.
    Here is the route of my final walk of the day courtesy of Google maps:

    View Stang Top Trig Point in a larger map

    At 16:45 I began my journey home having spent a whopping eight and an half hours here today, I had walked in excess of thirteen and an half miles and ascended roughly eighteen hundred feet…and loved it all!

    If you would like to know more about the event and a bit of the history of the place and past events surf on over to:http://www.pendlewitchwalk.co.uk

    Here is the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/#!/pendlewitchwalk


  • Peak (Pendle) Practice

    The sun was out and the sky was bluer than even I had wished, so it was off to the village of Barley on Saturday morning for a first ascension of the infamous “steps” since 2010. The reason why I had to go this way was/is because this is the route that I shall be following on the 18th of August when I do the Pendle Witch’s Walk and I didn’t want it to be a nasty shock for me on the day – it will be for anyone that has never encountered these steps prior to their particular ascension.

    I arrived at Barley having taken primarily the A59 all the way up to and through Preston then taking the A671 just outside Wiswell up to the A6068 at Padiham where I headed past Higham and Fence before turning off at St Anne’s Drive then over Heights Road, Spenbrook Road through the centre of Newchurch and down Cross Lane, for some reason my sat nav had decided to send me to “Witches Galore” as opposed to Barley car park; but as I am now familiar with the area I made it to the the said car park for 9.00. At this time there were but four other cars here, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

    The Pendle Inn with the Pendle view
    The Pendle Inn with the Pendle view

    By 9:15 I was walking onto Barley road and was greeted by this wonderful,if only slightly threatening distant view of the steps route that I would have to take today and on the 18th of August. I really could not have wished for better weather and made it a mission statement of the day to simply enjoy the walk in this lovely weather and to not attempt anything in the least bit heroic. As I ambled over one of the three wooden footbridges that I would traverse the realisation of just how noisy the sheep were today began to set in. Stang Top Moor with Aitken Wood atop its’ summit

    With the sky being a nice summer blue – not so clear that the sun beats down on oneself and drains one’s energy, but blue enough to allow for some views that are not normally associated with this rain, cloud and generally grey hotspot. In the grand design of things it has to be said that Stang Top Moor is quite insubstantial, a joy to behold granted but not something that normally imprints itself in the psyche…until this day. Today I could scarcely keep my eyes off it and promised myself that I would return one day strictly with the intention of finding the elusive o/s trig point somewhere at the edge of the summit!

    No slipping and sliding and jumping at Fell Wood today for me!
    No slipping and sliding and jumping at Fell Wood today for me!

    The section of the walk in-between Brown House and Pendle House is always a delight – even in much worse weather than to what I was being treated. Again I drank in the views, this time focusing on the generally ubiquitous and somewhat eerie Fell Wood. Having walked through this gloomy yet captivating little forest with its’ treacherous eastern footpath I was more than a tad relieved that today I didn’t have to skid and slide around that path and I wouldn’t be on edge wondering ‘what was that noise?’ emanating from practically every tree. From here on the walk took on a tougher tone as I traversed the field linking the two “houses” (Pendle and Brown). Soon I would be at the foot of the Barley steps and from there the walk would take on a more arduous character.

    Stang Top Moor with Aitken Wood atop its’ summit
    Stang Top Moor with Aitken Wood atop its’ summit

    Only from some distance had I seen any other walkers – a group of sexagenarians, now as I neared the infamous steps more became apparent as they also tottered their way up the very steep slope, no photograph which I have taken highlights these unfortunate yet masochistic soles so you’ll have to take my word for it…I was not alone. For a moment or two as I dwelt on the threshold (or leaned on a gatepost) I was joined by a little companion who hobbled around searching for items unknown! The time for procrastination was over I now began my assault upon the steps…so from the bottom of the steps to the o/s column there would be no more photographs. At roughly half-way I decided to have a bit of a break for a few minutes. I sat on a rock and watched as others further back down the steps also appeared to be struggling. I waited a few more minutes and eventually invited a chap wearing a “Black Cat Brewery” t-shirt to “pull up a rock” as he also sounded ready for a break. We did the usual guy thing and talked about the toughest hills that we had climbed so far – his was Snowdon, mine was this! Some moments later his wife caught us up so I bid my farewell and shot up the rest of the slope with all the speed of…someone overweight walking up Pendle Hill!

    A distant view of the dreaded Pendle Steps from Brown House.
    A distant view of the dreaded Pendle Steps from Brown House.

    By this time, probably over an hour into the walk; other walkers came into view or bounded up behind me including one family with a rather reluctant son who was being “encouraged” by his mum! This gave me the impetuous that I needed to dig a little deeper into my reserves, I was overtaken by a rather attractive girl and her boyfriend whom both smiled politely as they powered on passed me and at this point I gave way to the “encouraging” mother and her kin (including a dog). Very close to the apex of the path the “encouraging” mother and her family were also now sat on some rocks and after a brief conversation I carried on to the top also passing attractive couple who for some reason now at the other side of the style over which the path to Downham begins.

    The march onto the summit now began as my pace seemed to pick itself up! I glanced over my shoulder to see who was right behind me and noticed with some dread that it was the attractive couple once more! They were physically fit, attractive, dressed in expensive-looking walking gear and spoke with accents that portrayed a certain social standing…but this was my walk, on my hill and I’d be damned if they were getting to the O/s trig column before me. I dug deep, then even deeper and finally after pretty much a three hundred yard jog…I reached the ordnance survey column first, put both hands upon it, thanked God, stumbled to one side and had a good coughing spree!

    The Forest of Bowland Peaks
    The Forest of Bowland Peaks
    The big cairn...with Spence Moor lurking behind!
    The big cairn…with Spence Moor lurking behind!

    It was some moments before I could compose myself and have a slurp of Ginger Ale and a chomp down at one of my rather drab Tesco Chicken Salad sandwiches. I took a number of photos but none of a decent enough quality to be able to discern which hilltops were which, the sky was a bit more hazy at this time and this did not lend itself to clear photography. The wind was beginning to get up a lot as well, the summit of Pendle is never a warm and welcoming place but the views on a very clear day are usually better than what I was experiencing I decided to head off in the direction of Boar Clough sticking to what I believe will be the walk of August 18th.

     

     

     

    The Moss Reservoirs
    The Moss Reservoirs

    Herein lay the problem, I have never descended Boar Clough only gone up it and from 180 degrees the route for me was indiscernible. The rule is generally ‘follow the cairns’ but as a power Nordic-walking couple passed by me I opted to follow them…this would prove to be a mistake as they disappeared into the distance and all that I could recognise was Fell Wood and a reservoir that I assumed to be the Upper Ogden Reservoir which turned out to be the lower one! The route which I had taken back was definitely not the Boar Clough route but it also was quite picturesque and something of a nice diversion – but by goodness was it steep??? At one point I passed by a sign which indicated I could go in one direction towards “Under Pendle” or the direction from which I had stumbled was “Ogden Hill” I recollected seeing this on o/s maps and it was on my “to-do” list – hurray an unexpected tick-off!

    An huge style had the potential of dividing me into two separate people (temporarily!) as I traversed it backwards, my right foot was searching for a step that it would never find but I did manage to keep my balance as I landed on my heels!

    Quite a few more cars now.
    Quite a few more cars now.

    After descending some more and passing through a number of sheep-filled fields I finally hit tarmac no more that an hundred yards away from the path that starts out from Barley as the road Barley Green. This diversion had taken a mile off my journey and it was hard to be disappointed about that bonus! I stopped and chatted to two ladies whom asked me if I had been “up top, was it clear and had I managed to see Blackpool tower”? I replied that I had been at the top via the steps (which made then both ooohhhh and rub their thighs) and that with my eyesight I was lucky to have seen Ingleborough (I forgot to get a photo of that!). The drop down into Barley via the ever-improving Barley Green was sheer walker’s paradise and I made it with joy (the sensation – not a girl I had met!) at the car park and 11:47 – it had taken me just two hours and thirty something minutes to ascend and descend the toughest hill in Lancashire!