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  • The Fairfield Horseshoe

    The walk of Saturday the fourth of July.

    For over a year now I have been attempting to garner support for my bid to walk the famous Fairfield Horseshoe in the Eastern Lakes. I missed out on the opportunity to do the Kentmere Horseshoe on the 7th of June owing to recovering from my successful Yorkshire Three Peaks bid, the day before. (Who had the second paragraph before I mentioned that?)

    So when Karl texted me to ask if I fancied doing this on Saturday the 4th of July, well I very nearly ripped his arm off. A colleague who had done the walk last year warned me of the possibility of a sudden mist-out (my phrase, not hers, she can speak English). When I left the house at the somewhat later-than-my-o.c.d.-would normally let me leave: 06:30 the weather seemed a tad overcast but nothing to worry about. Once I had arrived at 07:45 at Darwen (so I know it’s possible to do it in an hour and a quarter, but will that stop me from setting off ridiculously early again? Hell, no!) it was looking a bit gloomy there too.

    Karl informed me that we were going in Sue’s car and that there would be another person joining us, the delightful Lynn – no it was me that labelled her as delightful, just now, not him. (Forgive me, I woke up this morning at 3.00) We got to our set-off point for roughly nine twenty and were all booted up and ready for nine thirty – ace!

    The first few steps were wonderful, we had set off from Rydal Road (yup, making that name up!) and headed straight uphill. Oh my God, did it go uphill. We are not talking the steepness of Frodo’s steps at Ingleborough here or even ‘The Middle Way’ at Pendle, but by crikey was it steep and unrelenting. I started off in the lead but by about three quarters up Nab Scar I’ll admit it, I was flagging like a flagger on national flag day.

    We reached the summit – one of them, in roughly an hour, maybe even less. The question was posed ‘does anyone want to stop here?’ I said that if I did I might never start again and thus we continued to the next peak…Heron Pike which at 2008′ was technically a mountain, oh goodie! And climbing up it bloomin’ well felt like one too! At this juncture I invented the new verb, To whernside, its’ definition: to drudge up the side of a hill which apparently has no summit, or if it does have a summit then it can also magically move away from you! Obviously, this is hyperbole, we did get to the summit, but it seemed to take an eternity. The mist was now properly down, whilst for the others this had the ‘oh bugger’ effect, for me it was almost homely as Pendle is almost always shrouded in mist so I felt all snug and not in the least bit bothered by the fact that we were walking over two thousand feet with visibility down to around twenty feet! Every so often ‘The Nothing’ would leave its summer house at ‘the never ending story’ and visit us, offering us spectacular views of white abyss’s (what is the plural of abyss?) at the edge of the path. Chris (partner of Fat Goat) hates me standing at the Edge of these things…so I took a few photos, they really don’t deliver the shocking effect which I was after – so they’re not pinching my drive space!

    The next scheduled peak was Great Rigg, I found this a little bit alarming, as ‘Great’ anything, in the West Pennines, is no big deal, in the Lakes it usually stands for ‘Ha! Take that!’. Luckily enough for us, we’d already gone over 612 metres, so we only had another hundred and fifty four to go – that’s about 500′ – so I thought of it in metres instead, smart huh? It was a little bit of a pull, in the same way that an elephant is a bit grey and the dinosaurs are a bit extinct! We made it though, to be honest, there was no alternative, I would not fancy turning back here as in altitude we were over half way there! Great Rigg is where I had my tiny lunch of two chicken and sweet chilli wraps, with all the calorific value of…not much, about 400Kcal which when one is climbing over 3,250′ over ten and a half miles is a little under-fuelling.

    We were all set now, Fairfield was our next destination, and all the folklore about it being a bit confusing in mist could be appreciated…apart from Karl had his little box of tricks with him in the form of a GPS-thingy – sorry, didn’t want to get all techie then! (and how I succeeded!) The wind shelters looked as if they might be of use…to anyone under three feet tall! Don’t get me wrong I loved this summit as much as Cross Fell, it was pretty much the same scene – minus the trig point. We walked to the highest cairn, then Karl used some kind of Jedi mind trick to communicate with the higher beings and got us back onto the right part of the curved part of the horseshoe route.

    Next was a little bit of a tricky descent. It was made all the more tricky by the appearance and then disappearance, and then re-appearance (you get where I’m going here, don’t you?) of the simply stunning Deepdale Valley. You have to see it to believe it, then you still wouldn’t believe it! It had me eulogising – and that’s not even easy for me to spell, let alone do! The wind would blow the mist off the valley, the sun would beat down and illuminate the peaks, then the mist would rapidly creep back in once more. It were gorgeous, as we say in Bolton…when we’ve abandoned the concept of conjugating verbs correctly!

    Whilst the other three co-walkers were busy taking photos of Deepdale, I busied myself with taking stock of our route up Hart Crag – it was alluring, steep, but alluring all the same. to be honest, the mist was playing all kinds of mind games with us/me! Everything seemed to appear bigger than it was, even the gaps between where we were and an object seemed to have the object much further away than it really was. This was hard not to like, when one believes that the next peak is half a mile away and it’s revealed that it’s only really about fifty yards. The clues could have been the giants on the tops of the peaks, these were in fact regularly sized people, just nearer than perceived, you get the picture.

    We took a nice stumbly path down off Hart Crag and made our way across boulder-fields to Dove Crag. At 2,598 it felt all kinds of wrong to be walking down to a summit which was nearly two hundred feet higher than Whernside, but by this time it was a very rewarding experience. At the summit the others had the remainder of their lunch, I had nothing so contented myself with a bit of stood-up Yoga – essentially I simply stood and waited in the wind vortex that had set upon us. I didn’t really want to sit down here as I might have never got up again. They seemed to be eating in slow motion, or was I just bloomin’ freezing? Eventually we got going again. Somewhere on route we passed the summit of High Pike – I don’t remember it but Sue and Karl assure me that we did pass over it – result!

    As far as the ascents go, well now there was just the one left and this would have only weighed in at around seventy-five feet, give or take a foot or ten! Low Pike is a stunning little top – you can’t class this as a hill, mountain or anything, it’s an outcrop at best. It is gorgeous though! Funnily enough I was way ahead of the others, I tend to descend really bloomin’ quickly these days and spent a good few minutes gazing up at the cuteness of Low Pike, Karl, Sue and Lynn all caught up to me – Karl having first likened me to a pipe-less Wainwright. Guess what? After me being the first within its’ shadow (so to speak) I was the last one to ascend Low Pike. We spent another few minutes having a break, the sun had come out! Then it was something of a gentle, seemingly never-ending amble back to Rydal something-or-other café for a Latté, a glass of milk and a slice of cake which was delicious.

    Sue checked her logging software that reported we had climbed over three thousand, two hundred feet and a distance of ten and a half miles – I was disappointed, I’d read it was twelve!

    Gushing Summary

    This is a classic deserving of the name! I for one, would hate to do the route in reverse – or at least the reverse of how we went as I feel it would be such a trudge. Our way was infinitely better, I’m miming tipping my hat to Karl here for not getting us lost (wonders, never, cease, will – re-arrange the preceding into a well-known phrase or expression!). I loved Fairfield’s summit, I’d heard that it was a favourite for many people and now I can concur. I’d still have to say that standing on the col of Fairfield and Hart Crag was my highlight as all around was beauty, a certain craggy beauty in some cases agreed, but beauty all the same. I was expecting the round to be tough all the way through, it wasn’t, but then how tough can it get once the highest point has been reached? Ask a Yorkshire Three Peaker I guess (oh look; you found one!). I would love to do this round again, and it really did not bother me that we spent so long in the mist. There are other ‘horseshoe’ routes in the Lake District and I would like to achieve all of them – the Mosedale one sounds really tough! So, it might be a while before I hit Fairfield once more. Adios you great big friendly giant.

    Y Adios tambien a todo, por ahora, mi atención se vuelve hacia Cataluña, hacia dónde vamos para nuestras vacaciones. Un andar a de la poderosa Montserrat, tal vez? Quién sabe?

    Some things are not meant to be eternal or even none-changing for a while. So From Friday it’s goodbye to the 07:50 385 bus to Ormskirk, just for a while…


  • Return to the Yorkshire three peaks

    The walk of Saturday June 6th, 2015

    The Three Peaks of Yorkshire

    Let’s start from the beginning, if I have to be conventional for once! Two people are to blame here, for my six-years fixation with wanting to walk “The Three Peaks of Yorkshire”. So take a step forward David Arthur Hill who first got me interested in the names, Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, way back in the 1990s on one of our trips up to Darwen Hill. Also, take a step forward author Jack Keighley who managed to make walking up Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside look so easy in his Walks in Ribble Country that when I bought the book in 2009, I was immediately hooked.

    In 2009 when I was on my first flush of going for walks in the country, it was Christine (ha!) who, having observed me reading the said book, over and over again, calmly announced, “Well, let’s do Pen-y-Ghent then”. I didn’t give her the chance to change her mind and within the week we’d nailed the first of the three. At the time I was not exactly sold on the idea of doing all three on the same walk. It just seemed an impossible task to me. However, once at the top of Pen-y-Ghent that summer afternoon in June 2009, I saw for myself the sense of bonding between co-walkers (even co-workers) and was more than a bit intrigued. This only intensified on our next visit to the area when we successfully navigated the mist at Ingleborough. On our way back to the car I was transfixed by the long string of Three Peakers en route to this last of the three, they all seemed happy, I liked this, a lot.

    And so it was finally to Whernside, two months after our ascent of Ingleborough. There was no doubt about it, we’d picked the hardest route – from Chapel-le-dale, the route is festooned with false summits, multiple types of walking surfaces and oh yes…it’s phenomenally steep and somewhat relentless. On a conventional three peaks course, this is part of the descent, going up would be a killer. At the top of Whernside on our day, were countless three peaks challengers all having a breather before the steep drop down and on to Ingleborough. I was well and trully snared now. The following Monday at work I began to ask around, ‘Who’d like to give it a go?’

    Initial response was positive, ultimately nine of us would sign up to do the walk – in aid of Mountain Rescue (bets well and truly hedged) eight members of staff and one husband. We agreed on a date Saturday May 29th. The day came and so did the rain. I had done a number of local practice walks, around Southport, Winter Hill and a couple of Pendle Hill excursions. This counted for nothing. Pen-y-Ghent completely knocked me out, I had not trained anywhere near hard enough and although I made it all the way up the mountain and through the horrid bogs en route to Ribblehead, it was at the Station inn and Ribblehead where I had my reality check and gave up, vowing to do it again in the future.

    Pen - y - Ghent...and someone getting changed.
    Pen – y – Ghent…and someone getting changed.
    The photo that started it all off, with the Ribblehead viaduct behind me, last year in March
    The photo that started it all off, with the Ribblehead viaduct behind me, last year in March

    That ‘future’ was all set to happen in the summer of 2014, but following a sleepless night whilst on holiday in Benalmádena, I decided to cancel my booking and to get in shape before even setting a date. I started to see a Dietician who introduced me to the concept of low carbohydrates as a lifestyle instead of a ‘diet’. After losing 4.5 kilograms in the first week I decided to keep as closely as possible to this newer way of food watching and after a few months factored in regular gym visits. Added to this, walks up some truly huge mountains: Scafell Pike, Scafell, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Cross Fell and Great Gable and the usual two of Winter Hill and Pendle Hill, have without doubt, made a massive difference and I am now at least two stones lighter than I was at this time last year.Thus, when I posted a photo taken of me (with Whernside in the background), on Facebook a conversation regarding the area turned into ours (mine and Mark Carson’s) 2015 Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge! Yes, I know, it took as long to get to this point in the post as it does to get up Ingleborough! A group of four of us had arranged to meet at the Penyghent Café in Horton in Ribblesdale at 07:00 on Saturday 6th June. I even hired a car as I didn’t want to be full of foreboding anticipation of our car (the wheel balancing of which needs fixing), making the journey or not! Peter had warned that he may not make the day because of injury, sadly this was to become true and his very Yorkshire presence was missed on the day.

     

    My co-walkers, Linzi and Mark at the trig point on Pen - y - ghent
    My co-walkers, Linzi and Mark at the trig point on Pen – y – ghent
    Fellow co-walkers Linzi and Mark.
    Fellow co-walkers Linzi and Mark.

    Linzi and Mark however, did arrive and we eventually left the café site at around 07:05. Linzi posted a note through the café’s door containing our start time. The gentle amble around to Brackenbottom, was soon replaced by the horrendous slog up the side of the moor. There are a couple of scramble sections to break up the seemingly endless slog. In all honesty, when I did this walk at a much slower pace with Chris in 2009, I got more out of it. Your Y3P day is not a day for taking photographs or admiring the scenery. We had set off at a blistering pace and I could hardly believe my eyes when at the joining of the Three Peaks and Pennine Way paths I glanced at my watch and saw that so far it had not yet been an hour since we left the café! After some more steep scrambling and the gradual run-in to the top, we were at the ordnance survey column. I checked the watch – it read 08:19 – roughly one hour and fourteen minutes to reach the top of Pen-y-Ghent, fantastic. There was a factor that I have thus far forgotten to include – the wind. The wind on Saturday was impressively irritating! There would be few precious, silent moments when the wind was not howling away.

     

     

    Behold the beast that is Whernside!
    Behold the beast that is Whernside!
    The highest point of Yorkshire...in Cumbria!
    The highest point of Yorkshire…in Cumbria!

    All three peaks candidates are fully aware that it is on the downhill sections of the route where time can be made up. Alas, with the wind hitting us from the left, this effectively slowed down the dropping of Pen-y-Ghent. I’d already made the call that we would be taking the newer, less organic and drier route over Whitber Hill as opposed to the old wet one over Horton Moor. Actually, I don’t even remember seeing the turning for the older route – it was no great loss. Even a little lump of a hill such as the 420 metre Whitber Hill, can take its’ toll, and ascending a hill that is only slightly higher than Great Hill was still something of a trudge after the mountain we had just ascended, but we did it and for quite some time the terrain got easier to traverse and the views were delivered to us. My Three Peaks DVD manages to make the route from Pen-y-Ghent to Ribblehead look like a complex series of twists and turns. We were fortunate in that this was a busy Saturday with many walkers to follow. Navigation was simply not an issue other than a case of ‘follow the throng’. I had been looking out for the Ribblehead Viaduct as a landmark, but, had failed to recognise it! What I had wrongly believed was ‘just a bridge’ was in fact the afore mentioned viaduct – we were now in sight of the end of the second section (the top of Pen-y-Ghent being the first section’s end). No Three Peaks walker will ever admit this, okay, I just broke that rule – the part of the entire walk which is the easiest and most comfortable to walk is: the stretch of road from Ingram Lodge to Ribblehead. Progress is swift, the terrain is quite level and as long as the people in front of you don’t keep stopping to talk to each other, then it’s all good. Better still was the fact that we had now arrived at road’s end. We sat and had something to eat – Millionaire’s shortbread which did give me a little bit of a sugar rush. For Whernside I would need all the energy I could muster.

    Because that wind would just not let up! On the positive side, this did aid progress, we set off from the road at 11:05 and I forecast that if we kept to our current speed, we should be at the top by 13:00. After a period of being in a relatively small group, we were suddenly surrounded and indeed our little procession turned into a giant chain snaking its’ way over the hillside. The wind continued to interfere with progress and I did stop a couple of times. However, there came a point when it was simply a case of ‘left foot forward’ – regular readers of this blog will note that whenever I lead with my left, it’s business! I put my foot down, then stopped to fill my water up, then put my foot down again and powered across Whernside’s summit ridge. The going was tough, the howling wind was quite literally pushing people sidewards.

    It was less than a minute before Linzi and a rather refreshed-looking Mark appeared amongst the throng of walkers, after squeezing through the narrowest of all gaps to get to the trig point we sat and had some water, I had another energy gel thing, they were working really well today. I glanced at my watch once more – it was 12:59!

    The last time I dropped off Whernside, I practically fell off it – twice, in about ten yards. I was prepared for it to be as bad this time, but, it wasn’t! Okay, I did have to stop and put gloves on (did I mention it was windy?), Mark and Linzi carried on after checking that I was okay. I caught them up and then for reasons of which I am still unaware, I went into warp speed descend mode. Seriously, I have never managed to walk so confidently and quickly down any hill before, and this was a hazardous one. On a number of occasions I did stop in order to wait for my co-walkers, but, I just couldn’t see them! A couple of late-teenage girls made an observation that I was the only person on my path (it had split into many grass v rock sections) and that I must ‘know something’. I simply responded ‘Yeah, but I’m mad!’ which brought about giggles galore!

    After the major descent I got talking to a fifty-something-year-old lady who was having a great old time and loving every moment of it…apart from the wind, we carried on chatting and walking for quite some distance until I reached a great big gate, where I decided to wait again for Linzi and Mark. After four minutes there was no sign, so I continued to walk and made my way uphill onto Philpin Lane in the direction of the little shop/stand. I wanted a coffee and damn it – it was going to have sugar in it. I reached the cart/stand and got the much awaited coffee. After a few moments Linzi and Mark appeared, and I was very grateful to be reunited with them once more.

    Next came the bad news as Mark revealed that Linzi was pulling out and catching a taxi from the Hill Inn on the B6255 back to where she was parked. Although I tried not to show it, I was a little bit saddened by this as it brought back memories of my own early exit five years earlier. In addition it’s always sad to lose a fellow walker but I did understand that the wind had whipped the zest out of her coming up Whernside. I do hope that she’ll try again at some point in the future. Mark and I resolved to continue the walk and we said our goodbyes to Linzi at the Hill Inn.

    We both knew that from here on in, it was going to get more difficult, Ingleborough is a tough, relentless slog, then there was the ‘steps’ with which we had to contend. We stopped several times, but that was okay, many other people (including a delightful couple from Wigan / Heathrow) stopped several times. This was negative bonding, or was it just bonding in the face of adversity – Bear Grylls would have been proud of us. I lost a water bottle – I have no idea at which point on the slog over from Chapel-le-Dale to Humphrey Bottom the little beggar made it’s bid for freedom, but I was relieved to remember that I still had a bottle of Bounty milk in my backpack and this would only come out when absolutely necessary. At the foot of ‘Frodo’s Steps’ as they have come to be known, we took a five minute breather. Mark gave me one of his cans of Red Bull and within moments I was shaking like a leaf. I don’t know what’s in that vile concoction, but it works, and is probably really bad for a person. Today, it was good, so good!

    In less than twenty minutes and several more sit-downs for yours’ truly, we reached the pass at the top of the steps. The next section of the walk, if one were to walk it having not just climbed the steps and the preceding eighteen miles, would be a relatively easy amble, the only real obstacle was the other weary walkers falling down from the summit. I saw the two girls to whom I had spoken on the path down Whernside (remember, I confessed my madness?) and they recognised me whilst cheerfully informing me “Oh it’s lovely at the summit, you’ll enjoy it!”. To which I responded joyfully “I just don’t believe you”, which brought about more laughter, altitude has a funny effect on the minds of us humans! The lovely couple from Heathrow / Wigan kept on encouraging each other – honestly to see the wife digging in deep (maybe I should have asked their names, but breath was a precious commodity!) was spurring me on like mad.

    Although the wind had been messing with us all day, it was not until the summit’s ordnance survey column before it really showed its’ hand – and that hand smacked us all in the face! The wind atop Ingleborough put paid my ambitions of summit photographs, congratulatory selfies and the likes. It’s said (pardon the passive voice) that Cross Fell (70 miles north of here) has the worst winds in England. Having now done them both, I am inclined to say that Ingleborough’s wind put in a good old showing for itself, it was evil!

    But Mark and I had done it, we’d now climbed these three mountains, we’d survived that bloody wind and even more, we still had food left – just no opportunity to eat it in peace. We began the long and it has to be said monotonous trudge down to Horton in Ribblesdale, with just one thing in mind, would the café still be open and us still able to register our times. It is indeed unfair to label the route down passing through lovely countryside and the limestone pavement of Sulber Nick as boring, but, when all that one wants to see are Pen-y-Ghent growing in size and the Pen-y-ghent café, then that same countryside is simply a distraction. For the next three quarters of an hour we would play catch-up, overtake, be-overtaken by those walkers with whom we now shared our vicinity. The path is fairly undulating although not in any way steep – especially compared to what we had already done. Finally Horton in Ribblesdale’s train station came into view, once safely across the lines we were back onto paving (real, not limestone) and from there the short journey over the bridges, passing my parking spot, then passing the pub (who’s name I really should remember!) then onto the café, would it be open? YES!!! We got ourselves clocked in/out/whatever, and our time was ELEVEN HOURS and SIX MINUTES – not the ten for which I had been unrealistically aiming, but below the twelve and that was more than good enough for me.

    To be honest, to complete the route at all, even outside of the twelve hours is no mean feat. It’s a hard challenge, yes the spongy path which now bypasses Red and Black Dub Mosses, does facilitate progress but then so do the paved sections throughout the route, strangely you don’t hear people moaning about them! I wouldn’t dream of attempting to cross Humphrey Bottom without its’ flagstones and likewise for some of the sections on the way up Whernside. I had remembered well, the pain of trying to amble up Brackenbottom – you can’t, you just have to put your head down and charge, I even overtook people! I was so happy with my descent off Whernside, it was nothing like as challenging as when I did it in rather wetter conditions last March. Yes, the scenery was good, but do you know what was better? The people. There were no stress-heads attempting to power their way through and to hell with anyone whom should happen to get in their way. We were all walking brothers and sisters, no matter what our motives – charity or vanity, sharing this experience with people that I will most likely never see again is something, the main thing, that I want to take with me from this six-year fixation. I’d love to walk with Mark again as he is great company, (Peeler’s Hike, Mark it is on your doorstep after all) and I was gutted that Linzi had to pull out after eighteen miles but I did empathise and I’ve volunteered to go with her if she ever tries again, and would be delighted to do so.

    I will do this again, next year, and I do hope to be at least two stones lighter (again) and to take at least an hour off my time, so here’s to more gym nights and visits to Pendle and Winter Hill in preparation. Controversially, Whernside is still my favourite mountain of the three, although it has to be said the other two aren’t exactly lacking in character either. Although I admit that this is not an Oscar Acceptance Speech, there are some people that I’d like to thank and the first one would be my wonderful fiancé, Chris, who had complete faith in this attempt, ‘I knew you’d do it’ was one of the first things that she said to me on my return home. Also, I’d like to say thanks to Jenny, my line manager who’s company in my lunch-time walks stopped me from getting bored and aided my progress. Mark already knows how grateful I am that he did the walk with me, but anyway, cheers Mark and to Linzi I may not make it to High Street this weekend but I do look forward to walking with you again in the future.

    I’d also like to plug the Just Giving page of Kirsty from Enterprise, who was so nice to me when renting the car, which ultimately took a whole load of stress off my plate. She’s doing a gruelling thirty kilometre Coniston Challenge in aid of Alder Hey. Personally, I think she must be mad, but it’s a very worthwhile cause: Click here to visit the site.

    Summary
    Distance – twenty four and a half miles
    Ascent / descent – over 5,000 feet

    Song of the walk: there are so many (well, it’s a long walk) :

    Christina Perri – Human
    Cheryl – Only Human
    Sia – Big Girls Cry
    Ellie Goulding – Lights
    Ellie Goulding – Don’t Say a Word

    Next challenge walk: It could possibly be this: In Pendle’s Shadow or alternatively, it’s high time that I ticked off the full route of the Sefton Coastal Path, 21 miles but I’ve done more than that now 🙂


  • Pen-ny not so dreadful!

    The walk of Saturday the 23rd of May, 2015.

    It was a bank holiday weekend and I planned to do two outings, Rivington and Pendle. Both hills were currently on a count of thirteen ascensions, so which one was to make it to the magical figure of fourteen first?

    Well, obviously it was always going to be Pendle. In no small way was this thanks to the combination of my IPad, a lead which goes from the I Pad to my car stereo and finally the fact that I downloaded a lot of Ellie Goulding’s songs lately, so I had plenty to listen to on what was quite an enjoyable car journey – given that our car’s wheel balancing is kind of like blancmange!

    So Pendle it was then, en route I called in at Fylde Road pharmacy for some factor 30 – although I might like lobsters, Chris kind of freaks out when I come home looking like one! So with the temperature set to hit at least 20 degrees I armed myself with the sun cream that I can still smell now, several hours later. Also I called in to get some more petrol. Thus, after dropping Chris off at 11:22 I finally made it to the lovely village of Barley for around 13:15, there was not a space to be had on the Barley Visitor Centre car park, so I had to park on Barley New Road – this saved me a pound, so no loss there then.

    Pendle from Barley Common
    Pendle from Barley Common

    Pendle Hill looked tremendous from Barley Common, the sight of it popping over the top of Pendle Inn was just enticing. I was kind of umming and arring (yes, thought that might not get through the spell checker!) about which route to take. Had I the full day to myself I would have plumped for Stang Top Moor first then Pendle via the Pendle House stepped route. However, it did occur to me that there was a route right ahead of me that offered tremendous kudos in terms of its’ sheer challenging aspect – ‘The Middle Way’. It could be very easy to write off as innocuous, any route featuring the phrase ‘middle’. However, in this instance middle simply refers to the location of the route as it splits off from the steep, stepped route around the back of the farmstead, Pendle House. That route in itself has fitter people than me gasping for air and admiring the views…every fifty footsteps!

    And so it was to be that I would explode my heart by taking what I have often referred to as the lunatic path – I seemed to fit the bill most appropriately! On a couple of occasions, I had witnessed lunatics taking this route, which is essentially, straight up the side of the hill with very little obvious zig-zagging (oh behave spell checker!), in my contorted logic, if sheep could get up there, so could I – we have similar d.n.a. (What? We don’t? Opps), and I know they are four wheel drive (so to speak) but to me, gravity is still gravity and if something with an I.Q. of around 70 could climb up the side of the hill, so could I!

    I did make quite impressive progress, overtaking seventeen people en route to Ings End in twenty two minutes. Oh my was there some slow walking people out today? Some people seemed mystified by every gatepost / kissing post (I truly hate that description!) and took an eternity to get through each one. I didn’t want to appear rude, so I kind of held back when I could and led with my left foot when the opportunity arose (seriously, try this, unless you are left footed, then it won’t make any difference). I went speeding all the way to Brown House, Ings End, then at those bloomin’ twin fields at Pendle House I once again slowed right down. Seriously, I actually would make speedier progress up the ‘Middle Way’ than I did across these two fields. All the same, within about eight minutes I had made it to Pendle House, here I stayed for a minute or two, staring at the beast of a climb that I now had ahead of me. As much as I wanted to take a photo of the arduous trek I had ahead of me, I knew that if I got the camera out my whole tour de force would subside. So, the camera stayed in its’ holster (okay my pocket!) and onwards I went.

    I won’t lie, it was a bit difficult at first, then to make up for that, it got even worse! The slope was more of a drop to be honest. There would be no way in hell that you would ever catch me descending via this route. But, on the ground there were only a few stretches of the path when the path, for want of a better phrase, vanished. that being said, it did not take a degree in hill walking (how cool would that be?) to pick up the route once more – in a nutshell, GO UP until there is no more up to go. I sat down on a number of occasions, sometimes deliberately, once as part of a complicated uphill stumble I’ve been perfecting since Karl took me up Scafell the hard way! Cheers mate!

    The trig point at Pendle Hill
    The trig point at Pendle Hill
    More people at the summit
    More people at the summit

    From the parting of the routes, just behind Pendle House, the trig point had been my target, my visible target that is. Then, halfway up the side of the hill, it too vanished. Thanks to the lovely weather (yay, they got it right for once, oops sorry Lucy!), there was absolutely no mist to obscure the summit. Pretty soon, although I was no longer looking at my watch to tell how soon, I was at the last push, and what a push that was. This gradient was up there with the lake district giants! I’d say it was as steep as the same point on Great Gable – but without all those rocks. I was utterly astounded to see the trig point pretty much straight in front of me, less than twenty yards away. I tapped the trig point, and looked at my watch…it was 14:31, I had left the car at 13:22. This meant that I had gone the hardest way up Pendle Hill in the shortest time! I was buzzing.

    Other ascenders on the summit
    Other ascenders on the summit

    I got talking to a friendly sort of chap at the trig point, in truth I got talking to everyone I was so elated I just wanted to share! Poor sods, I must have bored everyone to death. It did make a nice change to be able to stand and talk at the summit, it’s normally blowing a gale and freezing. I offered to take a few people’s photos on their phones. I didn’t want anyone taking mine…and no bugger offered anyway! I ended up talking to a tall blonde, robust looking woman about next month’s Yorkshire three peaks challenge and she replied that she’d already done that. I wasn’t put out – I’d gone a harder way up Pendle than her ‘Boar Clough’ route which she had found challenging…I did wonder how she’d got along on Pen y Ghent then as it’s infinitely harder.

     

     

    Path to Under Pendle
    Path to Under Pendle
    Under Pendle
    Under Pendle

    Enough time passed by at the summit for me to have unwired and I made my decision regarding the descent. I suppose that I could have taken the steps, which would have been good practice for dropping off Whernside next month. However, I didn’t want my calf and other leg muscles to jam up like normal so I opted for trying to find Under Pendle’s lovely, if somewhat steep drop off. Eventually I did find the right way down, but not before going off piste and ending up in a place whereby if I’d have gone any further downhill I would have then had to straddle a barbed wire fence in order to go on. So, I retraced my steps and decided to just follow the fell runners as I didn’t think that their route would have them going up and down Boar Clough. I was right and before very long at all the tiny area of Under Pendle came into view.

    At the bottom of the tarmac path which leads from Under Pendle to Barley Green – about which there is nothing green. I slowed down considerably as it was a nice day, I was now no longer in danger of being hit by a fell runner. After a while one fell runner passed me by, I’d seen her on her way up near the summit, she reminded me of someone from my very distant past – there’s always the chance that this was her daughter – or even grand daughter, they breed them young in Bolton y’know! The cheeky mare was slipstreaming me for a few yards! Honestly, I can think of no other reason for her to be so close to me on a path which is at least twelve feet wide and had no-one else upon it. She was stunningly beautiful though in the four seconds that I could see her face.

    As has happened on all of my recent walks, I was all mixed blessings at the end of the walk. Of course I was still quite elated at my improving fitness and that every time I’ve ‘done Pendle’ recently my time has improved. However, sometimes it’s so nice to be carefree and out and about walking that the end can simply signify the end of it…if only temporarily. ‘Ah, never mind’ I thought and consoled myself with the prospect of a good old radio sing-along on the journey home. First I bought and consumed a “Frappé” and a Latte which must have been made with full fat milk – it was horrid, so was the Frappé. I did have a good old sing-along to the radio on the way home!

    All in all a good walk.
    Milage – about five miles
    Ascension – about one thousand feet
    Time – roughly three hours (69 minutes ascending)

    Song of the Walk: Years and Years by King

    Update: I’ve just managed to find (from my Facebook pages, of all places) these three pictures showing the path I took yesterday. Note: the pictures were not taken yesterday:

    The Middle Wat
    The Middle Way
    A distant shot of the two major routes up Pendle from this angle. The middle way is also visable.
    A distant shot of the two major routes up Pendle from this angle. The middle way is also visable.
    A close up of the "Middle Way"
    A close up of the “Middle Way”

  • He’s going for it…again!

    Spring is here, so it’s time for my annual “I’m going to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks this summer”, pledge!

    But this year I do intend to actually do the walk with an old acquaintance from Bolton, step forward Mark, potentially another few people will join us for company and banter etc. Now that there is a nice dry path diverting walkers from the horrors of Red Moss and Black Dub Moss, that’s one obstacle off the list (technically one and one equal two these days).

    Yep, Pen-Y-Ghent, and the Pennine Way leading up it!
    Yep, Pen-Y-Ghent, and the Pennine Way leading up it!

    However, there’s still the mountains themselves to worry about and to prepare for…Pen-y-ghent from Brackenbottom is sodding steep – then it levels out, then it’s a lovely walk, then it gets all scambly, then steep (I’m mentally reliving this now can you tell?) then it joins then Pennine Way, then it gets majorly (I’m just making adjectives up on the spot now!) steep and scrambl-y! Finally at the top it gets all nice and flat…but you’re too busy hyperventilating (and in my case trying to locate Pendle Hill – obsessed much?) to really have a good old rest before falling back down the other side of it!

    The new route avoiding the moss’s should expedite things a tad, it goes without saying that I’ve watched another of Adam Galleymore’s You Tube videos (psst it’s not as good as your Anglezarke Amble one Adam), I’ve watched a lot of You Tube videos of people doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks – some are quite bizarre, others couldn’t be less interesting, thus, I won’t be doing one!

    Whernside, looking surprisingly more formidable than what it really is...unless you do it from Chapel le Dale, then it's a pig!
    Whernside, looking surprisingly more formidable than what it really is…unless you do it from Chapel le Dale, then it’s a pig!

    Upon arrival at Ribblehead – the base of Whernside, I shall be doing one thing – NOT looking up! That’s one of the areas where I went wrong in 2010 – I looked at the gigantic cloud over the top of the mountain, I was already feeling the cold, owing to bad choices in terms of clothing and …chickened out! Actually, this could be one of the easiest parts of the route, I did Whernside from Ribblehead last March and survived, it isn’t actually that hard and it’s a damn site easier than doing it from the Chapel le Dale aspect. The only problem may be coming down the other side, one part of the path is in serious need of repair – or at least that was the case last March, so instead of coming down the hill at full pelt, I’d have to take it all nice and easy – which could eat into the overall time.

    Ingleborough, looking all dark and fearsome, and at this stage I do believe we'll have already done eighteen miles!
    Ingleborough, looking all dark and fearsome, and at this stage I do believe we’ll have already done eighteen miles!

    I’ve only ever been up Ingleborough once, I think Mr Farrington from Breightmet County Junior School had us somewhere near it when we were staying at Cautley Hall, one year. But as far as I know, my only ascension was with Chris in 2009. Apparently, the “Frodo’s Steps” section of Ingleborough puts fear into the hearts of people. I’m inclined to think that you can only go as fast as your body and gravity in conjunction will let you, ’nuff said. I am so looking forward to the walk back down – ‘cos we won’t get a view off the top of Ingleborough…you never do on 3 Peak days, but you do if you go to see Ingleborough just on it’s own, she knows…cobblers, when Chris and I went in 2009 it was like taking our own personal sheet of fog with us…got damned nippy as well if memory serves me right! Then it’s the one and a half – three miles, walk back to Horton in Ribblesdale to go and collapse at the Pen-Y-Ghent Café to drown yourself in coffee and stress over whether your clutch or gas foot is going to make it all the way back home!

    Piece of cake!


  • Springing along the Coastal Road

    The Walk of April the 6th, 2015.

    This is going to be a condensed version of the post as this is now my fourth time of completing the entire Coastal Road (once I gave in at Marshside, well the compensation was that it was Marshside: I love it there!).

    I left the flat at 09:05, having published a text description of the route on Facebook – with a polite notice asking people not to beep at me as they sail on by at (least) thirty miles an hour, this always 1: Makes me jump and 2: Makes me wonder who on earth it was! The weather was odd on the day, not warm but not cold; with a mist gently rolling in from the sea (who else now has ‘Mull of Kintyre’ going through their head?). I had set off a strange way and ended up missing the turning from Grange Road onto Norwood Crescent, instead continuing down Grange Road to Marsden Road then up a set of concrete steps – twelve years in the making, I’m beginning to know the names of the roads a quarter of a mile away from my front door. In my defence, Bolton’s streets tended to stick with the same name throughout their physical length – Red Lane is about two miles long before it finally gives way to Bury Old Road, Withins Lane was very obviously Withins Lane until you could see that it had ended, and as for Deepdale Road…enough said!

    So, back to the walk, I finally ended up on Norwood Road having set off at this strange route. Now the sun was out, mistily so, I made good progress down Norwood Road – well up until the notoriously slow lights at the junction of Sussex Road and Peel Street, where, it has to be said, the lights need re-syncing, as they are inefficient for Vehicles and Pedestrians. I made my way off the main road down the little stone and sand path which passes along side Fine Jane’s Brook with three footballs floating in it. I was hoping that the little kid’s park was empty as I always feel like a creep walking near these things when they are occupied! Thankfully, it was empty and I soon made my way across Scarisbrick Road – sometimes this can take a few minutes, today it was a few seconds and then it was just a matter of waking down the main road for a few yards then turning left and going through the rear of the hospital grounds. Admittedly, this is not the most attractive route – it’s God-awful, but it did shave something like a mile of walking past Tesco and the mess which has been left on Town Lane Kew. Next I crossed over Town Lane – no, seriously what is wrong with calling different streets, different names? Jeez Louise!!!

    And relax, I then made my way through the oddly named Kew Woods, I don’t know whether there once were ‘woods’ here or if this is a project in the pipeline for some point in the future, but to me this is more like a common than any ‘woods’ to which I’ve been. All the same it’s nice and airy here and nothing like Aitken Wood or Fell Wood, near Pendle which in the wrong light can be utterly terrifying (having this vivid imagination doesn’t dispel this sensation, either!). Progress was fast and it was with almost astonishment that I deduced I had reached Dobbies on Bentham Way in 57 minutes – three and a half miles was quite good given that I had deliberately set off slowly and had to wait for a minute or two at the traffic lights, so I was just short of four miles an hour (my dream target for urban walking). For the next three miles there would be no more off-road antics as this is the trek along Guilford Road, Birkdale, Heathfield Road and finishing at Segars Lane (yes, I too, can’t help singing SEGA, as in the old games consoles, whenever I see Segars Lane written down!). I didn’t see the car with part of its’ registration plate FGW – so there was no omen for me to turn back, I didn’t want to anyway.

    It was not long before I arrived at the turn-off for Coastal Road, I avoided taking the usual photograph of the sign – I have three versions already and all that’s changed was the light. Instead I thought I’d have some water, which just sat there in my throat trying to drown me, it eventually went down…and felt like I was being choked! I’m never buying ‘Smart’ water again! I also attempted to eat some of the flapjack that I’d bought from the little Off-Licence on Grantham Road (Way?) – this too, wanted to stay out in the sun and (Spoiler alert) it would be about five miles later, on the sea defence wall, near to Southport’s main beach, before I finally finished that expletive flapjack and murderous water.

    I have tried walking along the path on Coastal Road, in fact, I’ve managed it four times previously, for its’ entirety, but, there is always a chance that you’ll get rammed by a cyclist who is too important to yell “shift”. It’s kind of alarming to have one fly by, but it’s even worse when you have to keep turning around to look over your shoulder (yeah, I know how much like a contortionist that makes me sound!), only to just miss head-butting some lycra-clad, bean-pole, zipping at you at twenty-something-miles-an-hour. So, for a change, I went off-piste. There is a lovely meandering, undulating, snake-like (okay enough adjectives!) path which can take you over some of the smaller sand-dunes and keeps you off the main path (and away from the lycra brigade). Actually, it’s really nice to walk on! Okay, so a week later and my calf muscles have still yet to relax, otherwise it’s a great way of avoiding the cyclists and making you feel like you’re really out doing some country walking, even if you are only twenty or so yards away from where you would have been anyway. A tip for the future would be to avoid veering off to the right, yes this could be an adventure, it could also be a dead end (and if you’re doing 20+ miles do you need to lengthen the route?).

    The ‘Nothing’ has stolen the Irish Sea!
    The ‘Nothing’ has stolen the Irish Sea!

    After some time and quite a big distance, the lovely, undulating path…runs out. So it’s back to the occasional glance over the shoulder for psycho-lists, but fortunately, it was not long before I was more-or-less on the central stretch of the Coastal Road, just after the Weld Road roundabout and heading north. There’s always a bit of adrenalin here; as I have to get across what is still essentially a national-speed-limit road. Job done, I next decided to sit on the sea defence wall and look outwards…at the nothing which had stolen the coast of the Irish Sea. In spite of the fact that I was sat behind a high-speed road, this was probably the most relaxed that I’ve felt all year (and it hasn’t been a particularly stressful year). There’s something about looking out to sea that is somewhat pacifying…I could have quite easily fallen asleep, had I not been constructing plots for my various novels! It was great to walk along the beech and encounter more and more people enjoying the day at the coast. You couldn’t see the Sea, you couldn’t see the Sun, yet people were perfectly happy just to be here. Again, I didn’t want to get the camera out and be thought of as ‘that weirdo with the camera’ so I’ll just settle for an organic photo..or remembering as some might call it.

    Finally there comes a point when you just have to get off the beech as it gets a bit grassy, (thanks to whoever, in their infinite wisdom, messed around with the Ribble’s silt line in the 1950′s). This is just a few yards away from my favourite location in all of Southport – Marshside, sorry to knock you down to second place Ainsdalers, but there are some parts of Guilford Road that just remind me too much of Breightmet (oh way to go, insult two sets of readers, nice!). Marshside is my haven. Yes, trying to cross the Coast Road here is an extreme sport, but it’s just so expansive here. The sky actually felt bigger than it did on Cross Fell last year!

    It's the Coastal Path sign (yes, again).
    It’s the Coastal Path sign (yes, again).

    Despite my plea on Facebook, someone driving a white Audi went hurtling by at 50 and beeped twice. Given there was nobody else in the vicinity, not even Twitchers (or whatever they’re called), the car park had one empty car in it…I think they were beeping at me! If they weren’t then oh well. Later on and further north another car on the opposite side of the road – a White Seat Ibiza, also beeped, I did think that I recognised the driver, later discussions have revealed that it wasn’t him. So, two more beepings from people of whom I have no knowledge…it gets a bit pointless…all the same it does break up the walk. As much as I love the Coast Road, there are points on it – from Marshside to Crossens, that if it’s one of the 330 days of the year when you can’t see the Lake District Mountains, Snowdonia, Winter Hill and Pendle Hill, then there is not much of anything else to see. I’d already taken the decision not to take the turn off onto Marshside Road and to not go along the north Marshside path – I wanted the mileage (why did I shave a mile off at Kew then?), the remainder of the route up to the Plough roundabout was a little bit of a trudge, but then you are inspired to keep on going by the busying traffic and the prospect of being ‘almost there’.

    I crossed the road and made my way onto Rufford Road – which then becomes Botanic Road – after some distance. I then followed Botanic Road all the way to the Roe Lane roundabout – thankfully Lathams Pie Bakery was closed, so I wouldn’t be getting a pie (or two) and putting any weight back on (by this time in the route, after something like seventeen and a half miles I would have probably burned off about three thousand calories (in software life, about 1,800 if worked out with real science). Roe Lane is always an easy street to walk along, this must be Hesketh-area’s only level-pavement road, unlike Queens Road which is as bumpy as the surface of the moon! So progress down to Hesketh Drive was quick and unhindered. Hesketh Drive used to be part of my ‘I’ll just go for a quick walk’, route…it still is, but I now extend the route down to the coast road. Thus, there are no surprises, I can guestimate where will be the safest to cross and most times will throw in the odd flight of steps purely for variety. At the end of the road, turn left, I did consider extending the route once more and making a b-line towards Hesketh Park for a loop of the Park, taking in the two highest spots (none above twenty feet so not worth getting excited about!), but my feet informed me that enough was enough and to just go home…I duly obliged.

    And so, after leaving home at 09:05 I got back to the living room at 15:34 = six hours and twenty nine minutes of walking (including about ten minutes in two shops). There is a discrepancy with regards to the mileage, my Garmin GPS which I had in my bag with me, reported a total mileage of 19.6 miles, when paired with my Bluetooth bracelet thing, Dynamo software had the mileage down as 21 miles. The Garmin would probably be the more accurate of the two, but then that’s not a given. I shall therefore take the mean average of 20.3 miles as the full distance. I won’t lie, I wanted it to be slightly more – about another mile would take me equal to the distance of the Sefton Coastal Path – DOH! Why did I shave that mile off at Kew??? Never mind…I have to say that I enjoyed this crossing of Coastal Road more than all of the previous transits, was this down to ideal walking conditions? Lack of irritating Psycho-lists? Hmm? I do know that it’s now time to get more serious walks in, in preparation of not only next year’s Amble but I’ve also decided to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks with an old acquaintance from Bolton in June (argh!), this route is good, the off-road sections have made it better and the next time that I do this I will factor in at least a part of Chrchtown Moss -but it’s just not hilly enough…

    Total Mileage: 20.3 miles
    Song of the Walk: The Doppler Effect – Beauty Hides in the Deep (again)


  • West Pennines Wanderings

    In a slightly belated follow-up to a posting from 2012, on Saturday I went over to Belmont – well Rivington first, in order to have a practice at the first section of next year’s A.A. event. I am pleased to say that:

    1. I didn’t get lost
    2. I didn’t do myself any injuries
    3. Blinking heck, Rivington Pike’s steep!

    Of course I already knew that Rivington Pike is steep, along with good old Pendle Hill it is my most ascended hill. However, I’ve never set off at before with the attitude of ‘let’s see how quickly I can get up this’…and run myself out of carbohydrates within a mere matter of moments of the beginning of the walk!

    With regret that slope is part of my route...visually pleasing as it is!
    With regret that slope is part of my route…visually pleasing as it is!
    Leverhulme's vision and Mawson's toil come together beautifully
    Leverhulme’s vision and Mawson’s toil come together beautifully

    I’d set off from the lane as per usual but this time did not go north up passing the barn, no this time I went East(!) through the Pineatum / Planted Pine and other conifer parklet(is that a real word?). The going was okay, which was in itself a good thing as the area has had a right old battering of rain in the last month. Having essentially walked flat/downhill for a good ten or twenty yards, all too soon I started to climb and it was within the first hundred yards that my still apparent lack of fitness came to the fore as both shins began to do that awful “splinter” thing which occasionally afflicts me without any forewarning. One thing was now overwhelmingly certain – this was not going to be an easy walk. I limped on through the lower slopes and was amazed at just how many paths and offshoots of paths were available – this was like the trail of cairns on bigger hills and mountains – some were necessary, but all of them? Fortunately I had been in these parts enough times to hazard a guess at which route would get me up to the lake at the Japanese Gardens. Within a few moments this panting and stumbling wreck (me) had made it to the water’s edge.

    Rivington Pike
    Rivington Pike
    Winter Hill and the dreaded Western approach.
    Winter Hill and the dreaded Western approach.

    I did not loiter at the lake as to do so would have given me time to think…of an alternate way of spending my Saturday morning. So with as much gusto as I could muster I headed off through the maze of paths until eventually arriving at Belmont Road (the track, not the A675 for those of you trying to follow me!) and from here the way ahead could not be more obvious – head for the tower atop Rivington Pike – generally upwards. This is never a gentle stroll no matter what my current condition in fact the only time that I have got up here without feeling like I’ve been dragging a pair of anvils was the time in 2013 when Sheenah and I climbed up here in thick snow. All the same I lived up to my on-going personal challenge of not stopping at any point from the large gate at the start of this short ascension – to the last step at the summit. On the day of the Anglezarke Amble I imagine this could be the scene of something of a struggle as the best side of three hundred people attempt to squeeze up this steep and probably slippery, stone staircase…at pace. Nobody amble’s up the staircase to the Pike, at best one charges, at worst one upwardly collapses.

    Once at the summit the views open up…fantastically! On the one hand all the local reservoirs – and there are a good number here, could be seen but further afield I could easily point out Parbold and Harrock Hills and the nearby summits of Burnt Edge, Crooked Edge Hill, Healey Nab and Winter Hill all seemed to be offering fine views today. Winter Hill was the next destination – via the shockingly simple but sometimes arduous route up the side of Crooked Edge Hill – which does not show itself off at all well from any other angle than that from the Pike! First of all came the effortless glide down off the Pike and over the area known as Brown Hill – I’m not a fan! Again, the route could get a bit treacherous here sliding down the Pike en masse – there’s a lot of sandstone here and when it’s wet, it’s lethal but today it was just a case of ‘watch your feet’ and get on with it. The cobbled road upon which the Rivington Pike Dog Hotel resides loses its’ name here before joining with George’s Lane an unknown distance away and this is one of those roads whereby one is grateful to be wearing walking boots…it’s a bumpy old road. Soon enough I was at the gate / stile at which begins the track up Crooked Edge Hill – it appears there is a web plot by persons unknown to name this hill Two Lads Hill after the cairns which proudly sit atop the highest point. I don’t subscribe to this movement and shall refer to the hill now and forever as Crooked Edge Hill – and the O/S agree with me! The hill is steep in just a couple of locations, the beginning and the last few feet, all the rest is quite comfortable walking…if you can ignore the relentless wind which seemed to build up close to the summits of all the hills that I walked today. I never called in at the “Lads” to practice the noble art of hitting the final cairn with one’s hand or walking pole – I’ve done that enough times for the novelty to have well and truly worn off.

    The next segment of my day’s walk would be to cross the peat-riddled and it has to be said Anglezarke-Ambled mess en route across the moor to Winter Hill – the tarmac road. (In truth it is not the most beautiful of all roads!) The wind had really picked up by now and it became necessary to spot visual distractions as there was something of a biting tone to its’ gusts. I was reminded of happy memories of ascending the hill with Sheenah that snowy day in 2013 as I made my way passed the end of the track which bravely traverses the wettest section of moorland that I have ever fortune to slosh across. I was in turn passed by a group of three mountain bikers who were trying their best to cheer each other up the hill – in truth this is not the steepest part of the hill by any stretch, Georges Lane would have depleted all of their carbohydrate reserves a mile ago. All the same, it was nice to return the compliment and pass them as they came to almost a standstill! My target grew nearer – the twin sandstone pillars at the edge of the summit plateau and the beginning of one of the longest drops off any hill in modern day Lancashire.

    The Wood under Lower height
    The Wood under Lower height

    At this local there are a number of choices of where to walk next: to the left you can go towards the o/s column and having touched that carry on down the hill through long wet grass and onto Noon Hill and its’ Slack(?). Another choice is to turn immediate right and head on over to Counting Hill (South) which at 433 metres is the second highest summit in the locale and a good walk on a snowy day or when there has been no rain for a week or more (it is a bit wet underfoot). Directly ahead lies the sheep trod which is the route straight down the northern face of Winter Hill towards the Edges and Great Hill, there can be no overstating the gradient, you don’t want to do this in icy conditions unless you have crampons on. Finally the other right hand turn is my route and is in my opinion the nicest way up Winter Hill, until now I had never descended via this route but am happy to report that it was as easy as I had hoped as long as I remembered to turn around every so often…to make sure I was not startled out of my skin by mountain bikers. As it happened I was passed by four of them, three at great speed and one looked like he would rather be anywhere else. The views across to Longworth Moor and Green Hill (Lancashire has more Green Hills than you can shake a walking stick at!) were getting better and better all the time and making me think to the effect of ‘this Anglezarke Amble isn’t going to be an amble at all’. There was no doubt about it, this was the fastest-safest route down off Winter Hill I had to steal myself from breaking out into a run at times – it’s a badly kept secret that I descend hills at a leisurely pace…glacial some might say! I know that this aspect of my walking regime needs working on and that is one of the items on the itinerary for every walk in between now and the A.A. I had had some misgivings about which path to take through the woods beforehand …these were easily put to rest upon approaching the little wood the kissing gate came into view as did a very obvious path.

    The path through the woods was short, distinct and a little ploughed up by mountain bikers…and more than a bit sticky owing to the peat base having been utterly drenched in the last few weeks. I spotted a couple who appeared to be trying to liberate a tree stump…well whatever takes your fancy and from watching all of those American horror films we all know this…if someone’s doing something in a wood or forest -ask them no questions and leave them to it, I did this and lived to carry on with the rest of the walk.

    Photo of some creepy buildings
    Photo of some creepy buildings

    And not just that, I survived crossing the A675 / Belmont Road which can be like a formula one track at weekends, fortunately enough it wasn’t busy at all today. After less than an hundred yards I was turning left and into (for me) new territory. The brilliant GreatGalleymo’s fantastic You Tube video of Adam and Dave walking the A.A. doesn’t show quite how the afore mentioned walkers get from turning left off the A675 and passed Greenhill Farm to get up to Lower Whittakers – I found Greenhill farm without a problem – it would be more of a challenge to miss it but then should I take the left hand turn off just before the farm as the instructions say on the LDWA’s web site or carry on further down the track because what I can see looks nothing like what Mr Galleymore’s video shows. I decided to carry on down the track and ultimately came to a cul-de-sac, actually quite a creepy cul-de-sac with some lovely, bone-chilling buildings that could have allured the producer of any Hollywood slasher movie!

     

     

    Great Robert Hill...and it's mighty antenna!
    Great Robert Hill…and it’s mighty antenna!

    Having consulted my map more times than any sane man would, I opted for the path which lay before me now and which had very obviously been ambled upon – it looked a right old mess with obvious signs of having a had a couple of hundred pairs of feet trudge and slide their way across it – in truth it had been a month since this year’s “Amble” but nature is something of a slow healer! The none-trampled part (the majority of the landscape) was gorgeous countryside and I truly regret not getting the camera out and going photo-crazy. I descended some slippery steps and crossed a bit of a rickety footbridge over a brook or river and then began up one even more slippery hillside that had an almighty incline – even though it actually was probably less than fifty metres, but then fifty metres over a distance of about one hundred metres is not to be sniffed at! Fortunately there was not another sole in the immediate environment which enabled me to turn the air blue as I slipped, stumbled and fell up the slope – my walking pole helped…a bit. By the time I reached the emerging quagmire atop the slope I was feeling really weary as if I had just swapped over fuels from carbs to fat burning. However, the legs were still going so I carried on through the mud and grass to reach an huge stone wall which has to be the full length of Longworth Road near the myriad of Spruce and Larch plantations. This was now familiar territory with regards to me having driven around these parts when I lived in Bolton. with regards to walking, I had no confidence what-so-ever in my sense of direction and was at a loss to make a decision on where to go? The thought that it might take me another hour at least to find the correct route to take me to Catherine Edge (the way that I wanted to go) was weighing heavily on me. All of a sudden it dawned on me that to my left was a great big antenna, and as luck would have it, it stuck out like a sore thumb on the map as well. This was the site of Great Robert Hill -less than half a mile away from my current location. I don’t know who Robert was and for which reasons he may have been considered ‘great’ but in this moment I would have gladly shook his hand (even though mine was pretty filthy after the slope falling).

    Saint Peter's Church
    Saint Peter’s Church
    Belmont Reservoir
    Belmont Reservoir

    Now I was back in my strong domain – road walking. Countryside walking is lovely and all that but even for a pedestrian, roads get you there quicker or not at all. I sped off along Longworth Road passing Egerton Road and after just a few minutes was passing the tiny mound of Great Robert Hill…and from here the route got even easier as I now dropped a few feet in altitude and before not long at all I was on the fringe of the southern tip of the huge body of water which is Belmont Reservoir. From here I picked up a lot of lost pace as the path was very easy and in no time at all I was back on Belmont Road and heading towards Rivington Lane – though I dare say it probably isn’t called that at its’ start. I had walked over this very road in the opposite direction back in 2013 so I was fully aware of how narrow and dangerous it can be. However, I was being lazy and walking almost the entire length of Rivington Lane up to the Belmont Road track promised to be infinitely easier than the off-road equivalent. I did spot a corking path which ran along side of the laughingly named ‘Blue Lagoon’ – only the proudest of all the proud Boltonians would argue that the water here is blue – there used to be a car sticking out of the middle of it. The path then bolted straight up the side of Winter Hill to merge with the one which I had descended over an hour ago…it looked very steep.

    Noon Hill
    Noon Hill
    Dovecote
    Dovecote

    After what seemed like an eternity I was en route to Catter Nab in the shadow of Noon Hill having made my way through the enormous wooden gate. This is another path of which I have some familiarity having walked its’ entire length in both directions. Here the views all around were a little bit washy but I was so happy that I had so far been free of rain and I had taken a lot of photographs anyway. It had not been very long since my last visit to this area with Southport Ramblers at the end of February but it was equally nice to traverse this path instead of the muddier version and at a much more relaxed pace – my legs simply wouldn’t go much faster!

    The track eventually merges with the same track which I had walked upon after descending Rivington Pike and soon enough Dovecote came into view, I decided to take a random route down and avoid as much mud as possible – I’d only just cleaned mud off my boots in a very long puddle. After descending the vast series of steps at the rear of Dovecote I headed west then east to take me back to the more familiar main path from Hall Wood and eventually the newer path which would link up to one of the concessionary bridal paths which leads back to the barn and at last five hours after leaving it…back to the car.

    There can be no mistake, this had served as a real eye-opener, a reality check. If my previous two walks over parts of the A.A. route with Karl and Anne had shown me what can be achieved then today had taught me where the pitfalls lay – near the very start! Rivington Pike simply has to be respected, yes it is two thousand feet lower than Scafell Pike but as with the latter if one is not prepared and sets off thinking it to be innocuous one is likely to come a real cropper! I’ve always liked Rivington Pike and Winter Hill together they did make a really enjoyable and testing half day out – adding the Longworth Moor section certainly upped the tempo but if I am to be successful next year then I have to keep upping that tempo because nobody is going to make it any easier for me…the presence of other people engaged in the same activity will spur me on, there’s no doubt about that, but I have to give myself the best fighting chance if I am to avoid repeating 2010’s disastrous Yorkshire three peaks bid.

    The positive to go forward here is that my Garmin had my actual walking time as being around three and a quarter hours to walk ten point nine miles – however this means that it has recorded me not moving for one and three quarter hours – this just did not happen! So at the moment my overall speed needs a lot of work because ten miles in five hours equals two miles an hour and I need to make a 50% improvement on that if I am to not be disqualified from the Amble!

    I’ll be back soon with Karl in order to do the sixteen miles version…and can hardly wait.

    The song of the walk: Senadee – Life Support Machine


  • Pushing up Parlick

    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.

    One of the main streets of Chipping (there aren't many) highlights the rain
    One of the main streets of Chipping (there aren’t many) highlights the rain
    Chipping seems to have more than its' fair share of car parks. We would walk past three!
    Chipping seems to have more than its’ fair share of car parks. We would walk past three!

    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.

    Could this be Burnslack fell
    Could this be Burnslack fell
    Is this the nearing Parlick?
    Is this the nearing Parlick?

    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!

    The lovely flat(ish) path we had just walked along
    The lovely flat(ish) path we had just walked along
    And the lovely level and not at all natural path that we were no longer allowed to use
    And the lovely level and not at all natural path that we were no longer allowed to use

    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!

    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.
    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.

    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

    Walk stats:
    Distance – was supposed to be 8 miles (my step logger disagrees with this by two miles)
    Ascent – one thousand and fifty feet.


  • Tottering around Turton Heights

    The walk along the edge of Turton Heights on Saturday 28th February, 2015

    As part of the great familiarisation in preparation of next year’s Anglezarke Amble, I was to visit the south eastern side of Turton Moor. Turton Heights had been on my ever-expanding ‘to-do’ list, it is a “West Pennine” top after all but even before today’s visit (and certainly after), I have to concede it’s not a star attraction, being something of a gentle lump protruding from the less notorious section of Turton Moor near the border of Darwen and Bolton. The summit itself is not even the highest point on the wide ridge that stretches for a few hundred metres in an odd north west to south east snake which starts on Green Arms Road, peaks at the quagmire that is Cheetham Close (complete with iron-age stone circle) and terminates at Horrorbin Fold next to the Jumbles Reservoir, Bradshaw / Bromley Cross, Bolton.

    Owing to certain logistical irregularities I didn’t get to Karl’s house in Darwen until around 12:45 but within fifteen minutes we were at the set-off-point at the lay-by on Green Arms Road. Our first few couple of hundred yards would undoubtedly be the most daunting, most anxious and most downright un-enjoyable as we turned left on the the A666 and made our way to the stile with cars roaring passed us doing at least the national speed limit and probably a great deal more. It was such a relief to get to the stile and begin our first stretch of moorland.

    image007
    A distant Winter Hill is right behind us.
    image008
    Charters Moss Plantation with Spitlers and Redmonds Edges behind.

    There was plenty of evidence around that it wasn’t long since a couple of hundred walkers had bounded through these parts, the grass was flattened, the mud was stirred up and myriads of footprints could be seen. Of course this was the result of this year’s Anglezarke Amble which had taken place on Valentine’s day – yes this is evidence of the amount of time, research and practice that I am putting in to next years event! Tiny bump though it may be, this side of Turton Moor is a twisted ankle waiting to happen! The first few yards were quite literally a walk in the park, followed by an-going dilemma of where to put one’s leading foot next! The ground at this patch of land was inconsistent with itself! One stretch of land would be at one level and the next would rise or drop but be akin to another patch doing just the reverse. Various gullies could be found without much investigation and so could what looked like (to me) abandoned plough-furrows (better description here when available). All in all the opening stretch of the walk – facing the majority of the western aspect of Turton Heights, was a rugged affair, thankfully over in a few minutes without any obvious injuries.

    Karl and the distant views to Ramsbottom's Peel Tower
    Karl and the distant views to Ramsbottom’s Peel Tower
    Turton and Entwistle reservoir looms at the end of the natural path.
    Turton and Entwistle reservoir looms at the end of the natural path.

    If I thought that the first few hundred yards was bad, then the walk along the side of the lump on a path(?) which went in and out of vision along with meandering up and down the slope to the summit of this hill; made the opening stretch look like a teddy-bear’s picnic…and I loved it! The video I have seen of someone walking along this path made me aware that we might be in for a little bit of a struggle – in all honesty Karl has probably done worse, considerably worse. For me however, this was and up and down, ankle threatening, roller coaster of a walk – which fortunately for us potential “Amblers” is before, as opposed to after Darwen Hill and Great Hill…after would be just awful! We had scheduled a quick nip to the top of Turton Heights in order to bag it, but, the ground was a combination of ridiculously heavy and in parts lethally slippery that we decided to postpone that until the drier days of high summer…after a good long drought!

    The path continues towards the unseen road.
    The path continues towards the unseen road.

    Eventually, we reached a large gate and made our way across a pasture with a bit of a downhill gradient. This was simple and almost care-free after the earlier stretches of the walk and before long we were crossing the road which separates the open moor from the Turton and Entwistle reservoir site. The path became very indistinct here and we essentially winged it across the field using the logic that a field generally has stiles diagonally across from each other – it did! This field for me was one of the highlights as I could imagine crossing this green oasis of smoothness when doing ‘the Amble’ next year and being relieved that for now some of the hard work would be behind me. We eventually made our way onto the paths that escort one around the reservoir in search of Edge Lane… or at least the track that would lead us there, via the Strawbury Duck (and no, that is how it’s spelt).

    The Strawbury Duck pub
    The Strawbury Duck pub
    Karl purveys whilst I attempt to take a photo of the hill we can't name.
    Karl purveys whilst I attempt to take a photo of the hill we can’t name.

    We must have spent about thirty minutes at the pub, but as I was beginning to cool down quite rapidly I was glad that we never stayed for a second shandy and instead took to Edge Lane. The tarmac path quickly deteriorated into a more natural, rural style, with added water and we began to ascend on the route to Cadshaw once more. The surrounding scenery was more lovely on the way out of the reservoir’s bowl than it had been on the way in and before long it genuinely felt like we were in the higher grounds of the West Pennines – although we would not climb more than a couple of hundred feet in over a mile. We met what must have been a bunch of Ramblers coming from the opposite direction there must have been about thirty of them! Our views to the west were somewhat dominated by one hill in particular and neither one of us could name it – so I will do the usual and refer to it as Cartridge Hill! Within a few moments we were on the A666 and heading towards the car, a few moments later and we were back on Green Arms Road only something like two and an half hours after leaving it.

    Aft views of Turton and Entwistle Reservoir
    Aft views of Turton and Entwistle Reservoir

    This had been a lovely walk out into territory that I wouldn’t normally have visited. The walk did serve its’ purpose as an eye-opener in terms of the terrain that I’ll be facing when doing the A.A. next February. I have to say that my joints and muscles did take a bit of a pounding during the traversal of Turton Heights – some gymn work will probably help with suppleness / recovery, my back hasn’t felt quite this bad since I had to pull out of doing the Great End walk last year. All the same it would be very nice to go back and next time tick off the twin summits of Turton Heights and Cheetham Close and now I know where the good parking spots are! We walked something like 5.7 miles and could have only ascended about four hundred feet.

    Winter Hill and its' ironwork again above Charter Moss Plantation.
    Winter Hill and its’ ironwork again above Charter Moss Plantation.

    The Song of the walk – What with me and Karl chattering on? You must be kidding!


  • Rambling around Rivington

    The walk with Southport Ramblers on 22nd February, 2015

    Sometimes you just have to ‘step it up’! A couple of weeks ago whilst waiting for the bus to take us to Saint Asaph I happened to be made aware that quite soon the Southport Ramblers group would be going to Rivington for a day’s walk. As this is one of my favourite areas I was obviously interested and booked a place on the coach at the first chance. In the interim the only other walking that I had done was my Darwen Moor and Coastal Road walks which as it would later turn out, would stand me in good stead.

    We arrived at the lower Rivington Café (I don’t want to confuse things by referring to Great Hall, Upper and lower halls etc) at around 10:00 and had a cup of coffee before heading off across the road and up the lane which leads to the main car park and the building to which people refer to as “The Barn” – this is where the bikers hang around on Sundays and Bank Holidays but for some reason it was somewhat devoid of Bikers today. From here the ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ walks all split off in other directions, I don’t know where the ‘C’s were going (must find out) the ‘A’s were off to Rivington Pike and we headed back down the lane, over the road and towards first the Lower Rivington Reservoir and then the Upper Rivington Reservoir – both of which were quite stunning to look at and I do wish that we’d had time to take some photographs. It has to be said that we did keep a fair old pace going, I resolved to stay as close as possible to the front of the pack – sixteen of us. I always admit to being something of a slow-set-off kind of person, it’s usually a good mile or even two into any walk before I pick up any kind of pace, however, given that on Saturday I posted my entry form for next Winter’s Anglezarke Amble, then now would be an ideal time to get fitter and less of a slow-starter. So I knuckled under, told my shins that any splints would just have to wait and carried on at this good pace which must easily have been three miles an hour.

    By the side of the reservoirs the weather, whilst not exactly tropical felt slightly warmer than the seasonal average and humidity was definitely on the higher side – we’d felt the odd tiny snow flurry at the barn, but there was more to come…I wondered how the ‘A’s would get on en route to Winter Hill via Crooked Edge Hill as it can be a bit hazardous without snow let alone with it. The walk was turning into a really pleasant day out – we took a wrong turn and had to retrace our steps (I’ve only pointed this out because it’s something that I do every so often and usually pay the price much later when I am confronted by impassable gullies and the likes), no harm no foul, we were soon passing the far side of the hidden-from-view Yarrow Reservoir. Round a gate and the snow switch was turned onto full. It was really quite scenic but the wind that accompanied it was ferocious, which was a bit of a shame really as this area was all-new to most of us…maybe I’ll return when there is more of a chance of calmer weather – just to see what can be seen.

    We now began to climb at a much more noticeable rate and it was oddly enjoyable, something to get one’s walking teeth into (insert better metaphor here)! Parts of the landscape were obviously former quarries (quarrys?) as we were now striding out through a pair of Bulloughs (Parson’s – Wilkinson’s) and into the area known as Simms, which, if memory serves me right; expands over to Great Hill in a northerly direction but we were heading west…into the snow and wind. Edit: Actually that is ‘Pimms’ which is north east of Great Hill. John had mentioned a need for us to stop en route to have lunch – even though to stop anywhere would be to start to lose body heat quite quickly in this snow gale, to go without fuel would be stupid…it’s the sort of stupid thing that I have done previously and paid for in terms of performance and hydration. Good call John. Individually we found parts of walls to site behind which would keep most of the gale off us…for me this mean kneeling down, which then meant my overly tight gaiter’s gaining one more step towards total freedom from my legs – I need to find wider gaiters…or lose weight from my calves. We spent no more than fifteen minutes eating our lunches, this was my first time out with my new half litre flask and pouring the drink in this wind was an exercise in pouring coffee on one’s legs- the flask needed to be nearer the cup!

    Lunch over; we set off back on the path once more, however at this point the path gave up all pretence of being anything other than terrain where others have trod; and as we began to ascend towards Will Narr – the reputation of the area was justified. This was now an exercise in walking through typical Pennine moorland – wet, slippery and… well do we need another hazard? It was here that we met with the ‘A’ group who had been blown and skidded down the north face of Winter Hill – I’ve had experience of coming down the track that they had taken – it’s a bit hair raising in dry weather, in snow it must have been treacherous! We spent a couple of moments chatting, they had done most of their hard work now and would return the way that we had left. Our route would now be a gentle slide down the last few feet of Spitlers Edge then a walk down Belmont Road/Rivington Road/Lane! The friends of the River Yarrow have a commemorative plague here to mark the beginning of the River Yarrow, in all honesty it’s not a big thing, today with the snow and the wind, we passed by it with barely a second thought, not even a photo.

    Rivington Road/Lane/Whatever it’s called, proved to be at one and the same time a brief method of getting from A to B and an exercise in road safety as quite a number of cars passed by at a much reduced speed than one would normally be passed on this road in Summer for example. We next exited the road to go across country, passing down an area which at one time or another must also have been a quarry and emerging at the other side of this little ravine no more than an hundred or so yards down the road – most rambling routes seem to take as much of an avoidance of roads as is possible (unlike my routes which rely on roads to avoid getting lost!).

    At times the mighty Winter hill loomed in and out of view. The distant trees I had spotted what seemed like miles ago suddenly got a lot bigger and we headed off along a snow bound pasture to what I will refer to as ‘Stile World’. Both of the stiles were quite big it has to be said, one practically impaled one of my fellow walkers in an highly uncomfortable way! Although by this time we were not at the end we where at least on the run up to the end of the walk as our surroundings suddenly got a lot more familiar – even though I have not walked much in this vicinity I have peered over at it from the Belmont track and from Noon Hill, we were just south of Catter Nab. Finally (for some) at the joining of paths with roads, near the car park at Hall Lane; four of our number opted to take the route back down to the barn – we’d had a casualty, given the underfoot conditions it’s a miracle that we didn’t have more, and we waited a few moments whilst John got them to the path which leads down to the side of the barn.

    Once reunited with our leader, we set off for the Japanese Gardens via the stony path (although not as stony as the path that for a time runs near parallel to it) which heads south towards the Dovecote or Pigeon Tower. Before getting to the tower we would take a right hand turn and take the muddy path around the small lake that Lord Leverhulme had Thomas Mawson design close to one hundred years ago. Now we were on the home-ward stretch, we took a winding path – which I’ve never considered using prior to this walk, that quite rapidly dropped us down to the lane but not before passing through a Pinateum (apparently this is like an Arboretum but mainly filled with Pine trees and conifers) which was a nice end to the walk. We arrived back at the coach not much after two o’clock having done something in the region of 8.4 miles and roughly 1,000 feet (not recorded by any instrument of mine as I still have none!).

    In conclusion, I’ve done harder walks – Great Gable, the Sca fells and it has to be said – once up the Barley steps to Pendle is a bloomin’ hard walk, but I’ve also done easier walks: last week’s Coastal Walk aside from the distance has little in the way of challenges – other than not being run over by cars crossing the roads or cyclists – being cyclists! I’m very glad to have stepped up from being a ‘C’ walker to a ‘B’ walker and feel that the decision was made at the right time if I am to successfully complete the A.A. next year in under ten hours. It was a great walk in many ways – the scenery given a snow coating was breathtaking (or maybe that was just the wind!) and I must return in Summer to see what it looks like without snow in my eyes. All in all, a good Ramble.

    Next time out for me with the Ramblers will see my return to the lovely village of Chipping on the border of Bleasdale – home to Parlick and Fair Snape Fell…hmmm? My next journey out walking however, should see another return…to Cadshaw where myself and Karl will familiarise ourselves with another section of the A.A. route – the ascension of the notoriously soggy Tutron Heights and a loop of the Turton and Entwistle Reservoir.

    Walks this year: Five
    Mileage: 56.1 (not including walking to and from the bus stops everyday)

    Some pictures of the day:

    Our Route Around Rivington
    Our Route Around Rivington

    Parson's or Wilkinson Bullough (Somebody's Bullough anyway).
    Parson’s or Wilkinson Bullough (Somebody’s Bullough anyway).

    Hmmm now where to sit?
    Hmmm now where to sit?

    The beautiful and roomy Café Hempshaws (Higher or Lower?) where we stopped for lunch...and frostbite!
    The beautiful and roomy Café Hempshaws (Higher or Lower?) where we stopped for lunch…and frostbite!

    The path that will eventually lead us to Will Narr.
    The path that will eventually lead us to Will Narr.

    A distant Spitlers Edge comes into view.
    A distant Spitlers Edge comes into view.

    Not really a misty day...except for in my camera's lens.
    Not really a misty day…except for in my camera’s lens.

    There's something reassuring about the site of the woods coming into view at Moses Cocker
    There’s something reassuring about the site of the woods coming into view at Moses Cocker

    More Moors
    More Moors

    Spitlers and Redmonds Edges in the background and one of about six close-together stiles in the foreground.
    Spitlers and Redmonds Edges in the background and one of about six close-together stiles in the foreground.

    Something tells me we might have a forest here in about fifty years...damn, I'll just miss that coming to fruition!
    Something tells me we might have a forest here in about fifty years…damn, I’ll just miss that coming to fruition!

    The area just south of Catter Nab is well walked but hardly ever written about.
    The area just south of Catter Nab is well walked but hardly ever written about.

    More scenic views from the area just south of Catter Nab
    More scenic views from the area just south of Catter Nab

    Song of the walk: The Saturdays – Missing


  • Finally the Coastal Stretch…Done…

    …For now!

    Yes folks I have finally managed to complete the whole stretch without using any public transport – no matter how short a distance, to get me and my blistered feet home.

    I set off at 10:13 – no I wasn’t deliberately going for an off-the-wall time, it just panned out that way. My plan was to go straight up Queens Road/Cambridge Road/Preston New Road then onto Marine Drive until the green path to Hesketh Drive via Hesketh Golf Course appeared. I would then follow the coast into Southport town centre – but this time on the pavement as my trainers really don’t cope well with sand (and my feet don’t cope at all with walking boots on pavements). From the town centre I took the same road Marine Drive / Coastal Road all the way to just outside Woodford where I turned left onto the A565 Liverpool Road until Segars Lane where I took the turn-off and onto Mill Road then followed this road all the way to Benthams Way and up to Tesco at Meols Cop. From here it was an hair-raising crossing of Scarisbrick New Road onto Norwood Road then Norwood Avenue up to Roe Lane. Finally Roe Lane onto my street and home at…

    16:23

    The total walk including stoppages for ice cream (so essential yesterday) and road crossings and little rest-bites was six hours and ten minutes. As I was sat down for five minutes or so at Norwood Road I thought to myself ‘If I can get home for 4.30 I’ll be happy’. Suffice to say that I was ecstatic to shave seven minutes off that optimistic deadline.

    I have to admit that by taking the green path via the Marshside Path and the Hesketh Golf Course I did shave around a mile off the old route – if I had stayed on the road then I think the final mileage would have come in at a round twenty miles as opposed to the 18.6 miles that I did. All the same, it’s still the furthest that I’ve ever walked and don’t my feet know it! The weather yesterday was pretty much the warmest February day that I can remember – it looks at though Global Warming isn’t a load of gibberish after all!

    At no point did I see a sign indicating “Coastal Path this direction” so it looks like I will have to stick to my plan of ‘doing’ the Sefton Coastal Path from South to North, Crosby to Southport, no biggie it would have just added an extra layer of certainty when the time of the walk comes. That being said, I have walked the Coastal Road four times now so if I was lost whilst doing the full blown Sefton Coastal Path then I’d need my head banging!

    For me the whole year’s walking will be a (hopefully) straight line gradual improvement to gear me up for the Anglezarke Amble next February – I am going to have a go at the Yorkshire Three Peaks with a view to just finishing it in under twelve hours…watch this space folks. Until my next post, here are some pictures of the day:

    AftertheFelling
    AftertheFelling

    AinsdaleDunes1
    AinsdaleDunes1

    AinsdaleDunes2
    AinsdaleDunes2

    AinsdaleDunes3
    AinsdaleDunes3

    AinsdaleWood
    AinsdaleWood

    Animals
    Animals

    ConcreteSands
    ConcreteSands

    Conifer
    Conifer

    Preston New Road
    Preston New Road

    Conifer at Ainsdale
    Conifer at Ainsdale

    FlatLands at Southport beach
    FlatLands at Southport beach

    Pond at Hesketh Golf Course
    Pond at Hesketh Golf Course

    Golfers at Hesketh Golf Course
    Golfers at Hesketh Golf Course

    Green Sands at Southport Beach
    Green Sands at Southport Beach

    Hazy Southport TownCentre
    Hazy Southport TownCentre

    Song of the walk: The Doppler Effect – Beauty hides in the Deep