Pendle Hill via Barley & Newchurch Part 2

Continuation of Part One:

Well, we’ve arrived at the eastern corner of Fell Wood and now it’s time to traverse the wood. This is done in just few moments then some very steep and tiny steps have to be descended. Having done this section in frost I would NOT recommend this part of the walk in snow; as the corners that have to be rounded are quite sharp, bumpy and slippery. Cross the wooden footbridge and bear right keeping the beginnings of Lower Ogden reservoir on your right hand side, then take a left, then at the junction of paths where this natural path meets with a tarmac one, turn left.

This winding and ever ascending lane starts off relatively easy as we pass under the shadow of the sheep-clothed Ogden Hill and head towards the dam wall (that is neither an expression of disgust or a misspelling!) of the less picturesque Upper Ogden Reservoir. The impressive water structure makes a great place to stop for a moment’s (or longer if you want) break. There are a number of gates within your immediate vicinity, one behind (the one on your right hand side) which is a pathway up to Ogden Hill, ignore this. Ignore the one on your left hand side also as this effectively leads to nowhere but part of the reservoir’s run-off devices. There being no further alternatives we now go over the stone-wall stile and head up the short but steep grit and stone path to the right which should bring us up to the south end of Upper Ogden reservoir.

The observant will now notice a path on your right hand side which is to be the next part of our route, the left hand option should be saved for another day as this leads to the peaty and generally tough Spence Moor and is where at one time I took a wrong turning. For us the next stretch is along a slightly bumpy and decidedly ‘juicy’ path past places with wonderful names as Fox Holes, Sheep holds and our next major turning point at Cat Holes. There are stiles and way-markers on the route however the familiar Pendle Witch wooden way-marker is now replaced by a stone block with the wording “Pendle Way” etched upon it. Within half a mile all traces of reservoirs have now been left behind us and now on our left hand side is the main contributory. To be had now are stunning views of Ogden Clough, Dry Clough and our route up the side of Boar Clough that features the lonely Rowan Tree. As we wind our way up the right hand path with the occasional spring on our left hand side the Rowan tree and exquisite miniature cataracts are on our left and ever-nearing. The path itself is not too steep, often a little bit sticky, quite winding but decidedly ‘peaty’ and is a little reminiscent of parts of the much larger “Pennine Way”. At the very obvious top of the climb off Boar Clough look forward to grand sweeping views of the entire district. The eastern aspect of Ogden Clough does indeed look severe and foreboding, beyond this lies the notorious ‘Nick O’ Pendle’ – a check mark on the list of every extreme cyclist and seemingly beyond this … the world, at least the southern half of it!

We’re on the run-up to the summit and its’ ordnance survey trig point now and you may notice the way-marking cairns now start to gain in size and regularity. The path too increases in width as what was once a narrow strip now becomes an highway of a route with the paths that originated in Pendleton and Worston now joining our main route (though not all of these are shown on the OS maps). The last section up to the OS point is indeed peaty and bumpy but not at all steep – although if you started your walk at Nick ‘O’ Pendle then by comparison this probably is getting a bit taxing on the calf muscles by now.

At last, we are now on the summit, if it’s earlier in the year than the end of April then you probably want to get off it quick-smart, but resist the temptation to flee from the ever-present wind and accompanying chill. The views to be had from the summit are (in my opinion – and others that I have read) the best in Lancashire. To the north lie the big three of modern-day North Yorkshire (Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside), to the south and east lie the Southern Pennines as far as the Peak District, closer afield lie the Bleasdale fells with shapely Parlick catching the eye first. Down the slope to the north lies the pretty, protected village of Downham and in the opposing direction are all four of the Pendle Hill reservoirs – the Ogden’s and the Black Mosses.

Having spent some quality time at the summit head north towards the now ubiquitous wall and turn right before the wall stile that would lead you into Downham. You are now about to descend the main tourist route to Barley via “The Steps”. To ascend the hill via this man-made stone and wooden staircase is to willingly participate in a new level of exhaustion. Even the route down which we are taking is a test of the nerves, not that the path has not been expertly constructed on difficult terrain. After dropping hundreds of feet within quite a short distance our path merges with a grit stone one that has come down from the southern aspect of the summit before we go through a wooden gate and bear right across a sheep-filled pasture. Don’t worry the sheep of this area tend to be quite timid and they won’t flock around or charge you. Head across the pasture ’round the back of Pendle House and towards Ing Ends.

The way forward is very well sign-posted all of the way back to Barley Centre visitor car park as we head through one more pasture, umpteen kissing gates and at least three wooden footbridges. There have been welcome repairs to the sloping footpath after Ing Head Farm which now has a nice blue carpet of stone chippings – how long they’ll stay in place is not something that I’m willing to guess. Our path finally meets with Barley Road / Lane as the infant Pendle Water is beginning to widen – it vanishes under the road here to be seen again at Barley Green. We turn right on the main road, crossing safely near the miniature bus terminus (you have to see it to believe the very cuteness of it!), take the metal bridge over Pendle Water and head the few hundred footsteps into the visitor centre car park – you’ve earned a cup of coffee and a cake of some kind now as this has been an enormous walk over varying terrain and various altitudes.

The very fit (or just plain stupid!) can further extend the walk by turning left, cross the road and then immediately right upon meeting Barley Road. Now follow the single track tarmac road all the way up to and past the first of the two Black Moss Reservoirs (lower) which is somewhat obscured by a showcase of a drystone wall. On your right hand side will be a turn off halfway between the two moss reservoirs (these will be on your left!) which is of a grit stone composition. Upon reaching said grit stone turn-off; take it; and then follow the gentle ambling path as it gains in height to over a thousand feet once more. After no more than five hundred yards you should see the uppermost reaches of Aitken Wood, a small but interesting coniferous forest that is our destination. Of course peak baggers or trig-point baggers can veer off on the path that emerges to the left near the crest of our climb, as that is the direction of the ordnance survey column on Stang Top Moor, and I do wish you good luck with that particular quest (I can find the thing on neither Google Earth nor in reality, but digital photographic evidence does exist)!

Once at the top of the hill look back at dear old Pendle Hill across the valley over the reservoirs. You simply must take in this view and it’s okay to shed a tear, for this is Pendle Hill in an exalted view, the best of the best, the cream of the crop! This is one image that automatically deserves to stay in the memory…forever!

If you just have to leave, then the path to take is one of a sand and stone combination which does illuminate remarkably well under sunlight. The path skirts around the hilltop somewhat and then leads you down into the more tightly planted area of Aitken Wood. Beware of spooky tree stumps and the odd fallen tree and vertical root ball (come on, this is Pendle did you think that it would be all nice and light with fairies and fawns frolicking on the verdant pine-needle carpeted forest floor?). Descend the series of freshly planted wooden steps and plough-on towards the dry stone wall in front of you at the southern end of the wood. Regrettably there are a few stiles to ascend / descend / traverse, some are wooden, others are stone.


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