• 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


  • Back to the Coast

    Southport’s Coastline
    Southport’s Coastline

    As well as undertaking the “mud fest” which is the Anglezarke Challenge at the end of next Winter I have also resolved to participate in another all day Long Distance Path – The Sefton Coastal Path. Readers of this blog will be all too aware that I am now quite accustomed to walking the entire length of Southport’s Coastal Road/Marine Drive, the Sefton Coastal Path utilises a good deal of this road – not all of it, but enough to kindle my interest.

    The walk can obviously start from either Marshside or Crosby – when I do the walk in full I shall catch the train from Southport down to Crosby then essentially walk back. The route extends from The Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre passing through the Ainsdale and Formby Nature Reserves and the following areas: Crosby, Hightown, Formby, Freshfields, Ainsdale, Birkdale, Southport and Marshside. There will be much in the way of flatlands but perhaps the biggest obstacles are the numerous Sand Dunes that don’t normally facilitate swift foot progress! Fortunately, I won’t be spending the usual amount of time avoiding being hit by cyclists on the Coastal Road stretch…I’ll be avoiding these in Crosby for a couple of miles, the Coastal Road stretch sees me scaling the self same Sand Dunes that I’ve been driving and walking passed for the last twelve years…and some of them are big! The sections I am looking forward to the most – not just the last ten yards, are the nature reserves at Ainsdale (which always looks enticing from the road) and at Formby Point that I have visited on a number of occasions but never as part of a larger walk…I am quite excited at the prospect of this in particular.

    Common sense dictates that I leave it a couple of weeks before setting of to do this – although a part of me wants there to be snow and to have the unique experience of walking on snowy Sand Dunes, can you imagine? In the meanwhile I shall put in another Coastal Stretch practice walk…probably this Saturday or if the weather is bad then Sunday, it never rains ALL weekend does it?

    With regards to these Day-long, Long Distance Paths, if by this time next year (give or take a fortnight) I have done the following:

    The Sefton Coastal Path
    The Anglezarke Amble
    The Three Towers Walk
    and
    The Three Peaks of Yorkshire (yes, I am showing vast amounts of interest in that once more)

    I’ll have done reet well – knew that was going to upset the spell checker!


  • Just Ambling along…

    The Walk of Saturday 31st of January, 2015

    As I have announced in a previous post (about two weeks ago if not later) I have declared my intention to participate in next year’s Anglezarke Amble – at winter (well it’s normally the first or second week of February). Today’s walk would serve as my introduction to some of the route. It had been my original intention to start from the bottom of the descent off Winter Hill and go all the way over to Turton and Entwistle reservoir, over to Darwen Hill then back along Catherine Edge again to the finish point. Common-sense prevailed as for an introductory / familiarisation walk – the route I’ve just described is a long walk over extremely spongy terrain. My good friend and walking buddy Karl delivered a much more manageable but still challenging route that would start at a lay-by on the A666 and go a full circle around Turton and Darwen Moors taking in the ubiquitous Darwen Jubilee Tower to boot. Here is how the day panned out:

    I dropped my partner off at her works at 07:50 and my next task was to fuel up the car as it had something like one tenth of a tank’s worth of petrol. Problem number one was the key seemed to have jammed in the filler lock and it was after many slight twists before I could open up the filler. I could see where this might go…I wouldn’t be able to get the filler lock back in-situ and thus bought one of those emergency ones from the petrol station. This added ten minutes on to the time of the journey down to Darwen, but before this I would run into a road closure outside Heath Charnock, where I normally would go left for Adlington/Anderton I had to stay on the A6 all the way down to Blackrod before making my way back to the western edge of Horwich and onto the B226. Minor detours over I was afforded fleeting white views of the surrounding moorland as I drove over the tops past Wilderswood etc en route to the A58’s junction with the A666 and from there it was only fifteen minutes or so before I was at Karl’s to pick up Karl and Anne who would be joining us for half of the walk.

    How’s that for a nice path?
    How’s that for a nice path?
    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill

    We parked near Cadshaw Farm and immediately crossed the road – the A666 is dangerous for long stretches so we wanted to be on a pavement side – ironically enough this would then mean crossing the road again to get us back to the beginning of the ascent from Cadshaw to Smith’s Height. At Smith’s Height the path takes a decidedly westerly track along one of many stretches of the LDP known as “The Witton Weavers Way”. We passed through Top O’th Brow (there are many Top O’th Brows in and around Bolton) and saw a group of Ramblers as we neared Green Lowe. I was intending taking a photo but every so often a biting wind talked me out of it…photography would wait until the summit and the lowlands. Near Turn Lowe we changed direction as the LDP dropped down the side of the hill and we took the gently undulating but very muddy path to the north then east then north and then west…and then north to Darwen Hill.

     

    The borough of Darwen with Longridge doing its' Howgills impression!
    The borough of Darwen with Longridge doing its’ Howgills impression!

    Darwen Tower is one of those prominent landmarks which are instantly spotted from within it’s own environ. Yet it is staggering that on our route we were almost on top of it before clapping eyes on the monolith and as for that wind…It was no surprise to me, this being my fourth time up this hill, just how the wind can howl around this site. After making quite good progress across the moor and up the hill we then spent not much time at all eating our lunch and drinking (soup for Karl and Anne but water for me) before hitting the track once more. We took the northern track which swings southwards and made very brief progress downhill all the way (and crossing the road) to what will be one of the checkpoints for the Anglezarke Amble (event) at Slipper Lowe (aren’t the names around here just fantastic?). At this point we had to part ways with the Anglezarke Amble (event) path in order to cross the road again and head off uphill in order to get onboard the express walker’s highway of Catherine Edge.

    You can’t be a walker in this area without traversing Catherine Edge – it’s the A6 of all walking routes and seems to touch every main path along the great divide…the A675/Belmont Road which splits Withnell and Wheelton Moors on the one side and Darwen and Turton Moors on the other side – I may be guilty of over playing Catherine Edge’s part in the scheme of things, it’s a nice path which rather gently leads one up a gradient as opposed to some of the more “in your face” kind of paths in this area like the two northern ones up Winter Hill.

    Aft views of people enjoying the weather at Cartridge Hill
    Aft views of people enjoying the weather at Cartridge Hill

    Remember last month/year when on a Pendle walk I lost a watch? This time out; its’ replacement fell off my wrist whilst I was putting my backpack on. As the bracelet was one of those expanding hair-pulling ones it must have taken some force from me to involuntarily yank it off my wrist, pull the pin out which holds the bracelet to the crown case … the poor watch hit the deck, I gathered up the watch and the pin that had shot out and we carried on regardless as it seemed to be working (the watch). However a mile or two further down Catherine Edge – I said it was a major path, Karl asked me the time and I couldn’t answer as the poor watch was still saying five past one! We walked along the edge some more and gained some more gradual height – Catherine Edge is really long! We passed some families sledging down the lower slopes of Cartridge Hill – this was an activity that I didn’t think happened any more, really heart-warming, family fun – I didn’t want to get a camera out and ruin it. And finally our route split from the Witton Weavers Way as it snaked south east and our route took a north east leaning to Moorside – a more appropriate name you will never find! Inadvertently we walked right past our turn off – but that’s what walkers do…especially me and Karl. Karl indicated where the path that the walkers (on the day) will have taken across the moors passing Greenhill Farm, Lower and Higher Whittaker’s – if my maths serves me right it should only be a forty metres climb before turning onto the track that we were now on. Back to today and now we were essentially out of path and needed to hop over a barb wire fence. Karl being two to three inches taller than me went first, almost gazelle like! I, on the other hand set about it with all the finesse of a goat, a goat that’s been introduced to alcohol! Luckily enough the farmer had been using this field as a tip and I spied a bucket with which I could abridge the fence…even so it was a bit close to tender areas for comfort…bloomin’ maps!

    Once over the fence we weaved our way through this wet paddock and before long noticed that there was a dry path running almost parallel to it in the next field along, this was not on our route but it did strike us as kind of dumb that the route planners had elected to send us through this quagmire as opposed to that neat little carpeted promenade – ah well! I also noted with some dread that the land seemed to drop out of sight at the threshold…a very near threshold. And after a few hundred yards we came upon the reason why – a river. Of course the word river would be a very generous description for this body of water. It is only now days later that I have come to discover that this body of water is the confluence of the Holden’s Brook and Stones Bank Brook which go on to form…an inlet to the Delph Reservoir…it’s hard not to feel a little bit disappointed, if this had been the source of the river Darwen or something more impressive…. We carefully dropped down the side of the hill next to something like a fifteen to twenty feet drop into the stream/river/water and then crossed one of the single most rickety bridges that I’ve ever seen. Seriously, just the act of leaning anywhere on this bridge would be an extreme hobby!

    The other side of the bridge featured a lovely steep slope up to the area in-between Owshaw Clough and well not much else. The terrain had evened out albeit it was now equally muddy wherever one stood. The droning of the A666’s traffic grew louder and I was relieved when Karl confirmed that the conifer wood on our right hand side according to his knowledge and the map was Charter Moss Plantation – right next to the A666 and within about three quarters of a mile (perhaps less) from the car. There’s something very reassuring in the proof that you’re not lost and that the car is not far away – even though on the day of the walk my arrival at this locale will only signify that I have a hell of a long way to go yet.

    We were back to the car by around ten passed three and back at Karl’s house a few moments later than that. My super-dooper Bluetooth footstep logger informs me that we’d walked around thirteen and an half miles…I’m not so sure we’d gone that far, earlier calculations from Karl which included the loop of Turton and Entwistle reservoir and Turton Heights came in at 12 miles so I think we could estimate that we had walked (ploughed!) something like ten and a quarter miles over about 1,900 feet in five and a quarter hours (or thereabouts), a good performance and it would be easier to improve upon as I won’t be making the mistake of walking passed the turn-off point to get to Charter’s Moss Plantation – I’d already seen the turn-off featured on a “You Tube” video of The Great Galleymo which would save me about fifteen minutes. I can see myself completing the entire route in about ten hours if on my own or nine if accompanied…certainly not the eight that it took the afore mentioned Mr Galleymore.

    Summary
    At times I did think to myself ‘In to what have I dived head first, here?’. The walk up to Darwen Tower is a long one, but not that bad compared with others that I have done, even quite recently – Pendle’s Barley Steps route of New Year’s Eve are considerably more exhausting to mention nothing of Great Gable and Sca Fell for height and the soggyness of Cross Fell’s shoulders…I am up to doing the route. That being said, a lot more practice in this type of area needs to be done if I am not to finish embarrassingly late on the day of the event. To split the route down into sections and tackle these one at a time and sometimes twice, is a wise idea. I don’t think that the event route takes in the summit of Turton Heights…but as a West Pennine it is on my ‘to-do’ list and as such is set to be my next outing in a couple of weeks, I hope to park at the same place (and be accompanied by Karl – he’s good company) walk down the road to Turton Heights then take in the hill and return via the reservoir route which should finish opposite where our route today started.

    A special note has to be added here in praise of Darwen Hill and its’ surrounding countryside – it’s stunningly beautiful when there has been a bit of snowfall, I had expected charming scenes but these were almost exaggerated. I liked this route so much that I will do it again – the whole thing aside from having to do most of it next Winter…

    Some pictures from the day:

    The joining or parting of the Edges Spitlers and Redmonds
    The joining or parting of the Edges Spitlers and Redmonds
    Karl spies the bench upon which he can sit and have some soup.
    Karl spies the bench upon which he can sit and have some soup.
    The legendary Catherine Edge and you thought that was a person.
    The legendary Catherine Edge and you thought that was a person.
    The summit plateau of Darwen Moor, a bleak but impressive place.
    The summit plateau of Darwen Moor, a bleak but impressive place.
    Winter Hill and Redmonds Edge
    Winter Hill and Redmonds Edge

    Song of the walk: Idina Menzel – Let it go


  • Gearing up for the A.A.

    That’s the Anglezarke Amble!

    I am giving serious thought to doing the Long Distance Path known as the Anglezarke Amble – 20 miles around Rivington and Turton Moor, next year. It’s a lovely looking route – will I say that after I’ve attempted it? Although there is a one-day event to do the Anglezarke Amble on February 14th this year – that’s not an ideal date for me to go and get covered in mud and freezing cold.

    So I am going about this sensibly and will split my training for this into three stages. Firstly will be the stage from the bottom of Winter Hill – the A675 at Belmont over and around Longworth Moor up to and around the Turton and Entwistle reservoir, across Turton Moor then up to Darwen Hill and back along the southern slopes of Longworth Moor across Catherine Edge.

    Sounds easy doesn’t it? That’s well over a thousand feet of climbing. When I do the full course this is essentially the ‘middle’ section in between ascending Rivington Pike>Two Lads and Winter Hill and the long haul back climbing over Great Hill to White Coppice, passing Anglezarke reservoir and back uphill to Rivington Barn.

    As I am not in the least bit familiar with the area – remember I got lost on Turton golf coarse trying to find Cheetham Close, then it makes sense to have someone with me to stop me going off route – step forward Karl. I haven’t put the idea of the doing the whole route to him yet (so shhhh!) but as I haven’t seen him since tumbling down Great Gable it will be great to catch up.

    For more information see the LDWA’s website here: http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Anglezarke+Amble {opens in new browser tab}


  • Perilous Pendle Perhaps

    The walk to the summit of Pendle Hill on 31st December, 2014.

    For most of 2014 I had been promising myself another walk up Lancashire’s iconic Pendle Hill – I even had Halloween scheduled in as a definite, but I just kept on failing to make it to Barley…it’s a long drive for someone whom does not drive much. However, New Year’s Eve-eve brought forward a new resolve to do the walk, no matter what and with my partner working on New Year’s Eve, indeed working early (at 07:30) it was like I was being handed the opportunity on a plate and who was I to refuse.

    Frost was all around as I left the car park at Meols Cop, Southport so I pledged that I would take the less hilly – Downham route to Barley if there was evidence of much snow or ice. Fortunately for me the fields of frost seemed to abate by Osbaldeston so I stuck to my normal route of A59, A671 then Barrowford Road the A6068 (yes I did Google that!) up to Fence then turned left one stop earlier than normal (not intentionally) but still came out on to Saint Anne’s Drive whereby I took the narrow lanes up passing Nogarth Ridge before dropping through Roughlee past Jinny Lane and arriving at the Cabin at Barley at around 8:45 ready for a departure at 09:00.

    The steps from around the back of Pendle House
    The steps from around the back of Pendle House

    Although I did not cover myself in many layers of clothing I did bring and wear my scarf and gloves as there was a definite chill in the air, underneath my coat I had only worn my hi-wick walking polo shirt as in the past I have worn too many clothes and spent a good deal of the first few minutes of the walk sautéing away! As the ice was visible on the slope of the hill from the village centre I believed that the route I had planned – Under Pendle, would probably be a treacherous, sliding nightmare, so with no sense of dread (to which I was ready to admit) I decided to tackle the infamous Barley steps for the first time since the Pendle Witch Walk of 2012. Another resolve that I had was to not take any photographs until I had reached the summit trig point as this is a great impetus spoiler (for me). I was quite pleasantly surprised when I checked my watch at  the iron kissing gate and discovered that I had only taken twenty minutes at what I had thought was a leisurely pace. More that a few moments passed before I was facing the beast at the back of Pendle House – after gingerly negotiating the emerging quagmire in the normally black-faced-sheep paddock (none were around today), the steep climb up the south east face of Pendle Hill. My drive was simple, just keep on walking, don’t sit down (mother nature saw to that one for me with a deliciously icy breeze).

    Others were en route up and down the hill today and I was lucky enough to see one lady descend the slope with caution but at least she did it…then my eyes and ears were captured with the sight and sound of a lovely young east Lancs lass falling in her own shadow at pretty much the same place where I fell in 2011! She was as embarrassed as I had been but I had been lucky to have no witnesses. I smirked to her “I did that” and added “and even worse was I nearly impaled myself on my plastic cigarette” which brought a radiant smile from her. I asked what was the condition atop the hill and she responded that it was windy but manageable but the worst part was the slide down the slope. I asked as to the condition of the steps and she replied that they were free of ice. Then she shouted after her walking companion who was by now the best side of an hundred yards across the fields and we parted ways.

    Pleasant distractions ( I like talking to people when I am out walking) over with I began my slow but deliberate ascent. Every so often I would stop and have a five second breather but I am happy to say that only one couple caught up and passed me – the lady of which muttered something about it never getting any easier – she had a point! However, I felt then that the weather was aiding progress as stopping for more than a few seconds was a chilly experience. After what seemed like a good forty minutes (I had resolved not to check my watch on the steps) I was within sight of the border wall – the separation of the villages of Downham and Barley which is the sign that the steep ascent is now over and done with and the next few hundred yards to the trig point is a gentle amble…if one observes the late Alfred Wainwright’s guidance about watching where one puts one’s feet – ice was in abundance at the summit plateau.

    I've made it!
    I’ve made it!
    You want ice?
    You want ice?

    And so was the wind! The last few times that I’ve ‘done Pendle’ I have been rewarded with no view worthy of photography, today was no exception. The colours were all a bit washed out and the sky was very hazy. Add to this the fact that simply the art of holding the camera steady was escaping me because of the wind chill factor…whatever photographs I took were hurried and of no great quality. I was extremely pleased to see that I had beaten my previous personal best time – today’s ascension had taken just one hour and fourteen minutes compared to 2012’s one hour twenty five. I had believed that the walks up Great Gable and Sca Fell would aide me today (not to forget Cross Fell), but here was the evidence – although the cold conditions must have played some part.

     

    A passer by ..passing by!
    A passer by ..passing by!
    My choice of beginnings of the descent route.
    My choice of beginnings of the descent route.

    I began my descent, choosing to ignore the falling girl’s warning of the ice I opted for the slope back down to Pendle House as within twenty feet of the Downham wall there had been enough ice and frost to instil in me a fear of taking that route back down. I had considered dropping down Under Pendle but that route is very steep and would therefore be a sliding exercise in bottom bruising. Perhaps Boar Clough – afraid not, in wet weather this route is also one for those with a sense of balance – mine abandoned me a few decades back and I don’t see any sight of him coming back! No, it had to be the slope…for posterity I took a few photos of the thing that might kill me! I opted for the more shiny route that was not as steep as the one at the lowest part of the photo. I should mention that as this point I was overtaken by another walker who opted for the route that I would take – after setting off down this slope he seemed to vanish and I never saw him for the rest of the walk.

    The slope from the merging of the routes.
    The slope from the merging of the routes.
    Ogden Clough
    Ogden Clough

    I carried on my increasingly slower walk. A very narrow gully which is in effect a small stream bed drops down about two thirds of the length of the slope, in parts this was very icy. After a yard’s worth of a slide I opted for walking at the side of the path…essentially walking in a sloped manner on the slope! I heard a couple very obviously encountering the same difficulties as I had (and still was) but all the same they managed to catch up to me. We exchanged greetings and opinions on our current task and I could sense that he was enjoying the experience as much as I was – ‘though I couldn’t say the same for his female partner who at one and the same time looked rather pale and nervous. Such was my growing confidence that at one point I even got the camera out again and took a few more pictures.

    I reached the point at where the girl (oh she was easily in her twenties but I still call her a girl!) had fallen over and decided not to try her particular route instead opting to take a very slight rise and drop that would lead me directly to the steps. Much more people were now in sight and I exchanged greetings with any whom met my eye contact. I got talking to one chap who was trying to shake off his Christmas Cold – with no luck so far. At one point I was going to tell him the time but realised to my dismay that I no longer had my watch on my right wrist! As I had definitely checked the time at the trig point and at the top of the slope the blasted thing must have come off my wrist whilst I was taking my right glove off in order to take a photograph. I had the option of carrying on regardless or retracing my steps.

    I already have something like twenty watches…and it was cold and exhausting work just walking on the side of this hill, I decided to carry on regardless. This had been the watch which I had worn to the gym and on all of my walks across the Coastal Road so I was a bit gutted but ce la vie! I do hope that someone stumbles across the watch, puts a new strap on it (as I think this must have snapped when I was taking off my glove) and carries on its’ life. Farewell my favourite walking watch!

    More gravel please.
    More gravel please.
    Eyes on your feet here as this stuff is as slippery as an MP on Question Time.
    Eyes on your feet here as this stuff is as slippery as an MP on Question Time.

    I carried on passed Pendle House and Brown House, pausing to take more photos. I must concede that the path really needs repairs in a few spots – mostly near Brown House – the blue shale-like substance that was applied in 2011 has all but gone, I’d imagine that 482 pairs of feet trampling over the route on 18th of August 2012 had much to do with this. Otherwise I was delighted to be able to amble my way taking as many photographs as I could on the easiest section of the route – the journey back to the Cabin at the car park.  The weather had by now taken a turn for the warmer and there were more couples emerging, I passed one couple where the girl had sought to wear probably the most inappropriate pair of trainers imaginable, her poor boyfriend had to pick her up and carry her over puddles that I (in my waterproof hi tec boots) simply strode over.

    The Whomping Willow...whomped!
    The Whomping Willow…whomped!
    Breathe in and throw your backpack over the stile.
    Breathe in and throw your backpack over the stile.

    The same couple were in the vicinity when I decided to take a photo of a tree which had apparently blown over – given the size of it and the location was a more than a little bit shielded I can’t begin to imagine what kind of micro tornado had uprooted this poor Hawthorn tree. I squeezed through the slimmest stile that I’ve seen – apparently the builder of this is not aware that the intended users of this piece of land furniture will probably wear backpacks! Eventually I could hear a distant intermittent hum of traffic from Cross Lane and Barley Lane. I was now in the final stage of the walk which involves crossing over a road (carefully) crossing over Pendle Water, which by now was in full spate and finally the lovely gentle stroll over the green to the car park.

    Summary

    It had been cold at the start and hardly tropical at the end but I was nothing short of elated to have done the walk, taken the most arduous ascent, not fallen over and only a bit gutted to have lost a watch. Before I set off from the car park I had almost felt guilty for not visiting Pendle more times this year, after all it is my favourite hill. I had taken two hour forty five minutes to walk the 5.5 miles and I am quite proud of that. I do think that the year’s previous walks had contributed towards my walk’s process and as such am now resolved to do more and more often (starting with a walk around Longridge on the 4th). Maybe this coming year will be the year that I finally do both the Mearly Moor path and the route straight up the middle – the most direct route, who knows. For now I bid a hearty adiou to this wonderful and beautiful hill and vow that I’ll be back soon.

    Song of the walk: Ólafur Arnalds – So Close (feat. Arnór Dan) – YouTube


  • 2014 My Walking Year in Review

    And in summing this could be defined as my laziest walking year so far!

    Whernside from Burnt Scar
    Whernside from Burnt Scar

    Marching up Whernside. For my first walk of the year I had arranged a walking forum meetup to take in four peaks at Chapel le Dale and Ribblehead, the mighty Whernside, Ingleborough, Park Fell and Simon Fell. In total ten of us arrived at Ribblehead for the walk, a mightily impressive turnup. The weather was actually quite good in the valley but bitingly cold at the 2,415′ summit of Whernside – did you know that the top of modern day North Yorkshire’s tallest mountain is actually in Cumbria – stepping through the little stone passage atop Whernside was like opening the door to Ice World! What this walk taught me was that you have to keep on walking, it’s no good saying “Ah I can do anything now that I’ve been up Scafell Pike”…nonsense! If the gap between your current and last walk is great enough then you’ll feel the burn all that much quicker and it’ll drag your spirits down, and the last walk that I did was in September 2013! By the time I had fallen down the tricky drop down to Chapel le Dale my legs told me that they just didn’t have it in them to do the imposing Ingleborough – in truth I couldn’t have got up Park Fell – the smallest peak of the route. I was happy to have been up Whernside for a second time in five years…but felt that I had heard enough of my own puffing and panting for one day!

    Pikes Crag and Sca Fell seen from Wasdale Road.
    Pikes Crag and Sca Fell seen from Wasdale Road.

    It wasn’t until mid May before Karl and I were scaling the dizzy heights of England’s second highest – Sca Fell on the 17th. The memory that I want to take forward for this was the simply stunning, timeless image of Pikes Crag as seen from Wasdale Head – just gorgeous. I again struggled up the mountain, taking many breaks, however, in my defence we did take an extremely steep route. I hated the walk up over grass, grass and more grass to the summit of such a prestigious mountain – I just felt like we should have gone via Brown Tongue..once we had finally ascended the mountain (and the last few hundred yards were deliciously more rocky than grassy) I would change my mind about the Brown Tongue route as it appeared to be ridiculously steep. This could have been my low point of the year with regards to walking as my carbohydrates bottomed out and on the way down the hill I transformed into something of a grumpy brat who just wants to get back to the car and back home as soon as possible.

     

     

    A game of Giant's Keys? The cairn/currick builders around these parts are a proud lot!
    A game of Giant’s Keys? The cairn/currick builders around these parts are a proud lot!

    Fortunately I didn’t have long to wait for my next walk…a little over two weeks later saw me putting up a “meet” on the walking forum and I was lucky enough to have the company of four others including Sue and Karl, John – who had slid down Whernside with me and Colin – the hero that had only the day before walked over the Yorkshire Three Peaks! Cross Fell was the next of my on-going tep ten of England check-list. This was a very fulfilling walk for me – I had experienced dreams of traversing Cross Fell since 2009 and it in no way failed to live up to them. We were very lucky with the weather – no traces of rain in the sky but not so hot that one’s reserves are depleted well before the scheduled end of the walk. The North Pennines are stunning, it’s very tempting to be somewhat controversial here and say that I prefer them to the Lake District Mountains…they are easier on the feet, there can be no denying that. We took in the adjacent summits of Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell making an eleven and an half miles walk over the roof of the Pennines, all in all a great day out.

    A return to the Pike: On Saturday the 30th of August I made a last minute decision to favour Rivington Pike over Pendle to go for a short walk. Again the weather was glorious, no rain and the sun stayed with me all day long. This was my only trip to the West Pennines this year…2015 will rectify this.

    The way ahead, Brandreth, Green and Great Gables
    The way ahead, Brandreth, Green and Great Gables

    And so the final hill walk of the year – not that I would know this at the time…Great Gable was simply fantastic. This was another walk set up on the Walking Forum by yours truly – maybe next year someone else can do a few? We met up at Honister Slate Mine, attendees were myself and Karl and Sue, Glyn with whom I had the pleasure of walking up Pendle Hill the previous Autumn, Graham and Colin once more. The first half a mile up our first mountain – Grey Knotts, was phenomenally steep – maybe not as bad as Sca Fell but still not to be taken lightly. Next came a gentle stroll to Brandreth which lulled me into a false sense of “all the hard work for the day is done” – was it heck as like! From Brandreth to the summit of Green Gable is not the hardest walk in the world – it’s a bit of a slog, but then it looks far worse than it is …which further lulled me into a comfort zone which would be completely yanked out from under me as we dropped down Windy Gap and began the assault of Great Gable’s Northern face. This finally put to bed all memories of just how steep Sca Fell had been. This was pretty much mountaineering, each step would take about ten seconds – the walking pole I had with me on the day really did not help. I hope to remember the views from Westmorland Cairn for ever, the aspect across to the mighty Sca Fell and its’ larger sibling Scafell Pike were just out of this world and the knowledge that I had already “done” them filled me with elation. If the way up Great Gable was hard, the way down was the stuff of nightmares! I have simply never been in a place with such sheer drops…and moving boulders all around. Not that I didn’t enjoy the experience – adrenaline can be an addictive substance! After the excitement of the descent the route back along the legendary Moses Trod was sheer bliss and a definite ‘must repeat’.

    The Coastal Boulevard?
    The Coastal Boulevard?

    Along with these mountains I have twice completed the Coastal Stretch along Southport’s Coast Road – the first time at the beginning of Summer was on a searingly hot day and involved 18.5 miles worth of walking. My next visit was in Autumn on an highly windy day which worked out at 16.5 miles – I caught the bus home before the rain dropped on me…and then it never rained! In October I was scheduled to do Great End (number 5 in the top ten) but this was postponed for bad weather (which again never turned up) and a really bad bout of backache (which sadly did turn up!). So that’s it, all in all a pretty bad showing, although the walks that I have done this year have been classics in their own right, I loved the kind route up Whernside – the way down was a pain (quite litterally). Being atop Sca Fell was wonderful (and it’s outcrop Slight Side) and it’s always a joy to be at Rivington Pike. The Coastal Road still beckons – it’s louder now than ever before and I will definitely be tackling it again in Spring. So how do I decide which has been my stand-out, favourite walk of the year?

    The answer is quite simple…I can’t! Great Gable is just nineteen feet in altitude than Cross Fell – and a million times harder to get up and down…but Cross Fell has the most commanding aspect over a beautiful and expansive terrain. I can’t pick one of these walks over the other, so I guess this year I’ve been lucky to have two fantastic walks to remember…consolation for not doing Pendle I suppose!

    Next year I am going to return to the Ramblers…I can’t have another pretty much inactive year, and my walking year will start in January with a trip to Longridge on the 4th and  Foulridge on the 11th of January. There should also be a chance for a long trek over the Forest of Bowland to take in Parlick and the Bleasedale Fells starting off from Longridge Fell at the end of March and I still have Nethermost Pike, Pillar, Bowfell and Great End to tackle in order to complete my English top ten.

    See you in the new year folks…and I promise to be out there walking so much more than this lazy year!


  • The ‘Salt’ walk.

    This was my walk over 16.5 miles from home to Dobbies Garden Centre in Southport…the long way round.

    It’s not a secret that I love walking up hills, I’m not exactly enamoured with walking down them, my nerve doesn’t hold out and I constantly fear that I am about to fall over. In fact with the exceptions of Skiddaw, Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell on every hill that I have traversed, I’ve fallen over. On the flat however, I’m a walking legend! So it’s probably a good thing that I live here in wonderful Southport where the nearest and highest hill are sand dunes and rural walking with urban connections is such a pleasure…with the added bonus of having the Irish Sea on our doorsteps.

    Saint Emmanuel's Church on Preston New Road
    Saint Emmanuel’s Church on Preston New Road

    Last year – as my loyal readers will recall I attempted the gigantic Coastal Walk which essentially traverses Southport’s Coastal Road – it changes name a couple of times but it’s the same physical road. On this attempt last year I managed to do just 14.5 miles of the intended 18.5, abandoning at Marshside owing to the decision to wear walking boots on tarmac, I’ve never done that since but with regards to the walk itself I successfully completed the full 18.5 miles earlier this year. Since then I have longed to go back, in the opposite direction, this was coupled with the idea of walking through the beautiful yet rugged Marshside with the migrating (to here) Canada and Greylag Geese overhead and the sound and sights of the Irish Sea crashing it at high tide. In all honesty I could not have timed this better.  I left home at five to ten and headed off up along Cambridge Road and Preston New Road. This route would feature virtually no turnings, one straight road, a left turn, and then the same road for roughly ten and an half miles. I felt the need to call in at the Spar shop in Churchtown as I needed water and would need more water later on in the walk. Detour over, by 10:45 I was at the roundabout – now missing the once iconic “The Plough” pub at the meeting of Marine Drive, Banks Lane, Water Lane and Rufford Road. I turned left…

    A very hazy view towards Blackpool and the Fylde Coast
    A very hazy view towards Blackpool and the Fylde Coast

    …And the wind greeted me. For the next ten and an half miles that wind would be my only companion, at Crossens Marsh it felt only mild but getting stronger all the time. I passed by the green turn off path which stretches through the Hesketh Golf Coarse and is part of the 21 miles Sefton Coastal Path – which I intend to walk in its’ entirety…one day! Across the road from the former path is the continuation which leads into Banks via Fiddlers Ferry. Now the distractions of previous walks had passed by it was straight on all the way to Marshside proper with a steady stream of the afore mentioned geese overhead – the poor things were getting a right old buffeting from the ever increasing wind, how something so light can mange to hold its’ coarse in such fierce winds is a mystery to me and another reason why I respect these common but noble birds. I resisted the temptation to try to catch a photograph as the Geese as they flew overhead as This was my walk over 16.5 miles from home to Dobbies Garden Centre in Southport…the long way round.

    It’s not a secret that I love walking up hills, I’m not exactly enamoured with walking down them, my nerve doesn’t hold out and I constantly fear that I am about to fall over. In fact with the exceptions of Skiddaw, Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell on every hill that I have traversed, I’ve fallen over. On the flat however, I’m a walking legend! So it’s probably a good thing that I live here in wonderful Southport where the nearest and highest hill are sand dunes and rural walking with urban connections is such a pleasure…with the added bonus of having the Irish Sea on our doorsteps.

    Emmanuel Parish Church
    Emmanuel Parish Church

    Last year – as my loyal readers will recall I attempted the gigantic Coastal Walk which essentially traverses Southport’s Coastal Road – it changes name a couple of times but it’s the same physical road. On this attempt last year I managed to do just 14.5 miles of the intended 18.5, abandoning at Marshside owing to the decision to wear walking boots on tarmac, I’ve never done that since but with regards to the walk itself I successfully completed the full 18.5 miles earlier this year. Since then I have longed to go back, in the opposite direction, this was coupled with the idea of walking through the beautiful yet rugged Marshside with the migrating (to here) Canada and Greylag Geese overhead and the sound and sights of the Irish Sea crashing it at high tide. In all honesty I could not have timed this better. I left home at five to ten and headed off up along Cambridge Road and Preston New Road. This route would feature virtually no turnings, one straight road, a left turn, and then the same road for roughly ten and an half miles. I felt the need to call in at the Spar shop in Churchtown as I needed water and would need more water later on in the walk. Detour over, by 10:45 I was at the roundabout – now missing the once iconic “The Plough” pub at the meeting of Marine Drive, Banks Lane, Water Lane and Rufford Road. I turned left…

    A very hazy view towards Blackpool and the Fylde Coast
    A very hazy view towards Blackpool and the Fylde Coast

    …And the wind greeted me. For the next ten and an half miles that wind would be my only companion, at Crossens Marsh it felt only mild but getting stronger all the time. I passed by the green turn off path which stretches through the Hesketh Golf Coarse and is part of the 21 miles Sefton Coastal Path – which I intend to walk in its’ entirety…one day! Across the road from the former path is the continuation which leads into Banks via Fiddlers Ferry. Now the distractions of previous walks had passed by it was straight on all the way to Marshside proper with a steady stream of the afore mentioned geese overhead – the poor things were getting a right old buffeting from the ever increasing wind, how something so light can mange to hold its’ coarse in such fierce winds is a mystery to me and another reason why I respect these common but noble birds. I resisted the temptation to try to catch a photograph as the Geese as they flew overhead as tempting fate, I had no desire to walk into something nasty or wander into the path of oncoming traffic – this is after all Southport’s most dangerous road.

    The steps to and from the beach / main road.
    The steps to and from the beach / main road.
    The Coastal Boulevard?
    The Coastal Boulevard?

    At times I admit the ever-present wind was tedious, no quiet walk in the country for me this day. The weather had been lovely up until turning on to Marine Drive but at times I did feel what I thought were drops of rain, however, given that I was walking along side a vast body of water – the Irish Sea was looking decidedly ‘choppy’ further out at sea today, it was always possible that I was merely being hit by distant sea splashes instead. At the start of the sea wall I decided to drop down onto the beach for a while. This meant that the wind that had been battering me would now sail over me as I was now some ten feet lower in altitude. The air did seem a little more peaceful here and I managed to get a good few photographs of the sea and the birds bobbing about upon it. It was a real pleasure to be so close to the sea and it was only when I deduced that the lovely path I was meandering was about to finish that I climbed the steps back onto the main road once more.

    In memory of Monopoly
    In memory of Monopoly

    Whilst on the beach I did spy an oddity, I am going to assume that this was a beloved cat or dog – and I am hoping that whatever animal this is / was is not interred here on the beach and this is purely a memorial stone! As I got closer to the centre of Southport I noticed how quiet it was today, granted it was only just past noon but there was a surprising absence of people – especially for a Saturday. Sometimes one tends to wonder what everyone else apparently knows and nobody has seen fit to tell you…At least the short walk through this stretch of Marine Drive offered a great deal more shelter from the wind. Within just a few minutes I was back into the more exposed section of the road again…I passed by the amusement park and Weld Road (which will feature on another future walk into Birkdale) and before long the straight road was ahead of me. And this is a straight road, only changing its’ angle on the map for a few hundred feet on the approach to the turn off for Shore Road. On one side of me were sand dunes – scores of them, on the other little stretches of what can only really be termed as scrub land punctuated by the odd tiny glade of trees – if a small forest located on a flat stretch of land can be labelled as a glade!

    This is where the coast road shares a similarity with a walk over ‘The Moss’ – nothingness in superabundance…and it is oddly captivating! ‘The Moss’ has its’ hazard – if one wanders with one’s head in the clouds not following the Wainwright directive of ‘watch where you are putting your feet’ there is a slight chance that you will fall down the gulleys running practically the entire length of the road. Likewise the Coastal Road’s hazard is if you don’t keep turning around to see if any cyclists are about to come within a hair’s breadth of hitting you…you’ll jump out of your skin! This only happened to me once today but the first time that I attempted to walk the full length of this road it must have happened about six times. Even though this is an enjoyable walk in its’ own right there is still a great sense of relief when passing by the ‘Sands’ pub. This does not signify that we’re almost there – far from it in fact, but on a road with very few landmarks – natural or man-made, the odd one thrown in for good measure does help to break up the dead straight road.

    I’m always inspired by the sheer volume of sand-dunes in this locale, they seem to stretch for miles – and probably do go some distance. I would love to be able to say that I am determined to take up dune walking, it would be a great way to lose quite a bit of weight quite rapidly…even if I did then go on to gain calf muscles the size of lamp posts! On a good number of dune summits and flanks are very clearly defined paths – these would be the easy ones but as for the rest (and the rest by far outnumbers the dunes with defined paths) then each person transiting each dune is in essence a trailblazer – and sand is not a forgiving medium upon which to walk…I’ll leave it to others to carry forward this particular pastime. A hundred more dunes then another landmark…the railway bridge above the northern line. From here an extremely strong person could throw a stone to the end of Coastal Road – for the rest of us it’s about a quarter of a mile – Google Maps says .6 of a mile – I’m beginning to lose faith in Google Maps. Another ten minutes walk (hmm maybe Google maps was correct) and I am at the corner of Coastal Road and the A565 Liverpool Road. Coastal Road – done, again. Now with a right foot which feels like it’s trying to expand downwards I have just to make it the next six miles to home…onwards!

    It’s an odd state of affairs that the road I was now on – the A565 is actually a lot quieter though busier than Coastal Road – the maximum that most people tend to drive along this road is in-between 30-40 miles an hour (apart from boy racer Friday nights in Summer when the weather is good), on Coastal Road the speed limit is 50 mph – and most tend to disregard this – another reason why that is Southport’s most dangerous road. The A565 is no shrinking violet either, this being the main road from Southport over to Formby and Crosby. The walk along this section is only enlivened by a graveyard! The statues and other ornaments grab the attention to such a degree that I found myself almost looking backwards at it as I walked on by. Soon enough the landmark that is the Carr Lane turn-off came into view and I new that if needed…I was on a bus route – the number 44 that could take me to within two hundred metres of my front door. This is never a good thought to carry around whilst walking, it’s like offering a cigarette to a smoker or a bar of chocolate to a dieter…the temptation becomes too great. I walked along the pavement with each step beginning to hurt my right foot more and more and couldn’t help but notice that my thirst was getting stronger. Eventually I called in at the same shop that I have visited on the last two passings and bought a bottled milkshake – not exactly healthy but then by this point I had walked in excess of fifteen miles – I knew this as my phone’s “Map My Walk” had told me so.

    But eventually, I would succumb to the temptation of the bus ride, I shouldn’t have left home with my Arriva Annual pass – but then given the pains my right foot was sending out, there’s a point when to carry on just isn’t wise. And so at the bus stop outside of Dobbies Garden Centre on Bentham Way I decided to board the imminent number 44 bus and to just give my feet a break. This had been sixteen and an half miles on pavement (okay about 1/2 a mile on sand) and for a good percentage of it I was being slapped around the face by the breeze from the Irish Sea. The weather had been far better than I could have hoped and towards the end of the Coastal Road stretch it was more or less balmy…and people will imply the same about me. I’m always going to look forward to walking Southport’s Coastal Road, us sea-siders are a fortunate bunch in living where we do, so for me it is only right to appreciate by walking along this wonderful stretch of coast at least twice per year.