Last year I celebrated New Year by climbing my favourite hill – Pendle, on New Year’s Eve – effectively 2014 (still with me folks?). I made the comittment to do the same walk the following year but around December this year came to the realisation that it would be January first that I would do the walk. All the same it was a great way of burning off a mince pie or two as not only was it a good old leg stretcher, the temperature ensured that there would be no idling on route.
I made it to Barley for around 11:00, set my phone to run ‘Map My Walk’ and was all ready to roll at 11:07. I’d planned to go up the hill via one of my lesser used routes – the ‘Grit stone slope’. Along with its sister routes this path starts around the back of Pendle House but splits off to the left. I passed only one person on route to the public footpath which starts facing the Barley Mow – he was a huge hulk of a man who appeared to be walking hap-hazardly, I couldn’t get past him quickly enough. The stretch from the road up to the area around Brown House is a gentle walk over multiple teraains – gritstone, grass, tarmac road, you name it. I occaisionally peered over to the steps to see if I could catch sight of anyone ascending by that most arduous of routes, some Bank Holidays it can be like looking at a procession of ants, but not today. In the centre of the village the weather was quite mild, my scarf and gloves would stay in my backpack, for now and I kept my coat undone.
The first person that I encountered on route was a young blonde haired (I want to say woman, but to be honest she could have been fifteen or twenty) who said ‘Hi’ to me with a lovely smile…the day was shaping up. By the time I’d reached the horrid fields on the run-up to Pendle House I think I’d exchanged greetings with another four people, a couple of couples. After roughly twenty minutes Map My Walk had told me that I had walked one-point-six kilometers, odd, even though I’d set the ‘app’ to read in metric measurements it still wanted to tell me the milage – why not tell me of my progress after one kilometer as opposed to 1.6 a mile!
After traversing three footbridges and noting that the footpath at Ings End needs repairing again (honestly, it’s a mess again) I finally arrive at the horrid fields which had their usual draining effect on my calves and thighs, I’ll never appreciate this part of the route and to make matters worse, the second field was rather cut up and muddy, I think I could have taken five minutes less time on the day if I had ascended via Barley Road. I vowed to not come this way on the return to Barley.
And so I arrived at the foot of the infamous ‘Barley Steps’. By this time I had encountered a lot more people on route, possibly around fifty or so. The mood was somewhat bouyant, I heard the odd ‘Happy New Year’ and the dog-walkers were definitely out en masse. Whereas last year my initial vow was to essentially ‘say yes to everything’ (I pretty much stuck to this, even if sometimes I ought not to have done so), this year’s inspirational motto is to be ‘balance’ (this has been influenced by a very dear aquaintance, who is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever met). I’d need balance to get me up the slope as it starts off quite easy – for a good five yards or so…then gets really tough for roughly a quarter of a mile. I had been tempted to try the steps route but promised myself to stick to plans that I have made (if it makes sense to do so), so I kept to the slope plan. I met a lovely couple who were gingerly descending the slope, it was quite wet so they were watching every footstep, I have lost my footing on the way down this slope prior to this visit and can vouch for how tricky it can be. I failed to take any more photographs as the higher I climbed the more fierce the wind became and by the time I had reached the hollow at the top of the slope, just before this path merges with the one from Boar Clough, my ears were stinging owing to that biting wind.
Map my walk informed me that I had been walking for forty five minutes, this had the effect of accelerating my pace. I met several more people who were taking my route back down and exchanged greetings with a number of people (including one Happy New Year). I now wanted to get to the summit trig point as soon as possible, would I improve on my previous time of fifty-seven minutes? The summit plateau was decidedly ‘crunchy’ in places were the myriad of micro-streams which ultimately merge and become Pendle Water, had frozen. Now the wind was howling, this was more like being on Cross Fell at the time of the Helm Wind, let a lone Pendle Hill. The trig point beckoned and seemed to get nearer all at once, not enticing for seemingly ages but appearing to stay the same distance away. Within moments I was touching the top of it and uttering ‘for mum’. Only after doing this did I notice the time – twelve o’clock, it had taken me just fifty-three minutes from start to summit!
From my backpack I retrieved my scarf and gloves, this did not aid photography in any practical way. Thus I took just a few photographs. Many more people were now nearing the top of the hill and I wondered if someone kind of ‘meet-up’ had been arranged as they all seemed to know one-another! I did consider doing the decent thing by asking other amateaur photographers if they needed a photo taking by me (with the cameras/phones) but the wind was screaming by now and this did not facilitate conversation. Myself and another walker tried to have a dialogue about our respective routes of ascent and descent but to no avail. We said our farewells and headed off in opposite directions, I aimed for the Downham boundary wall where I then turned right and began a perilous desent of the steps. Why was it perilous? Well the wind was now being highly efficiently transported to my eyes causing them to water profusely. Whilst this was not painful and was tolerable, it didn’t expediate progress as I had to keep stopping in order to blink!
After a few hundred yards the wind was much easier to cope with owing to my losing altitude. More people passed me on the way up the hill, I had expected it to be busy today. For the first ever time, when I got to the bottom of the steps I stayed on the same route (as opposed to veering off to the right as normal) and took the left path passing the rear of Pendle House, I was sticking to my resolve to not slip and slide my way across the horrid fields. To be honest it was an inspired choice as quite soon I had removed my gloves in order to send Chris a text boasting of my progress. I stopped to check the ‘app’ and take a photograph of the slope – the odd thing is that I cannot find this photo on my phone and it was rather a good one with a little dog posing in the forefront (this tickled the dog’s owner, who was actually a stunning strawberry-blonde haired woman!).
When the leafy lane met with Barley Road I turned right and resisted the urge to wander across the fields opposite in a bid to nail Stang Top Moor as well, that would have to wait, today’s walk was to be just Pendle (see I’m already getting the hang of sticking to a plan if it makes sense to do so!). The walk along the tarmac back to the centre was very boring, but all the same it was lovely to be out and about getting fresh air and exercise and before long I was back at the car park and café from where I would get a really fowl-tasting latte – the staff at the Cabin are lovely but they need to ditch that coffee machine as it’s a good few years since I last had a decent drink here!
As far as walking goes, this was a perfect start to the year. I’d shaved another four minutes off my record walking time – obviously aided by the cold weather, I’d been sociable and said ‘morning’ or ‘hi’ to a dozen people or so and most importantly I’d shed the December cobwebs in preparation of Sunday’s Ramble to Hornby with the Southport Ramblers.
Passed – seven
Passed by – three (but I then passed them!)
Miles: Just over five.
Ascent -1,043 feet.
Time taken: One hour and forty-two minutes!
Song of the walk: Love Me Like You by Little Mix