Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March 2015 – Rentahostel in Slaidburn

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I’d intended to continue with the mobile postings during this trip, but with Slaidburn not having wifi or a reliable mobile phone signal (not a bad thing), I gave the phone a rest. In fact it may be having a long rest, as it’s overdue an upgrade and I’m fed up with being pestered by call centres.

Back then to Friday morning, the day of the 85% eclipse, of which Sue and I had excellent views whilst driving around the M60 squinting through a bundle of photographic slides when the clouds weren’t shielding our eyes from the sun.

Reaching Sabden at 10.15, we found Ken and Anne and discovered that the antique centre’s café, where we had planned to meet, had been closed for two years. So we plonked ourselves outside the amenable Malkin Pie shop, which also did coffee - very friendly it was too.

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Luckily, it wasn’t too cold, as the rest of today’s 14 strong team arrived in dribs and drabs over the next hour or so. Eventually we all set off up Calf Hill on the misty day, along the easy path up Pendle Hill.

Here we are, on track, near Churn Clough Reservoir.

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Up into the mist we went, soon taking a path to the right. The wrong path. My incompetent navigation (a ‘Martin’s Meander’) resulted in a joyous yomp across the moor towards Ogden Clough. Keith and I soon found the easy track, but for some reason the others, just visible through the mist, continued their clumsy yomp through peat hags, about 50 metres to our right.

However we were reunited further up Ogden Clough for the final storming of Pendle Hill summit (557 metres), where a much anticipated cloud inversion sadly eluded us.

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Lunch was taken 10 metres from the summit in the forlorn hope of sunshine that never arrived. Then we descended north to the wall that heralds the path down to a waymark post that looks ancient but is actually quite new. From there, a path of well laid and well used stone slabs lead down towards Barley.

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Black Moss Reservoirs appeared through the haze, and the easy walk into Barley led inexorably to the Barley Mow, where the clientele unfortunately put off some of those disposed to nervousness amongst our number…

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... so 9 of them disappeared into the nearby Pendle Inn.

The rest of us continued on beside Lower Ogden Reservoir, on the road – we missed the lower path due to some incompetence from our leader (oops!).

Further on, water cascaded with a degree of symmetry  from the upper reservoir.

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We rose from there,with a bleak view down to the reservoir, heading over Driver Height towards Sabden Fold. On the way, Ken found the item he had earlier purchased ‘blind’ from an eBay seller. He joyously took possession of his new caravan. Anne looked on, puzzled.

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We returned with no further incident, apart from deep mud, unexpected hills, and shadowy figures bearing broomsticks, to Sabden, and the short but convoluted drive to Slaidburn.

Our walking route, including my faux pas in the mist over Spence Moor, was 19 km with 700 metres ascent, taking 5.5 hours.

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During the evening our group of 14 expanded to the weekend’s quota of 25, most of whom enjoyed the Hark to Bounty Inn’s fish night – a choice of about ten different fish dishes, all very good.

Saturday morning, and a fine day outside Slaidburn Youth Hostel saw all 25 of us milling around for some time. In other words, these two, Colin and Tove, were in for a long wait.

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Some then went on a drive, leaving 12 of us to set off up the road. Foolishly, someone had appointed me leader again. I had to turn around and call back the vanguard in order to negotiate an unexpected turning into the enticing garlicky aroma of the woods around Tenter Hill.

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Mud was encountered near Myttons, then high quality farming equipment adorned the landscape at Lanshaws…

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... lots of it.

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We headed on past Croasdale House and up to the Roman Road that stretched far ahead of us onto Croasdale Fell – see photo at the top of this posting.

'Elevenses' was soon declared.

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Then we came across one of a number of memorial plaques erected in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the execution of the Pendle witches. There’s a website dedicated to the cause, here. A central feature seems to be a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. This is one of the ‘Tercet’ waymarks that carry stanzas from the poem on the top of the waymark, in this case the sixth tercet, with the whole poem on one side. (A tercet is simply a three-lined stanza or poem, that often contains a rhyme.)

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Here’s the whole poem:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
 
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars,
feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
 
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
 
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave;
only future tourists who might grieve.

Suitably impressed, we continued along the Roman Road, unnoticed by courting birds of prey but viewed with suspicion by their minders. On the moor we saw the usual curlew, lapwings, oyster catchers and skylarks, to name just a few (Ken could I expect provide a long list) as well as birds of prey, the most conspicuous of which was a sparrowhawk.

A gateway indicated the point at which we should leave the track and yomp beside a fence, across peat hags to White Hill.

There's a 'Tower' near the summit. Graham Illing climbed it, perhaps trying, and failing to be first to the summit of the hill.

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It was therefore Keith who made it first to the trig point at 544 metres which marks the highest point in the neighbourhood.

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Ingleborough was visible in the distance, its summit ringed with the last vestiges of a wintry necklace, but it was only just visible through the haze (though today was by far the clearest day of the week).

It was time for lunch, in a more sheltered spot today, again by the highest point of our outing.

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Then a downhill yomp took us back to the Roman Road for another sunbathing break before heading down Whitendale, a pleasant valley where we met just two people - one of whom I recognised as an LDWA member who had been on my recent Curry Walk.

After passing a lady enjoying afternoon tea in her garden, we headed steeply up into a cool breeze towards Dunsop Head.

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Once the initial ascent was over we paused to empty our flasks before a final march to the high point, followed by an easy descent on a high path to the south of Dunsop Brook. There are some fine signposts around here!

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The skies were clear, offering good views towards Stocks Reservoir before we finished the walk on gentle tarmac past brutally coppiced hawthorn hedges. An excellent day out, the route of which is shown below - 23 km with 800 metres ascent, taking 7.5 hours.

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Luckily, we were back shortly before the ‘driving’ contingent who had done a point to point walk using cars to ferry themselves around, so some of us got hot showers before the water went cold and then we adjourned for tea and cake, and later an excellent meal provided by numerous volunteers. Thanks everyone, Sue and I took a break from cooking this year but we know all about the effort that’s required.

Sunday morning - Slaidburn's War Memorial sparkled in the sunshine as we passed to and from the car park opposite the village hall, before Jess, Elaine and Clare set off back to the south coast, and Andrew returned to Cheshire, leaving the remaining 21 of us to drive to beyond Dunsop Bridge, to Langden Brook.

All 21 set off along this fine avenue of trees at around 10 o’clock.

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We soon turned off and crossed a bridge, warming up for a long ascent by strolling alongside Langden Brook. Then, while Keith nipped up the minor summit of Mellor Knoll, the rest of us tottered up Totridge, pausing for elevenses en route, at exactly 11 am.

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The large group remained vaguely together, despite the efforts of some to drop off the back, and we all reassembled at Totridge’s 496 metre summit, having already completed most of the day’s ascent.

In 2011 there was a major incident when the body of Bill Smith, a famed fellrunner, was found on nearby Saddle Moor. He fell into a bog and wasn’t missed for nearly three weeks. He is remembered by way of a plaque on Totridge's trig point, but that plaque gives no clue as to the feats achieved by this legendary character who wrote a definitive history of fellrunning.

Here’s an extract from Bill’s Wikipedia entry:

The president of the Fell Runners Association, Graham Breeze, published a posthumous encomium and long-belated book review: "Considering the masterpiece that bears his name Bill Smith was a staggeringly modest and unassuming man ... I am privileged to have known him slightly and corresponded with him occasionally ... A few years ago I wrote a short piece about Stud marks on the summits and sent it to Bill for his approval. I wrote that I knew he would hate it but I would like it to appear in The Fellrunner in homage to his masterpiece. As I partly anticipated, he wrote back and asked me not to publish because it would embarrass him. We later talked about the piece at a race and I promised that, since all writers hate to waste material, it would only appear when he could no longer be embarrassed ... Fellrunners come and go, Champions come and go, but no-one will ever be as important to the development and history of fellrunning as the man who died in September on the Bowland fells."

We milled around at the trig point,  impressed by GS’s efforts to climb it (pictured below) before ambling off into the bog.

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Neal soon attempted what, given the above story, could perhaps be called a ‘Bill Smith’. Luckily there were friends on hand to pull him out, and others to record the occasion. Mary Berry would not have approved of his ‘soggy bottom’!

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The long section following a fence all the way to Fair Snape Fell’s summit measured 4.5 km as a straight line on my map, but the ‘bog dodging’ requirement of our actual route probably added quite a bit to that. Anyway, by the time we eventually we made it to the 520 metre summit, we were all happy to find a sheltered spot for our third ‘summit lunch’ of the trip – apart from Graham, who decided that in the absence of a trig point, he would impersonate one whilst downing his lunch, which I’m told comprised a can (or two?) of gin and tonic.

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Then we set off to the actual trig/view point that overlooks West Lancashire from the lower height of 510 metres. There were paragliders and a proper glider vying for uplift, and whilst the usual landmarks of Blackpool Tower, etc, weren’t visible today, we could see smoke from numerous heather burning operations, and we could watch the paragliders as they attempted to take off from the nearby 432 metre summit of Parlick.

It was a busy spot, especially with our 19 marauding ramblers (Ken and Anne having gone ahead).

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Soon it was time to return to the summit of Fair Snape Fell, from where two further kilometres of yomping led us to the narrow but excellent path that leads down Fiendsdale.

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We got down to Langden Brook by 3 pm, just in time for a afternoon tea, more brownies and shortbread and various other goodies provided by an assortment of folk – thanks everyone - and a snooze for some.

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A leisurely departure across stepping stones saw us on the last lap of the weekend, and we eventually exited from 'access land' and its list of 22 restrictions.

Langden Intake is the site of a water supply for Lancashire, guarded by a nymph - Miranda – she looked a bit tired today, as were the pheasants, who couldn’t be bothered to fly – they just ran ahead, guiding us back to the start of this excellent walk.

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Here’s our route - 19 km with 650 metres ascent, taking 6 hours.

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The end of a most agreeable little trip.

There’s a slideshow (95 images) here.

Some folk complain about the cost of youth hostels, but this rentahostel weekend cost each of us about £30 for the two nights plus the excellent two full breakfasts and  the Saturday evening meal provided by members of the group. Even adding the ‘fish night’ food (£7) at the local pub on Friday, and the cost of a few drinks, the outlay could be considered modest.

3 comments:

AlanR said...

Bit unusual for a hostel to let walkers in. Must be run by proper outdoorsy folk.
I’d say that was a good weekend.

Phreerunner said...

It was 'Rentahostel' Alan - we didn't see anyone from the YHA all weekend. (Other than Sue W who works at Head Office).

Louise said...

Such fun!