Saturday 9 May 2015

Pendle Hill

It seems fitting that Pendle Hill should be my first trip report here, since we've seen it so many times from various points of the compass when we've been out walking. It probably seems strange to have left it so long to bag this hill considering it's pretty much on our doorstep but I knew from repute that the vistas from the summit were impressive so I wanted to wait and make sure it was going to be a clear day before heading up there.
Our starting point was Downham, a charming Lancashire village that was the ideal spot to sample all spring has to offer.

Clumps of daffodils on grass verge. Dry stone walls and blue sky in background.

Tree branches laden with blossom with sunshine breaking through.

Duck walking through a rocky stream followed by her ducklings.

A sheep and a lamb lying together in a field.

A sheep lies chewing the cud while a lamb lies stretched out asleep close by.

After heading south-east out of the village, and past the increasingly sleepy-looking lambs, we eventually turned to the right leaving the steady gradient of the lane for a steeper line across pasture. This footpath led us to Downham Moor.

Looking north from this point in the walk, we got some spectacular views across the Ribble Valley, including the distinctive forms of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough.

A zoom shot of the Yorkshire peak, Pen-y-Ghent in the distance.
A zoom shot of the Yorkshire peak, Ingleborough in the distance.
Once we crossed onto the open access land of Downham Moor the angle of ascent became gentler but curiously we both found it rather tougher going. Perhaps it was because the ground was so wet underfoot, despite this being at the end of a dry spell; there were several large, muddy patches we had to skirt around or gingerly pick our way across and I imagine it would be a bit of a slog after wet weather. Ahead of us, the summit of Pendle Hill looked deceptively modest:

A stretch of moorland, green grass and rushes, with Pendle Hill lying low across the background.
Downham Moor
However, zooming in on a couple of walkers ahead of us gave a better sense of its scale:

A shot of two walkers ahead, looking tiny on the side of Pendle Hill.

As it turned out, I actually found the final climb to the summit, steep as it was, easier going than the tramp across the moor. From a distance the slope looked quite unremarkable but close up the ridges of moss took on an almost preternatural glow in the late morning sunlight, as if lit from within. I struggled to get a shot that captured the effect properly but this one, I think, at least gives an idea of it:

Mosses and grasses shining bright green in the sunlight.

When we reached the plateau at the top we were rewarded with some excellent views, including a "ToyTown" perspective on our starting point, Downham.

A view of Downham from Pendle Hill - stone cottages, the church and surrounding farmland.

And the Stansfield Tower on Blacko Hill (to the left of the reservoir below), an architectural folly to pique your curiosity but one which stands on private land where trespassers are not welcome.

A view of farmland and villages from Pendle Hill with a small tower on a hill to the left.

An eroded path leading gently uphill with various people walking along it.

The summit was surprisingly busy, with occasional queues forming for the obligatory trig point photographs - and I dutifully queued myself.
A picture of me and our German Shepherd, Lotte, by the trig column on Pendle Hill.

I was quite glad at this point that we had taken the route from Downham up the northern face of the hill as we had encountered barely a handful of people on our way. At times it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Clothing aside, it was easy to separate the walkers from the casual visitors - dog walkers, courting couples and boisterous family outings - as the walkers invariably said hello to one another while the remainder steadfastly ignored everyone else around them. I suppose the romantically-paired youngsters can be excused, at least, but it's a shame so many other people up there failed to acknowledge a smile or a greeting.

A long ridge of bare grass stretching into the distance under blue skies.
Poses and photos sorted, we headed north, back down from the trig to the wall that forms a spine along the back of the hilltop. We crossed this and struck out along a path in a roughly north west direction.

The summit itself I found rather featureless and uninspiring, though the occasional pool and feathered passer-by added a little interest.

A pool of water reflecting the blue sky above, surrounded by coarse grass and rushes.

A small, streaky brown and buff bird in the grass.

We continued to have excellent views from the summit, however, such as Winter Hill to the south with its transmitting station and mast, one of the tallest structures in Britain and certainly the highest television transmitter in the UK:

A view across the expanse of Pendle Hill to the broad outline of Winter Hill on the horizon, with its TV transmitter just visible in the haze.

And looking north west we had a splendid vista over to the fells of the Forest of Bowland AONB:

A view across the farmland of the Ribble Valley to the extensive moors of the Forest of Bowland beyond it.

A picture looking along the top of a dry stone wall as it stretches into the distance.
From the stile top.
Our route was to take us over the satisfyingly high ladder stile, which can be seen pretty much in the middle of the photo above. Always happy to gain a little extra height, I lingered for a few moments before clambering ungracefully down the other side.

Once there, I laid my walking pole aside and braced myself for Rich to pass our German Shepherd, Lotte, over. Although she's never quite mastered standing on the flat top of a ladder stile, she is thankfully sufficiently placid to be lifted into the air and handed over it without batting an eyelid.

She had a rude awakening this time though,  as my boot twisted on one of the loose rocks beneath my feet and the two of us went flying - she elegantly transformed the mishap into a cat-like landing, I hit the deck like a sack of spuds.

As I lay contemplating the ground from this novel perspective, Lotte decided to wander off, trying to drag me along after her, and Rich appeared at the top of the stile himself, looking at me quizzically and asking how I was. By this time, although still winded and unable to move, I'd recovered enough to greet his polite vicar-at-a-tea-party enquiries with a tirade of four-letter words. He got this gentle hint remarkably quickly and hurried over to help me up.
This pleasant interlude over, we decided to stop for lunch at the inviting shelter that lay ahead, here seen with the Scout Cairn on the edge of the hill behind it:

A view across the grassy expanse of Pendle Hill to the stone shelter and cairn ahead, with Lancashire farmland in the background.

It really was an impressive piece of design and construction, and it provided a welcome respite from the stiff breeze up here that chilled as soon as you stopped moving.

Once we'd filled our bellies, we made for the Scout Cairn - another impressive structure, I might add, and one that marked where we would begin our descent back to Downham.

A tall, cylindrical rock cairn silhouetted against the edge of the hilltop.

A photo of the cairn, a cylinder tapering to a narrow point at the top, with a plaque commemorating the centenary of the Scouts.

Ahead was a deep clough in the hillside but our path down lay to the right of the Scout Cairn. I couldn't resist a brief diversion from our route towards this mammoth fold in the flank of Pendle Hill, however.

A view across the side of the hill, revealing a deep fold in the land.

There were a few cairns on my detour, dotted in what seemed a random manner, and the ground was so rocky underfoot it was difficult to tell if there was any semblance of a trail. I didn't go to the edge of the clough, as it was hard to tell ahead where and when the hillside was going to drop steeply, but my excursion reinforced my feeling that the sides of Pendle Hill were more interesting than its summit.

Steep moorland hillside against blue skies.

I traced my steps back to Rich and Lotte and we began a rather steep descent northwards, cutting across the north west flank of the hill as we headed down to Worston Moor. Our route was to take us down to the corner of the walled enclosure here, which we were to follow down to Burst Clough.

A view of the moorland below us, the farmland of the Ribble Valley beyond that, and the hills of Yorkshire in the distance.

The landscape was fascinating here, with deep grooves and folds worn into the grassland by the streams that flowed from higher up on the hillside.

A narrow cut in the hillside formed by a stream.

Twisting folds in the hillside below formed by water running downhill. Rushes hide the stream flowing between the green banks of this gorge.
Interlocking spurs caused by the action of water.
A view back up: lush green hillside, riven by twisting folds caused by the stream.

And we got a good view of Worsaw Hill too, from this angle looking nicely distinct from its surroundings like a proper hill should and worthy of exploration at some point if there is access:

A small, rotund hill at the base of Pendle Hill with exposed limestone scars on its otherwise smooth green surface.

A zoom picture of one of the limestone scars with what appears to be the entrance to a cave.

We were intrigued to spot what looked like a cave entrance (in fact, it almost looks like a man-made entrance, given its door-like shape) at the base of the hill but I've not been able to find any information about this online.

A view of Worsaw Hill from ground level, where it appears conical and bright green against a cloudless sky.

Eventually we hit the country lanes and skirted the edge of Worsaw Hill, which looked even more tempting a climb from ground level.

It was a fairly short walk now back to Downham and a relatively flat one too but it was enlivened by the colours of spring in the hedgerows and on the verges of the lane, some of which were carpeted with celandines and studded with daffodils:

A view along a quiet lane, with daffodils on the verge. The hedgerow and trees are still without leaves.

The verge at the side of the lane - green grass scattered with hundreds of yellow celandine flowers.

A close-up of a celandine next to a saxifrage flower.

Close up of a saxifrage flower.

The celandines were interspersed with these attractive plants, which seem to be some sort of saxifrage, though I'm not sure which.

It was a nice conclusion to a good afternoon's walking, which we'd both thoroughly enjoyed. It started with all the signs of spring bursting out in a traditional Lancashire village and, after taking in the exhilarating views from the top of an iconic hill, ended in the same way.

Stone cottages on the edge of the village, with washing drying on the line outside.
The sight of washing on a line in the April sunshine as we entered Downham lent our return a cosy sense of homecoming somehow - an example of how a brief glimpse of something familiar or a long-forgotten smell can trigger strong feelings.

We'd planned on rewarding ourselves with our customary end-of-walk pint of bitter shandy at the Assheton Arms back in the village but unsurprisingly the pub was full, inside and out, so we decided to head straight home. We couldn't resist pulling over for one last photo of Pendle Hill in all its hulking grandeur, though.

A view of Pendle Hill in its entirety from the drive home, stretching across the horizon under cloudless blue skies.


Date: April 2015

Walk length: 10.25 km

Total ascent: 468 metres



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