Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A wander in Yarrow Valley Country Park

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I had heard of Yarrow Valley Country Park in Lancashire over the years but had never visited, despite it being just over half an hour away. I had also seen photos of kingfishers and field mice inhabiting the reserve so it was obviously a wildlife-rich place. But I often find it’s the places nearest to us that we tend to ignore.

But there’s a first time for everything and there’s certainly a first time for visiting this particular nature reserve, located near Chorley, Lancashire.

Usually nature reserves are maintained by wildlife and environmental charities but the 700-acre Yarrow Valley is actually owned by Chorley Council.

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For all its scenic beauty now, the location has had an industrial background, dating back to the 1300s. By the 1400s, there were at least two mills – a cloth and a corn mill – at the site (called Birkacre). Coal mines (coal was found near the surface) were later established in the valley in the 1500s and 1600s.

At the start of the Industrial Revolution, a cotton mill was built at Birkacre. Up to this point, weaving and spinning was done at home – now it would be done in factories. This proved controversial as domestic manufacturers lost business and in 1779, ‘machine breakers’ destroyed the mill during the Birkacre Riots. Maybe new technology has always been a risk to people’s jobs?

The mill was rebuilt and the focus was now on the textile finishing business (for example, bleaching). A private coal mine for the works was opened in 1880 but, by 1939, the mill and mines were closed and became derelict. It was only in the 1980s when the local council stepped in to create the park.

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There are three self-guided walking leaflets available. Birkacre History Trail (which shows the main sites of its industrial past) is a mile and a half and, according to the leaflet, takes an hour and 30 minutes to complete. This seems a long time for the mileage but it does include stopping and looking and reading about various points of interest.

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The Blue Walk is 4.5 miles long and takes two and a half hours and the Red Walk’s 5.5 miles trail is estimated to take three hours.

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Yarrow Valley Country Park’s Birkacre History Trail

We took a combined History Trail/Blue Walk route. The ponds are referred to as ‘lodges’ and at first I kept expecting to see wooden huts! There are three ponds – Small Lodge, Big Lodge and Top Lodge. Big Lodge, which had an array of swans, ducks and gulls, is the largest and is more like a lake than a pond (pictured below).

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Top Lodge has a reed bed and I suspect that, in better weather, much wildlife can be seen here.

One of the main sights is Birkacre Weir, this enables the water level of the river to be raised. Channels then allow the water to flow into the ponds. On the side is a fish pass, a ladder to help fish migrate upstream. It was built in 2002.

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We visited the park a couple of weeks after Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis and it was possible to see the accumulated rubbish (why can’t people use a bin?) and tree debris in certain parts of the river. But another remnant of the wild weather could be felt by the squelching mud under my feet. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I wore trainers rather than my usual walking boots.

Firstly, it was a country park so I was expecting paths (there are, but there was still mud!). Secondly, I decided to wear my good walking boots, which were in my car boot but then we went in Simon’s car and then…oh, no walking boots. So yes, I missed my walking boots and my trainers were a mucky mess by the time we got back.

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Butterbur, one of the sights spotted at Yarrow Valley Country Park

I write this a month after our ramble and wish I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the mud! Had I known my freedom would become curtailed by coronavirus, I would have treasured this trek more. A lesson to learn indeed. I hope you are all keeping well during these uncertain times.

Information from Yarrow Valley Country Park: Birkacre History Trail leaflet (by local historian Jack Smith).

Yarrow Valley Country Park can be found off Birkacre Road, Chorley, Lancashire. 

 

 

Posted in Fitness challenges, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part 3

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Walking along the River Ribble, towards Avenham Park

Day one of the Guild Wheel, seven or eight miles of it, was relatively easy, certainly compared to the 14-mile stretch which faced me today.

From the Tickled Trout Hotel, I walked on along the River Ribble towards Preston city centre. Some ways into Preston are less than beautiful, but the three miles along the Guild Wheel takes one along the scenic river route and into Avenham Park, what must be Preston’s hidden treasure. If you ever visit Preston, seek it out. It’s down the side streets but well worth the detour.

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One time I walked this way – via the River Ribble – with Mum (just to the city centre, not the whole Guild Wheel route). There was a nervous moment when we came across a herd of cows but there were no calves and they ignored the strange two-leggeds. This time the bovine beauties were safely in a field, enjoying their grass.

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I had a little tea break at the cafe in Avenham Park and then set off again.

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Past the New Continental Pub, a popular entertainments venue, into Broadgate and here I continued along the river.

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Eventually this took me to Preston Docks. Now it has pubs, cinema, shops and residential waterfront living but it was once a major industrial point, which opened in 1892. Cotton, timber, oil, coal and fruit were among the products imported and there was even a ferry service to Northern Ireland. By the 1970s though, the Docks started to decline until it eventually became today’s leisure and residential centre.

This was where I thought I would get lost but the trail is so well signposted, with clear markings on the road itself and on signs, that it was remarkably easy to find my way.

The Guild Wheel also passes a railway track – the train sets off from the Ribble Steam Railway Museum.

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Circling the Docks, I found myself next to a main road. For the first time, I doubted my map-reading skills. And for the first time, the signs seemed a little lacking compared to before. The road section is a tad boring but then I found a sign and realised, thankfully, I was on the right track!

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After crossing a bridge over a dual carriageway, my river and dock stroll turned into a canal ramble, along Lancaster Canal.

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And then it was past the university sports hall, and into the world of suburbia and new housing developments.

And at 3pm on Sunday, I reached home. A full circle that was 21 miles long and took about 28 hours (with a night’s sleep in between).

And if I wasn’t tired on the Saturday after 8 miles, I was definitely ready for a sit down and a cup of tea after my 14-mile stretch on the Sunday!

Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part 2

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It was raining, my friend was too ill to join me on my Preston Guild Wheel walk, I was alone and wondering if I would get bored and then…

I saw a deer (pictured below). Of course, with my rather average camera phone, it doesn’t look like one unless you enlarge it and then you might see a little blob. But it really was a deer and I saw it with my own eyes. This part of the walk is suburbia but a path leads onto a large open space of green that has been left for people and dogs to enjoy, and wildlife to live. The Woodland Trust looks after part of it.

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This curiosity (below), and others like it, can be found in the parkland. I think it’s an ‘insect hotel’ for bees etc to live.

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The Guild Wheel took me through both a natural and industrial landscape.

Sometimes it was a path with railings on either side, hiding behind were factories and offices.

Other times it took me on a detour of beautiful greenery – despite a motorway just minutes away.

Along the way, I entered the exterior of Preston Crematorium, a peaceful place, and continued along a tree-lined path which took me to Brockholes Nature Reserve.

But first I encountered the now disused site of Courtaulds, a manufacturer of rayon. Built in 1939 and closed in 1979, it was the largest site in Britain to produce rayon (according to Wikipedia). At its peak, 4,000 people were employed there and when it closed in 1979, 2,800 jobs were lost (Keith Johnson, Cherished Memories of Old Mansion and Rise of Industry, https://www.lep.co.uk ).

There also used to be an old mansion in this area but alas, it is no more.

It always surprises me how brown belt land often seems to be reclaimed by nature.

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The trail continues towards Boilton Wood, neighboured by Nab, Redcar and Tunbrook Woodlands. Boilton Wood is a site of special scientific interest and forms part of the biggest stretch of ancient woodland in Lancashire (information from Visit Preston website).

When I reached Brockholes Nature Reserve, I spotted this delightful fellow.

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And another colourful resident can be seen here…

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Brockholes is a fabulous and unusual 250-acre nature reserve, owned by the Wildlife Trust. It’s such a peaceful natural haven that you wouldn’t think it is so near to the M6 but it is. The former gravel quarry actually supplied materials to build the motorway and only opened in 2011, after being bought by the trust in 2007.

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‘Village in the Reeds’ Photograph by Jim Beattie. Courtesy of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust. http://www.brockholes.org

It’s located on a flood plain of the River Ribble so has a unique floating visitor village!

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After a delightful and filling leek and potato soup at the cafe, I continued the last mile along the River Ribble to the Tickled Trout Hotel in Samlesbury. I was lucky enough to have a lovely pastoral river view from the room window, and was able to watch the cows munching the grass alongside the River Ribble.

I was glad I embarked on this journey after all!

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Part 3 coming soon..

(For more information about Brockholes, visit https://www.brockholes.org)

 

Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part One

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Near me is a 21-mile cycle route called the Preston Guild Wheel. Although I don’t ride a bike, I think it is a marvellous route, connecting the outer ‘green ways’ of the city, courtesy of founder and keen cyclist Peter Ward. Happily for me, it is an inclusive path and cyclists, families, dog walkers,  canines and intrepid ramblers can co-exist as we explore the natural highlights of the city.

As a dog walker, I have walked a little of this circular pathway several times. I have also rambled a stretch of it with Simon, family and friends on various occasions to the fabulous Brockholes Nature Reserve and back. But this year, a friend and I thought we would walk the whole route.

All 21 miles of it.

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Courtesy of Google Maps

It is possible to do it all in one day but we thought we would make a weekend of it and stop off at a hotel en route. A new swanky hotel was due to open in the city centre and we thought we might be able to splash out a little for one night. But alas, it turned out it would not be open by the time of our adventure so we opted for The Tickled Trout Hotel instead, three miles out of the city and overlooking the River Ribble.

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The start of my Preston Guild Wheel walk

The date was set – June 1. Maps were printed off. We agreed to meet near a point of the wheel and either walk 8 miles the first day and 13 miles on the Sunday, or vice versa.

But sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

The afternoon before, my friend texted. She was feeling ill and didn’t think she would be able to make it. She hoped she would but was alerting me that, just in case, she might not be up to it tomorrow.

I felt a sense of disappointment and, if I’m honest, was tempted to cancel the whole endeavour and snuggle down on the sofa with a good book.

It may have been June but the weather wasn’t very summery.

But the hotel was booked and, as it was so much short-notice, I would have lost the money.

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The start of my Preston Guild Wheel walk

So that decided the matter.

Ever the trooper, the next day, when I received confirmation that C was too poorly to do the walk, I put on my walking boots, lifted my rucksack onto my back (including a paperback thriller which I swear got heavier and heavier with each step) and left my house, heading to the start of the Guild Wheel, a mere 10 minutes walk away.

Now, I love spending time by myself on walks. However, these are usually for shortish periods of time, and rambling, ruminating, musing and daydreaming for an hour or so is very pleasant but a whole weekend of listening to my own thoughts? Will I bore myself?!

And to match my mood, it was raining, a miserable drizzle….

But I will persevere… Preston Guild Wheel, I have arrived and I will explore all 21 miles of you. The adventure begins now! ☺️

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See Part 2 coming soon ….

 

Posted in Environment, Walks

Masons Wood

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Just over a month ago, I had the delight of exploring a patch of woodland called Masons Wood in Lancashire, England. I used to live five minutes walk away from this little piece of paradise and I truly believe my love of nature as a youngster was sparked by frequent dog rambles in this vicinity. When you wander along the path, it’s easy to forget that suburbia is just a few minutes away.

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The walk took place in April, a good month to gaze upon the bluebells and smell the wild garlic.

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The path took me down to a river where a wonderful sight greeted me. It was a vivid brightness sitting on a tree stump or a rock in the middle of the water. Unfortunately I am no photographer and I don’t have a proper camera – also I was scared to get close in case I scared the vivid blue away – but, in the third picture below, you might, just might, see a tiny bright cobalt-blue shape in the centre. That, I believe, was a kingfisher.

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And this is what a close-up of a kingfisher looks like (picture not my own).

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thanks to The Woodland Trust, who help to protect British woodlands, including Masons Wood.

http://www.woodlandtrust.co.uk

Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

Lawrence and The Freemasons

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Does luxury and East Lancashire go together? Well, in the case of The Lawrence, it does. On the outside, it looks like a normal large house, sitting on a corner of an ordinary looking street.

A guesthouse or B&B maybe. Attractive Grade II listed building, certainly (it’s actually 200 years old), but it doesn’t necessarily look like a fancy spa or boutique hotel.

However, the minute you enter the hall – adorned by quirky animal wallpaper – you know you’re somewhere special.

High class.

Along the hall, to the left, is a small reception where we met Hannah, she was very friendly and helpful. The hotel prides itself on providing a bespoke experience for its guests. After filling in a short questionnaire asking what we would like to have for our breakfast in the morning, she took us on a short tour, showing the breakfast room, unmanned bar (it has an honesty box) and sitting area. There are also function and conference rooms and an outside courtyard.

Upstairs was the Tolkien suite – luxurious, elegant and extravagant.

 

There was an enormous television (which we discovered had Netflix, neither of us has this subscription channel but we took full advantage by watching The Outlaw King, about Robert the Bruce, and Alliances, a spy thriller starring Brad Pitt). A luxurious dark blue velvet settee faced the TV, with a massive bed behind – actually the room was huge, much bigger than what I am used to in hotels and B&Bs. Elegant wallpaper adorned the wall, there was a sweets jar, biscuits, bottles of water, tea, coffee, kettle… On the side of the bed was a pile of Tolkien books, a nice touch.

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Am I missing something? The bathroom, ah, the bathroom.

Normally, the bathroom is a much overlooked although necessary component of a hotel room. Toilet, tick. Shower, tick. Sink, tick. But this was different.

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For a start, it was upstairs. Yes, this guest suite sits across two floors. A floating bathroom atop a mezzanine balcony. There was a separate shower and toilet cubicle, while the sink and roll top bath was in a more open plan setting.

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The whole vibe was contemporary luxury, unlike many chain hotels though, The Lawrence oozes character. It is no surprise to learn that the 14-room boutique hotel was been renovated last year. It now has one suite, three signature rooms, three superior rooms and seven snugs.

The luxury doesn’t end there. Relaxation treatments are also available if booked in advance and afternoon tea is served on a weekend. Again this requires booking.

We went for a short walk in Padiham, a small attractive town, located next to the River Calder. In the 1900s its industries were coal-mining and weaving and by 1906, there were 20 cotton mills. Of course, all this is gone now.

Eating at Freemasons at Wiswell, in the rural Ribble Valley, was a gastronomical treat. It’s a venue full of refined rustic charm, a combination of country pub and shooting lodge.

We sampled many dishes on the Taste of Freemason menu, which highlights chef Steven Smith’s work. Many of these, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t personally have chosen but was happily surprised. The dishes were just the right size, none were too filling.  At the end, we were both full but not unpleasantly bloated.

Our wine was a Painted Wolf chenin blanc 2017, which was very nice. Our 30-year-old dessert wine at the end of the evening was sweet and delightful. Booking a taxi there and back turned out to be a good choice so we could both sample the wines!

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Where to start? I’m a cheese lover and I found the Lancashire cheese and beetroot tartlet very creamy and moreish. The salmon scallops and pine nut sauce was scrumpish, as was the brioche cooked in goose fat and rosemary.

The duck liver was neatly presented on toast, cooked Yakitori-style (Japanese type of skewered chicken), sitting upon a bed of Wiswell Moor brambles, alongside smoked eel.

Simon didn’t think the taste of the brambles would go with the rest of the dish, but it did and he was very impressed.

 

The native lobster dish offered Butter poached Tail, tempura claw, crispy chicken wing and sweetcorn among lobster sauce infused with Thai Flavours.

Now normally, I wouldn’t choose lobster or duck liver or smoked eel, but on this occasion I tried them and I liked them.

The menu also offers a Winter Blues Menu, a la Carte, Vegetarian and a Sunday Family lunch.

 

The following morning we had cereal and our cooked breakfast in a very pleasant room adjacent to the garden room. We met the hotel’s dog, Hetti, who was very charming indeed!

It would have been delightful to have stayed another evening, but alas, we were only here for one night. So after packing, we left for witch country, aka Barley and the Pendle Hill area, which isn’t far from here.

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I’ve been to Barley a few times, twice last year when walking up Pendle Hill. I opted for what seemed a never-ending bowl of potato and leek soup (no complaints though, it was very tasty) in the popular cafe at the car park (only £1 to park!) Rather than hike up the steep hill, we had a pleasant meander to the reservoir and back.

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Barrowford, a short distance away, and its Pendle Heritage Centre was the next stop. The last time we came here, we did not have enough time to look around so we took full advantage today. The centre is a Grade II listed farm building known as Park Hill, restored using traditional building skills. It actually dates from the 1400s and the museum takes us on a journey of the evolution of the building, from the medieval farmhouse to today’s museum. I found the 1600s hearth display particularly fascinating. We also learn about the families who lived in the house – the Bannisters and the Swinglehursts. According to the museum, the famed runner Sir Roger Bannister is a descendant.

And of course the fascinating but disturbing story of the Pendle Witches, who came from surrounding parts and were executed in 1612, is explored here.

The fine Walled Garden, which dates from the 1700s, wasn’t looking its best as it was November but it promises an array of plants to wander amongst in the spring and summer. And Cruck Frame Barn is an example of early building construction.

Before my visit, I never thought of Padiham as a place to stay but apart from The Lawrence being a splendid venue, just perfect if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking for a romantic retreat, the town is ideal for a convenient stop-over for East Lancashire. Explore the beauty of Pendle Hill, visit Clitheroe and its ancient castle, learn about the witches in the heritage centre in Barrowford or wander around the historic Gawthorpe Hall, there’s so much to do in this often over-looked area.

The Lawrence Hotel

http://www.thelawrencehotel.co.uk

26-28 Church Street, Padiham.

07921 684742

Freemasons

http://www.freemasonsatwiswell.com

8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe

01254 822218

My previous Pendle post can be found here:

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/trek-diary-part-3-february-march-pendle-hill/

 

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

Trek Diary – Part 3: February/March – Pendle Hill

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Pendle Hill is famous among these parts of Lancashire, or should I say infamous? Have you watched Arthur Miller’s The Crucible? Where a frenzy of hysterics erupted in an American society in the 1600s and it was claimed some of the villagers were witches?

Well, something similar happened in Lancashire.

In England, the 1600s was a time of superstition, intolerance and persecution. King James I, who increasingly became more paranoid after the Gunpowder Plot, broadened the Witchcraft Act in 1604.

And so there was, quite literally, a witch hunt.

In 1612, in the Pendle area, Alizon Device cursed a pedlar, and believed she lamed him. An investigation followed and the situation spiralled into a massive witchcraft trial, with other residents being arrested and a nine-year-old girl giving evidence against her family and neighbours. Nine of the ‘witches’ were hanged at Lancaster Castle.

This is a horror story fit for Halloween. Not because there is any ‘devil worship’ or witches on broomsticks or wild cackling, but because a lethal blend of hysteria, superstition, paranoia and persecution got whipped up into a frenzy.

On a happier note, Pendle Hill is also noted as the location where Quaker founder George Fox experienced a spiritual vision.

Back to modern day and, thankfully, more tolerant times.

At Barrowford’s information centre, the woman at the tourism desk was very helpful, giving us not only a map and directions on how to reach Pendle, but details about a sculpture and witch trail.

I always picture Pendle Hill as nearby but it always seemed an awkward place to reach from where I live. We have tried twice before to reach its dizzy heights of 557m. Once, it was snowing. The other time it was pouring with rain. On neither occasion did we reach the spellbinding hill, but only the thereabouts. Perhaps there was a ‘curse’ and we will never reach it?

Barley wasn’t too far from Barrowford and thanks to the helpful information assistant, we recognised the landmarks as we drove past, including a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the witches (or supposed witches, as more likely) in Roughlee.

 

Fellow ramblers know the feeling of reaching a destination and then thinking, have I the right change for the car park? Luckily, Barley car park is very amenable, boasting many spaces, a charming café/souvenir shop, adequate toilets – and parking is a mere £1!

Past the children’s play area, pub, houses and a stall selling free range eggs… Onto a footpath along a river and lo, there is the route to Pendle Hill.

Simon warned me that, on the map, there were tight contour lines further on, meaning a steepness. But I forgot about that as, not long after we started, I sloshed and trampled about in mud and, humiliatingly, even slipped and fell. Embarrassingly, a couple shouted over, are you okay? Yes thank you, I muttered, embarrassed. S, having strided 10 miles ahead (or so it seemed), headed back. I didn’t know you had fallen, he apologised. I grudgingly accepted his apology.

Thankfully the boots were waterproof.

Anyway, no matter, I conquered the soaking wet mud which had no right to trip me up. Now to conquer the steep incline itself. I have dreams (Illusions? Fantasies?) of walking up Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Not like those crazily fit people who can do the two plus Snowdon in one day. How is that even possible? No, just one at a time for me. I’m not in a rush.

A friend later told me that there were other, more gradual, ways to climb up Pendle Hill. But by then it was too late. Every step was hard. It’s not even a massive hill, 1827ft/557m, but this section was gruelling. I thought longingly of Fairfield Horseshoe’s gradual ascent (certainly in comparison to this incline) until finally I made it. I was at the top!

We walked down a more gradual route. At one point, wondering if we were going the right way. But we finally reached a stream which we followed, ambling along to Barley.

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A cup of tea in the cafe later and we then set off on a Pendle Sculpture Trail. The path takes you past Lower Black Moss Reservoir and stunning scenes of Pendle Hill, then it’s uphill (ah, more steepness!!) until we reach Aitken Wood, located on a slope. By itself, Aitken Wood is a beautiful setting, but here nature meets art, culture and history in one swoop with the Sculpture Trail. We meet a life-size witchfinder, spot metal bats, owl and giant spider’s web and admire The Quaker Tree among many other artworks. Plaques have also been created, illustrating each of the witches. If you pick up a Sculpture Trail leaflet, you could even take part in a competition to win a hotel stay.

So two walks in one this, surprisingly pleasant, winter’s day. So enjoyable that we ventured back a month later. Ironically the weather was worse in March.

I fell again in the mud. Great. Why has it not dried yet?

Snow fell, we turned back half way – and then it stopped and we headed towards the hill again. The hill was as steep as last time. I was as unfit as last time.

I, wimp that I am, asked if we could turn back because of the potential snow.

We were about 10 steps from the top at this point.

We carried on.

At the summit, something was preventing us from walking straight in one line, something threw Simon’s hat away and he, rather comically, had to run after it, and something was trying to push us over the edge of the hill.

Be warned. The hill is possessed – by a terrible gale-force wind. Thankfully, the wind and snow gradually left us alone as we trekked down the path to the cafe where a mug of refreshing tea and a slice of delicious cake awaited us.

Picture courtesy of Simon Hunter20180317_125724