Friday, 29 June 2012

Pendle Hill from Barley

One of our outdoor buddies Maria was house sitting this weekend near Preston. The house she was looking after can accomodate a fair few people so she invited us all to stay for the weekend for a catch up and to climb a few Lancastrian hills. I had a work night out on Friday, so the plan was to drive up early Saturday and go for a walk, stay over Saturday night then walk again Sunday. This plan kind of died on its backside however when I staggered through the door at 3:45am early on Saturday morning after consuming way too much of the black stuff. Being the lightweight that I am, it took me until the next evening to finally get over the self-induced illness. In the evening a heart felt apology by text message to the rest of the guys produced a rather pleasing and unexpected reply of "are you still coming for tea". So with only an hour to spare we got in the car and drove up to Preston. Milly and Maria's delicious roast dinner followed by Elaina's famous Sticky Toffee Pudding was the perfect hangover cure. The rest of the guys walked up Pendle Hill in the day, which I had been really looking forward to. We had a good laugh with the guys after the meal, promised to return in the morning for a walk and then said goodbye.

Me on top of Pendle Hill

When we returned the next morning the weather was pretty grim and after eating their fry up the rest of the guys decided the only walk they wanted to do that day was one down to the local pub. Looking out of the window at the showers I couldn't blame them, especially as they had already been walking the day before. We had got up early for a Sunday morning and got our walking gear on and packed so despite the grim weather we decided on Pendle Hill, banking on the weather improving. We said goodbye again to the rest of the guys and set off in what was unfortunately worsening weather. We stopped off in Clitheroe for sandwiches and then took a scenic route to Barley via Worston and Downham which were both surprisingly picturesque villages. Going this way allowed us to gaze up at Pendle Hill and see it from different angles. Pendle Hill is often nicknamed Lancashire's Uluru. When seen from certain angles during sunset or sunrise it looks absolutely stunning as its huge whaleback profile rises high above the surrounding land. The end on view from the north is definitely the most spectacular view you get of Pendle Hill. Check out the front cover of the Alastair Lee's book Pendle and you will see precisely what I mean. One of the other reasons I wanted to get out walking today was that I have purchased a new compact point and shoot camera I wanted to test out. The camera is the new Sony DSC-WX100 which is the world's slimmest and lightest compact camera with a 10x optical zoom lens. My Sony NEX3 takes great detailed landscape shots but I really miss the zoom lens for wildlife and getting deep into a landscape. The DSC-WX100 is incredibly small and light. It weighs less than my iPhone and I've been really impressed with it so far. It will obviously never match the quality of the Sony NEX3 for standard landscape photography or close up work, but I really hate carrying bulkier cameras when hill walking and I tend to share my photos on computer screens not in magazines or printed out.

Eastern side of Pendle Hill

We admired Pendle Hill from the high road from Downham then turned right and descended the road into Barley. I had no idea what to expect from Barley. I find the starting points of walks quite disappointing these days as they usually involve extortionate parking charges, lack of facilites, litter and closed down pubs. Barley however was a pleasant surprise. Barley is a beautiful and vibrant village with a well laid out car park that has toilets, cafe, bins, riverside park, cafe, seats, even boot cleaning facilites and only one pound to park for the day. Yes one pound! The village also has the fantastic Pendle Inn, Barley Tea Rooms and Barley Mow Restaurant. I will most certainly be returning to Barley! We parked up and found that everyone in the village was friendly and the locals were having some kind of fancy dress party in the village hall. We crossed the road and set off along the track towards the Lower Ogden Reservoir. The weather was now a mix of sunshine and drizzle showers. We both felt good to be out together as apart from the Knoydart walk we did together we haven't been out walking together for almost a year. The Ogden Reservoirs were lovely, the lower reservoir is flanked by a steep wooded bank and the upper reservoir is flanked by wild moor land. The dams and water ways were also quite an eye opener and added interest to the start of the walk. The only noise I could hear was that of bleating sheep and the unmistakable loud peep-ing call of Oyster Catchers. When we reached the foot of the upper dam we went the wrong way and went up a farm track towards the bizarrely named Buttock Farm. Going the wrong way gave us a fab photo opportunity of Barley Hill and the Lower Ogden Reservoir. As I admired the view and took photos Nicky pointed to a sheep which seemed to have its head beneath the wheel arch of an abandoned car by the farm. We went across and realised the sheep was stuck. Using all my strength and nearly doing my back in I lifted the cars back end and Nicky battled with the sheep's horns and freed it. It circled round us as if to say thanks and then made its way acros the field of lambs with mothers looking for its own. We felt like going the wrong way was fate and were very happy to see the poor lamb free. We headed back down to the dam and carried on along the correct path.

Sun shining on Barley from Pendle Hill

After passing the Upper Ogden Reservoir and Boar Clough we turned right to ascend the route of the Pendle Way long distance footpath. The Pendle Way's way marker posts and stones are illustrated by witches. The Pendle Witches are not something I will ever claim to be an expert on but having read several explanations of the link between the hill and the so called witches I still can't quite piece together the whole thing. The local area which was considered wild and inhospitable at the time was home to families that in the seventeenth century were misunderstood to be witches, but other than its over powering presence on the skyline Pendle Hill itself doesn't seem to feature much in the whole story. I am glad that the area has something to attract visitors, but I can't help feeling strangely uneasy at the story behind the so called witches fate. I'd rather celebrate Pendle Hill for its unique natural beauty and stunning wild surroundings myself. As we ascended the rough path that clings to the edge of Boar Clough the weather was improving and the sun was so hot we were stripping layers by the time we reached the top. The wide panoramic views of the surrounding land were also opening up as the weather improved and the cloud line had risen. Skylarks were now rising above us and making what can only be described as a delightful racket, it is a rather crazy yet also extremely relaxing noise they make, it is a sound I relate to the freedom I feel when walking in the moors. We continued along the path which slowly ascends the whale back shape of the hill. As we got closer to the summit I walked over to the eastern edge of the hill where I got a fantastic aspect of just how steep the eastern side of the hill drops off. We reached the summit at what is known as Beacon End or Big End and took several photos at the OS trig point pillar. We descended the well laid path down the eastern side of the hill and followed the Pendle Way route back to Barley. We would have stuck around in Barley but I had another roast dinner and the England match waiting for me back at my sisters house. My idea of Pendle Hill having never done it before was one of a wild and unforgiving boggy land. I imagined a starting point of a litter strewn over used layby and a soggy boot soaking walk with little interest. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Barley at the start of the walk was fantastic and the walk itself was fairly easy going, interesting and eye opening. I will return to Barley and Pendle Hill sooner rather than later, especially as it is only a 45 minute drive away our house.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...


  1. "...staggered through the door at 3:45am after consuming way too much of the black stuff....text message to the rest of the guys...pleasing and unexpected reply of are you still coming for tea?".

    You do know that's down to your good luck rather than your charm, aye?


    Nice wee report though!

    My recent visit to Pendle Hill from the Downham side, a cracking walk!

  3. A nice write up on the route.

  4. It's the 400th anniversary of the Witch Trials this year: I imagine that there are commemorations organised in the area; there are in Lancaster (where the trials were held).
    I dimly recall that there's a local tradition of climbing the hill at night (maybe for Halloween?). It's worth a go, if you can find it in yourself to enjoy the sodium lamp light-show rather than regarding all the street lamps as light pollution.