Claughton, Lancashire

For many months now, I’ve driven through the little village of Claughton in Lancashire and watched the aerial ropeway transport little yellow buckets of clay down from the wooded fellside, over the main road and into the brick factory opposite. It was intriguing and I wanted to find out where the quarry was. It was up there somewhere, hidden in the trees.

Claughton Ropeway pylon

So recently, with the winter wind and rain finally giving us a window of longed for sunshine, The Dog and I headed to Claughton, armed with a map. The car said it was 4 degrees outside, but it was glorious. It’s not easy to park in Claughton, but we parked in the car park of the little ramshackle building which I presumed was the village hall. There were other cars parked but the hall seemed closed and shut up. No signs said I couldn’t park, so I got The Dog on her leash and we set off.

We walked towards the Fenwick Arms pub, where opposite there was a little tarmacked lane. We strolled up between houses and hedges, dodging puddles. A little way along, the road forked and after a quick check, we took the right hand one. It was a steady pull up, the wood on our right, sheltering us from the stiff breeze and on our left, opening out to fields. I kept my head down and plodded up. The woods seemed to be enclosed by high deer proof fencing, but gates were open. Between the trees, a large house could be glimpsed at. It seemed very isolated, the sort of place that would be a location managers dream for a thriller. It looked like a large Manor House or Hall surrounded by those tall trees that creak and groan. We passed some double gates and a large sign that said private. I could just see the top of the house. It looked very intriguing.

We carried on. The road bent right and dismayingly dropped down, before swerving left and clambering up again. The sun was out and out of the wind, I was starting to shed layers. The lane had now become a rough track. It must of been an ancient track as underneath the decaying top layer, there was cobbles and another surface of small stone flags. It was obviously cheaper just to chuck some cheap asphalt on top than retain the flags underneath.

Finally, we could see the brickwork’s ropeway. Stubby rusting pylons stood at regular intervals, the steel rope hung between and a bright yellow bucket sitting silently in mid air. The brick factory obviously wasn’t open today, so the ropeway was stationary which was a shame not to see it working. It was kind of spooky. The silence and the stark ironwork of the pylons imposing on the scrubby landscape. At the entrance of the quarry, there were the usual abundance of health and safety notices, so The Dog and I scrambled up a nearby mound to see if we could see into the quarry properly. But to no avail. You could see part of it. I read later that it had got an extension to continue quarrying til 2036 as there was another 1.2 million tonnes of material to excavate or 50 million bricks a year! Mind blowing figures.

The path carried on upwards towards the wind farm on the summit. We turned at a hairpin and was startled to find an isolated farmhouse up there as well, braving the elements. We trudge up. The road had suffered damage, so the solution to the massive potholes and deep ruts was to fill them with red bricks from the works. I smiled to myself – how many times I had stumbled across woodland with hints of Victorian industry poking through – the odd gate post, a pile of stones, a foundation and here was history in the making. In a 100 years time, when the brickworks would be gone, people would find these red bricks and wonder what was here. Now they were fresh and bright and recently laid.

Future archaeology.

We walked up to the farmhouse and met a man mending a dry stone wall. The view up here was outstanding. A complete 180 degrees from a snow capped Ingleborough, along the Lune Valley towards Morecambe. You could see Heysham Power Station, Grange Over Sands in the south Lakes and Barrow on the edge, far out in the Irish Sea. You could see for miles, though it was quite hazy. The man told me that you could see the Isle of Man and Ireland on clear days. I decided to come up here again, armed with some binoculars when it promised to be clear. It would be fantastic. I chatted with the old boy for ages, until I realised the wind was cutting and very cold. It was piercing my waterproof and three layers underneath. I took my leave and wandered further up towards a gate, trying to get some body warmth back. It kind of opened up here. The track turned back into a proper road and dropped down towards the village of Brookhouse. I was tempted to make a circular route out of the walk, but hadn’t taken any photos for the blog as well as not being prepared for such a walk. I checked the area out. There was a information board about the wind farm, picnic tables and a stone compass. I discovered that local children from a primary school had named the turbines. How sweet.There was a track going up behind the turbines and I wanted to get really close to one. I wandered up a little way, but the wind was relentless and I was losing the feeling in my fingers. This needed more investigation. I wasn’t sure if The Dog was allowed up this track as it was on the edge of access land where dogs aren’t allowed. I took a couple of photos and decided to head back. I would return with binoculars and a packed lunch on a hot summers day, to sit up here and admire the stunning scenery munching egg sandwiches and drinking hot tea. Perfect.

The Dog looked relieved as we retraced our steps, stopping to talk to the dry stone waller again. I could of talked with him all day as he was a mine of information, telling me stories of 50 years ago. Really fascinating. But the wind had no mercy, howling down the track, nothing stopping it until it hit me. We continued, thankfully all downhill. Past the quarry and the silent ropeway, the tall trees swaying in the wind. On the way down, I could see the Lune Valley properly, where the River Lune had broken its banks and flooded the surrounding fields. It is a flood plain and it had obviously done its job. The old boy had told me that it had looked like a one huge lake stretching the length of the valley. I wished I had seen it.

The River Lune and the flooded fields.

As we reached the lower end of the lane, the sun disappeared abruptly behind black clouds and it started to rain/hail. We quickened our pace and reached the car just as the hail intensified and pelted the roof with an alarming noise. Wow. It really meant it. We couldn’t of timed it better and glad I wasn’t up by that farmhouse. We had our tantalising dose of spring after weeks of heavy rain and ludicrously high winds – it has seemed endless. We drove home for lunch as rain showers seemed to approach us at all angles, like a pincer movement. I was happy. I had found another walk to do.

The ropeway over the main road.

Burton in Lonsdale

Coming home after work early afternoon, I realised what a glorious day it was. After days of rain, wind and wall to wall cloud, I was going to make the most of it.

I grabbed a startled dog from her sleep and we headed out. The colours were gorgeous – there were big fluffy clouds that cast deep shadows across the hills that contrasted with the bright sunshine, the contours of the fells starkly defined. I love days like these.

Burton in Lonsdale and Ingleborough

It was the first real hint of Spring, despite it being early February . Everything seemed bright and fresh. We parked by the bridge near the River Greta in Burton and walked along the single track road. I kept stopping to admire Ingleborough and the Dales. The Dog was not impressed with this stop/starting lark – even though I have to on her investigative sniffing. I didn’t care. I realised, after months of gloom, that I had forgotten to look and observe. (Hood up, head down watching for puddles).

I started noticing all sorts. We turned off down towards Clifford Hall, a huddle of houses and down to the fabrication site. Here The Dog gathered pace as the woods were just around the corner and there were squirrels to seek. There were good views of the village and Dales beyond. The Dog ran around unsuccessfully while I stood and looked. The remains of a tall tree trunk riddled with holes – obviously where woodpeckers came to hone their pecking skills. Another tree, weak and feeble, toppled by wind and gently caught and held by its fellow neighbours. They almost spoke “hey don’t worry, we’ve got you”.

The wood, though in shadow, dark and damp, was quite green with moss draped over trees, branches, rocks and gate posts. It was quite vivid. In amongst it all, was clumps of snowdrops. I was really looking. We normally walk the same way in but today I had reversed it and it seemed a completely different world.

Then I despaired. Man had put his ugly hand in and some one had dumped a machine of some kind in. It had been there for years, rusted and crumpled, nature gradually eating it. But it was still an eyesore, in its bed of brown leaves and woodland debris.

The Dog and I carried on until I spotted something perched high in the woods. I had never seen it before and wondered why I hadn’t. It looked like an electrical sub station, from a distance, surrounded by high metal railings, but was in such a ridiculous spot. I clambered up, slipping and sliding, expecting to fall on my bum in a muddy mess. As we approached the railings, I realised the signs weren’t all about danger of death, but of a hole in the ground. The wood is full of little quarries and is known as a small local coal mining area many years ago. It must of been one of the shafts. I could see why it was cordoned off, hidden in the undergrowth. I could imagine people disappearing down it like Alice in Wonderland! There were no other signs to tell you it’s history which was a shame. The wood is owned by the Woodland Trust and thought they would be more forthcoming. The railings looked pretty recent – maybe that’s why I had only just spotted it. It was intriguing.

We slithered back down – well I did. The Dog with four paw drive made it look easy, watching me grab branches and making ungainly noises. She seems to shake her head in amazement like Gromit. Back on the path, we sauntered back, stopping to admire and take photos.

Burton in Lonsdale’s imposing church.
A lot cleaner from a few days ago when it was a turbulent angry rush of fell water.

The church hoved into view, perched high on the hill in the village. About 5 years ago, it had its spire completely reroofed with larch. For about a year, it had this gorgeous deep copper colour that glowed and could be seen for miles. It was fantastic. But now it has weathered in and lost its glory, but it’s still an imposing building.

The sun was gradually sinking and the air turning cold. It had been a great afternoon of wandering around and finding unexpected things. We sauntered reluctantly back to the car and drove slowly home, watching the glorious colours change as the sun slid behind the horizon.


We had enough items to get to warrant a trip to Settle and so we got ourselves organised and set off.

The weather apps said it would rain in the afternoon but as we drove over, large rain spots hit the windscreen. This wasn’t suppose to happen.

The Dog and I parked near Booths supermarket and sauntered up into town, the big plan being to walk the dog before the worst of the weather. It had sort of brightened up, with the sun feebly poking through the clouds, but in the distance it looked wet.

We crossed the market place, full of parked cars and headed up into the corner, up a very steep hill. An utility company was busy digging up the road in various places and had it cordoned off for vehicles. There were workmen around too (usually it seems they dig up streets just for the fun of it and then lose interest – roadworks seem to last weeks). I peered into the holes, full of wet mud and dirt. Lovely work in the summer, but in these conditions, another story. I gave them admiring looks and making a mental note to cross that one off my career choices.

The hill bent left and flattened out. It was a narrow back road but with it blocked off I unleashed the hound. It was a pleasant stroll, high up enough with a good view of Settle, Giggleswick and surrounding countryside. A freight train rattled along the Settle Carlisle line, tugging a string of cement containers. The sky looked broody and threatening – there was a drizzle in the air and a chill. I put my hood up.

A lot of people hate the month of January for various reasons, but I quite like it. The days are getting quietly longer and at 5pm it’s usually only just getting truly dark. Also the daffodils are poking through the soil, waiting for that last push to finally bloom and there’s, of course, the numerous patches of snowdrops along the grass verges which just uplift your heart, knowing that Spring is coming and it’s all going to get better (okay we might get a dumping of snow for the next few weeks but hey – just love the unpredictability of British weather). It’s just seeing the new life in mid winter that makes you feel so much better and that’s why I like January.

We approached the main B6479 road leading to Horton in Ribblesdale and wandered on the pavement past the little hamlet of Langcliffe. A little further along, a wooden pedestrian footbridge took us over the railway line and opposite our road to the river. We were in the valley, the fells rising all around us, limestone crags and quarried hillsides peering down. The hills were a mixture of browns and greens in the intermittent sunlight. Above us were the Attimires, crags and walls of rock with caves burrowed into them.

We dropped down the steady incline, to a huddle of cottages and a weir. The River Ribble was high, full of energy. It tumbled down the man made weir with its little runways for the salmon to leap up when spawning. We paused to admire the river, the fields full of ewes ready to lamb and a better view of the fells all around.

We continued along the footpath up towards another little community Stackhouses. We now were heading back to Settle. We walked along the little road together until we reached a fingerpost and a gated stile. Pushing through, we strolled across a wide field. I kept The Dog on lead. There were sheep in the field, albeit down the very far end and down a dip, out of sight, but farmers can still get cross. We soon came to another gate and on the other side the footpath was fenced off from the rest of the field, so The Dog got unleashed again. We were again high up overlooking the river and a large factory opposite. Think it’s some sort of aggregate place and it jarred against the scenery it stood in.

We went passed a farmhouse and up to a stile. There was an opening built into the fencing for dogs who were too wimpy to jump stiles, but there was a length of wood that owners had to lift to let the hound through. The Dog had it figured and waited for me to plod up to lift the barrier. I was scanning the next field for livestock and wanted to make sure before I let The Dog through. I clambered over the stile first and as I landed and went to open the dog barrier, my impatient mutt decided to follow me and leapt effortlessly over the stile. Sometimes I do despair of her, but admire her ability to negotiate such obstacles with more grace and ease that I’ll ever muster.

The cloud that got us!

It was a vast field. As we started to cross, I realised that a large black menacing rain cloud was approaching. Oh great, just at the most exposed bit – typical! We quickened our pace. It started to rain, but it was heavy drizzle than a lashing downpour. We had the wind in our faces and the predicted 5 degrees bit at my cheeks, making them tingle. Another stile and gate were successfully negotiated and we found ourselves on the edge of a large school field.

The pupils were playing football – I ushered The Dog along as the teams were heading our way as the goal was only a few metres away from the path. I had images of the lads shooting wide and me getting a hefty thud on the side of the head. The path turned and we walked up the side of the pitch, still following the river. I looked at the scene and it reminded me of my schooldays long ago, when seemingly sadistic and enthusiastic PE teachers took pleasure of dragging you out to the furthest reaches of the playing field on the most horrible days of the year and making you do sports. These people were obviously still alive and kicking . I seem to remember that I was always a wretched fielder when playing rounders, posted far out in case one of the more competitive kids decided to thwack the ball into the next county, but in reality never did much apart from shiver. I looked at the boys. A couple wore just shorts and a short sleeved top, oblivious to the rain and piercing cold. I looked like Michelin Man and was still cold. Other lads had jumpers or light coats on, but they were all running around being competitive and dreaming about playing for a top club. One particular lad stood to one side, armless – he had retracted his limbs under his inadequate clothing and obviously had his hands under his armpits in a vain attempt to get some warmth. I looked at him – you could tell he hated football and was wishing for lunchtime to arrive and get back inside or just to his Xbox. I didn’t help his cause by telling him he looked frozen and he nodded in reply, his face pleading me to rescue him. I smiled back and carried on, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to hardened him up a bit.

The big black cloud had swamped Settle with a big grey blanket – it was drizzling now. The path veered from the river and towards the main road into Settle. We crossed over and rejoined the river. We walked along the riverside path where the River Ribble splits Settle from Giggleswick. It’s a functional path, lined with houses, flats, a school and further down, light industry. The Dog stuck her paws in the water because she could and the drizzle got heavier.

We walked through a little housing estate and a path between the houses, onto another road and back towards urban life. We turned left to head back into town and the car. Over the river, past the Land Rover showroom and industrial estate and up toward the station. We did a little shopping. The town was quiet, though full of parked cars. Perhaps everybody was cowering in the numerous cafes. Our business done, we sauntered back to the car and headed home. The timing was perfect. It seriously started raining and you could tell it was in for the rest of the day. The wind was getting up too. Time to hunker down.

Richmond, North Yorkshire

We were after a Lucy Pittaway picture. With her gallerys being based in Yarm, Richmond and Brompton in Swale in Yorkshire, we thought we’d make a day of it and jumped in the car with The Dog.

We drove over the tops to Hawes in Wensleydale, dropping down into the little town, January tourists wandering around. We drove through and up and over to Buttertubs Pass and into Swaledale. We resisted our usual detour of driving through Thwaite, to our little holiday cottage which changed our lives completely many years ago. We carried on through Muker, Gunnerside and Reeth, admiring the wild fells and stunning scenery. It was a nostalgia trip. We stopped at The Dales Bike Centre as they’ve got a brilliant little cafe there, for elevenses. We ordered coffee and cake. There’s a bike hire and repair shop on site and according to their literature, it’s on the brink of a major redevelopment apparently. Suitably refreshed, we continued to Brompton on Swale and found Lucy Pittaway’s gallery on a light industrial park right next door to the A1.

We spent quite a while going through the pictures. She has such a unique quirky style. She came to prominence with us with her Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire pictures depicting cyclists across the Yorkshire landscape and we have promised ourselves one ever since. Finally, we made a decision and bought one and feeling very happy, we drove the couple of miles back to Richmond to find somewhere to walk The Dog.,_North_Yorkshire

We headed towards the river area, looking for somewhere to park. The road signs sent us towards the former railway station building. We parked up in the pay and display, in between the station and the leisure centre. The poor Dog had her legs crossed. We sauntered up to the station looking for loos ourselves – outside it was all buffed sandstone and red paintwork. Inside there were shops which opened out into a wide cafe area, which was extremely busy. Then we realised it was also a cinema with three doors leading to the different screens. It was quite splendid. It had kept its character – high glass roof and Victorian ironwork painted red. You could visualise it being a busy railway station, such was the sympathetic development. We were well impressed.

We walked back outside, after a little checking out of shops etc, and found the leisure centre equally pleasing to the eye. Made of timber and glass, it seemed to melt into the woodland area it was set in, despite being fairly modern and municipal. It was just very well done.

We found the old railway bed now converted into a path and now followed it. The Dog was off lead and ecstatic. We wandered along a wide tree lined path, spotting the river through the trees. The sun was sort of out, making the day bright. It was a pleasant stroll. We came to a wooden bridge with signposts and wanting to return to town, followed the one marked Easby.

We followed the path down and in the distance could see buildings. To our delight, we stumbled across Easby Abbey, sitting next door to a beautiful dinky church, which had been there since Norman times. Sadly we couldn’t go in, it’s door gated and severely padlocked, thanks to thieves vandalising and pinching the lead off the roof. It was quite sad. We wandered around the graveyard and then into the Abbey itself next door. It was a substantial edifice which had stood for many years until Henry VIII got all uppity about monasteries and went around destroying them. It was quite a splendid ruin, with many rooms still outlined. It was a fascinating diversion and a pleasant surprise.

We leashed The Dog as we were now walking through a private driveway which allowed us to admire a rather lovely house and gardens before walking through a pasture and into a wood. There were two paths, one down towards the river again and the other one keeping high. As they both rejoined up the road, we kept on the higher path and carried on.

It eventually brought us back on the edge of town. We crossed the main road by the bridge and into a large open park where The Dog made a determined attempt to dip her paws into the river. Richmond stood high on the hill above the river, with houses set in the steep hillside, cascading down the valley. It was very pleasant. We found steps leading up to the centre – a steady pull for several minutes. They were tough as the steps themselves sloped backwards so it was hard going. We ended up on Frenchgate, where we paused trying to catch our breath. Once recovered we turned left and followed the road as it widened into the wide circular Market Square, lined with shops.

We wandered along, more out of interest than necessity, peering into the shops and diverting down side streets. It had a pleasant feel. It had been many years since our last visit and it hadn’t really changed. It was a mixture of upmarket independent businesses and then your downmarket cheap and cheerful outlets which kind of spoilt it with their gaudy frontages. It made Richmond look a little scruffy. The old Trinity church stood dominant in the middle of the Market Square.

It was now coming up to 4 o’clock, the light was starting to go and it was time to ahead home. We retraced our steps back to the park and the bridge which we crossed to get back to the car park. We drove slowly out of the town, up through its winding streets to the main road, where we took the route back up to Swaledale. We were hoping to have tea at the Farmers Arms in Muker – Yorkshire pudding with sausages and lashings of gravy, but alas they didn’t start meals til 6pm. It was only 4:30. Disappointed, we headed home, stopping off by the fish and chip shop for supper. Not quite Yorkshire Pudding, but it filled a hole and we were happy.

Kingsdale, Yorkshire Dales

There was a window of good weather between two windy and rainy fronts and we made the most of it.

Wanting some elevation and a different route where we wouldn’t get blathered in mud, we headed up to Kingsdale, just beyond Thornton in Lonsdale near Ingleton. It’s a narrow road, hemmed in by centuries old dry stone walls and climbing into limestone country.

We parked by a convenient lay-by with other hardy souls. Leashing the dog, we walked a short distance down the road and around a bend, where a wooden finger post pointed us left through the wall. It was a steady ascent through stubby grass and scattered rock until we reached a ladder stile. Here we lifted The Dog over, not that she’s not capable, but she tends to launch herself and there was rocky boulders on the other side. She was not impressed being manhandled and wiggled, so it was pretty undignified for both me and The Dog.

Once over, we continued to pick our way through the remnants of a limestone pavement. You had to watch where you put your feet and look out for wobbly stones. It was a good pull up. Finally the limestone petered out and we were able to stop and take stock. There were fantastic views across the valley. It was a broody day and a haze hung low. We followed a wall across the field until we joined a broad track and turned left.

We were heading down very gently, along a gravelly track, rutted with puddles. The wind blew in our faces and as we neared the edge, a panoramic view opened up before us. To the left was the Forest of Bowland and as we turned our heads, in the far distance, the silhouette of Heysham Power Station and the Irish Sea, Then across to Morecambe, Carnforth, Silverdale and Arnside Knott. It was quite spectacular and with the sun rays peeking out and lighting up the landscape, it was breathtaking. We stood for many minutes admiring it.

We continued down the track and in the distance, we could see a collection of vehicles. As we neared, we realised it was the Cave Rescue Organisation and they were on a live rescue. We stopped and chatted to the chaps who were basically at base camp. They were in the middle of rescuing four lads who had gone caving the previous day and had got stuck due to rising flood waters. The Cave Rescue were not pleased as two of the lads, from a university caving club had been rescued only three weeks previously in exactly the same situation. They obviously hadn’t learnt their lesson and I found it quite discerning that they were university students. Not a lot of common sense going on there, considering the weather forecast had been predicting heavy rain. So the Cave Rescue guys weren’t best pleased, though stoic. They had a job to do. We met one of the actual cave rescuers who had been down the cave twice in the last twelve hours trying to assist them. He looked knackered.

And the thing is, these guys are all volunteers. They don’t get paid to go and rescue people. They go out in all weathers, day and night, in their own time and at their own risk. Then they go and do their normal everyday jobs afterwards. I am in awe of these men and women. So selfless. So dedicated. And it’s all run on charitable donations – all the vehicles, equipment, the lot. It’s an amazing organisation and we’re so lucky to have it.

The cavers were safely rescued.

As we stood chatting and admiring them and their vehicles, four modern Land Rovers and a Suzuki pulled up. They squeezed past the rescuers and continued up another lane. They were off roading on green lanes – tracks that the public can use if they’re in the right vehicle.

We said goodbye to the CRO and followed the Land Rovers. They had now stopped in one of the fields and one of the women was taking photos of the cars from all angles. We caught up with them and started to chat to another lady. We then continued along the track, expecting to have to move over to let them pass, but every time we looked back, they still seemed to be taking photos. In fact, we walked for ages before we joined the tarmac road and they were still nowhere in sight.

We followed the road towards the ugly BT tower (a necessity if we want our broadband and phones). Some off road bikers overtook us and finally the Land Rovers. We looked at the tower in awe that something so fundamentally out of place was granted planning permission – a horrible faux brick edifice with corporate blue windows and doors. It needed a stick of dynamite in my opinion.

We carried on to the T junction, where we discovered a lovely seating area – stone built with a little stone plinth with a metal inlay pointing to areas of interest and the distant towns. It was really sweet.

The sun was out now and lighting up the surrounding hills, though Ingleborough was covered in dark clouds. We waddled up the road towards the car, pleased to get out and get some fresh air. We made the most of it – tomorrow was predicted to have a big storm, one of those they like to name to make it a bit more serious. We drove slowly home.


I first came across Clitheroe last year when my sister in law and I were looking for vintage furniture shops in the area. We literally parked up, hunted down the relevant shops, did a coffee and shot out again, not really taking the town in. But it was enough to get me intrigued and make another, more leisurely trip there.

To be honest, I had always imagined Clitheroe to be a struggling little town, clumping it with the likes of Blackburn and Burnley, former woollen towns down on their luck. But it wasn’t. It seemed to be a thriving community, with well dressed citizens and a feeling of being reasonably upmarket.

I returned with my daughter a few weeks after that first hectic trip, driving over the Forest of Bowland. It’s a bit misleading is the name Forest of Bowland as it’s not exactly a Forest now, but a huge swathe of remote moorland, to the east of Lancaster. Many centuries ago, it was a large hunting area, presumably covered in trees. Now the only woodland surrounds Stocks Reservoir, managed by the Forestry Commission as a commercial concern and a cycling hub. We passed through the little village of Slaidburn, nestling in the valley before heaving up again. A long hill descends into Clitheroe.

We parked up in the car park near the railway station and walked the brief distance to the town centre. We wandered around. Apart from Fat Face, Cafe Nero and the ubiquitous Costa Coffee, Clitheroe is full of independent shops and cafes. My kind of town.

We wandered up to the castle, perched high on a hill in the middle of town. It was a steady drag, investigating the grounds. At the top was the museum and cafe which we didn’t visit, but clambered up towards the ruined tower where you got spectacular 360 degree views of the town and surrounding fells. We spent quite a while there, just taking in the view and watching the good people of Clitheroe go about their business.

We waddled down again, around the little parkland and back into town. We discovered the market with the traders working out of little purpose built cabins, selling all sorts. The shops in Clitheroe are quite upmarket and are very varied. A whiskey shop, a shop selling the likes of Joules and Barbour merchandise, a fantastic butchers specialising in sausages of every description and many others. It was a delight to wander around. We did coffee and cake in Jungle, an trendy cafe, though it was hard to choose – they all looked welcoming. At the bottom of the hill, the shops petered out as we approached a big Sainsburys supermarket. We paused – the little row of shops left seemed to be those shabby places housing taxi offices, tattoo parlours and fast food chicken joints. For some reason, we carried on and discovered, unexpectedly, at the rear of these shops, looming over them, a large building, which I initially mistook as a Marks and Spencer’s outlet.

It transpired to be an old mill called Holmes Mill, refurbished into a retail outlet, a large pub and bar, an Everyman cinema and a food hall. A quick peek in the bar – full of people enjoying a drink, trendy and full of atmosphere. The food hall was another on trend place and very popular. Stuffed with food, drink and gifts, it had an excellent deli, cheese and meat counter. It was one of those places where you can end up buying lots of things and spending a fortune – which we did. We decided to eat lunch here and sat at the bar on high stools. It was very agreeable. I decided to have the Buddha bowl and was able to choose my food at the deli. It was a very pleasant lunch indeed.

We staggered out again and wandered around, checking down ginnels and alleyways, finding more shops. It was all remarkably compact. Clitheroe seemed to have everything you needed in a town. I was very impressed – it’s just had a really nice feel about it and I decided that this was the place I would come to spend a day shopping when I was in the mood.

Very happy, we found the car and headed back over the moor. There was just one blot on the landscape literally, in the shape of an ugly belching cement works just up the road. It dominated the local area, but it must of employed hundreds of the townspeople and obviously kept the local economy humming. A necessary evil, I suppose, rearing it’s ugly head in the very pleasant surrounding countryside.

Below are some photos of the castle at Clitheroe. We came across a little white pillar in the castle grounds, which seemed to connect the town with the Pendle Witchcraft Trials in the 1600’s – Pendle Hill is nearby. There are many stories around this area of the infamous Pendle Witches, all of which are fascinating. Clitheroe is definitely worth visiting!

There’s seems to be a connection with the Pendle Witches

Heysham Village

The Dog and I were overdue a big walk and with the forecast looking good, we headed to the coast.

We didn’t head to our usual haunt of Hest Bank, but decided to head further south to Heysham near Morecambe. It’s an easy drive with by-passes around Lancaster and Morecambe, so there was no need to fight our way through both towns. The dual carriageways cross seemingly flat scrubby marshland, with farms scattered. You feel it’s about to be built on by the likes of Amazon and their huge warehouses. Pylons marched across the landscape from all angles, converging on the edge of Heysham to an enormous electrical substation. I was sure my hair briefly stood on end and wafted to the left. We approached a roundabout on the edge of Heysham and dutifully turned right.

I was after Heysham Village, but I was driving along a main road flanked by post war, pebble dashed housing that seemed to go on for ages. It didn’t seem very villagey. A road sign pointed left marked Heysham Village and took us down into the original Heysham settlement.

The Dog and I parked in a large deserted car park and paid £1 for 4 hours. We walked towards Main Street, past an ugly toilet block and it still felt very modern. But once on Main Street, it all changed – we walked past little cottages with date lintels marked 1629. Wow, nearly 400 years old. Most had been sadly pebble dashed (that should be a criminal offence in my world) which didn’t reflect their antiquity – they were stone buildings. It was a narrow street, with a one way system for cars. There were little shops (mainly cafes) and the Royal Hotel in the middle. It was all rather charming. Further along, off the street was St Peter’s church staring out to sea. The road swung round to the right and ended about a hundred yards, the little cottages petering out and large 19th century villas taking over. Many years ago, it was probably a sleepy isolated fishing village, miles from anywhere and self sufficient. Now it was attached to the modern world by housing estates and had been subsumed into the greater Heysham area.

We took the path by the side of St Peters church, pointing the way to the Chapel and up onto the headland. Here a ruined chapel stands, facing the westerly winds and looking across Morecambe Bay. Only a few walls remain and the stone coffins – open to the elements and the contents gone, but the shapes still held.

It was an exposed spot here and I wondered what it was like to come here especially during storms, being lashed by wind and rain. In the murky distance you could see the south Lakeland fells. It just added to sense of loneliness this place once had.

The Dog was excited and galloped down to a little sandy bay. This was her heaven. The sun popped out sporadically and there was a chilly wind. The tide was heading out. We headed south along the grassy headland along with numerous other dog walkers, the dogs enjoying the freedom of running free. We followed the well worn paths as Heysham Nuclear Power Station and docks hoved into view. I’m not completely happy with nuclear power stations for some reason, expecting to meet people with a green glow and a third eye slap bang in the middle of their forehead. There were some fancy houses on the ridge line on our left and I wondered why you would buy one. Look right to see the glorious fells of the Lake District, look left and the imposing rectangular twin bulks of a humming nuclear reactor.

We dropped down onto the pebbly sandy beach and wandered along. The ferries for the Isle of Man departed from here as well so the foreground was quite industrial. At the end of the beach is a cracking little cafe. It must serve all the workers from the power station and ferry terminal. We didn’t stop, but turned to walk back to the village. We stopped to look at the newly installed Ship monument, which was quite stunning, but seemed strangely out of place, on this seemingly remote straggly part of coastline next door to dock lands. There was a little sign on it, but gave no information why it was built and it’s significance.We headed back to the centre of the village and had a poke around. It was mainly a huddle of 17th cottages, with 19th century interruptions and the odd 1950’s bungalow squeezed in. The village was kind of growing in its own right before Britain launched the massive house building after the Second World War.We wandered around the church yard, full of gravestones old and new. It dropped down towards the sea and had a wonderful view of Morecambe Bay. It was a lovely spot. The church itself was dinky, with a slate roof and not particularly tall. I poked my head into the church as The Dog wasn’t allowed in. It was enchanting, with timber beams, lanterns and stained windows. It was so cosy and welcoming, a lovely little place of worship.

What a great place to be buried – overlooking the sea!

We then went into a little woodland opposite which delighted The Dog as there were unsuspecting squirrels to be chased and she spent a happy half hour on red alert. It was a pleasant little diversion, full of rocky crags in its small acreage and offered a view of the surrounding urban area between the trees. We did a lot of exploring, up and down steps and following paths.

The Dog was impatient for her beach walk I had promised, so we ambled back past the church, onto Main Street and strolled further down the road, turning down a little alleyway to the promenade. It stretches all the way to Morecambe. We walked along until steps allowed us access to the beach itself. The Dog was elated. We strolled across the wet sand, the sea on one side and the edge of civilisation on the other.

To prevent flooding, huge sea defences in the shape of massive boulders had been built along the length of the promenade. They were impressive and not a eyesore at all. They were also built out into the sea, probably to break up the power of the waves, so the beach was in sections. Every so often, we had to leave the beach and walk along the promenade before we could drop back into the beach, but the access points were few and far between. In consequence, we missed large chunks of beach. However, on our visits to the promenade, we found these little plaques giving little bits of information. There was lots of them, embedded in the path. We spent some time reading them.

We could of walked to Morecambe, but we had gone far enough. We turned around and retraced our steps. From this angle, we could see the little village cascade down from headland to the edge of the beach, sheltering in a natural valley. You could imagine it being a tiny isolated fishing hamlet now, tucked away from the heaving Atlantic storms.

We got back into the Main Street – there were a few people wandering around, but there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of cafes vying for our business. Perhaps I come at the wrong time of year, but never seen it heaving or the car park full and wondered how they stayed in business. For a not so obvious tourist destination, the retail outlets seem to be thriving and good for them! Maybe it was a mixture of locals, dog walkers and visitors that came to Heysham Village time and time again and supported the local economy.

This was hanging on a wall. No explanation, but just wonderful

The Dog and I had now exhausted Heysham Village and lunch was beckoning. She was very reluctant to jump into the back of the car, but she finally did, not looking impressed. We drove through Morecambe with its impressive frontage and promenade, but distinctly struggling in its shopping area and surrounding areas. It’s all rather sad – a typical British seaside town suffering from the lack of investment and unable to reinvent itself. We drove home as the sun disappeared and the clouds took over. It had been a good morning’s walk.

A Winters Stroll

1st December. It’s officially winter, meteorologically.

And what a start. Yet another beautiful clear sunny day. A high pressure system was sitting over our little island nation and thus was the third day of sunniness. And the third day of hard overnight frosts, an accumulation that made it looked like there had been a flurry of snow.

We had to take The Dog for her daily exercise – if you don’t, she pesters you until you do. So we had a little walk from the little village of Low Bentham, some 15 miles east of Lancaster.

We were trying to avoid the fields which were sodden and squelchy, so we stuck to the roads. We walked up Mill Lane where many years ago, a thriving silk mill employed the local people. It’s now long gone and replaced by a small attractive development of flats and houses. The road inclined upwards and soon Ingleborough hoved into view – tall, majestic and watching over the little communities around it. The frost was thick up here, hanging off the grass. It felt like Christmas. The road dropped down again and bore left, where water had snaked its way across the road. It had frozen and had become an ice rink. We took it steady, checking where our feet were going and hoping not to do a Bambi. We traversed it without mishap and carried on to the next corner and studied the vista across High Bentham, Ingleborough and the Yorkshire Dales. It was stunning. Not a cloud in the sky.

We walked a little further and then plunged left down a bridle way. The trees were bare and stark against the sky, a few final brown leaves hanging on. Towards the Lake District, the distant fells had little caps of snow on them. It had been a cold few days.

We crossed a couple of fields – any mud had frozen solid and we crunched our way across. There was no fear of sinking knee deep into gloop today, though there were a couple of springy spots. We dropped down towards a terrace of houses and onto another road. Another great view to admire. The road headed downwards towards High Bentham – we stopped to look at a small cemetery and what looked like pigeon lofts. Just love coming across little things like that.

At the bottom by the river, we turned left again and into the entrance of the Riverside Caravan Park, through a little coppice of trees and into the park itself. It’s quite a big caravan park, the vans in regimented rows, empty and silent. It soon would be time for the annual close down for a couple of months. It was quiet and ghostly, only a few residents spending time there. In the summer it’s a hive of activity and bustling. We sauntered through towards the riverside footpath that would take us back to Low Bentham.

The Dog was excited. Water. Her ears drooped as we forbade her to go swimming, telling her that it was far too cold, as if she cared. She compensated by going for a paddle anyway and didn’t seem bothered by the chilly waters. She was now off lead and loving it, trying to chase rabbits who were safely behind fencing and running after a passing train (one of her obsessions – train chasing. Weird). We went over stiles with caution, but the sun had melted the frost here. Again, a huge churned up part of the path had thankfully frozen hard saving our trainers from clagging up.

We followed the river, flowing high and fast. The sun was starting to lose height and its warmth. It was chilly in the shade. We sauntered back under the railway tunnel and back into the village. We walked up a little incline and got a fantastic view of the Forest of Bowland, a vast moorland stretching down to Slaidburn some 12 miles south. Despite the name, there is no forest – it’s an ancient name for hunting grounds – apart from small patches of Forestry Commission woodland. With the sun setting, it was just a dark silhouette with distant wind turbines turning lazily on the tops.

The smell of wood burning smoke hung in the air making it all very atmospheric. Love that smell in the winter. It reminded us to head home ourselves to our own fire, with a warming mug of coffee and a chocolate Digestive and snuggle up on the sofa.

So we did.

A gentle dog walk out of Clapham

It’s been quite cold and wet recently. Dog walks lose their appeal when it’s lashing down.

So The Dog was due a decent walk.

So we headed to Clapham again. There’s a lovely organic shop, called Growing With Grace, just off the A65, where I like to shop. It’s small, sells only seasonal fruit and veg, but has a good stock of other organic foodstuffs. There’s also a quirky little cafe where you sit in one of the huge greenhouses. It’s really sweet. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a shop and another dog walk out of Clapham.

The day had started off pretty bright, but as I got ready to leave, it was clouding up. We arrived in Clapham and I had a quick look at the Vintage Shop there. Of course it’s closed on Tuesday (never time it right) but she had left lots of crockery outside of her shop. I toyed with getting a couple of items and posting the money through the letterbox, but decided against it. I wanted to look inside too.

So I got The Dog sorted and we waddled up the road towards the Ingleborough Cave entrance.

On previous visits, we have walked through the estate paying our £1 entrance fee, but The Dog has to be on her lead. It’s a pleasant stroll through woods on a purpose built path and it takes you up to the cave and Gaping Gill and Trollers Gill beyond, but I wanted to circumvent it today. So we ignored the entrance, continuing around on the road until we came to a footpath sign on the right, pointing to Ingleborough Cave.

It was a tarmacked track with walls either side so I unleashed The Dog. It was a steady pull up. It was here that it started to rain. Yesterday on our walk, I had waterproof coat and trousers, gloves, hat, scarf on – I looked like a Michelin Man – as it had been raining pretty hard all day and then, after all that wrapping up, it hardly rained on the walk. Today I had rejected the trousers, hat, scarf and gloves and was starting to regret that decision. Could be a big mistake.

We followed the lane up. The cloud was low and there was no real views. We went past fields and a pretty wood, it’s floor covered with brown beech leaves. It just looked very inviting, but a stern notice informed us it was private and to keep out. We were overtaken by a farmer on a quad bike, his collie dog balancing on the back. Then the lane forked – the left hand side to a gate with private on it and the right, our path, now stony and gravelly. The Dog went back on the lead and we went through the gate.

We plodded along, the rain gently splattering on the hood of my coat, as a farm hoved into view. We had to go through the farmyard and the farmer was there, sorting out logs. He grabbed his collie dog. I held our hound close too, but neither dog reacted. We reached another gate and as I was closing it, I realised that the farmer had released his dog and it was hurtling towards me. It leapt up, really excited to meet me. It was so friendly and so I made a real fuss of him. Usually collie farm dogs look like they want to rip you to shreds or at least give you a good nip on the ankles but this one was lovely, bouncing around excitedly. He was also very wet and muddy.

We branched right here, down a steep hill on wet shiny limestone steps. I took it carefully. It was steadily raining. We followed the path until it dropped down to the Ingleborough Cave path. The cave was a few hundred yards further up. I’ve walked past it before so had no urge to check it out again – it has an entrance charge too, so I would only admire the front of it anyway. We turned left. The Dog was excited as there was the river, but it was high and flowing fast.

We walked a few more yards to a gate, so we could drop down to a little wooden bridge across the river. The Dog paddled here. It’s far too cold for a swim for her. The ground veered sharply up, and I carefully made my way up by the side of the wall. The Dog made a half hearted attempt to round up the sheep, but she was on lead and thwarted. The sheep still ran so she got some satisfaction out of it. We came up to a stone wall, with a stile built into it. The Dog ignored my request to wait and bounded over, still attached. Lucky she was on her extendable and made it to the other side without being garrotted or yanking me over with her. She leapt over nimbly despite her advancing years and watched me lumber over without an inch of elegance.

I took The Dog off lead here as it was another walled lane and we headed back down to Clapham. The rain had kind of stopped, but it was still damp and wet. We followed the path back where it joined the path we had walked on our last trip. We turned right and strolled down, under the two tunnels and burped back into the village. It was a typical November day – dank and miserable. We had a quick wander round. The little waterfall next to the Ingleborough Cave entrance was in full spate, water gushing down in a torrent.

Feeling chilled and discovering my shoe had developed a leak and I now had a soggy sock, we headed to the organic shop for provisions before heading home for lunch. And typical, as we drove home, the sun poked its head out through a gap in the dark brooding clouds and lit up the surrounding countryside in the most gorgeous autumnal colours. The gloominess has lifted, so you could see for miles – the sharp definition of the Lake District and The Howgills, in the distance, bathed in a beautiful deep purple hue. The contrasting colours and the angry sky was stunning. I soon forgot that I got wet – this view made me feel so much better . This is why I love Britain – it changes so quickly and can be so dramatic. I was very happy with life.

Down South

Travelled a little further afield this weekend to visit relatives in the county of Essex.

Essex is a funny county. It’s got this awful reputation that its citizens are brash, blingy, wide boys with trophy high maintenance girlfriends and wives who have got less intelligence than a bacteria and who dance around their handbags in white stiletto heels, thanks to dreadful TV programmes like “The Only Way Is Essex” and other tasteless programmes. It may of started back in the 1980’s with its proximity to London and all the so called Yuppies and high City earners making their homes there, but it’s got this label and the poor county can’t shake it off.

In reality, it’s a lovely county in its own right. Okay, the southern end blights it slightly with heavy industry and docks, but as you travel further north, it becomes more charming and delightful. Londoners have always emigrated to Essex, especially the Eastenders. They used to buy little plots of land, build a little cottage and use it as a holiday home. Then as London became more of an attractive workplace, they moved in permanently and commuted in. North Essex still retains the rural and rolling countryside that has been lost further south and its here that we stayed.

We had booked a little cottage just outside a little village called Little Baddow, near Chelmsford. It was in the middle of nowhere and trying to find it in the dark was a bit of a challenge, down tiny dark lanes. In the morning, we found ourselves looking out into a ploughed field with trees and fields in the distance. Partridge birds pecked in the soil and got The Dog in a froth. It was pretty in the autumn sun. In the front, was another cottage and a large farmhouse, built out of the traditional black clapboard which is common in Essex. Hubby went investigating with The Dog and found the river and a pleasant circular stroll.

The Old Calf House

The view from the kitchen

The day was spent with our relatives, but later we drove to a place called Rayne near Braintree for a walk along the Flitch Way. It’s a disused railway line and stretches for 15 miles from Braintree to Bishops Stortford. We started at the railway station, now a cafe and where a railway carriage has been converted into museum. The Dog wasn’t allowed in so she and I lurked outside. I peered in through the windows. There was a very small miniature railway and lots of old pictures telling the history of the line. The family spent about ten minutes in there – the elderly curator want to engage them in conversation but they managed to make their excuses and we went for our stroll.

We walked off the end of the platform and onto the rail bed. It was a pleasant walk along a tunnel of autumnal trees. There was rain in the air. The Dog was off lead and had found an abandoned football, so we kicked that around for her. That kept her occupied. We crossed a busy dual carriageway by bridge and skirted another bridge that was under repair. We walked up to a certain point – Bishops Stortford was a little too far for today – and so turned around just as the light was starting to fade.

(And somehow, I failed to take any photos – my apologies)

Despite this part of Essex being relatively rural, I was dismayed to see huge housing estates being built on edges of towns and communities. Years ago I lived in Essex and contemplated in living in Witham, before I came to my senses and moved to Yorkshire. Now my heart sank as I came across two large developments where before there had been green fields. One development, admittedly had made an effort by giving the houses a little 1950’s character and chimneys, but still another piece of England had been nibbled away. On the other side of this pretty little town was another field earmarked to be buried under concrete. Witham does abut the main A12 road into London and it’s all very commutable with a railway line, so people want the best of both worlds – live out in the country and work in London. Ironically, they all live in brand new houses on monolithic dull cramped estates, that’s just eaten the very countryside they crave.

The next day, we all piled into cars and headed towards Saffron Walden and in particular, Audley End House, an magnificent pile set in acres of countryside. We put on the satnav and it took us along a rather exquisite route through rural Essex. We followed a back lane through tunnels of trees, along ploughed fields and rolling countryside. With a weak sun, there was just another light to highlight the colours. We drove through little villages, past century old buildings and thatched cottages. We passed through Finchingfield, a well known tourist hotspot, with its chocolate box houses and delightful duck pond in its centre. Just doing the drive made our day. There was a lot of oohing and arring going on.

We drove through Saffron Walden, another gorgeous town stuffed with old and quaint buildings. There is just an abundance of beautiful buildings in this area.

We followed the brown tourist signs for Audley End, past a high brick wall for seemingly ages, thinking someone had to build that and actually it’s Audley End’s back garden wall. We pulled in and gave English Heritage a huge chunk of money for admittance and parked up.

The back of Audley End

We parked on the grass that faced a modest man made water course, another expanse of highly maintained lawn and then the stately home, a beautiful solid building. It was impressive. We wandered around the grounds, admiring ancient trees with thick gnarled trunks and splendid majestic canopies which almost reached the ground. We kicked the autumn leaves, exciting The Dog and strolled across the Falconry display where a husband and wife team, dressed in Victorian garb, oversaw a group of falcons, hawks and owls. We asked questions and waited for the display to start, which was excellent. Four birds flew, whilst their handlers gave a detailed and interesting commentary, the birds swooping over our heads. The Dog got sent on a walk as she spotted one of the hawks and kept barking. We were very impressed as a group.

When it finished, most of our group wanted to go into the House to look around. Hubby and I are not ones for looking around stately homes and The Dog wasn’t allowed in so we went for a walk through the gardens and up to the folly higher up in the grounds. It was large grassy area with lots of trees and very pleasant.

We headed back to the main area and found a little cafe where we refreshed ourselves with a cuppa and a rather large scone and waited for the others. They reported on their return, that the House was excellent and had not seen all of it. Once regrouped we wandered off into the organic garden, laid out in Victorian orderliness with beautiful white glasshouses. It had clouded over since we had arrived, but now the sun made another appearance and lit everything up.

We sauntered around to the various outbuildings and stables on the estate, very impressed. It was well worth the money. We wished we could stay longer as there seemed more to explore but it was on the verge of closing for the day. More than satisfied, we jumped back into the cars where the satnav took us on a magical mystery tour, briefly into Hertfordshire and back home for tea.

The next day was our final day and to give The Dog a stretch of the legs before being stuffed into a car for 5 hours, we strolled out of the cottage, down the track and along a footpath to the little River Chelmer. It was quite warm – we were only in jumpers – as the sun was out and made it all very pleasant. It was all farmland with little copses of trees. You felt you were in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually we had to leave. We packed up, said our goodbyes, stuffed The Dog in the boot (not impressed) and began our long journey back to our little corner of England.