The Pendle Way (in 24 hours)
The Pendle Way is a long distance footpath in that encircles the borough of Pendle in the South Pennines, and was officially opened in 1987. The landscape ranges from limestone meadows to the more rugged gritstone moorland and is approximately 45 miles in length (longer if Boulsworth Hill is included). The route includes the three summits of Lad Law on Boulsworth Hill, Pendle Hill, and Weets Hill. These three are sometimes collectively known as the Pendle Three Peaks. The route includes villages and farms that were in some way associated with the infamous witch trials of the 1600s. The route also covers ground associated with the Brontës, traditional East Lancashire villages, relics of the cotton industry and industrial revolution, and much more.
Length: 45 miles
Start: The Atom, Wycoller
Area: Lancashire – Southern Pennines
GPX File: Download
Lad Law (Boulsworth Hill) – (Height: 518m, Drop: 334m)
Pendle Hill – (Height: 557m, Drop: 395m)
Weets Hill – (Height: 397m, Drop: 90m)
Other POI: The Atom, Wycoller Country Park, Wycoller Hall, Smithy Clough, Brink Ends Moor, Stack Hill Moor, Brown Hill Moor, Pot Brinks Moor, Little Chair Stones, Bedding Hill Moor, Abbot Stone, Upper Coldwell Reservoir, Lower Coldwell Reservoir, Catlow Brook, Catlow, Walverden Reservoir, Marsden Height, Nelson Golf Club, Pendle Water, River Calder, Pendle Hall, Higham, Newchurch in Pendle, Fell Wood, Lower Ogden Reservoir, Upper Ogden Reservoir, Ogden Clough, Boar Clough, Barley Moor, Pendle House, Brown House, Mirewater Trout Fishery, Barley, Pendle Inn, Boothman Wood, Slacks Wood, White Hough, Roughlee, Old Hall Farm, Pasture Lane, Barrowford, Blacko Foot Farm, Blacko Tower, Admergill Water, Gisburn Old Road, Weets House Farm, Folly Lane, Barnoldswick, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, St Marys Church, Thornton Hall Farm, Earby, Tunstead Farm, Bleara Moor, Sheep Hill, Black lane Ends, LanshawBridge, Emmott Arms
The Pendle Way was the major challenge walk I’d set for myself this year. An almost 50-mile trek around the whole of the Pendle Way footpath in a single day. One of the reasons that I was keen to do this walk was that I was brought up in the area, and so it would serve as a nostalgia hit as well as a challenge. I was mentally prepared for the challenge and certain that I was going to succeed. My partners for the day were Angus (from angusandvivianadventures.com) and Marco (keen trail runner and, like myself, an ex-resident of the Pendle area).
I arrived the preceding day during the afternoon and managed to fit in a quick visit to my Nan, fish and chips at Bannys (quick review: chips not good), and a nostalgic trip to my old local pub ‘The Crown’ at the bottom end of Colne. It felt a little depressing to find the same guy sat at the end of the bar that used to be there all of 20 years ago, still in his favourite spot. I could almost imagine that he hadn’t left the pub in all that time, almost as if he’d done something terrible in a previous life and thereby forced to spend eternity sat in the corner of this depressing little pub as some form of harsh punishment.
I very quickly lost interest in nostalgia and headed up to the car park at the Wycoller Atom where I would be spending the night in my car. The Atom is one of four panopticons in East Lancashire. I visited another of them, The Singing Ringing Tree, earlier in the year. Take a look at my post for that if you really want to know what a panopticon is!
It turned out that the car park was very busy with various people turning up for a brief time in their car before driving off again, most of the time without leaving their car. I assumed and hoped that they were here to witness the fantastic view on offer at this location, and not because it was a popular local dogging site. I started to wish I’d done a little more research on suitable car parks before coming here. I decided to stretch the legs and go for a little walk in the late evening before it went dark. I could see that the clag had come in on the distant hills, and hoped that this would clear up by the morning.
Upon returning up the hill to the car park, I found a police car parked next to mine, and its driver talking to the driver of another car nearby. This turned out to be a good opportunity for information as my car was to be parked here for the whole day – morning till night. I caught the policeman on the way back to his car and asked him about the safety of the car park. He informed me that, had I asked him a few weeks ago, he’d have told me not to leave my car here. However, they’d recently arrested car thieves travelling in from Yorkshire and since then, touch wood, there had been no trouble.
By the way, apologies for the rambling nature of this post so far (pun intended)!
I eventually managed to get to sleep after the car park traffic had died down. I think Angus turned up during this time and slept in his car nearby. Marco met us in the morning, kindly dropped off by his partner Rachel (who I went to school with) at around 6 am to begin the walk. I should also mention that Marco and Rachel now live in Portugal, and he travelled all the way back just to do this walk. There’s dedication for you!
The Pendle Way – Wycoller to Pendle Hill:
From the car park, we headed down into Wycoller Country Park. Wycoller is a hamlet that dates back to before the 10th century BC. The industrial revolution failed to gain a foothold here and by the 1950’s, it was all but deserted. Central to the hamlet are the ruins of Wycoller Hall. ‘Ferndean Manor’ in Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre is thought to be based on Wycoller Hall. We passed a few ancient bridges as we followed Wycoller Beck towards Smithy Clough. The oldest of these is a single slab of stone across the beck known as ‘Clam Bridge’ and it dates back to Neolithic times (over 10,000 years!). Typically, this was the only bridge out of the three that I didn’t get a photo of.
Once at Smithy Clough, we took a sharp right onto the Pennine Bridleway and continued to follow it as it contoured around the base of Boulsworth Hill. The slopes of Boulsworth are gouged with various cloughs, and the sloped land between each clough has it’s own name. It’s hard to work out where the boundaries are for them all but within a short distance we’d walked past names such as Brink Ends Moor, Stack Hill Clough, Saucer Hill Clough, Brown Hill Moor, and Beaver Scar. Eventually, the bridleway passes Lumb Laithe Farm. Technically, the Pendle Way continues from here along the Pennine Bridleway however we decided to take a detour up to the summit of Lad Law on Boulsworth Hill. At 517m high, it would have been a shame to miss it. Boulsworth Hill and the surrounding moorland has much in common with the Dark Peak with its weathered gritstone and barren boggy land, fit for only true hardened walkers. The views are fantastic looking out over the Colne/Nelson/Burnley conurbation, and towards Pendle. It would be nice to come back here another day to explore the area further.
After getting back down, we continued along the Pennine Bridleway as far as Will Moor, where the footpath forked. To the left, the Bronte Way long distance footpath continued into the distance. To the right was the Pendle Way, and therefore the way we needed to go. The next landmarks of note were the Lower Coldwell and Upper Coldwell Reservoirs which we skirted around on their northern sides. After this, we headed directly west, following the line of Catlow Brook until we arrived at the road in the village of Catlow itself. From here we headed across farmland on good tracks to Walverdon Reservoir, which we skirted around anti-clockwise before heading roughly southwards and uphill as far as Nelson Road at Marsden Height. So far, so good. We seemed to be making good progress! My Nan actually lived just down the road from here, but I decided that turning up with two strangers and muddy boots for a cup of tea probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
We continued across Nelson Golf Club, eventually arriving at Higher Reedley Road which we crossed before heading down Reedley Road into Brierfield. This was a golden opportunity to pop to a shop and top up with a drink and a snack. The woman behind the shop counter informed us that they didn’t sell snacks, despite there clearly being a shelf right in front of her eyes filled with chocolate bars and crisps. We, therefore, decided it best to politely smile and nod our heads whilst buying some snacks anyway. We obviously had different definitions of the word ‘snack’.
After refuelling, we headed down Robinson Lane and then followed the route west, loosely following the line of the River Calder. On the poorly defined path, we were at times pushing through various combinations of bramble bushes, nettles, and long grass that looked like they hadn’t seen a walker tread through them for months. It was obviously an unpopular section of the route, and probably for a good reason. The paths and signs weren’t very good and the scenery nothing out of the ordinary. Of course, it’s possible I was taking it for granted a little with it all being such familiar territory. Eventually, the path took a sharp turn to the right at Pendle Hall and continued across various farmland to Higham and then Newchurch in Pendle. The scenery started to improve again as the distance to Pendle Hill decreased. The weather started to look a little better too, with patches of blue sky making an appearance and some sunshine finding its way through the thinning cloud cover.
Newchurch is a small village with its houses climbing a steep hillside and is famous for the Demdike family of Pendle witches who lived there in the 17th century. The church, St Marys, dates back to 1544, with the church tower being a couple of centuries newer. In the graveyard are two Grade II listed features. There’s the Parker tomb, which is a table tomb dated 1691, and then there’s the Nutter headstone that has inscribed upon it the members of the Nutter family. The headstone dates to 1694 and the names are possible relatives of Alice Nutter, one of the women accused in the Pendle witch trials. Seasonal tearooms and toilets can be found in the village, as well as the predictable witch orientated gift shop catering for the tourists.
From Newchurch, the route led across a field of pasture…. and bulls. I have a bit of a phobia of cows anyway and just couldn’t bring myself to walk across the field – especially as they were all crowded around the footpath. Angus and Marco went on ahead to face them down whilst cowardly me took a long detour around the field. I’ll also mention here that the whole route so far was a lot wetter than I expected. I bought a pair of lightweight non-waterproof Merrells for the walk on the assumption that I was only going to be walking on well-defined paths. By this point, my feet were well and truly saturated.
Once past the bull field, my favourite section of the walk began. We walked through Fell Wood – a pine forest – and descended towards the Ogden Reservoirs. As we descended the last section of the wood, Lower Ogden Reservoir came into view to the right and made a splendid sight. We eventually arrived at the reservoirs most western point before taking a left turn and heading to Higher Ogden Reservoir. We passed this on the right-hand side before entering the beautiful Ogden Clough – as nice as any clough in the Peak District. It is possible to follow this all the way around to Barley Moor on the plateau of Pendle Hill. We instead veered off and steeply ascended the track by Boar Clough to reach the top quickly. Being originally from the area, it’s almost compulsory to have this as one of my favourite hills in the country. It’s steeped in history, some of which I’ve written about in a previous post. It’s also a very prominent landmark and is clearly visible for many miles around.
The walk across to top was beautiful. The sun had properly come out now and the blue colour dominated the sky, with patches of cloud few and far between. In short time we arrived at the official summit at 557 metres, where the views were absolutely outstanding and certainly well worth the hike up. We descended back to Barley via the steep but well defined ‘tourist’ path and had our halfway break at the Pendle Inn. I remember enjoying what I ate – but it’s been so long between the walk and me writing this blog post that I can’t remember for the life of me what culinary delights I ordered. A quick sit outside in the sun, some quiet reminiscing about my trips to Barley as a kid to play in the stream, and finally a change into some dry socks, and we were on our way again.
The Pendle Way – Barley to Barnoldswick:
We continued east along a track that followed the line of Pendle Water, before eventually leaving it behind at White Hough. We carried on northeast, past the Whitehough Outdoor Education Centre, and as far as the southeast slope of Brown Hill before taking a sharp right and heading uphill to Roughlee. If you’re interested in the whole Pendle Witches thing, then it’s worth taking a minor diversion in Roughlee to visit Roughlee Old Hall. It was reputedly home to Alice Nutter, the wealthiest of the Pendle Witches. Walk a little further down Blacko Bar Road towards Crowtrees, and a statue can be found of Alice that was erected as part of the 400th anniversary of the infamous Witch Trials.
From Roughlee, we headed southeast across fields on a good farm track before emerging on Pasture Lane. This took us the rest of the way into Barrowford – an old cotton mill town like many other towns in this area of the country. The Barrowford Lifestyle Festival was in full swing when we arrived with plenty of noise and plenty of drinking going on. It was very tempting to just end the walk right there and join in with it all! To be honest, and with a bit of hindsight, unless you start the Pendle Way from Barrowford, there’s no real sense in coming here. We could have saved a chunk of walking by simply cutting across to Blacko Foot Farm from Roughlee.
From Barrowford, we followed the course of Pendle Water for a while before eventually veering off up a hill and, after crossing fields, emerging back on Blacko Bar Road at Blacko Foot Farm. After this point, the route takes a turn to the right and heads northeast, following Admergill Water. To the right lies Blacko Hill with the prominent landmark of Stansfield Tower sitting on top. When I lived in Pendle, I knew it simply as Blacko Tower. The tower was built in around 1890 by a local grocer, Jonathan Stansfield, to provide himself with a view over Ribblesdale. It apparently failed as it wasn’t high enough.
The route eventually leaves Admergill Water and crosses Admergill Pasture and the A682 before arriving at Gisburn Old Road. We followed this north for a while, as far as Weets House Farm where some kind of party seemed to be going on judging by the number of drunk people in the garden. We were about to claim the third and last major summit of the walk with Weets Hill. With the road already sitting at a good height, there wasn’t much of a climb to the summit. Unfortunately, the clag had come in and visibility was poor, or else the view from the trig point would have commanded views over much of East Lancashire, the north Ribble Valley, north Aire Valley and the Yorkshire Dales. As it happened, we had a view of not a lot until we started descending again. For those that have never heard the word ‘clag’ before, it’s traditionally a rural dialect term for clay or mud, however it was adopted in airforce slang to refer to thick cloud or fog. It’s now used quite frequently amongst hillwalkers. Once we started descending, the clag lifted and we were treated to an amazing birdseye view of Barnoldswick 250 metres below.
Barnoldswick dates back to Anglo Saxon times. It was listed in the Domesday Book as Bernulfesuuic, meaning Bernulf’s Town. For hundreds of years, it remained a small village until the Leeds to Liverpool canal and a railway were built. These transport links helped to spur the development of existing industry and helped it to become a major cotton town. The town sits very close to the Yorkshire border and lies just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In fact, the town, along with neighbouring Earby, is technically still in Yorkshire. Local Government wise, they became part of Lancashire in 1974 when they revised the boundaries. This clearly didn’t go down well with a lot of the locals. It’s not an easy thing to deal with for a born and bred Yorkshireman to suddenly find out that he’s now, in fact, a Lancastrian. It’s a contentious issue amongst many locals even to this day.
The Pendle Way – Barnoldswick to Laneshawbridge:
Once in Barnoldswick, feet were starting to ache and legs felt weary. We took another break at the chippy in the town centre. We weren’t making such good time and, if I’m honest, the remainder of the route wasn’t looking all that inspiring. The three summits were out of the way, as well as the other highlights of the route. The bright sunny weather had disappeared and the sky was overcast once more. I checked the map and started making adjustments to the route in order to make some time up. The route around Barnoldswick seemed a little unnecessary. It was a loop that could be shortened, especially as a big chunk of it involved canal walking – something that didn’t particularly excite any of us at that moment in time. We headed to Earby using the most efficient route possible. So, in brief, we headed along Church Road as far as St Marys Church on the left. Directly opposite, we followed the official route past Thornton Hall Country Park until it emerged onto the A56, effectively bypassing the village of Thornton-in-Craven. We decided to stick to the road here all the way to Earby, skipping more detours across cow fields.
The following section is, unfortunately, going to be the most poorly described so far. From Earby, it just felt like wet muddy cow field after cow field. It was late evening, and I’m not sure if this was the usual time that the cows were herded but every time we entered a new field, every cow in the field suddenly made a beeline for us. At one point, it required some skilful cow control technique from Marco whilst I legged it across the remainder of the field and over the gate. The ground became increasingly boggy and my feet were saturated again. The route basically heads southeast from Earby, between Bleara Moor and Kelbrook Moor, ending up at the Black Lane Ends pub. As a sidenote – after checking the map whilst writing this, I’ve just become amused at the fact there’s also a Roger Moor nearby! At some point before the pub, darkness had at last fallen and the rain had started. We decided to cheat again as none of us fancied navigating muddy cow fields in the dark. We took a farm track the rest of the way to make for some much easier and therefore faster walking. From the pub onwards, we just wanted it finished. It was dark, wet, and miserable, and there were no longer any views to enjoy. We scrapped the official route and just decided to follow the country roads back to Laneshawbridge – a small village to the east of Colne.
Way back when, William the Conqueror gave some land to the Emmott family (which they still own) for their military support (allegedly), and so the family founded a hamlet known as “Eamot” which later became Laneshawbridge. The family resided at Emmott Hall, the first of which dated back to 1310, but it was to be modified, rebuilt and finally demolished in 1967. The road that led us here from Skipton Old Road is named Emmott Lane and greeting us on arriving at the village, the Emmott Arms pub.
From here, we should have really followed Wycoller Beck to Wycoller itself before returning back to the car at the Atom car park. But we didn’t. Marco very kindly called his partner and arranged for her to pick us up at the Emmott Arms and give us a lift the remainder of the way. And that was that, walk over. I really should have slept in the car in the car park after being awake and walking for so long, but I couldn’t face it. I just wanted to get out of there and find somewhere to eat and drink! I attempted the long drive home to Nottingham and made it as far as a service station on the M62 before finally pulling over and enjoying some overpriced food and a much-needed snooze.
The Pendle Way – Final Thoughts:
It was a hell of a walk and, looking back, I’m glad I attempted it. It was great to meet two new people, and great to walk around my old area once again. Would I do it again? Hell no! In hindsight, it would have been nicer to do the walk over two days, and therefore able to appreciate the points of interest a little bit more. What I’d really like to do though is spend more time exploring the two sections of the walk that interested me the most. If I’m honest, I’d have happily done without the second half of the walk. Boulsworth Hill to Pendle Hill contained the highlights for me and therefore I’d have been more than satisfied just keeping it to that stretch. I’ll definitely be returning back to Pendle Hill again next year, this time to explore it a little more thoroughly, and I’ll also be returning to Boulsworth Hill for a further exploration of the moorland up there that stretches across to Haworth.
Walk completed on 1st July, 2017