2009 Part One

Continuing my record of being completely rubbish at keeping an up-to-date blog, I thought it time that I typed something to cheer up a snowy dull day in Bolton.

Last year was definitely one we need to forget. Prepare yourselves for a moan…………….

It was a year of morphine taking for Steff, along with CAT scans, MRI scans and Endoscopies. This ended up with one consultant saying she’d be in a wheelchair before too long and another saying that’s a bit over-dramatic. The net result of all these scans? Well some of her intervertebral disks are collapsing and wearing away to the width of a Rizla paper. Incredibly painful and it is likely stay that way until the vertebrae fuse together, at which point it’ll be merely painful.
What else? Steff’s mum had two strokes at the beginning of the year then had a fall at the end of the year and broke her hip, which involved lots of driving for us to and from Royal Preston Hospital and nine weeks in hospital and Intermediate care. Happily she is recovering very well and getting back to her cheerful self (which really means back to moaning about everything and everyone).
Then it was my turn. I went blind in one eye. To cut a long story short, after an MRI scan of my own, I have now been warned that the diagnosis could well be a mild attack of MS – yet to be verified by a lumbar puncture. Oh and in amongst all of this I broke my nose falling headfirst into the tow-hitch on our caravan (yes you read it right folks we’ve gone and got all grown-up and purchased the arch enemy of most level headed drivers – but that tale’s for another day).

So you would think that we haven’t had the time to do very much.

Well actually…

As advertised in the last blog, for our 1st anniversary we went for a walk around Pendle and the Trough of Bowland.
Having carefully plotted out the route on Anquet, we managed to find and book B&B’s and hotels at all the places we wanted without too many detours and extra miles. Next job was to print off and laminate all the maps and download the route onto my GPS (if you would like a copy of the Anquet ADF file, go to the contacts page and get in touch).
We began our little expedition at the Mytton Fold Hotel in Langho. The staff there were all lovely, the food was great, the rooms were comfy and best of all, they didn’t mind us leaving the car while we went wandering off on foot. We could have played a round of golf had we wanted to (but as her in doors is apt to say “what a way to spoil a good walk”).

Day One. Langho to Holden. 19 Miles.
After a nice leisurely breakfast, we set off from the hotel shortly after 10 am. Heading out through Billington and Whalley, up through the golf club and on towards the Nick of Pendle, we continued up to the Pendle Hill trig point. Steff found lots of sheep to talk to, including the occasional lamb, one of which wanted to suckle her finger. Awww (yes she does have Dr Doolittle tendencies!).
The higher we got, the stronger the wind blew. On the tops it really got a good blow going, so we tucked in behind a wall for shelter while we ate our oversized lunch bag. As we started off again, aiming to pass the huge cairn commemorating the centenary of Scouting (did you know that the scouting movement was 100 years old on the 1st August 2007? Me neither), it started to rain and got heavier and heavier as we headed downhill towards Worston. Here we met a bunch of girls who looked like they were out practising for their Duke of Edinburgh awards. They were really bedraggled and only had a soggy tent to look forward to. Whilst we had no such worries, we were aiming for the small hamlet of Holden and the Copy Nook Hotel. As we left the dripping, moaning DoE girls behind and went past Downham, the clouds parted and the sun started to shine again which dried us out nicely. Following an overgrown track brought us out at the ruined Abbey at Sawley – this was an unexpected treat, though it needed a spot of renovation. Arriving at the hotel at around 5 pm brought something neither of us is used to. It was shut and we had to bang on the door to attract their attention before we got our traditional beer. After 7 hours of walking, that pint tasted fantastic.

I reckon we are onto a good thing with this walk – again the welcome was warm, the food was excellent and the rooms really comfy.

Day Two. Holden to Dunsop Bridge. 18.5 miles.
Another late and somewhat leisurely breakfast set us up for the next days walk (you might spot a pattern emerging here).
Our first target was straight up the hill towards Grindleton Fell. This takes you through a place called Shivering Ginnel. Great name – I guess it’s from when there was a cutting through the trees at this point – for Southerners and other non-Brits, a ginnel is a gap between two buildings. I can’t think of a good reason for it to be shivering though. At the top of the hill, we walked past two piles of stones called “The Wife” and “Old Ned”. Feel free to make something up here.
Another couple of miles took us into Slaidburn where we stopped for a nice long lunch break. It made a pleasant change to be sitting on a bench instead of on wet grass, tucked behind a wall. I don’t think too many people wander through there in full walking regalia, as we got quite a few stares (the ducks were happy though as Steffers in her Dr Doolittle role was keen to extend the hand of friendship – well share her lunch with them!!).
Next was the real hard part – the slog up Dunsop Fell. It’s only 4 miles or so, but it seemed to me to go on for ever, with plenty of ‘false’ summits. Unfortunately for me, Steff just hops and skips her way up and makes it look so easy. I’m sure she must defy gravity or something. Turning left at Whitendale takes you onto the main, if very very muddy, footpath across the tops of the fell.
At Foot Holme we had intended to follow the eastern bank of the river Dunsop down into Dunsop Bridge. However, a Police warning sign greeted us saying the path was closed. Not a real problem as there is a perfectly good road down the other side, but it left us wondering why. On arriving at our next overnight stop, Root House at half 5, we found out just why it’s not a good idea to ignore this warning. Apparently a pair of Eagle owls have taken up residence somewhere down the path and their natural territorial tendency has had them attacking anyone and anything that strays into ‘their’ area, people and dogs included!
The only thing – and I mean the ONLY thing – wrong with this B&B is that it doesn’t have a bar (the tradition therefore, had to wait a short while!!). What it does have though, is a fantastically friendly couple running it. They had already let us drop off a posh change of clothes before we set off on the walk. So after a glorious fragrant bath and donning our ‘posh garbs’, the owner then drove us the couple of miles down the road to the Inn at Whitewell for a fab anniversary meal. The Inn even gave us a bottle of Champagne to celebrate! – how good are they? In a happy and slightly intoxicated mood, we were duly picked up and taken back to the farm house for a lovely nights sleep.

Day Three. Dunsop Bridge to Chipping. 12.5 Miles.
A seriously late get up today – nearly lunchtime! No, it wasn’t a hangover, pills can take longer to work on some days than others. But the weather?? It was fantastic!
We set off at a fair lick up the side of a sunny, sparkly Langden Brook. After passing the Mountain Rescue Centre we continued on up to Sykes Fell. The route here takes you past Langden Castle, but I would challenge anyone to actually find it (there you go, over to you). From this point the track climbs up the hill towards Fiendsdale Head. As it was still pretty windy on the heights, before we got too high, we found a great sheltered spot for lunch – a warm and sunny little gap in the gorse and heather where we could watch the LBOPS and ground nesters fly past. The lovely people from Root House had done us proud with our lunch bags and we were quite well stuffed before we headed off and up into the wind.
The views today were brilliant. With the rain a couple of days before and the wind stirring everything up, the horizon was crystal clear. We could see for miles and miles from the top of Wolf Fell and even while we were descending Saddle Fell.
As it was approaching 5:30, we controlled ourselves and didn’t stop at a pub in the lovely village of Chipping. We even managed to avoid going into the Cobble Corner Café on our way through, simply aiming for the very posh and thoroughly expensive Gibbon Bridge Hotel. The bar was, of course, open – time for tradition.
A word here on the Gibbon Bridge. I’m sure that if you turn up there in a nice car wearing nice clothes, you will be treated like royalty. If like us, you turn up wearing muddy boots and a rucksack with your gear in it, well, once you get past the lovely lady on reception – and she really was lovely – and the friendly chap behind the bar, you’ll find yourself doing battle with The Restaurant. Oh dear, we were put as far from the others as possible as though we might pass something on (like you can catch the Paramo disease!!). They do have a website so feel free to Google it (other search engines are available), but I can’t be bothered putting the hyperlink on a walking blog, suffice to say we won’t be going there again. Okay, the food was excellent and our room enormous, but what let it down was the service.

Day Four. Chipping back to the car at Langho. 12 Miles.
Having had yet another attack of The Restaurant blues over breakfast (same bloke, same attitude – yes we got the Siberia table), we set off on the last leg back to the car.
Now, I had expected that the views from the top of Longridge Fell would be the highlight of the day, but no! Walking through the valley towards the River Hodder was absolutely superb. Again we had a yet another sunny day to compliment the last leg of our walk, even the wind was far calmer now that we had descended from the fell tops. Steff found some more sheep to talk to (nothing new there then I hear you say). With such beautiful scenery, oh and great company – ouch Steff’s just thumped me, it makes walking an absolute pleasure and worth all the hard work.
The climb up the side of Longridge Fell showed me just how much extra training I should have attempted before we set off. My legs were like lumps of lead, my heart was banging away like a timpani and my chest was trying to explode. I was really thankful when we got to the top. As expected, the view was spectacular, it was just a lot noisier than I would have liked until my chest finally calmed down. I must make an effort to lose some weight.
From the top of Longridge, we could see much of where we had walked over the past few days; Pendle Hill, Sawley, Fair Snape, each one standing out as a reminder.
On our way down the other side, we were tempted by the great views of the lush and green Ribble Valley coming towards us. Here we stopped for a quick chat with a couple who were perched on a wall eating their lunch. It was ever so nice of them as they offered to take a photograph of us – we don’t have too many photos of the two of us walking together (it’s usually Steff’s backside as she runs on ahead or me leaning on a gate, post, fence etc whilst I catch my breath), so it’s nice to have this memento.
Continuing on through Hurst Green we stopped at a lovely little pub for a beer while we ate our lunch in the garden in the sunshine – lovely.
From the pub, the road took us down to the River Ribble as it meanders its way through the valley. It really is a very pretty river with stunning countryside surrounding it. There is a National Trail that follows the river up to its source – the Ribble Valley Way – I’m sure we’ll do this 73 mile, or so, route on one anniversary or another.
Crossing the magnificent suspension bridge took us to within a spit of the finish. However, that’s way too simple and would cut the walk far too short and miss out on some pretty and very scenic views. So we carried on around the north of Old Langho, going past Hacking Hall and turning away from the Ribble at the sewerage works (see I told you it was scenic). After following the path up through Lower Elker we finally re-crossed the slightly hazardous and very busy A59 – a shock to the system having only seen minor roads for 60 miles. A short climb up through farm fields brought us back to where we started at Mytton Fold. Both feeling elated at our achievement, if a teeny bit sad that it was all over. Here we were finally re-united with the car.
Is it me or do most people feel slightly odd getting back behind the steering wheel after 4 days continuous walking? Feel free to leave us a comment.
Well what a super walk – it really should be in everyone’s book of long distance walks. 62 miles, 4 days, FANTASTIC. I want to do it all again, in the snow, now.

- Steve (Steffi says hi as well).


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