Introducing the Walk of freedom

Coming soon, but only after lockdown, Saturday 5th September, 2020

What’s your motivation for this walk?

Well, this is an easy one, I’ve not been on a walk of over five miles since February when I did the 17-miles version of the Anglezarke Amble. I miss my time out on the moors immensely. I am a member of the Facebook group “I belong to Bolton “ where during the lockdown there have been numerous posts related to the magnificent scenery which makes a fantastic backdrop to most Bolton scenes. This walk will be a celebration 🥳 a huge and resounding sigh of relief of having made it through this terrible virus 🦠

Route map for Walk Of Freedom by Mark Wild on plotaroute.com

For those requiring a text description, I’ll add a printable pdf at some point but for now, here goes:

We start off at the smallest two car parks at Rivington near to the Rivington Hall Barn. We head west for a couple of hundred feet before taking a right hand turn. This bears right and for a few minutes we’ll be heading in the opposite direction to which we just came from, fear not, all too soon we will be on the main bridal way to lead up to all the attractions. We’re now going uphill!

After several hundred metres, the path splits, we are going to take the left hand route, the right hand one will lead you back to the Japanese gardens should you so desire. The path steepens a little but then levels out. There are numerous left hand turn-offs but essentially we are keeping to the same track until next to the disused toilet block, a lovely feature of the route.

Now, we are going to take the obvious route up to the Pike via the steps. These can be a bit of a nightmare so if you want to take the slightly more circuitous route which branches off to the left hand side then go for it, we’ll see you at the top! For the rest of us it’s a short, sharp ascent of the huge steps before puffing, panting and swearing at me and then we are at the top of the first climb.

Have a breather (please), take some selfies and enjoy the view. Yes that really wide path does lead up to Winter Hill, no, it is in no way as easy as it looks, but it’s brilliant in snow!

Okay, lazy bones, the next part is really easy as we head south and fall off the pike towards the unremarkable Brown hill. Mind your footing here, gravity is not your friend on this descent. When we’re sick of watching our own feet, turn left and onto the broad track. This is a bumpy road but it’s very easy to follow and makes for a lovely distraction before we turn…yes, left again just after the Rivington dog hotel. This starts off steep but does get progressively easier in time. After the major climb you’ll notice a yellow marked finger post, keep to the right of this, just for fun, I’ve thrown in Two Lads! Its proper name is Crooked Edge Hill, Two Lads refers to the gigantic cairns at its summit, sometimes there are two cairns and other times there can be up to five.

Again, have a breather, take some photos and recall happier times when that big stadium you can see used to play host to a premiership team 🤦‍♂️ We’ll head off slightly east before joining the road which (eventually) leads us past the main television antenna. Once at the apex of the road we’ll be turning left and off up the service road before leaving the road in order to tap the o/s column at the highest point of the walk, with regret, it’s usually the muddiest too! Congratulations, we are now at the apex of the walk.

So, there is some more observing of the feet to be done once we set off through the muddy gate (you’ll see!) but believe me this is where this walk starts to get all kinds of beautiful as we drop hundreds of feet to Hampsons Pasture. We walk along a collapsed wall and cross a race track! We are now in the land of the river Yarrow and once we start to climb up to Will Narr you’ll even see a plaque dedicated to that body of water courtesy of “The friends of the Yarrow”.

By now, (September) the path should have reapaired itself from the damage inflicted upon it by the hordes of mountain bikers who frequent the area. Or, if it’s raining then we’ll be back to a bit of uphill slip and sliding, it isn’t that bad and the path we are taking is not at all hard to follow, look dead ahead and the tiny bump which seems to keep growing bit by bit is Great Hill and is our next destination summit. I say that but in all honesty we have to surmount the peaks of first Spitlers Edge then Redmonds Edge, good luck finding them as there are no ciarns or trig points and all of the summit plains look the same height from up close. Soon enough we hit the slabs. These are apparently the broken up millstone floors of, well former mills I guess. Where there are pools of water they can contain all sorts of colours and there is only the odd one which tips up and soaks your feet when you stand on it!

Throughout this walk I’d recommend that you watch your footing, not that it is so bad but nobody wants to twist an anle on this moor – we are now on the best of them – Anglezarke and we’d need to call Mountain Rescue if you injured yourself as no ambulance could ever deal with this terrain. Look! We’ve got closer to Great Hill it’s just over this stile, then up that tiny slope.

From here it’s all lovely…okay there are some muddy patches in between the ruins of Drinkwaters farm and the turn off near the trail shafts at another Brown Hill (notice how these are nearly always muddy, what does clean brown look like?). Just look at the views, someone might need to nudge me if I’m gawping at Pendle Hill…I do that! The slabs lead us away from Great Hill’s summit – wasn’t that cruciform shelter handy for avoiding the wind, also wasn’t it hard to stand up after being sat at the shelter? We head quite swiftly downhill. A number of times the path stops looking quite so engineered and y’know neat, but it is easy to follow. Stop for a few minutes at Drinkwaters farm (ruin), don’t drop any litter (anywhere, ever) but especially not here, you’ll kill the peaceful vibe this place has in spates!

And so we take the turn off left – or end up in Brinscall and I don’t think history shows anyone ever really meaning to go to Brinscall! So take the left with the dodgy looking handrail (if it is up on the day), use it at your peril because it isn’t attached to anything so, y’know, good luck! The path really drops its pretentions of being a path here, so you’ll have to either follow the millions of footprints or wait for me! Soon enough we run into a little bit of a boulder track, it’s easy to fall over here but it is just as easy to stay on your feet, just slow down a bit…I find no problem at all in doing that! We gingerly snake our way down this ever-narrowing rock path and notice that by now water has started to trickle onto the track. One last severe drop and we are on the final few metres to White Coppice Cricket Ground. I hate cricket with a passion but we will wait for a while for people to take photographs of Lancashire’s most picturesque ground. Once relaxed and refreshed we pick up the trail again and head off along quite a wide track which undulates as it passes the notorious Stronstrey Bank – I gathter it’s quite well regarded by crag rats and the like. There are lots of sheep around but these are quite easily spooked and shouldn’t bother us.

Onwards and through the gate as we cross over Moor Road, watch out for cyclists as this is an adrenalin drop of a slope and they don’t take prisoners who have dawdled in their way! Gape in awe at the sign informing you that this patch of land(?) belongs to Southport Angling Society (well we only have the Sluice and that’s devoid of all fish!), as we drop down a bit then up a bit and onto a really narrow path punctuated by the occasional weird bridges which are no more than eight inches elevated and have a welcome mudbath at either side! I don’t know who “Alice” is but she seems to have graffited herself onto every gate and stile from now until the end (and you’ll be pleased to hear that this is now less than three miles away!). We pass along a sheeptrod which can be really slippy or a breeze to walk upon depending on recent weather. And then it’s a big drop, not very far but it’ll have you watching your feet for definite!

Now we go uphill for a little stretch – more metres than miles I’m glad to say and at its summit we turn left to pass by the empty High Bullough Reservoir. Through the gate with the big heavy lead counter weight (don’t bother trying to steal it, you’ll die of either Lead poisoning or exaustion before you get two miles!) and then we are up to another major drop. Seriously, you would not want to expose bare skin to this  surface which looks like a cross between tarmac and millstone grit, I imagine this would sting like a ******* so don’t fall!

We make it to the bottom of that gigantic drop and corner (what do you mean it was only about twenty feet?), and now it’s time for some lovely ambling as we gently pass the magnificent Anglezarke reservoir on our right hand side…and some interesting moss on our left – it’s absolutely lovely here.  After what feels like two miles, it isn’t, we hit the road which in effect is the other side of Moor Road which we passed ages ago. Cross carefully, you’ve been warned, there’s a killer of a blind corner here. We turn right (aha!) and then cross to eventually wind our way up the Chute! This is another impressive spectacle when it’s in spate. Uphill some more and ultimately we reach the green wall which is the western slope of the Yarrow reservoir, turn right. This path is very straight forward and if we’d only done a mile or so then it would be a breeze to walk on, however, by this time we have walked close to ten and the attention is not quite what it should be, it’s hilarious to watch others stumbling but when it happens to us… The views to Winter Hill, Dovecote and Rivy Pike open up remarakably here, go on…bask, you really have earned it.

At the gate which has seen better days, turn …left, then after less than 20 metres, turn right and go through another kissing gate, then we walk carefully alongside a stream which never gets a name in any publication I’ve read. Ultimately, just as we are thinking ‘oh this is all very civil’, we are confronted with a flight of steps. They are far easier than they look and after that it really is all plain sailing all the way to the final kissing gate where the skinny amongst us won’t struggle, but the rest of us will have to take off our backpacks, it’s a tight squeeze.

And then we fall out and onto Sheephouse Lane, god willing we won’t get mowed down by passing traffic. take a left here – hey it’s far safer than going right, and we will head uphill for a few hundred feet until a side entrance can be seen on the right. Take that and it will bring us back onto the long track back to the car park.

There, I’ve got us all around Rivington and Anglezarke, anyone fancy signing up for the 24-miles version of the West Lancs LDWA Anglezarke Amble in February, I’ve blatantly pinched about five miles of their route for this one?

 

 

 

Return to Ribblehead

I should say from the off that this is one of my favourite walking places…

Well I tried doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks again…and bailed at Ribblehead, again, just like in 2010. When, oh when will I learn not to sit down to have my lunch?

Okay that’s enough of the negativity. The day’s events were:

  1. I woke up at the unearthly time of 02:15. Did I need to wake up then? Nope, did I stress about waking up then? Well to be honest that would not have helped so I just watached a couple of episodes of Criminal Minds to take my mind off it! 3:55 – the time I was scheduled to arise, soon came around!
  2. I eventually left the flat at 04:27, no way was I going to get stuck in traffic!
  3. I arrived at Horton in Ribblesdale for around 06:10 without speeding, at least I don’t remember speeding. I guess I’ll be checking the post fearing a speeding ticket for the next month!
  4. By 06:21 I had adorned all my walking gear and parked in the £4.50 official car park (ooh la-la none of this overflow nonsense for me!) and set off on route

And that’s when mother nature turned the heat on! Not even a mile into the walk, I was sweating beyond my ability to express without getting kind of crude! The coat was off by the time I had reached Brackenbottom Farm. Funnily enough, the car park had been quite cool and there was even talk between other walkers of being glad to have brought their gloves! So for the next couple of hours it was a case of walk a hundred metres, stop, hyperventilate, continue. And not just me…

The fells of this area were teaming this day. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I do like social walking, I like organised events and even team events so I am not going to say anything bad about the number of walkers snaking their way over the dales this day, apart from there was a lot! I knew that there was going to be a lot because I had found a website where one can register your team’s Three Peaks (it covers the national as well as the Yorkshire ones) and this informed that there would be at least seven teams in Horton today, I had it worked out to be at least thirty-six people. Oh how wrong was that calculation, there were hundreds! I know this because they all passed me, and then I passed them, and this kept on all the way to the top of Pen-y-Ghent, over and down Whitber hill and most of the way towards Ribblehead! And I enjoyed it, most of it. The part I didn’t enjoy?

Well this borders or irony, or at least ‘be careful what you wish for’, because since I have been collecting houseplants I have been craving humidity, for them, at home and at work. Today I was delivered said humidity, in spates…buckets of spates. Honestly, I’d have been drier if it had rained! The weather forecast had promised, “moderate breeze” – that just did not turn up! At best we got a gust of air which could have been delivered by an asthmatic rabbit via a straw…two miles away! Stillness I could have handled, a light shower, again, I could have handled, even blazing sun drives you to moderate oneself better to preserve energy, fluids etc. Humidy is a silent assasin, lurking behind the lightest of all grey clouds and magically soaking you beyond your cognitive processes’ ability to perceive.

If this makes it sound like I was not enjoying the day then this is not an accurate portrayal of the walk. I was really grateful to be in the company of so many others all striving towards that end goal – to complete the Yorkshire three peaks. It isn’t the frenetic and frantic steeplechase across the moors which everyone envisions! This is much more dignified and human. People talk, people definitely encourage one another and this is really spiritually uplifting to witness. I don’t know how many people asked me if I was ‘okay’ whenever I would take a breath of muggy air. The sunscreen caustically scurging my eyes must have made it look like I was in tears, I suppose technically I was, they were just not natural ones as made by yours trully!

I found myself frequently in the company of one of the teams, I think from a school, and this is where I let myself down by not actually asking people questions about what they are doing and why. Most of them were women, from age 20 and upwards, with one man in a tutu…I don’t know why, who seemed to be performing some kind of leadershiop role. Each member offered to let me pass as I strode along and toward Whitber Hill but I gleefully responded back ‘oh it’s okay I am happy to slipstream you all!’ which brought smiles and smirks in equal measure. I had struggled alongside this team all of the way up Pen-y-Ghent and was by now feeling a kinship with them. This continued all the way across to High Birkwith where one of the team even went so far as to give me one of her Jelly babies – normally I find these things revolting but today it was sugary bliss.

I think it was around about the iron bridge very close to Nether Lodge where the doubt set in. This is that nagging doubt who quickly erodes at one’s confidence in the ability to complete a task, in my case to continue the walk. I spent some seconds, possibily a minute leaning on the bridge and watching wave after wave of walkers enter my immediate environment. In addition, there seemed to be some sort of organised fell race on which was causing innumerate runners to approach from behind and then to pass me. I would hear the runner first and decided which way I would redirect in order to not hold them up. This worked well apart from the fact that it left me having to be constantly on my guard or else have a runner up my rear end! In short it was destroying the solace that the walk up until now had been bestowing on me. In essence, this new minor annoyance coupled with the quickly accumulating fatigue was weakening whatever resolve that the humidity hadn’t saturated away!

The thought kept surging forward to the front of my brain ‘the train station at Ribblehead’. I was aware that the trains were only every hour-or-so but that just gave me longer to relax and do nothing. The determination-wrecking escape plan would not leave me alone. I kept trying to rise out of the depths thinking to myself ‘just imagine how proud you will feel if you do the whole thing’. I was at war with myself. Two younger women, whom I had passed a number of times and who had also passed me the same amount of times came into view and we spent some time talking and walking. They were part of a four-person team and I had passed the other two members a number of times as well. All four were from Halifax and had stayed at a local bed and breakfast overnight. There’s something to that, preparation, being aware that you don’t have to drive to and from here on the same day as you are walking 24 miles and over three mountains must give one a little bit of a boost. I am always too aware of the sixty-something-miles back to home and how fatigue could play a devastating role in the day’s itinerary.

At Ribblehead we said our goodbyes as I confessed I was ‘going to find a nice spot to collapse’. At the time I was resolved to carry on the walk…but then I sat down!

Sitting down is bad news for me. It’s the ultimate in resolve eroders! I had my energy gel (the second of the day), the second half of a Bounty I had started some hours ago,  a pint of water…cos it had been weighing a tonne no matter how much I had already drank and a steak pie (and I genuinely can’t remember the brand). I felt full, not bloated but as if I had taken on enough calories to see me to the top of Whernside. Alas, when I stood up my legs felt like they were composed of some sort of wrought iron – gelatine combination and I have to admit to staggering quite violently (I thought I was going to crash into people).

I crossed the busy B-Road in order to set off on the long slog up Whernside…and could almost feel the last traces of my inner resolve run down my legs! I quit.

The Ribblehead train station was just too close for me to ignore any longer and I headed off in that direction, even this seemed like an arduous, uphill struggle. As it transpired I had an hour to have a couple of lattes and to chat with the staff and some patrons. I had a good time and for a change was not figuratively beating myself up about not completing the challenge successfully. And why not?

Because now I am fully aware of what I have to do:

  1. Lose weight…and not to become distracted by any weight loss.
  2. Practice, more hills, walking nine miles home is no mean feet but if it’s on the flat then I have to find some hills somewhere – the west pennines are a beckoning!
  3. Look into booking a place to stay before and after, to take the pressure off that 120-miles round trip in one day.
  4. Partner up with someone, I loved meeting and talking with all of the people whom I had the privellege of meeting today, but a team-mate is a different prospect who will spur me on to success (and vice-versa).
  5. Not take so much bloody water it weighs 1kg per litre and doesn’t half slow down ascensions!

What to take from this walk:

  • Pendle Hill looks majestic from anywhere!
  • The new steps to descend Pen-y-Ghent make the route narrower and I would hate to try to ascend this way.
  • It’s no fun having a stone kicked at you whilst attempting the third scramble of Pen-y-Ghent.
  • The walk across Horton Moor and the lesser summits around Whitber hill are really quite nice and worth doing as part of a walk that encapsulates all of them without worrying about having to do the full challenge.
  • Whernside looks fearful from Ribblehead, if you are tired.

And yes, I’ve vowed (to myself) to do this again next year, on the 30th of May!

 

 

Yorkshire Three Peaks Itinery

Planning for the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk

So, even though I’ve been thinking this through since 2015, I think it’s now time to get all super organised about the day including:

  • What to eat
  • When to eat
  • Where to take stops (should be the same as the previous point really)
  • At what time I should be at which point.

I’ve been saying to myself that I want to do this in a minute under the allotted twelve hours. If I did then it would be great but if I did it even faster, given that I am a good few kilos heavier now than I was in 2015, that would be amazing. Outside of the twelve hours would not be a disaster in itself…I just want to try and avoid this. Is my timing relistic? I think so.

It’s important that I eat on the day, but none of this Chicken Caesar Wrap nonsense because you never feel like you’ve consumed anything. I don’t want to end up bloated but I do want to feel as if I’ve given myself a fighting chance. What I believe I have going for me is stamina. I’ve picked up a lot of stamina thanks to doing these long walks home. Admittedly there has been no hill climbing between Ormskirk and Southport and it’s true that other people will fly on past me whilst ascending Pen-y-Ghent. But, I did get up Blencathra, on a quite warm day and I’d say that route was as tough as Whernside from Ribblehead if a couple of miles shorter!

What to take and Where to take it!

  • Avocados – 3, (need 2 but take 3 just to be certain).  1 at the start, 1 at Bruntscar
  • Bananas – 3, 1 at the start, 1 at Bruntscar, 1 at Frodo’s steps
  • Cans of red Bull: 2,1 at  Frodo’s steps 1 on the drive home).
  • Bounty bars – 2, 1 at Nether Lodge, 1 at Bruntscar.
  • Energy gels – 6. 1 at various points on route.
  • Coconut water – 1 carton  for Simon’s Fell Breast (the col after Ingleborough summit).
  • Steak Pie / Bake – 1 at Nether Lodge
  • Melon slices – 1 pack for Simon Fell Breast
  • Brazil nuts  – 1 pack for the entire walk.
  • Water – 1 Bladder’s worth and two bottles.

Extras

  • Additional pair of socks to change over at Bruntscar if possible / if not then at Simon Fell Breast.
  • Portable charger for phone.

If all goes well I should be at the following:

Place nameTime due here
Set off06:30
Top of Pen-y-Ghent08:00
Whitber Hill08:50
God's Bridge10:00
Nether Lodge10:10
Ribblehead Viaduct11:00
Top of Whernside13:15
Bruntscar14:00
Philpin Lane14:30
The Hill Inn14:45
Humphrey Bottom15:30
Frodo's Steps15:50
Top of Ingleborough16:30
Simon Fell Breast16:45
Sulber Nick17:05
Horton Train Station17:45
Back at Car18:05
Screen capture of Nether Lodge on the OS maps
Nether Lodge will be my main rest and feed spot as Ribblehead can be a bit bedlamic!