• Neil

Pendle Hill Walk - 23-02-19

Remember Summer 2019? It was that freak little period of bizarrely warm weather we had at the end of February. Temps reaching dizzying heights of 20c in some places. Fast forward a few weeks and we've got floods, snow, wind and hail again (I took a battering of the latter up by Malham Cove at the weekend). This out-of-season warm weather was a welcome addition to a walk up Pendle Hill. I'd driven past it many times heading to other places, and even been to festivals in its shadow on my few forays to Beatherder over the years, but never ventured to it. Whilst there's many a hill and dale in the surrounding areas, Pendle Hill sticks out on the Lancashire landscape like a sore thumb, all be it a glorious looking one. Its reputation precedes it, with it playing its role (large or small depending on your source) in the stories of the Pendle Witch Trials in the 17th century. The whole area around it is very witch trials focused, including the sculpture park (more on that later). The drive to the foot of the hill takes you through the small villages of Blacko and Roughlee, and its here you see the first glaring reference to the trials, in the form of the Alice Nutter statue by the roadside. Shackled and head bowed as if making her way to the trial all over again its a stark reminder of what now, hundreds of years later can be looked upon as illogical and senseless accusations.

The best place to park for the walk is probably the village of Barley. A large visitor car park (with cafe and toilets) sits just on the approach with an honesty box for payment, and the many roads at the very foot of the hill are well used by visitor cars too.The village is well serviced by places to eat and drink (notably The Pendle Inn and Barley Mow) and you pass these as you wind through the village following the weir (that ultimately becomes White Hough Water) back towards its source of Lower Black Moss Reservoir. Just before you reach the Methodist Church, you'll see a brown signpost directing you up the side of Meadow Bank Farm. Making sure you don't miss this is probably the hardest part of navigating towards the hill, as beyond here the path guides you straight to the foot of the hill and is erm...well signposted.

Once at the foot of Pendle Hill from this direction you've one of two options: The steep way or the steady way. General consensus seems to be tackle the steep way as most people there were opting to do. Its quite an optical illusion that doesn't look too intimidating until you're right next to it. Then you'll see it rises sharply up the right hand side of the hill (an elderly gentleman who'd had a funny turn making the ascent was being gingerly helped back down whilst we were there). If you want the sense of achievement of tackling the hill its definitely the way to go, and you're rewarded all the way up with views back towards Colne valley, Stansfield tower by Blacko and the Yorkshire dales are to your right.

The path curves up and round and steadies out as you hit the plateau of the top of the hill, guiding you straight round to the trig point (although there are offshoots to go down the other side of the hill towards Gisburn and Clitheroe.As the weather was freakish, many people had abandoned thermals and winter jackets you'd expect for February and were marching up in t-shirts. It was very surreal. Whilst it may have been sunny, there was a murky brown haze that lingered out towards Yorkshire which marred the view, but the vantage you get up there is absolutely outstanding and you could spend a good number of hours pointing your camera and clicking towards every conceivable compass point should you so wish with good visibility.

The trig point was choc full of people wanting a photograph to mark the conquering of the hill, and due to the weather most were sat around basking in the sun eating sandwiches. Given any other February, it would probably tell a different story of people huddled together braving the elements.

Depending on how you want to get back down, there's a few ways. You can go down towards Gisburn and Clitheroe on the opposite side of the hill. You can slope down the opposite end to where you came up and work your way back into Barley or continue on your merry way keeping parellel to the A59, or you can take that steady route back down you ignored in favour of the steeper way up which lets you rejoin the path out of Barley.

Wanting to take in the Pendle Sculpture Park, this seemed the most feasible option to get back down to where we needed to be.

Now about that Sculpture Park. If when you get back to Barley you turn left off the path by the Methodist Church as opposed to going back towards the car park, you'll start hitting signs for the Park. The walk takes you up past the Black Moss Reservoirs to Aitken Wood. Its a mile or so along the road with repeated indicators that you're getting closer.

I'll be honest, I'm not much of a fan of sculpture parks. I get that it can form a trail to keep kids occupied, and so if that's your thing, go for it. After walking up Pendle Hill though, its a bit of an anti-climax although the Bogart and Unicorn are pretty cool. Its a loop trail, but slightly confusing if truth be told. Some of the sculptures can be completely missed by having no discernable path to them, so if you've got a pram it'll be a muddy off the beaten track schlep to get to some of them and read the accompanying signs.

All in, including the trail you are probably looking at about 8 or 9 miles. On a cold day you would be absolutely exposed on Pendle Hill particularly given how it plateaus at the top, so wrap up warm. On a sunny day though you could definitely sit up there soaking in the rays and views for a good few hours and not get bored. Particularly if you start swapping stories about witches...

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