Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘rights of way’

The Ribble at Marles Wood

I’ve just come a cropper on the Ribble Way. I seem to have discovered the knack, this year, of navigating rights of way that no longer exist, other than on the OS map. I’m using the latest mapping, and GPS. X marks the spot, and yes, it looks like there was a path through here once. I see shadows of its former self in the lie of the land. But it’s adopted now as part of the expanding grounds of this big old house. Mystically speaking, I’m standing in a liminal zone, then. We’re somewhere between the deep past, and a future in which the path isn’t even a memory in the most venerable and crustiest of walkers heads. Technically I’m not trespassing on private property, because the map says I’m not, but I doubt the owner would see it that way. After some desperate manoeuvres in the undergrowth, all efforts end in barbed wire, and I concede defeat. This is becoming a habit.

The path has been unofficially rerouted. I’ve missed the opening, which I discover a little higher up the lane. So, I drop a pin on the GPS to remind me of the location where the path disappears, should I ever come this way again. I’ll not bother reporting it. It’s not my patch, and I’ve got a few reports on the County Council’s PROW website already. I’ll be getting a reputation as a pedantic nutter. Besides, the re-route is as plain as day if you know what you’re looking for, which I didn’t. But here we are. On we plod.

We’ve got a moody sky and light rain today. Pendle hill was the plan this morning, up the Big End from Barley. But it looked like it was promising a soaking, so we came off the A59 and worked our way along the little lane to the car park at Marles Wood. I was there in the summer, delighted by the stretch of the Ribble, upstream to Dinkley Bridge. It was the same today, very picturesque, though looking less autumny that I would have thought for the time of year.

Just down from the car park, we encounter the Ribble at its most lovely. It emerges from a rocky ravine overhung by woodland, before taking a wide bend into open country. There were cormorants and egrets fishing from a distant clutch of rocks this morning. I remember trying a photograph there in the summer, with the big camera, which didn’t come out very well. I’ve got the smaller Lumix today, which usually makes light work of murky conditions. We’ll see how it does.

The walk goes upstream, takes in the Dinkley Bridge, then downstream along this section of the Ribble way to Ribchester, before looping back to the car. I’d given up on it in the summer, in the heat, made do with the Marles Wood stretch, and I’m glad I did. I’m far less enchanted by this return leg on the Ribble Way, but only because my pride is dented. I don’t like mucking about in mud and brambles around farms, and posh houses. I’m sure the occupants don’t like it either. But a little friendly signage would go a long way towards helping everyone out. I have the impression the wealthy find the footpath network annoying, even a little socialist, and would rather have it done away with. Or is that the politics of envy talking?

Ribble Way signage, resting in the mud.

Speaking of signage, I come across a fallen footpath marker a little further on. I’m getting the impression the Ribble Way isn’t a well walked route, or not well liked by landowners. Anyway, we muddle through, make it finally to a line of fishermen by the bridge at Ribchester, where the air is suddenly funky. I’ve no idea what other narcotics smell like, but cannabis isn’t exactly discrete. If it’s ever legalised there’ll be an outcry against the smell alone. Odd, but I’d never have thought to combine whacky baccy with fishing.

The rain is coming on heavier now. I had planned to take the rights of way that cut up through the environs of New Hall, then up the valley side, into the woods – more new ground for me. This might be straight forward, or it might involve another mysterious re-route. With the weather coming on, I’m in no mood for that, so take a short-cut and brave the traffic along the Ribchester Road. A pleasant diversion for a wet day, about five miles round, and worth it for the section between Marles Wood and Dinkley bridge alone.

Read Full Post »

On the lesser walked ways of the West Pennines

So, today, we’re coming down off the moors by what appears to be the most direct way, but the path has petered out in a patch of overgrown woodland. It’s mossy, dim and mushroomy in here. No one’s been this way in a long time. There appears to be a diversion into a meadow, through a kissing gate, so you can avoid getting snagged in the wood, but the gate is smashed, and wrapped up in a zig-zag of electrified wire. There are horses in the meadow, extensive stabling at the farm a few miles away – which is where we’re heading. The OS map I’m using is the latest edition, but it doesn’t show a diversion – keep to the woodland, it says. So I do.

A quarter mile later, where the path should emerge from the wood, there’s no exit, just barbed wire, and to make doubly sure I can’t get out, there’s more electrified wire as well, and more horses looking at me like I’m stupid, and they’re in charge, now. One of the horses has a long mop of curly hair, and looks a bit like someone I went to school with. Yes, that’s him to a tee! It’s odd seeing him standing there, looking like a horse, but somehow not surprising. Anyone coming off the moor in bad weather, looking for a direct line to the farm, perhaps cold, wet, wind-blown and at their wit’s end, is going to struggle here. Obviously, the horsey people don’t want anyone approaching the farm this way. I make a note of grid references, and drop a waypoint on the GPS, with a view to reporting it, when I get home.

I shouldn’t be here, actually. The plan was to go to the Dales today. But then I dreamed I’d gone to find the place overrun. There was a crush of folks on the very paths I was going to walk. I tried to get ahead of them, but they started jostling to keep ahead of me. There were dog walkers, people with buggies and hoards and hoards of walkers, and runners, and mountain biker’s and horse riders, and people in four by fours roaring on all sides, throwing up dust and stones. The whole scene was ludicrous. The national parks were becoming a nightmare.

Dreams should never be read literally because that’s not the way they talk to us. Still, the mood on waking was to give the Dales a miss. So I lay in a bit and walked somewhere local instead. I began with some familiar ways in the West Pennines, then wandered along some less familiar ones, and finally gravitated towards this one because – well – I’ve never walked it before, and I was curious to see where it popped out. And now I’m stuck.

So, I make a long back-track, then take another route. This one is overgrown, and poorly marked, but I find my way around, and enter the pungently horsey environs of the farm. One last obstacle, now. I climb a ladder stile to get over a walled enclosure, but find there’s no way down the other side. The bottom two rungs have been smashed out, as if to discourage any attempt to mount them. And I am indeed discouraged, but by now also lacking patience for yet another backtrack, which in this case would involve miles. So I jump. It’s not the most dignified descent, especially with middle-aged knees.

I’m indignant. These are ancient ways. It’s our right, and our heritage to walk them, to keep them open. It’s not the first time I’ve struggled around horses and electric wire. I’m in the mood to make a nuisance of myself over this. But no, don’t be silly, this is meek and mild me we’re talking about. So, I’ll just report it on the council’s PROW website instead, and keep an eye on it.

Curious, that dream. Silly. But amusing too. It shifted scene, like they do, and then I was on a bus. On the seat next to me was a plate of muffins my wife had made. They were delicious muffins, too. Coming down the bus was none other than Donald Trump. He gave me a look that would have soured milk, and then he helped himself to a muffin. His expression was as if to say: “Well, what are you going to do about it, loser?” I was cross, actually, because my wife had made them for me. Not him. They were my right!

I was thinking, who does he think he is? He read my mind, and then, in the most politely apologetic voice you can imagine, though perhaps not coming from the mouth of Mr Trump, he said – through a mouthful of muffin: “Oh,.. I’m terribly sorry, old boy. You don’t mind, do you? I thought you didn’t want them.” And, somewhat disgruntled, I said: “Well, you’re in charge, mate.” But then I remembered he wasn’t in charge, and he’d no right to my muffins, and I kicked myself. But too late. He’d got my muffin, and away he skipped.

Privilege always did enjoy taking the biscuit (and the muffin), obviously. But I’d have my revenge served nice and cold, thank you. I was going to tell Lancashire County Council over him. They’d sort him out – him and his horses and his damned electric wires!

Read Full Post »

The cars haven’t moved since New Year. One has a massive thorn sticking out of the sidewall, and it’s slowly leaking air. It’s due a service and MOT in a few weeks, so we’ll leave it until then for the local garage to sort out, if it’s open. If it’s not, we’ll have to SORN the thing until it is. The other car’s battery hovers somewhere close to death, and needs charging. I’m turning both engines over, but I feel I should really be giving them a bit of a run to stop the brakes from seizing up. Is that a necessary journey, though?

Just out for a spin officer, testing the brakes?

Do I look stupid, sir?

So anyway, I’m not travelling out by car, not even a couple of miles to “access open countryside” as the well-worn covid loophole goes. The Tesco man brings the groceries, and between times we make do. Dry January has also killed the need to go to the corner shop for the occasional bottle of wine. Instead, I’m wearing grooves in the local footpath network, taking the camera for long walks on the good days. Thirty-two miles and counting so far. I’ve discovered some gems along the way: unfamiliar and attractive footpaths, lone trees in their bare, winter magnificence, and birds.

On the less walked ways, however, I’m discovering obstruction. Yesterday it was a hundred yard stretch of public footpath, barely a meter wide, squashed between a hawthorn hedge on one side, and an electric fence on the other. The landed like their horses. What they don’t like are public paths across the meadows they’ve paid good money for and some will do whatever it takes to discourage you, within the law, and sometimes beyond it. I have also encountered stiles and bridges, long past serviceable, that have tested my mettle. And of course, I’ve fallen foul of disappearing way-markers, usually in the vicinity of farms, or where the paths swing by newly gentrified properties. A man on foot can, at times, be vulnerable to the vagaries of the way, and the will of others who are agin’ him. But the footpath network is an ancient right, and I’ll have my way. We need them now, more than ever, so I urge you to get out, find them, and use them.

Anyway, after a month of retirement I discover I am missing only two things: a walk over the moors, and a busy coffee-shop. Ordinarily, the press and noise of others irritates me. But I would give anything for half an hour with a Mocha and a bun, in a corner café, while watching the world go by. Takeaways are a big thing these days, of course. I’m resisting them as an unnecessary (and possible paranoid) risk, though I know they’re the only way the corner café’s can keep going under the present circumstances. Everyone is hugging a cardboard coffee now, many of which are then discarded in the hedgerows, along with masks and surgical gloves. Still, it makes a change from the monotony of hanging bags of poo.

I have not missed working. I’d thought I might – at least certain aspects of it. But now the first pension payment has arrived, and the time stretches ahead, unhurried, and every hour of it my own. The house’s various neglected corners are being freshened up. The long leaking gutters don’t leak any more. Yes, the economy is in ruins and Mr Chancellor wants my savings to prop it up, but no deal, mate. You’re getting not a penny, until I’ve had my jab – some time between May and June, according to the OMNI calculator.

In other news, I note Brexit is starting to bite where we thought it would: import, export, supply chains, tax, services, banking. The pesky Europeans are even confiscating the lorry driver’s butties. But on the up-side we’re told the fish are now happy to be British. Happy, however, will not be the British, queuing come summer in the slow lane at EU passport control, along with all the other foreigners.

Thirty-two miles and counting, Michael. There’s clearly life in you yet, and all from your own doorstep. Keep it up, mate.

Read Full Post »