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Drybones Dam and the fishpass, Birkacre

This post concerns a dead dog, witchcraft, and the fact there’s nowt so queer as folk. But first, the anemones!

I wrote last time of my attempt to take pictures of the wood anemones around Birkacre and Drybones wood. But I had left my memory card at home, so my camera was useless. Instead, I enjoyed the walk for the opportunity to experience “presence”, and the muse presented me with a poetic challenge: how to turn nihilistic crud into the alchemical gold of enlightenment. I’m still pondering that one.

I didn’t intend returning today, and certainly not so soon after my previous visit. I had intended a walk in the West Pennines, but a massive traffic jam rerouted me, so here we are, as if by magic, back at the Birkacre visitor centre, where there are even more people and more dogs than last time.

On the plus side, it’s looking like a better day for photography, a better light, with more persistent sunshine. As for the crowds, they tend not to venture much further than Drybones dam, on the Yarrow. Ten minutes beyond that, into the woods, and they are forgotten. The woods are pungent today with wafts of spring earth and allium. The anemones are in profusion. I get my fill of photographs, and resolve to return in a few weeks, hopefully timing it for when the anemones are accompanied by the bluebells and the starry heads of wild garlic.

The deep wood for me is that which fills the valley of the horseshoe of the River Yarrow. An ancient highway – actually a narrow muddy track – leads us to through it. I have known this area since boyhood, and used to hunt it with an air-rifle in the days when it was less frequented, and before I knew better. So, yes everywhere is more well trodden than it used to be, but the woodland is still a special, quiet place, a place of contemplation, of calm. Woodlands possess certain liminal properties that put us on the edge of “otherness”.

I have begun to notice a trend for floral tokens, left in discrete places, places near water or in the embrace of trees. They are, I presume, transient memorials to the departed. I have also noticed bolder evidence of folk religion – aka witchcraft – these being items handcrafted from natural materials and hung from the branches of trees. Our organised religions are struggling for membership. Indeed, I predict all but the most fundamentalist Christian congregations will be gone in a generation. But there is still something in many of us that seeks connection with that sense of the “other”, and it finds expression any way it can. Thus, today, we note in passing the budding alder is home to a small woven pentangle.

The way leads us on to the ancient Duxbury Hall estate, once a massive manicured parkland, now reverted largely to nature. At this point we can swing back to Birkacre, or we can continue our way following the Yarrow upstream, and make a loop through the woodland of Duxbury park. We choose the latter.

It’s as we follow our nose here, I am reminded of Beavis, and an unfinished story I began to write years ago, but paused at the punchline, not wanting to intrude upon the original legend with my own version of it. But today, I don’t care, and I’m going to go for it. But first, let’s see if he’s still around. Beavis was, and in some sense still is, a dog, a big, fast hunting hound with a very loud bark.

The original memorial to Beavis in Duxbury Woods

The grave of Beavis has been a feature of these woodlands since 1870, when Susan Standish, of Duxbury Hall, had a memorial stone laid in gratitude for the dog rousing the house on the night of a fire, the year before,1869. Thanks to Beavis, everyone got out, while the house itself suffered badly and had to be partially rebuilt. That’s as far as the story goes, but there’s something wrong with it, and I’ll explain in a moment, see what you think.

It’s a while since I was last at the site, and half expected by now the statue of the dog to have been carried off, or vandalised, as is the way with these things. The original statue suffered that fate, in the early twentieth century, leaving only the memorial plaque to weather the years, and pass on its enigmatic sentiment.

Proceeding upstream, the memorial is on the right-hand bank of the Yarrow. It’s sometimes missed, as there are a profusion of ways through the wood, many of them leading to a quagmire. But if you stick close to the river, you’ll find him all right. And I’m pleased to discover he’s in fine fettle, at least for a dog that’s been dead since 1842.

Did we say 1842?

Well, the memorial stone reads:

“All ye who wander through these peaceful glades,
Listening to the Yarrow’s rippling waves,
Pause and bestow a tributary tear.
The bones of faithful Beavis slumber here.”

1842

This remembrance erected by Susan Mrs Standish, 1870

So, the memorial tells us the dog died in 1842. Then we have the documented record of the fire at Duxbury Hall in 1869, and the story of the dog raising the house, and Mrs Standish’s subsequent laying of the memorial in gratitude, in 1870. Logical conclusion: the beast that roused the house in 1869 was not Beavis, at least not in any corporeal form, because Beavis had already been in the ground for sixteen years. Question: Are we dealing with a ghost dog? Did the Standishes lay the dog properly to rest with a suitable memorial in 1870, because, on the night of the fire, they realised, it had been running the woods undead since 1842. If so, lucky for them it had!

So far as I’m aware, this version of events has not passed into local lore, and, if true, is a story that went to the grave with the last of the Standishes. I prefer my version to the original, even though I’ve possibly embellished it beyond what is decent, and romantic though the original is. But there we are. You heard it here first!

From the memorial, the going becomes more difficult further upstream, the Yarrow having washed its banks out in various places, and taken the path with it. But with a bit of scrambling and thrashing about in the undergrowth, we reach the bridge which grants access to the opposite bank. Here, there’s a better path to bring us downstream, and which completes our diversionary loop through the history – natural and otherwise – of Duxbury wood.

This particular route is popular with visitors, and presents no difficulties. In various places, the refreshing scent of mature pine mingles with the sweet and sickly presence of something more weedy. I remind myself not to be around here after sundown, and not because I’m scared of ghosts – well, not of Beavis anyway. I’ve known him since I was a kid, and I think we’re on friendly terms.

And speaking of dogs, finally, we return to the crowds and their dogs around the visitor centre. On the car park, there is a dirty slouch of a man who is allowing his dog to dash about on the loose. It’s interfering with the dogs of other people, and with the people themselves. Most politely ignore the annoyance. Some make timid remonstrations, to be greeted at once with a stream of disproportionate invective. I do not like the F word in mixed company, and especially not when young children are around, but then I’m knocking on in years, and the world is changing.

People are strange creatures. It’s a wonder we get along as well as we do. Nor is it any wonder why sometimes we don’t.

If you go down in the woods today,…

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Pendle Hill Summit

Lancashire, driving roughly north and east along the A59, in the vicinity of Whalley. It’s a fast road, whisking you towards Clitheroe, then beyond to Gisburn and the Dales. Just here though, to the right, there comes into view a big hill, dun coloured, or sometimes more darkly dappled according to season and cloud. Or sometimes, in the wet, the clouds will take it, and you won’t even know it’s there. But on the clear days, like today, depending on how the light falls, the hill will sing a siren song, and if you’re susceptible it will infect you with a strange longing, calling you to a closer intimacy. This is Pendle.

I was heading for the Dales, but the shifting light on Pendle’s warm western flank seduced me, brought me off the A59 at Chatburn. Then it was the perfect little road, through Downham, and on to Barley. Imagination and myth lends this area an atmosphere of mystery; this is the heart of Lancashire, one in which abides dark tales of ancient witchcraft.

There are also accounts of holy visions. George Fox, founding father of the Quaker movement, had one. Others have told of doors that open onto other places, and of unspeakable ghostly encounters befalling travellers alone on the hill by night. And there’s a mess of lies too, like those that fetched up ten souls in 1612, had them hanged at Lancaster for murder, supposedly by witchcraft. As late as 2009, a petition was presented to parliament to have the condemned posthumously pardoned – the Witchcraft Act itself having been repealed in 1957. But the petition was refused, and the convictions stand. In Pendle it’s still official: death by witchcraft. And so the myths perpetuate.

But there are lighter stories too, a sense of humour in the tales of Sabden’s treacle mines, and the Boggarts who eat the treacle, and then there are the Parkin Weavers,… and maybe the Black Pudding Twisters too, or maybe I’m mixing up my stories now with a greater Lancastrian lore.

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Barley

It’s a big hill at 557 meters, and somewhat bleaker in appearance here on the steeper eastern face, at the bottom of which the little grit-stone village of Barley nestles in a broad green vale. Barley welcomes. It’s just a pound to park your car all day, and a welcoming tea-room close to hand. Most visitors come for the hill – either to look at it, or to climb it.

There are many ways up Pendle. I’ve done them from all points of the compass, in all weathers and seasons. The most direct and least interesting is the shortest, by the eastern face, from Barley, just a couple of kilometers up the stone-set tracks that slant diagonally across the face to left and right. But a more interesting, and less direct way leads you away from the hill for a while,  by the reservoirs of Ogden Clough.

I last did this route with a friend, some twenty years ago, when I recall the hill being alive with little frogs, black and shiny, a vast hoard of miniature obsidian reptilia, all crossing the moor, leaping over the toes of our boots, sweeping purposefully east, as if answering the call of a biblical plague. But the route that day, being shared with another happy soul, did not seem so lonely then as it did now. Today there were no little frogs, only the sound of the wind, and the feel of the curious eyes of the Faery on my back.

Don’t believe in the Faery? Well why would you? It’s a ridiculous notion. They are simply my own daemons, and not an unkindly breed – it depends which windows of imagination you go poking your head through.

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Ogden Clough

There are two reservoirs in Ogden Clough, the lower and the higher, both narrow slits of water, reflecting alternately the lead grey, the shock white, and the deep blue of a changeable September sky. Beyond the higher reservoir, the track bends to reveal the far reaches of the Clough, and no more desolate a place will you find anywhere in England. For a moment here the silence took my breath. It was what the hill had wanted to say, I think, or rather to show, to remind me of this silence, this emptiness, this palpable stillness. Of course the feeling, like the feel of the Faery, was as much to do with an inner frame of mind as by the mere lay and remoteness of the land, but it was a connection I had been lacking of late, and I was glad for a fresh glimpse of it. Hills are always different when you walk them alone; they have so much more to show you.

A stone bearing the chiseled image of a falcon marks the parting of the track, and the route to Pendle. It goes up the Pendle Way, along the narrow nick of Boar Clough, then a couple of kilometers, moderately steep, across an open, windy, heather-hissing moor, to the summit trig-point, and the company of other pilgrims. Until now I had not seen another soul since leaving Barley.

The obvious reward for your efforts is the view of course, opening suddenly from the ridge to the north and east – lush farmland, little hamlets and the shining eyes of ponds and reservoirs. The character of a hill is first felt in the look of it from below, then in the pleasure of its routes, and in the change of perspective it offers the climber on his lowland life. For a moment, from the top of a fine hill like this, we cannot help but transcend the ordinary. In all of these respects, Pendle pleases, but also it reminds us that for all of our modernity, the land can still be a daemon haunted place, one still bound up in myth-making, a place where the imaginary can still be felt as a physical presence.

Not all hills can do this.

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We humans are more than physical beings. There’s also a psychological dimension to our lives and both require nourishment if we are to thrive.

Our physical needs revolve around the instinct for survival. We need food, warmth and shelter in order to achieve a basic level of contentment. In the modern world, this equates to money. But once these physical needs are met, and our survival theoretically assured, the business of contentment can become problematic – its attainment and its retention a seemingly haphazard and unstable affair. Even in the lap of great luxury we find human beings who are profoundly unhappy. Contentment, it seems, has as much to do with the mysterious processes going on in the inner life as in the outer.

The nature of both the inner and the outer life are complex. Physical scientists have gone some way towards exploring the remarkable depths of our biological processes, to the extent that they can fix a lot of the malfunctions our bodies are prone to. Yet much of the workings of the inner life, even after a century of analytical psychology, remains largely unknown. Broken minds all too often remain, sadly, broken, and we don’t know why.

What we can say is the inner life, consists of two regions, not clearly divided, and both of them imaginary in that they have no physical component, relying instead, obviously, on the workings of the mind. In one region, the conscious, we can control, develop and play with the images we self-consciously create. In the other region – the unconscious – the origin of the images it generates remains mysterious, yet these images come to us unbidden in dreams, moments of quiet reflection, or creative inspiration. Yet more mysteriously, these images can remain hidden but still have the power to colour our moods as we discover at times startling reflections of them in our behaviour, our relations with others, in the way we view and value our lives, also in the way we react to the physical world.

So, as well as being able to visualise the world around us with our physical senses, we are also able to envision it with this remarkable faculty of the subjective imagination. Thus one person can look at a situation and be uplifted by it, while another is rendered cold or hostile, or depressed.

The unconscious dimension is a thing entirely independent of our personal control. It is a part of us,… yet seemingly also apart. It possesses an eerie autonomy, creating for each of us the complex and highly personal world view only we can know. It is of vital importance to us – as vital as the air we breathe. Without it, even possessed of a physical life, we would be nothing at all.

It’s worrying then, given its importance to our vital selves, how this inscrutable inner world yields so little to rational methods of enquiry. For centuries, professional scientists have given it a wide berth, abandoning it as a playground for poets, mystics and those still enamoured of the multifarious forms religious thinking – fields where some might argue intellectual rigour is notable only by its absence.

Yet it’s via the aegis of this subjective and infuriatingly Mercurial inner world we are granted the imperishable sense of our self awareness, and through it an exquisite view of life which makes us cherish our lives above all other things. But this great treasure comes to us at the price of an acute awareness of the fleeting nature of our lives. It also renders us vulnerable to psychological damage at those times we find the tides of our conscious mind seriously out of tune with the tides of the unconscious.

Maintaining harmony of the inner world, this harmony of the tides has always been, in part at least a task we delegate to the uniquely human phenomenon of supernatural belief. Through the inner life, through an interplay of conscious imagination, magical thinking and mysterious insights, we can construct systems of belief in order to make sense of those parts of the universe that would otherwise remain unknown and perhaps frightening to us. We also do it to ease our existential aches, and to lessen the fear of our inevitable demise. We tell ourselves there’s more, that our lives are not in vain, that we each mean something in the greater scheme of things, no matter how unlikely it seems given all the aeons of physical evidence to the contrary. We want to believe there’s a trick of nature that will render it so, a supernatural charm that will reveal or in some way guarantee the immortality of our souls.

Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, I think there is in each of us a kernel of the psyche resonant to such thinking. And however we choose to express this function, express it we must if we’re not to risk damage by discord between the conscious and unconscious aspects of our inner life and, remaining undamaged, live a useful, productive life, reconciled to the infinite mystery of the universe around us, and to our painfully finite obscurity within it.

Religions can do this for us of course. They provide a variety of serviceable blueprints covering the geography of inner world, and a set of useful dialogues for communing with its denizens. But religion can also be an unwieldy, ill fitting instrument and it’s often been pointed out that among the dogmas there’s many a self annihilating reference. It’s easy to become mistrustful then. Religions preach tolerance, while being themselves at times conspicuously intolerant of dissent. They preach inclusiveness while at times excluding from their communion anyone residing outside of their carefully delineated bounds. And perhaps most fatally, religions find themselves caught in the warp and weave of the nefarious power-structures of the world, contaminated by cultural noise and by the ignorant or the deliberately divisive mistranslations of ancient texts, which render profound truths intended to release the human spirit, more as shackles to bind it. And thereby have too many good men and women fallen to the slaughter of wars and religious persecution in the belief that God was on their side.

Such arguments, though not without their own flaws, remain persuasive to anyone with an enquiring and an open mind. So what’s a simple man and woman to do then, intent on harmonising their inner lives, if they reject the metaphysical mainstream?

Well,… there’s always Paganism.

But we need to be careful with Paganism too. In the strictest definition of the word, Paganism describes any ethnic belief system that lies outside of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. It’s also a word that carries a lot of pejorative baggage, and in the western world at least, conjures up images of flaming pentangles and silly looking naked bottoms, dancing in a circle by moonlight. But beyond this it also includes of course the wisdom traditions of the east, and the rites of the ancient world – the Egyptian hermeticists, and the mystery traditions of the Greeks.

From time to time these old ways reassert themselves in the west. The turn of the nineteenth century saw a resurgence of hermeticism under guise of the “new thought” movement, and from the middle of the twentieth century, Celtic Paganism too found itself reborn under the guise of Wicca, and has been quietly thriving ever since, along with other pre-Christian beliefs that might crudely be huddled together under the general heading of “Modern Witchcraft”.

So, if you’re looking for something outside of the mainstream, and you’re tired of watching the rational world disintegrating after two hundred years of petrification on account of its own arrogant, soulless inflexibility, then you have many contemporary forms of pre-rational belief to choose from. Like any religion, you simply learn the ropes and allow their patterns to inform the shifting tides of your inner world. Then, in Canute-like fashion, armoured with these new contructs you can attempt to stem the tide of your own alarming inner world, only to find the tides rushing in as usual, sweeping before them all bullshit, rendering it as an incoherent tangle of flotsam on the foreshore of your experience, and leaving you as mystified as ever regarding the correct way to tackle the mystical path.

I have to admit to a certain attraction for those who mark the passage of their lives in terms of Esbats and Sabbats. Such things put you back in tune with the turning of the earth, and the cycle of its seasons, make you more sensitive to and appreciative of the natural world – things which appeal to me. There’s also something romantic about measuring the year by counting moons, but I find my moods fail to conform neatly to its waxings and wanings.

And those bare bottoms trouble me.

Perhaps I’m just too much of a misanthrope to be a coven type, but my experience of any group of human beings is that cliques are formed, the noisy ones gather front and centre, while the quiet ones take the back seat, and though equally present might as well have disappeared. Church, school, even the Archery club I attended once – all are the same and I don’t see why witchy covens should be any different.

I’m a solitary then? Yes, there’s a version of pagan witchery that allows for misanthropes, and I’ve explored this possibility, but I really can’t be bothered with the ropes.They slither through my hands as if greased, and I can gain no purchase on them at all. I also find my muse tittering girlishly at them. Her rituals are different, and she’s always fully if somewhat eccentrically clothed when we go about our business.

Much of Buddhism and Taoism and Hindiusm remain similarly misty to me, though I’ve dallied with them for decades and instinctively revere their teachings, but I’ve a feeling all of this is leading somewhere else now, away from any kind of religion, away from the pre-rational and magical thinking of the witches and the geomancers, into a new kind of paganism.

When I come back to the central paradox of my life, I find the journey of enquiry has left me quietly assured of the existence of a dimension beyond – or rather deep within – imagination. It helps that I stepped into it by accident one summer’s day, long ago, mystified at first and then astonished to find references to to it in the accounts of mystics down the centuries. I can’t explain it, or even adequately describe it, but its impact has left me confident of its abiding nature. The tides of my inner life are as tumultuous now as they’ve always been, but I seem to ride them better – touch wood – no need for daily prayer, nor spells, nor runes nor bare bottoms by moonlight, nor even the mysterious glowing alembics of the alchemists.

I find, much to my surprise, science is helping, first of all by having become less scientistic in recent decades, at least around the more dubious of its edges, as it steps back from its hard materialist dogmas. I find myself persuaded by respectable, scientific studies which seem to confirm what the less materialist philosophers have been saying for centuries, that the mind is separate to the brain, and essentially non-local. This makes sense of my own experience, also of the many unexplained faculties of the psyche.

I find I’m also persuaded by similarly sober studies of near death, and willing to accept that the tales told by survivors are exactly what they appear to be. I do this because they appeal to reason, as much to mystical thinking, and the counter explanations by the scientistically inclined, seem the more desperate, contrived and childish by comparison. I’m therefore no longer as bereft at thoughts of annihilation as I have been in the past, at the passing of friends and loved ones. Instead I’m persuaded that we must seriously reckon with the possibility of a journey that continues, that what awaits us at the end of our dream of life might be the greatest and most lucid dream of all, the dream of the universe itself, and ourselves safe within it.

That you can arrive at such conclusions simply through a spirit of open-minded enquiry, and a reading of respectable, intellectually coherent literature, tempts one into viewing all the dancing and prancing and magical chanting of our multifarious religions as merely the decorative trimmings of folklore, a lore from which the underlying meaning has been stripped or rendered so opaque as to be inaccessible to all but a few. I don’t mean to denigrate religion. Any system, no matter how fanciful, that attempts to map out the inner landscape must be respected, and sincere persistence within a system of belief is perhaps still the surest route to any kind of spiritual enlightenment. But my own experience is that you don’t need religion to make your way. You already carry the clues inside your head, and there are a sufficient number of footprints now, crystallising from the fog of intellectual enquiry, to lead us on. We may not find ourselves rocketed into the core of the paranormal, nor even religious enlightenment, but in any kind of spiritual endeavour it is not the destination that’s important, so much as the journey.

It’s not that I can explain any of this, or tell you with any more certainty than the next muddle headed mystic what any of it means. Nor less have I the guile, nor indeed the intent, to persuade the non-believer to my peculiar point of view. Indeed I suspect that for the modern pagan at least the journey and one’s relationship with the inner world must always be a personal one.

And of course the great mystery remains unsolved, why the cosmos would want to take such a limited view of itself, and from the perspective of so many different pairs of eyes – also that since it’s so very, very old, there surely can’t be many lessons it has left to learn through the pitfalls and pratfalls of our small, intermeshing lives. But even Hermes that master alchemist of old, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer that one.

For now, this modern pagan shoulders his pack and moves along the trail, curiously and perhaps inappropriately reassured by the journey so far. And if you find any resonance here, sufficient to have reached this closing paragraph in my narrative, I suspect you too are a modern pagan my friend. And not a bare bottom between us,…

Bibliography

Consciousness beyond life – Pim Van Lommel

The Spiritual Brain – Beauregard/O’Leary

Science and the Akashic field – Laszlow

Science and the near death experience – Carter

A course in Demonic Creativity – Cardin

Is there Life after death? – Fontana

Life beyond death – what can we expect?  – Fontana

Randi’s Prize – McLuhan

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For this year’s Christmas/New Year walk, I chose Pendle Hill. It’s not that far from home and we’ve been having some atrocious weather recently with heavy snowfall and temperatures down to minus seventeen, rarely rising above minus six, for weeks, so I wasn’t even sure I’d make it this far. But the UK has a very changeable climate, and temperatures today were up to eight degrees with 100% humidity, making for a very steamy walk, burdened down by a pack filled with winter gear that, although advisable, wasn’t needed.

The most popular ramble up the hill starts from the visitor centre at the lovely little hamlet of Barley, which nestles beneath the steep north face. However, I chose to approach it from the village of Downham today, along a recently established network of permissive paths, which approach from the less steep, but I think the infinitely more pleasing country to the east. I’ve never liked the ascent from Barley to be honest. Heavy erosion of the hill by countless witch-mad pilgrims in the past has resulted in a somewhat ugly and unsympathetic reinforcement of the paths. The approach from Downham however, could not have been finer, the way less trodden and fairly easy to follow in good weather.
Part of the Assheton Estate, Downham village is unusual in that the owners have traditionally forbidden things like overhead power cables, ‘phone lines, aerials or satellite dishes. The usual mad clutter of  signage that blights every other place is also missing here – I couldn’t even find a fingerpost pointing me to the visitor centre carpark. The result is that Downham is one of the most beautiful and beloved places in Lancashire. It possesses a timeless charm that makes it a favourite location for filming period dramas. It’s also famous as the setting for the 1961 movie “Whistle down the wind” starring Alan Bates and Hayley Mills. Oh,… and the car park was free.
 
The area’s association with witchcraft goes back to the infamous “Lancashire witch trials” of the seventeenth century – twelve individuals being rounded up in a political and religious purge, and accused of murder by the “dark arts”. The purge affected many parts of England, but it was the number of accused rounded up in Pendle area that has given it its notoriety. It’s still a subject of controversy in Lancashire, and even as recently as 2009, petitions were being presented to the government pleading for the cases to be reconsidered, and the accused pardoned. So far however, the convictions stand. I think the best that can be said is that in the summer of 1612, ten of those unfortunate twelve were executed by the state on the flimsiest of pretexts, and that there was considerably more than witchery at the bottom of it. 
 
The tale of the Lancashire Witches is a very dark one. The official “factual” verision of events are told in Thomas Potts’ The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancashire, (1612). The story was also the basis for William Harrison Ainsworths novel The Lancashire witches (1849) and Robert Neill’s Mist over Pendle (1951).

 Even today Pendle remains a mysterious and evocative hill. It’s more than just imagination and an having an awareness of its dark past that sometimes raises the hairs on the back of your neck when walking here; the hill  also has a history of inducing visions and mystical experiences in the pilgrims who wander up it. It’s best viewed from the A59, as you head west, from Ribchester, towards Clitheroe. From here it takes on a most dramatic appearance, often boiling with mist and very broody. At 1827 feet, it falls just short of being officially classed as a UK mountain. Its summit, although steep in the approach reveals a vast moorland plateau. You need a map and compass to wander about up here, and the nous to use them. 

  The route I followed is the one roughly described on the Walking Britain website at http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/walks/walks/walk_b/1818/. It was about six and a half miles of fairly rough moorland terrain. I met no witches along the way, just good natured walking folks, several of whom shared with me a friendly greeting, comments on the weather, the route,… the season. There was even one kind soul on the summit sharing the coffee from his flask with a bunch of strangers who’d forgotten their refreshments. This sort of thing, though insignificant to the cynical, restores one’s confidence, and one’s sense of purpose.

I always feel better after returning from a hill, and today was no exception. On the summit of Pendle, the mists swirled up from below, they formed mysterious planes of shifting nothingness, cutting off the madness of the world below. And souls sat in isolation or gathered in small groups, quietly chatting, nibbling their sandwiches, sipping their drinks – an odd melancholic, meditative, and it has to be said a typical summit scene – good natured, satisfying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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