The last of several walks in and around Barley. (Minimal mention of the Pendle Witches this time!) I wanted to check out the area between Barley and Blacko, so after cheese and pickle sandwiches I headed for reservoirs and streams, pondered over woodland sculptures, said hello to Alice Nutter and almost came face to face with a couple of Curlews.
- Black Moss Reservoir
- Pendle Sculpture Trail
- Stansfield Tower
- Alice Nutter artwork
Map (click on it to open in a new window)
The cheapskate in me will always look for a place to park without paying. This usually means having to park miles away from where you want to be, but being a walker that doesn’t matter! If budget airlines take you to airports in a different country to your destination that’s fine by me; I can walk. So for this north of Barley treck I park west of Barley rather than pay a pound for all day parking in the village. (Denial of much needed local income, I hear you cry. Prevention of noxious exhaust gases contaminating the village air supply, I respond. And besides, a quid is 20% the price of a butty in the Pendle Inn.)
But there are other advantages to parking where I am. Within two minutes I am face to bill with a couple of Curlews. The fact that I’m just out of range of a decent camera shot tells you something about the length of the hooters on these birds. I’ve never seen one so close and they are quite something. They must keep knocking them on tree trunks and fence posts. I watch them for several minutes, fascinated by their to-ing and fro-ing before they disappear over the lip of the slope. It’s a nice start to the walk.
The Pendle Inn is one of those dark pubs with nooks and crannies. It serves up good atmosphere and a decent cheese and pickle sandwich. Outside people are enjoying the hot weather and watching me set off into the heat. I’m soon up the hill approaching Black Moss reservoirs and looking back across the valley. At Lower Black Moss I spot something rushing along the shoreline which is not only beyond the range of my camera, but my eyesight too. The angler is much easier to see.
Between the two reservoirs, Lower and Upper Black Moss, I read the information sign that informs us that these are ‘compensation reservoirs’, that is, they don’t provide drinking water but put water back into the environment to compensate for water extracted elsewhere. From here I decide to check out Aitken Wood and the Pendle Sculpture Trail.
What I should have done is download the Sculpture Trail leaflet before coming up here because I only saw five pieces of artwork and there are actually over twenty! Established to commemorate the torture and murder of ten witches in 1612 the trail was part of the 400 year celebration of the Pendle Witch Trials. Lead artist Phillipe Hendford from Colne, sculpted the extraordinary ‘segmented trees’, whilst Sarah McDade created ten ceramic plaques, one for each of the locals accused. Martyn Bednarczuk carved a lifesized witchfinder general, complete with a note with Alice Nutter’s name on it. Steve Blaylock created metal animals up in the trees, but I saw none of them because a) I was distracted by the artwork at ground level and b) I tend not to look up when I’m walking downhill. Take my advice and download the leaflet in order to get the most out of the trail. The artwork is fascinating and thought provoking and the woodland setting makes for good hunting. (Pendle Sculpture Trail leaflet here.)
Back down the hill and I stop on the bridge at the reservoir inlet to watch guppies and sticklebacks, damselflies and a couple of fish, possibly trout, didn’t get the chance to ask them, in the crystal clear water. Then I’m back on the top road and the route turns towards Blacko.
From the top of Wheathead Lane with its windbattered trees I can see Stansfield Tower on Blacko Hill. The tower was built in 1890 by a grocer called Jonathan Stansfield in order to see into Ribblesdale. Being a grocer and not an engineer his tower was about a thousand feet too short for the job. Another local rumour says he was trying to look at his girlfriend in Gisburn, which even by the standards of eccentricity, is just plain bonkers, unless his girlfriend was very tall. However, we owe a debt of gratitude to these nutters with a small ‘n’ for populating our countryside with follies and curiosities. I would take my hat off to him, but I’m not wearing one.
The road drops down to Blacko Water, and I should say at this stage I was contemplating doing this walk anti-clockwise, but chose to do it the other way round. If faced with a steep hill make sure you’re coming down it, not going up it. Yes I know you have to go up it first before you can come down it, but let’s not split hairs. At Blacko Water I find myself in one of those green fields, which on a perfect June day with a powdery cerulean sky and ne’er a breeze to ruffle the fringe, you can start to see how the Romantic poets managed to get so intoxicated by nature. Grass path underfoot, a babbling stream, no horseflies; it’s just idyllic, it’s ‘let’s not go home’ idyllic. How can I get a job that involves sitting in this field all day doing buggar all.
It’s at moments like this that I become riven with feelings of joy and dispair. Joy at being in a place like this, but also dispair in that I’m just a visitor, this isn’t my life and my life isn’t one of daily bliss. There are people in this world who live a life that seems devoid of tedium: writers, artists, people who have made a living from something they want to do instead of something they have to do. I don’t know the statistics, if such a thing exists, but I’d take a punt and say that for every one person doing what they love, there are several million stuck in a desperate place trying to get out. They’ll go to the grave never having experienced one day when they weren’t at the beck and call of someone or something else.
A beautiful field indeed.
The route now takes me back to Roughlee and its pristine gardens, stone houses, there’s Roughlee Hall surrounded by a coterie of bungalows, there’s a high white building with a witch nailed to the side of it. Farther up the road Pendle Water tumbles over the waterfall, a constructed remnant of the village’s former mills, long since demolished. Then…
Quietly, trudging along the road, is the statue of Alice Nutter, perhaps Roughlee’s most famous resident (even though she probably never lived here). Cast in bronze and Corten steel, she’s oxidising and rusting with the afternoon sun on her back as she ignores the traffic and solitary dog walker. The statue of Alice Nutter was created by David Palmer, a local artist, in 2012, and unveiled, appropriately enough, by the drummer of a pop group! (Okay, it was Bobby Elliot of the Hollies, who comes from Roughlee so that’s all right then.)
From Roughlee I join the Pendle Way and follow the stream back to Barley, passing along one of the shortest terrace streets I’ve ever seen, before coming back into the village; past the car park with its extravagent £1 all day charge, past the pub with its broomstick riding witch and £5 sandwiches, past Beck Side and Pendle View – which can’t possibly have a view of Pendle – past the meadow grasses and high stone walls, up the hill to the verge where I’m parked. The Curlews gone, the walk a vivid memory.
Thoughts now are of fish and chips and how to achieve an idyllic life.