Ribble Valley Walk - Downham and Pendle Hill
PUBLISHED: 11:31 17 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:51 20 February 2018
If you haven’t ‘done’ Pendle Hill yet, follow in John Lenehan’s footsteps
STANDING at 1827 ft (that’s 557m in new money), Pendle Hill is big and is not shy to show it. It’s huge big end dominates the skylines of the rural villages and towns of the Ribble Valley on one side and the more industrial towns of Burnley, Nelson, and Colne on the other.
It is probably the most visited hill in Lancashire and it is mostly climbed in two ways. One is the easier way from the Nick of Pendle where the path leads over Apronfull Hill and onto the upper reaches of Ogden Clough then, to prevent erosion, a flagstone path leads gently to the summit. The hard way is to set off from the lovely village of Barley and climb the almost vertical steps up the big end. There are however other routes up Pendle, some known mainly to fell runners and sheep. The route I have designed lends a little to both.
1. Leave the Downham village car park, walking away from the village and just before reaching the road marked Quiet Lane turn sharp right up a track leading towards Worsaw Hill and go through the gate between the buildings. Carry on across the field, bearing slightly right to another gate and then with a wire fence on the right follow this up to a stone stile. Cross this and follow the wall on the right until it turns right. Leave the wall and keep straight across the field passing a footpath marker and then a copse of trees on the right to a gate with a stile to the right. Cross the stile then keep left and follow the fence until a track appears coming up from the left.
Note: Apparently, the name Pendle Hill, when broken down, means Hill, Hill, Hill. It comes from the Cumbrian Pen and the Old English Hul. It was once known as Penhul and then, as the old meanings were forgotten, the name Pendle dedveloped and the word hill was tagged on.
2. Follow the track down past a stone building then over a small footbridge and onto a stile that leads onto the road. Turn right and follow the road as it bends left then sharp right. On the apex of the bend a track leads away towards Pendle Hill and is sign posted ‘Cul de Sac’.
3. Follow the track and where it turns left towards a farm a path leads straight on, follow this to a stile in a wall. Cross this and then turn right crossing the foot of a gully. A footpath marker points out a path that climbs very steeply up the right side of the gully, follow this to the top of the gully and turn right. Marker stones lead the way to a wall and when reached turn left and follow the wall gently uphill until it turns right, turn with it. The path follows the wall for a while but starts to bear left away and up hill. Follow the path until a junction marked by a pile of stones then turn sharp left and climb the path very steeply up until reaching the foot of a natural ramp that climbs right across the face of the hill. The path follows this and then bears left as it reaches the slopes of Mearley Gully then bears left again and climbs to the big stone pillar of Scout Cairn a monument to the Scouts Organisation. The views are stunning from here.
Note: On the steep slopes of this side of Pendle Hill in winter a rare phenomenon occurs. As the snow melts pockets are left in holes a gully’s and in one the remaining snow leaves an impression of a witch on a broomstick. I have seen it a few times and it is quite visible from the A59.
4. Leave Scout Cairn with Downham on the left and head directly for the stone shelter straight ahead and pass this to a ladder stile over a wall. Cross the stile and turn right and follow the path as it eventually turns left and becomes wide. Follow this across open moor to another ladder stile by a gate. Cross this and head straight for the triangulation pillar that marks the summit of Pendle Hill.
Note: At Hallowe’en the summit is one big party venue as people climb the hill to celebrate on the supposed Witches Hill. This comes from the history of supposed witchcraft that once was rife around the villages and hamlets at the foot of the hill and the book Mist over Pendle by Robert Neil. The trials of the Lancashire Witches are well documented, as is the tourist industry generated by them.
5. Leave the summit and retrace the route but bear right away from the stile and follow the path downhill and at a point where it turns sharp right cross the stone stile on the left.
6. Once over, keep straight on downhill. Do not take the path right that follows the wall. The path becomes steep then starts to bear left and becomes very narrow as it contours the face of the hill. Eventually it meets a bigger path coming down on the left. Join this and follow it down crossing a stile in a wire fence and then onto a stile that joins a road.
7. Cross the stile and the road and the stile directly opposite into a wood. Follow the path as it drops down a series of steps to a stile. Cross this and turn left and uphill passing a bench and reaching a stone barn. Directly opposite the barn there is a stile in a wall on the right. Cross this into a field with a wire fence on the right. Follow the fence downhill until it reaches a stile, cross this and again follow a wire fence on the right until it reaches a gate stile leading onto a track. Leading to the buildings of Clay House.
8. Cross the track and the gate stile on the opposite side and then turn left and follow a wooden fence on the left. Reach a footbridge and cross this and then follow a fence on the right to a stile in a wall, cross this and then with a wire fence on the left and a stream on the right to another stile and once over head diagonally left towards the cottages of Downham. There is a footpath marker, and a stream on the right, follow the path by the stream and onto a stile.
9. Cross the stile leading into the village. Follow the road back to the car park.
Start and Finish: Downham Village Car Park
Distance: 6.3 miles/ 10.2 Km
Time: 4 Hours
Terrain: Tough and very steep in places and boggy on the lower slopes. Not a walk to be done in mist. Good boots and possibly gaiters following wet conditions.
Facilities: There are public toilets in the village.
Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale.