Lancashire Walks - Barnoldswick

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:40 04 April 2016



Keith Carter

Keith Carter explores Barnoldswick, an important industrial centre with beautiful countryside

Barnoldswick or ‘Barlick’ as they call it, has played its part in the industrial life of East Lancashire, firstly with the weaving of cotton and later in the field of engineering with the development of the Rolls Royce engine. The cotton mills have disappeared, some converted to alternative uses taking advantage of the north-facing roof lights ideal for engineering workshops. Rolls Royce still employs upwards of a thousand workers here making fan blades for aero engines and Silentnight produce their famous beds in the town.

One reminder of the industrial past is Bancroft Mill built in 1922 and at its height operating over 800 looms. It finally closed in 1978 and lay empty until a group of enthusiasts decided to move the Smith Bros and Eastwood tandem compound engine from a mill near Skipton to Bancroft and restore it to working order. These days they raise steam on a number a days throughout the year for the benefit of the public. My wood-burning stove, an Esse, came from Barnoldswick, makers of stoves to the likes of Florence Nightingale and Ernest Shackleton.

For this month’s walk we can park at the kerbside outside Bancroft Mill which is signposted with brown tourist signs from the town. Walk back towards Barnoldswick and you will notice a ginnel marked Forty Steps on the right, not our way but interesting for those of us who feel a need to count everything. The fact is there are 39 steps which raises speculation whether this could have been the inspiration for John Buchan’s book. At the end of the film the memory man is asked “Where are the 39 steps” at which a shot rings out to stop him from revealing the truth. Who could have guessed the answer was Barnoldswick! (Not really).

Take Moorgate Road, a turning on the left among housing and at the next fork keep ahead on a public bridleway marked with Pendle Way signs. Climb on a concrete path that bends to the left at some stables and you can look down over the town with the Bancroft Mill chimney prominent among the rooftops. The lane continues to rise and you should see a spring emerging from the wall of a house on the left. Just past this, leave the lane by a concealed gate in the wall on the right, step across a drainage ditch at the edge and turn left through the gate to start the climb up the grassy slopes of Weets Hill.

One thing to avoid is remaining on the lane as although it does climb the hill it then moves away past a number of individual properties with stunning views to arrive at Duck Pond Farm presided over by a huge carved head reminiscent of the standing stones of Easter Island. In any event you don’t want to be here and if you are, go back. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

Our objective is the freshly whitewashed triangulation pillar on the summit of Weets Hill, at 397m a fairly minor mound but one from which the views are wonderful, looking towards Pendle Hill, the Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales and the Ribble Valley towards Settle. Weets is grit stone, the last outpost before giving way to limestone at Barnoldswick.

Make for a repeater mast to the south west where we meet the Pennine Bridleway at a gate, a sign pointing left and indicating three miles to Barnoldswick. I’ll bet the people who established the Pendle Way wish they had been granted the kind of budget available to the Pennine Bridleway, a most efficiently signposted route which regrettably you can’t say of the Pendle Way.

We’re on tarmac for a bit, the road passing two tidy properties. We leave the road at the second footpath on the left, following the Pennine Bridleway sign to the left. Hereabouts you can see cotton grass growing, the fluffy tops once used to stuff pillows. It can’t be spun, the fibres are too short. I have read that young grouse now feed on cotton grass, having adjusted their diet following the decline in young heather shoots.

Our path is shown on the map as Lister Well Road but I could find no trace of Lister Well itself. This must have been a drover’s road judging by the wheel ruts worn in it and the evidence of repairs done at various times using various materials including concrete. As it approaches the town it becomes surfaced and soon meets the B6251. We pass a fenced area of rough land where the vegetation has been virtually denuded and the bark stripped off the trees to head-height. The cause of this vandalism? Goats! I had no idea they could be so destructive.

Turn left on joining the main road and at the next fork keep left down Gillians Lane to bring us back to Bancroft Mill.

Compass points

Area of walk: Barnoldswick

Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale

Distance of walk:

Time to allow:

Refreshments: None on the route. Cafes and pubs in Barnoldswick. Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs

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