• Start: Pendle Heritage Centre
  • End: Pendle Heritage Centre
  • Country: England
  • County: Lancashire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and the Rising Sun in Blacko
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale
  • Difficulty: Medium
Google Map


Keith Carter braves the elements "“ and the mud "“ on a walk around Barrowford

Our walk this month starts from Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford where there is good parking available costing only what you are prepared to put into the honesty box.

This period house was built by the Bannister family whose best known descendant was the four-minute mile king Roger Bannister. It includes a café, shop, toilets and well displayed information on the history of the house and a whole floor on the story of the Pendle Witches who met their sad fate on the gallows in Lancaster in 1612.

One characteristic of this area is the running streams and rivers which provided the motive power for the spinning and weaving mills that came with the Industrial Revolution. Barrowford straddles one such river called Blacko Water which along with Pendle Water and others feeds into the River Colne. These are all ‘waters’ and not rivers, perhaps appropriately distinguishing them for their narrow swift running, shallow nature, controlled in places by weirs and sluices of which some old examples remain.

Study the map of this region to the east of Pendle Hill and the names stand out, hinting at the gritstone hardness of the landscape – Roughlee, Blacko, Cockpit Hill, Thorney Holme – no-nonsense names that speak to us from the past – ‘the sharp names that never grow fat’. I love this area.

It’s closed-in, secretive, not for tourists however much the Tourist Board speaks of Witches Trails and Cycle Tours, not tidied up and prettified but hard and unrelenting and dark as peat.

Walking in this district is no easy thing. It requires a map, good boots and a willingness to face up to cattle and mud and the elements. If you can take these on, you will be rewarded by the vistas of higher ground, the brown peaty waters and the ever-present dry stone walls.

A reader recently took me to task for not saying that a walk was muddy. Well, I’m saying it now. I returned home from this walk with boots needing a good wash under a running tap. They went straight into the sink. (“They went where?” Mrs C) But I don’t see why you would go out walking if you minded mud.

From the car park opposite the Heritage Centre take the gate to the narrow, riverside path to Higherford. At the road turn left over the bridge and immediate right into a lane called Foregate which becomes Barleygate Lane. As the houses peter out take a footpath that strikes off to the right following the riverside as far as a farmstead called Waters Meeting, the name taken from the confluence of Blacko water and Pendle Water.

Cross the bridge here and take a footpath on the left through a tight gate and stay on the right bank until you come to a footbridge over a tributary.

Look up to the skyline and pick out a wicket gate which is our route, not through the field gate to the left of it. Once through the wicket gate keep ahead to cross a stile then follow a line of trees leading to the restored buildings of Blacko Foot, emerging onto Blacko Bar Road. Turn right here and descend to the bridge where there is a lay-by on the left and a Blacko boundary sign. The name Blacko seems to derive from ‘Black Ho’ or hill.

Once across the bridge, take the footpath on the left with steps leading down to a path along Blacko Water. Stay with it, ignoring a footbridge crossing it to the left of the path and keeping ahead to cross a stile where we turn left and soon meet a lane. Cross this lane, the path descending steps and crossing a footbridge and then keep to the left of the water, go through a gap and at the next stile, turn right.

Proceed with a fence to your left and you soon notice a stile in this fence with a footbridge below it. Take this stile and footbridge then turn left towards another restored farmstead ahead with warning signs about children and ducks. We avoid the property – and those twin hazards – by going through a gate to the right emerging onto a track.

The large farm complex is the Admergill Estate, the name unusual for this area presumably deriving from the given name of Admer. It is similar to that of St Eadmer to whom the church at Bleasdale in Bowland is dedicated. Could this be where the name comes from?

When you reach this access track turn right and rise to meet the main Gisburn-Nelson road where by turning right we can follow the verge then the pavement into Blacko village. To the left the tower on the hill is Stansfield Tower built by a local grocer around 1890. It is said he wanted to see into Ribblesdale but could not do so and consoled himself that he didn’t really mind since he had enjoyed building it. Blacko’s most famous son is Jimmy Clitheroe, the 4ft 3in music hall entertainer at one time familiar to everybody and immortalised by his catchphrase “some mothers do ‘ave ‘em” now not used so often.

The Rising Sun pub is worth a stop, serving Moorhouses beers and a regular guest beer. If you can prise yourself away from the bar, continue down the hill and at the barber’s shop take a track leading off to the right and downhill to the bridge at Water Meetings that we crossed earlier.

Cross back over it, turn left and follow the familiar path back to our starting point. A quick visit and cup of tea at the Pendle Heritage Centre rounds off an enjoyable afternoon.


Compass points

Area of walk: Barrowford

Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale

Distance: Approx 5 miles

Time to allow: 3 ½-4 hrs

Refreshments: Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and the Rising Sun in Blacko

Wheelchair/pushchair friendly? No.


The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Lancashire Life 

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