Last Monday I was out in Lancashire to do a reccee for Crosby Rambling Club. Our route would climb Pendle Hill which will always be associated with Witchcraft. The trials of the Pendle Witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history.
The twelve accused lived in the area of Pendle Hill and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. Eleven went to trial, nine women and two men, and ten were found guilty and executed by hanging. A whole tourist industry seems to have been built up surrounding the Witchcraft Trials and there were constant reminders on our walk with symbols of witches used on the waymarks.
We started our walk from the village of Barley and headed out towards Black Moss reservoirs. At the end of Lower Black Moss reservoir we turned left to cross several fields to reach Barley Lane.
Ahead of us we could see Pendle Hill looking magnificent with a coating of snow on its upper reaches. Crossing the road we followed a track towards Pendle House farm and we were soon at the foot of the climb.
Pendle Hill is only 1827 feet in height and falls just short of being classified as a mountain, but as it is isolated from the Pennines it seems huge and it felt like a mountain as we began our climb. (It needs to be over 2000 ft. in height to be classed as a mountain)
As we climbed up we came to the snow, at first it was patchy and the path was clear.
Looking back we could enjoy the view with the snow covered Pennines in the distance.
Soon we were in a white wilderness as we headed towards the trig point. The summit known as The Big End is the site of a Bronze Age burial mound and there have been settlers here since the Stone Age.
Conditions were marvellous, six inches of snow, but we had clear blue skies and sunshine. It was hard going and I was starting to fall behind.
So far we had been following the Pendle Way but after the trig point we headed in a westerly direction across Barley Moor. We carefully picked our way as it was treacherous underfoot. It places we could see the stone slabs but in others countless boots had compacted the snow and turned it to ice. Walking in the deeper snow was no better as there were hidden holes to catch you out.
We reached the top of Ogden Clough and followed the path down with the stream below us. The path was quite clear and well walked although it is not shown on the map. As we lost height we came out of the snow but entered the gloop, thick mud and just as slippery.
Eventually we reached Upper Ogden reservoir which looked lovely in the low sun.
We were now back on the Pendle Way and we followed the clear path down to Lower Ogden reservoir.
Just before Lower Ogden reservoir we turned right to cross the stream. Nearby there was a large inscribed stone. It was one of ten installed along the Lancashire Witches walk. They are known as the Tercet stones and each one is embossed with a stanza of a poem.
The poem was written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and tells the story of the Lancashire Witches.
The Lancashire Witches.
One voice for ten dragged this way once by superstition, ignorance. Though shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witch: female, cunning, manless, old, daughter of such, of evil faith, In the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.
Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed, over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods. On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.
From poverty, no poetry, but weird spells, half-prayer, half –threat: sharp pins in the little dolls of death.
At daylights gate, the things we fear darken and form. That tree, that rock, a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.
Something upholds us in its palm – landscape, history place and time-and above, the same old witness moon.
Below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked like hags, unloved and underclass, badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then, when difference made ghouls or neighbours child beggars, feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain: sunset’s crimson shame: four seasons, centuries turning in Lancashire.
Away from castle, judge, huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave and future tourists who might grieve.
We climbed up through the woods and then followed the signs for the Pendle way heading downhill to the village of Newchurch in Pendle.
There is a shop selling all sorts of items related to the tale of the Lancashire Witches.
We then followed a confusing system of tracks and field paths to reach the village of Roughlee. Here we found a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the witches.
The statue was erected in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the witches trials. Alice came from the village of Roughlee and unlike many of the accused ,she was comparatively wealthy.She made no statement either before or during the trial, except to enter her plea of not guilty to the charge of murder. She was hanged in Lancaster in August 1612.
We now had a straightforward stroll back to Barley, initially along the road where we saw a beautiful waterfall before following the stream. a delightful end to our walk.
It had been a super day out in the snow. 11 miles with almost 2200 feet of ascent. No wonder I felt tired.