22 August 2015

Confession Time

I've got a confession to make. 

Despite spending half my year helping to organise the Ride2stride Festival and the other half banging on about it I've never actually been to a walking festival. Other than R2S that is. So this week I decided to do something about it and headed over the border into Lancashire and the Pendle Walking Festival.  

It's easy to overlook Pendle in favour of its more glamorous neighbours, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, but it's an area full of charm and interest where walking is king. There's a comprehensive year round programme of walks and the annual Pendle Walking Festival is billed as the biggest free walking festival in the country. This year's programme offered 68 guided walks from a family friendly 2 miler to feed the ducks to the "very hard"  23 mile Pendle Marathon. There are plenty of references to witches including Alice Nutter's Way and the Lancashire Witches Walk. This is a 51 mile long distance walk from Barrowford to Lancaster Castle following in the footsteps of the accused to their trial and subsequent executions in 1612. The festival programme offered the walk over 4 days and I wish I'd seen it earlier. Definitely one for the to-do list. 

Instead I chose an 8 mile linear 'hard' walk from Colne to Gawthorpe Lodge, stopping at Smithson Farm for tea and cakes before returning to the start by bus. Eighteen of us, including a walk leader and back marker, left Colne along the Leeds Liverpool canal and headed for Barrowford. 
Crossing the canal

I was lucky enough to walk with a local man who had lots of information about the village and its history. The day was further enlivened by a fellow walker who greeted everyone we met seemingly by name. I'd just started to think she came from the biggest family in Lancashire when it was revealed she was the local councillor and we were walking through her patch. The route continued through a combination of lanes and tracks with glimpses of Pendle Hill shrouded in mist.
Pendle Hill

As someone said, "If you can see Pendle Hill it's going to rain. If you can't it's already raining". Finally we reached Smithson Farm where we found a mini mining museum, a campsite, rescue ponies and a tea room with the lightest scones outside of Yorkshire. The walk finished with a lovely 2 miles through open countryside and along the banks of the river Calder where we spotted a heron and were accompanied for much of the way by a flock of circling Canada geese. 

I arrived in Colne on my own but with no worries about spending the day alone. If our own Settle-Carlisle festival is anything to go by I was expecting a friendly bunch and I wasn't wrong. The first person I met was also a Ride2strider and everyone went out of their way to be welcoming. I came away no longer a walking festival novice and determined to seek out more events like this. It's a brilliant way to explore our wonderful countryside in the company of knowledgeable locals. Now where's that list. I think I'm hooked.

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