#78 – Witches, hitches and follies

Wainman’s Pinnacle and Earl Crag from Cowling

The Aire Gap has been an important travel route over the Pennines since Neolithic times, with the Aire and Ribble Valleys allowing a sheltered crossing of the Pennine Hills that doesn’t rise higher than 170 metres – the nearest crossing at a lower altitude is in the Midlands.  One of the most familiar landmarks with travellers heading down the Aire into West Yorkshire is the escarpment of Earl Crag, with its two follies decorating the skyline.  It’s just begging to be walked – So we did.

Wainman’s Pinnacle and Earl Crag with Pendle Hill behind in the far distance

Earl Crag rises above the A 6068 road, about one kilometre from Cowling, and is easily identified by the follies of Wainman’s Pinnacle and Lund’s Tower high on the ridge.  One kilometre isn’t much to hang a decent walk on though, so we decided to visit our old friend the Pennine Way to make a longer trip – Although I’ve never walked the whole trail, I’m slowly (and unintentionally) doing the route in sections, and should be finished in about another hundred or so years at the present rate.

The Pennine Way on Green Hill Lane above Cowling

Where the Pennine Way drops into a valley, it often follows ancient drove roads.  We did the same in reverse, following Green Hill Lane to gain the higher ground of Ickornshaw Moor and Cat Stone Hill.  This is typical Pennine country, of little commercial use other than for rough grazing for sheep or cover for grouse shooting, and it’s quite common to come across shelters on otherwise deserted moors.

Shooting hut (shelter) on Ickornshaw Moor

Stone ‘causeway path’ on the Pennine Way

Beyond the shooting hut a stone ‘causeway path’ took us dry-footed to the 440 metre contour.  We were heading for Great Wolf Stones, about 300 metres off the Pennine Way.  You have as much chance of seeing a wolf here as you would have seeing the ‘Black Hunting Dog’ in last week’s blog (#77) but you do get a view into Lancashire.

The view into Lancashire ….

…. but looking brighter into West Yorkshire

Unfortunately for this Lancastrian the view to the west was looking dull on this trip, but heading back into West Yorkshire it was looking brighter.  Just as well really, as that was the way we were going.  The moor was trackless but thankfully dry underfoot, as we made our way to one of the strangest gritstone outcrops I have seen, the curious-looking, flat ‘Maw Stones’.

Chris approaching the Maw Stones

Chris risking life and limb to climb the Maw Stones

The ‘Maw Stones’ is probably the only gritstone outcrop that Chris will ever climb, but at a height of one metre it wasn’t too challenging and she survived the experience OK.  Having done that it was time to see what the witch had been up to.

Chris at the Hitching Stone

The Hitching Stone weighs about 1060 tons and is the size of a small house.  The experts say that the ‘stone’ was part of nearby Earl Crag, and that it was carried to its present position by glacial action.  The local story is that the stone used to lie on Ilkley Moor, until the local witch became fed up with it getting in the way – she solved the problem by driving her broomstick into the rock, and ‘hitching’ it ten kilometres to its present location, possibly a world record for stone hitching at the time, and certainly a personal best.

Close-up of a ‘stone’ weighing 1060 tons – the biggest boulder in Yorkshire

If this seems rather unlikely, there is a hole running through the rock where the witch stuck her broomstick, although the experts (again) say that the hole is all that remains of a fossilised tree.  The Stone has a long history as a boundary marker of the townships of Cowling, Sutton and Keighley, and was also the site of a Lammas fair that took place every 1st August until 1870.  Lammas, or “loaf-mass” day, was a Christian festival with links to the ancient Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, named after Lugh, the sun god.

Wainman’s Pinnacle

As with the trip up Pen Llithrig y Wrach, there was no witch in evidence, and the chances of Lugh turning up were looking equally slim.  So, time to visit the follies.  Readers outside the UK might find the typically British concept of a ‘folly’ somewhat bizarre.  It basically involves someone with more money than sense building something that is more or less useless!

Lund’s Tower

First on the route was Wainman’s Pinnacle, built in 1816 by local landowner Richard Wainman to celebrate the British victory at Waterloo and to commemorate the death of his son in the Napoleonic wars.  800 metres further on is Lund’s Tower, built in 1897 by James Lund of nearby Malsis Hall to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  It doesn’t appear to have gained him a knighthood, but a (precarious) staircase inside the tower does at least give a good view of his former home in the valley below.

Wainman’s Pinnacle perched on top of Earl Crag

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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15 Responses to #78 – Witches, hitches and follies

  1. amazing pictures and breathtaking views 🙂


  2. Yasmine says:

    Hi Paul. Great commentary on what looks like a really good walk – thanks for sharing


  3. Thought it was going to be about Pendle when I first spotted the title!
    Lots of familiar ground there. Dixie and I had lunch next to that shooting cabin on Ickornshaw Moor when we were doing the Pennine Way and I filtered some more water for myself at the stream there. Unfortunately though, the cabin was locked and it was p*****g it down with rain so we had no option but to sit outside it!


    • Hi Chrissie, and thanks for the comment.

      I’ve got an archive item for Pendle waiting in the wings for a week that I don’t manage to get on the hills, so wait around long enough and it will turn up! 🙂

      In post #75 I described a walk we did in Bowland – In my youth we often used shooting boxes in Bowland as bothies, but they all seem to be locked up and secured now. It’s as much down to the thoughtlessness of users leaving rubbish, etc, as to the selfishness of the owners.

      It’s a difficult one – The Mountain Bothies Association have done stirling work on access and repairs to bothies, but I know of one (secret) bothy in Cumbria, where those in the know ask that the MBA are not informed of its location. Bothy politics I guess! 😦


  4. John Lindsay says:

    Grandparents from Lancashire. I mean to revisit. Love bleak places…..we have one called Fala Moor not far from here, below Soutra Isle. Good stuff, Paul!


    • Thanks for that, John.

      It sometimes amazes me that desolate wild places can be found so near to the industrial heartlands of the North of England, but these places still exist, too wild and mean to tame!

      Aye, get yersel doon tae Lancashire fer a look – the natives are (fairly) friendly 🙂

      This Lancastrian has a tenuous link to the ‘Hiellans’ (far Northeast, possibly) but a quarter of my lineage is Liverpool Irish, fresh from the bogs of Co Mayo. We’re all bloody mongrels if the truth were known, and none the worse for that 😉


  5. smackedpentax says:

    excellent article Paul…I’ve never walked that area before but you have whet my appetite…also the picture of the shooting lodge reminds me of something that happened to me several years back. I was with a couple of mates on the moors (I won’t say where) and we were caught in a storm so we took shelter in an old shooting lodge – which wasn’t locked. Imagine our surprise when we found about 2 dozen crates of whisky stored there and dozens of freshly killed grouse hanging up! Despite temptation we didn’t take anything…but we could have had we wished…


  6. beatingthebounds says:

    I don’t know those moors Paul, or the edge. (Although I have walked the Pennine Way so I must have been in that area?) Looks like a cracking walk.


    • It’s one of those bits of Pennine Way that are neither one thing nor the other – pleasant walking in good weather though, and the stone ’causey’ paths are great for keeping feet dry 🙂


  7. Lots of things I didn’t know about there, like that hut and those stones… but we call those pinnacles Sutton Pinnacle (did you go up it?) and Pepperpot…


  8. Didn’t do the Tower on this trip, as a large family (in both sesnses!) were struggling up and down at the time, though I have been up the stairs in the past – not the sort of thing Chris enjoys!

    Now you mention it, I’ve seen those names used somewhere, but can’t remember where I read it – you can’t beat local knowledge though, so thanks for that Carol.

    If you haven’t been to the Hitching Stone it’s well worth the short walk – perhaps when the arm is recovered and you want to get moving again.


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