#199 – Mysterious Lancashire – Pendle Hill

“Pendle, oh Pendle, thou standest alone, 'twixt Burnley and Clitheroe, Whalley and Colne”

“Pendle, oh Pendle, thou standest alone, ‘twixt Burnley and Clitheroe, Whalley and Colne”

map

Pendle Hill has an air of mystery about it.   The hill dominates the view in much of Central Lancashire, but stands separate from the Pennines, the Bowland Hills and the Yorkshire Dales which surround it.    At 557 metres (1827ft) altitude it falls short by 53 metres (173ft) of being classes as a mountain, but Pendle doesn’t really care about that sort of nonsense.

Starting out from Nick of Pendle

Starting out from Nick of Pendle

Recently I had a job to take care of in nearby Preston, but Border Collie ‘Mist’ had been in the back of the car for a couple of hours, and was ready to run off some energy – the nearest bit of wild country was good old Pendle Hill, so that’s where we went.

Looking east down Ogden Clough ….

Looking east down Ogden Clough …

…. but we’re going this way, heading north

…. but we’re going this way, heading north

There’s a local saying, “If you can see Pendle, it’s going to rain – if you can’t see Pendle, it’s already raining!”   For such a low hill it has a surprisingly bleak and wild aspect, and Pendle is frequently shrouded in mist.   Its old name Penhul is ancient, with elements at least 1000 years old, with Pen meaning ‘Hill’ in the ancient language of the Britons and Hyll meaning exactly the same in Old English.    The summit has an even older past, with the remains of a Bronze Age cairn, possibly 4000 years old.

Leaving Ogden Clough to head over Barley Moor

Leaving Ogden Clough to head over Barley Moor

Paved section over Barley Moor

Paved section over Barley Moor

However, the area is much better known for the famous witch trials of 1612.   At its simplest level, the allegations of witchcraft in the Pendle area came out of a feud between two families.    The two old women who headed the families were regarded as healers and ‘wise women’, but an ugly undercurrent of protection rackets set the scene for false and malicious accusations – religious intolerance and suspicion were added to the mix, and a total of ten villagers were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft.

The Author and Border Collie ‘Mist’ at Big End (the summit)

The Author and Border Collie ‘Mist’ at Big End (the summit)

Chris at the summit

Chris at the summit

A mere forty years later, George Fox found heavenly inspiration here – “As we travelled, we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered”.    Thus inspired, George Fox went on to found the Quaker movement.

Heading north along the summit plateau

Heading north along the summit plateau

Wet in places!

Wet in places!

When I first started walking the moors of Lancashire, Pendle Hill was always in view somewhere.    As a teenager I used a bicycle to get to the hills, and Pendle was far enough away from where I lived to make me ignore it for years, and it was only when I got the use of a car that I paid my first visit to the hill – I’ve been a fairly frequent visitor since.

The big beehive cairn ….

The big beehive cairn ….

…. bigger than you might think

…. bigger than you might think

Plaque on the cairn

Plaque on the cairn

The easiest and most satisfying route starts from Nick of Pendle, and follows Ogden Clough for a short while before heading for the summit at Big End.    From there a soggy, muddy path skirts round the summit plateau, ending up at a huge bee-hive shaped cairn, built by local Scout groups to commemorate the founding of the scouting movement.

Wide expanses of …. nothing!

Wide expanses of …. nothing!

Despite its lack of height and its small area, Pendle is surprisingly wild and desolate, and it’s easy to see why the hill has become regarded as a place of mystery and inspiration, and when the mist creeps across the summit it’s easy to imagine darker times and deeds.

Time to head back

Time to head back

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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10 Responses to #199 – Mysterious Lancashire – Pendle Hill

  1. Fantastic post Paul, great photos too! One I have yet to do 🙂

  2. Cheers SP – only just down the road from you – sort of! 🙂

  3. elmediat says:

    Excellent account of the area. Fascinating post that reminds those of us from other lands of English literature studies and classic tales of England.

  4. We did that route when we were kids with my parents and I don’t remember any path at the time – definitely the unusual way up! Richard has it to do yet and I want to do both ends really but there isn’t a satisfactory way back to the start I don’t think.

    Love the quotes – they’re all good. And I didn’t know it was ‘hill hill’!
    Carol.

    • I think the path is fairly recent Carol, probably became more obvious over the past ten years.

      As for the name, it’s ‘Pendle Hill’, so that’s ‘Hill Hill Hill’ – so good they named it thrice 😀

  5. M.Barrett says:

    My favourite hill! Great post. I’ll hopefully be covering it again later this year when I do the Pendle Way walk

  6. Pingback: #200 – Parlick Pike and Fairsnape Fell | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  7. Pingback: A Pendle Hill walk - Halfway Hike

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