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Printable Version Foulridge Lake District

FROM THE LEEDS MERCURY SATURDAY NOVEMBER 1ST 1879 FOULRIDGE AND ITS LAKES.Comparatively few people are aware, as they are carried from Skipton onward to Colne, that just at the point of junction of Lancashire and Yorkshire is a lake district that possesses many features of great beauty. The Midland Railway in this direction to Colne runs at a low level, and consequently the lake district of Foulridge cannot be seen. Why the place should be called Foulridge is not quite clear, as it is anything but foul. Perhaps some of your correspondents may let us know in the column of “Notes and Queries” in the Leeds Mercury Supplement, where so many queer things are explained by those who have leisure to search and inquire. The district around Foulridge is mountainous, intersected by deep valleys, where the land is rich and highly productive, where the inhabitants are quaint in their habits, rude in speech as in manners, but kindly and hospitable, rough diamonds that only need breaking to find the gem of kindness within. This is the region of the “Lancashire Witches”, not those bewitching ladies who are toasted at post-prandial gatherings, but real witches, who, like Dame Demdike, at her abode, in Malkin Tower, were supposed to possess divination which they had derived by an unholy alliance with the Evil One. These superstitions, long exploded amongst the intelligent, still linger round many a fireside in the wild and lonely moorlands of Trawden and Pendle Forests, vast tracts of waste extending between Lancashire and Yorkshire, where the mosses were formerly a secure refuge for outcasts, and could only be traversed safely by those who knew the district well. When Oliver Heywood, persecuted and almost heartbroken, resigned himself to his fate, placed his trust in God, and mounting his old horse at Northowram, near Halifax, threw the reins over the animal’s neck, and allowed the horse to go wheresoever it listed, the patient creature, as meek as its master, wandered away into these wilds. At nightfall the horse reached a farmhouse near Gisburn, as much done up as Oliver Heywood was; but the old Puritan Nonconformist had not lost his faith in God. He alighted, prayed, and there came forth from her humble abode a kindly woman, who took the sufferer in and gave him food and shelter, though she knew him not. That was the beginning of a church which Oliver founded in the district, and which was abundantly blessed of God. If you stand on Boulsworth Hill, 1,700 feet above the sea, you look over this district, barren and waste in places, but you also descry mansions, parks, woods, great tracts of fertile land, ancient halls, rounded green hills, with a fringe of mountains in the distance, the giant form of Pendle Hill to the left, 1,800 feet above sea level, and in the bottom, though still high up, the lake district of Foulridge. You cannot help but observe, by the clouds of smoke that arise here and there, the presence of many manufacturing towns and villages, where the bounteous waters of the region are subsidised for the use of man, and you know that down there, amid that smoke, are thousands of families blessed by the labour found for the people. Could Oliver Heywood have stood here, looked over the tract that his horse listlessly trod, and known , as we know, how fruitful of good has been his and the labours of others of our pious forefathers, he would have fallen on his knees and thanked God for all that He had brought about among these hills and dales. You will have observed that southward are a range of hills, extending westward to the hills of Bowland, northwest to Ingleborough, and north to the limestone district of Craven, where the craggy rocks, the high verdant plains, the mural precipices of limestone, and the nestling woodlands, shine out grandly in the bright sunshine. This is a fair vision, a scene rarely excelled, where you can look on the grand and beautiful in nature, and know also that these places which appear to jar with their smoke on the romance of the scene, are the spots where the people find employment, where there are plenty of churches, chapels, and schools, and where the peaceful pursuits of commerce ate slowly but surely emancipating the workers from the thraldom of ignorance and superstition, once so prevalent amongst the primitive race who, in the early time, had fixed their abodes in this wild border region. If you want to be infected with the romantic you can read the “Lancashire Witches,” the scene of the fiction being laid in this district. If you desire more solid reading you can consult that delightful book, Baines “History of Lancashire”. If you wish to know what the people of this corner of Lancashire now are you must go down amongst them, and you will find much to interest you, many things to amuse you, some few things that you will not like to see, and places, like Foulridge, that will astonish you with their beauty, and delight you with a pure and salubrious air.            The lakes of Foulridge are five in number. They are on the top level of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, supply that means of internal navigation with water, and there is a fall each way - in the one direction to Leeds, and in the other to Liverpool. The largest lake covers 100acres, having the heights of Colne Edge on one side, and the green hills of Foulridge on the other. In the distance, seen through the opening between those hills, are the heights of Boulsworth, the range of eminences known as Jackson’s Ridge, and Emmott Moor and Combe Hill, the latter 1557 feet above the sea. The lakes are a little apart, but in some places, on the surrounding hills, several of them can be seen at once, and as each are embosomed in hills, with more or less wood, from certain points they look pretty and even may be styled grand. The canal passes through a long tunnel from Foulridge, the boats being legged through, which means that men lie on their backs, and putting their feet against the top of the tunnel, propel the boats. A Bradford friend, who had often boasted of the beauties of Foulridge, took us, during the recent fine days of October, to his charming estate on the banks of one of the lakes. It was a bright, clear day, but cold. The woods had donned their glorious autumnal tints. The ruddy brown of the beeches, the golden- hued sycamores, chestnuts and birches, contrasted with the green oaks and ashes, the fields were vividly green, ferns waved in the hedge bottoms, and the decaying verdure generally presented a very pleasing appearance, just before the fall of the leaf. In exposed places the trees were gaunt and bare, but in the sheltered dales the foliage was as thick as in summer, and the pyramidal spruce was dark green. From Skipton you run past the thick woods of Broughton; the hills of Carlton; old fashioned Elslack; the pretty village of Thornton, embosomed in wood, where there is a great limestone quarry; Earby, where (there) is a branch line to the somewhat too notorious town of Barnoldswick; the pleasant village of Kelbrook; and into Foulridge station, where we alight. On either side of the line are many beautiful places; the land rises into hills, dotted with farmhouses, and the country appears well cultivated. A Bradford gentleman has a snug farm on one of the hillsides, where he spends his leisure, like our friend. His house can be seen a long distance up the line. When the train reaches a certain point he waves a white handkerchief. The signal is understood at the farm, and on his arrival his fire is lighted and his room made cozy and comfortable. Unfortunately, his mode of signalling has got wind. His friends, fond of a practical joke, wave white handkerchiefs out of  the carriage windows at all hours of the day, and the farmer and his wife, who have charge of the place, are puzzled to know what to do. Our friend has adopted another method. His house is twenty minutes walk from Foulridge. As you ascend the railway bank he pauses, asks you to look round, and says, “Now then, is this place worth coming to?”You think it is, as you look on the beautiful landscape around, and wonder why that term foul should be applied to such a singularly picturesque ridge. Our friend exclaims, “Listen, and you will hear something!” You wonder what is coming next, as you have already been considerably astonished by what you have seen. You hear the whistle of the fast speeding train you have left filling the valley with its sound, as, three times repeated, the last well drawn out, comes on the still air a capital imitation of chanticleer, “cock-a-doodle-doo!” “What’s the meaning of that?” you ask, never having heard a signal like that on the railway. “Oh,” said our friend, with a knowing look, “They will know by that I’m coming, and ‘owd Pollard’ will have the fire lighted and the kettle singing.” “Owd Pollard” is the occupant of one of our friend’s farmhouses. You are taken on the way round the banks of the 100 acre lake, a magnificent sheet of water, and you are delighted with the wild scenery around. The lakes are not usually full at this period of the year, but this is an exceptional season, and they are full. You are shown the entrance to the canal tunnel at Foulridge, and the outlet at the other end, where the water descends in the direction of Liverpool. Here you turn off. A winding, narrow green lane, shrouded in trees, stripped of leaves, high banks on either side, crowded with ferns and creepers, a brawling brook nigh at hand, a slight ascent to the right, and you are in the presence of the farm of Slipper Hill. The house and buildings are in excellent condition, the old windows removed, and larger panes substituted. Pear trees climb up the front, the porch is covered with creepers, a green meadow, dotted with trees, slopes downward to one of the smaller lakes, on whose glassy bosom floats a couple of pleasure boats. The land behind the house rises, is covered with trees, and you are in one of the loveliest nooks imaginable, with an outlook over the lakes and the green hills and woods that border them. You stand, delighted, as a robin sings you his evening lay, the afternoon drawing on apace. Our friend has what he calls a boat-house on the banks of the lake, shadowed by a fine sycamore, and with a pretty garden in front where geraniums were blooming and mignonette scented the air. The boat-house is two stories in height, a plain but neat structure. In the basement is kept the fishing tackle, oars &c., with an iron stove, alight, that will cook for 30 people. The upper room, approached by an outside stone staircase, is large and lofty, elegantly furnished, with an iron camp bed in one corner, and from the curtained windows you look onto the fair scenes presented to you on every side. The fire burns brightly in the grate. You feel at once that you are at home. Our friend has cupboards and lockers in abundance and from these come forth choice wines and spirits, beer, if you like it better, or you can have a cup of tea or coffee in “quick sticks”. “Owd Pollard” is the waiter, and considering that he is beyond the allotted span of “three score and ten”, he is deft at the job. What a grand old man! Look at that noble head, with a massive forehead, broad face, powerful nose, and strong mouth; at those great shoulders, strong arms and massive legs. With his grey hairs straining over his head, and his once well knit and powerful frame, “Owd Pollard” bears no inapt resemblance to the gnarled and knotted oaks that may be found not far from his dwelling. He is a cheery old fellow, who makes the best of everything. The fresh air has made the repast welcome, and one eats with relish and gusto. Cigars are lighted. You listen to “Owd Pollard’s” amusing stories as he is chaffed by his landlord, who vows he’ll turn him off the farm; but he says, “Aye, but I won’t go; I know when I’ve got a good landlord, and I’ll not leave him.” You say as you feel, “Well, this is a real pleasure. Who could have thought there was such a lovely place about here? This is a sensible mode of enjoying life.” As you sit, the fish are bobbing up in the lake, and it seems alive with them. There are plenty of perch and trout, and abundance of snigs and eels. The sun has gone down with great beauty, and the grey mists are creeping over the hills, as you go upwards to a higher farm of our friend’s, where you look over three lakes, and have a fine prospect of the country. Step inside and see what a nice house it is. Come into the cool dairy and look at the luscious milk settling in the pans, ready for making butter. How cool, how sweet, how clean everything is! What an outlook from the house windows! They tell you that it is very cold up here in the winter, and you can believe it. Last winter was very trying. Walk into the place where the cows are kept. It is as sweet as the house. There is no smell but the pleasant odour that clean cattle have. The floor is paved, the cows are well bedded, the liquid matter flows quickly away. You say, “Would that all farms were kept in the order that this is, and that all cattle were as well cared for.” There is a piano in the house and the daughter plays, but this accomplishment does not interfere with the work of the farm. You return to the lower farm, and find tea set out. Beautiful bread, sweet butter, fresh laid eggs, and oh! such cream, which passes into your cup with a “flop”. As Mrs Pollard bustles about, attending to your comfort, you perceive, by the dim light of a couple of candles, that the place is scrupulously clean, that Mrs Pollard is nearly as old as her husband, but a hearty body, full of hospitable instincts, and anxious that you should make a good tea. She has no occasion to be anxious on that score. Although you have only recently lunched, the fresh air has stimulated your appetite, and you do enjoy that simple meal. “Owd Pollard” lights his pipe, and as he sits puffing away and cracking jokes with his landlord, with the red glow of the fire playing on his face and the queer old chair in which he sits, you feel supremely happy in listening to him. You find that he is a “yellow”, that he is fond of reading newspapers, and though a “yellow” he confesses that the Leeds Mercury is one of the best papers he can get hold of, as there is such a vast amount of reading in it, and he can sit for hours poring over its pages. He likes tobacco, and longs for a bit more of that smuggled stuff they call “Cavendish”. He tells you all about the witches, though his historical lore is somewhat hazy, but he knows every place in the neighbourhood, and has a rare fund of anecdote of persons and of events that have occurred. His father and grandfather occupied Slipperhill before him. One of those ancestors dealt in horses, and this man taught a horse to jump onto a raft on the lake. It took him a long time to accomplish it, and his neighbours thought him mad, but that “Owd Pollard” knew what he was doing, and when his horse was fully accomplished in the art of jumping onto a raft and staying still when it was there, he sold it for a fabulous sum to the French Government. Then the neighbours knew that “Old Pollard” was not so mad as they thought. Coming out into the quiet evening air the fish were flopping up in the lake more than ever, and had time permitted there might have been a grand catch. We walked back to Foulridge station in the still night air, not a sound disturbing the quietness of that secluded place. The train came up from Colne, we were hurried off to Skipton, had a long and annoying wait there, and reached home thoroughly satisfied with our first visit to Foulridge and its lakes. In the springtime this district is said to be very beautiful, from the great number of wild flowers that abound, and the fern gatherers may obtain a plentiful harvest of these lovely things. The residents make merry over the fact that, at one point, where the two counties join, the family may breakfast in Lancashire, dine in Yorkshire, and retire to rest in the former county. Within easy distance are several other interesting places, such as Sawley Abbey, the fine park of Gisburn, Bolton-by-Bowland, and the lovely scenery of the Ribble and the Hodder. At the foot of Pendle Hill is a curious eminence known as Wessa, composed of layers of what appear to have been the remains of a sea beach, in which are various beautiful fossils. Talking to a farmer, at the foot of this hill, he gravely assured us that Pendle was the highest hill in England, and he persisted in it. Pointing to Penyghent, which can be seen from that point, he was told that it was considerably higher than Pendle, but the old man persisted that he was right. The next generation, with School Boards in active operation, will be better informed on the topography of their native country.

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 Added on:  21/01/2011
 Author/Source:  The Leeds Mercury
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 Posted by:  wendyf
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