Tour de Barlick

'Beat the Bounds' in the footsteps of our ancestors (5 min read)

Beating the Bounds in Barnoldswick

Lockdown has provided me with much need to research local adventures, which is honestly something I have been meaning to do for a while. Recently I walked the Colne-Skipton disused railway line, and found this to be such a great little introduction and the much needed kick up the backside to get exploring again.

Searching the internet, I happened up a trail, and a term that I’d never heard of before, ‘Beating the Bounds’. On further reading it turns out its an ancient British means of familiarising a community with the boundaries of their village, town, parish, etc. If you’ve ever looked at a map and wondered what BS stands for (and it isn’t what you think it is, but trying to find one is), it means ‘boundary stone’. This was the old means of marking out territories, when maps didn’t exist, and was there to make others aware of your land.

The tradition though of ‘beating the bounds’ was conducted once every several years with the young lads of the community being taken along. Everyone would also have a willow wand, stripped of bark. This they would use to strike the boundary stone, I guess to imprint the memory with a physical action. What also happened though, was the hitting of the kids at such sites as to remind them of where they were. If it was a stream they’d be thrown in, if it was a hedge, they’d be thrown in or over it and if they were at boundary stone, then they’d be struck with the willow wands or turned upside and had their heads bounced off it. Quite extreme ways to instil a memory of a location within a population.

Starting from Victory Park, I cracked on in the blissful British weather in a clockwise direction around Barlick. I’d had an early start at 7am, as for some reason my body clock was keen to wake me from 4:30am, and I couldn’t bring myself to do nothing with my morning. Feeling relatively fresh, there was quite a road section as I walked towards Greenber Field, but the road doesn’t strike me as a busy one, especially at 7am on a Sunday morning.

One of the locks near Greenber Field

Steady walking I arrived at Greenber Field Lock, the highest point on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, at this point I began my walk along the canal. I find walking next to water a very tranquil and peaceful experience, and with only the chirp of birds and the odd skittering of livestock in the field, it was deafly quiet. This section as well was also following the Pendle Way, and I would also follow this for a short while when it came off the canal, leading me to St. Mary le Ghyll Church.

Continuing to Rainhall and beyond and I had walked this the day before whilst out for a walk on the another local adventure, which I am yet to write about. But I am slowly building up a map of the area in my head, which is quite a nice feeling getting to know where I live. Eventually reaching the canal again this time heading to Liverpool as opposed to Leeds, the walk lead me to Salterforth, and The Anchor Inn. Needless to say, I was gutted. I love a mid walk pint or latté, but two things were against me, one was the fact lockdown is still in play, but also I don’t know many rural pubs that are open at 7:45 in the morning.

It was now time to head up on to the moor, towards Prospect House, which was a slightly unexpected slog. With no bag, I also felt a bit overdressed and in the need of a taking off a layer, so vent zips and jacket wide open was the only cure. As it was a slightly grey morning, the view wasn’t magnificent from the top, but I do really appreciate seeing where I’ve been, it does give a little boost to the soul.

Great weather over the Aire Valley

As I headed over the moor to Folly Lane, I noticed there was little signage, and it appears the landowner hasn’t made it particularly obvious for walkers. Also no styles, and all gates are chained, leading you to only navigate yourself over a couple of cattle grids, which is a bit crap to be honest. When I got beyond Prospect House the only style I came across was broken, and the gate again locked. Please take care as you make your way over this part of the walk.

Descending in to Barlick again down Folly Lane, I was tempted by the idea of a walk up Weets Hill, as I still haven’t got round to it yet. Passing a house, a very random post box setback in a wall feels a little out of place up on the hillside, though I doubt it is in use anymore. As I reached the bottom of Folly Lane to then take a FP to Esp Lane, I noticed the first ‘Beat the Bounds’ stone. It was the first site of the trail I had come across, and I found a few more on the way.

Making my way through tens of fields on the way to Bracewell Lane, I reflected on the walk itself, and wondered how often it was walked. Do many people actually walk the complete route anymore, and does anyone really care. In sections the route is poorly marked, as a right of way, let alone as a way-marked trail. Since the idea was conceived it appears to be lost on the Visit Pendle website, which I think is an awesome resource for local adventure. There a few good challenges to get your teeth in to.

Making my way back in to Barlick, I was delighted to have completed the local trail. There is something satisfying about completing a marked trail, feels like you can tick something off. I have lined up a couple more recognised and way-marked trails in the near future to add to this and the Walking with Witches Trail. These include the Foulridge: Beating the Bounds and Pendle Way.

Resources for self-guiding this walk, pay a visit to Visit Pendle. If you go about any walks in the hills, make sure you wear appropriate clothing, and take food and drink with you. Also make sure you can read a map, as urban navigation can be tricky at times, and straying on to private land a simple error.

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