Brontë country ripples across the high moorlands of the South Pennines. It dips into deep cloughs and takes in old hamlets and ancient farmsteads, linked by worn packhorse trails, on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border.
The highest point of this remote landscape is the undulating ridge of Boulsworth Hill at 518m (1,699ft).
It commands the southern horizon over the tiny, picture-perfect village of Wycoller, erstwhile location of Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This rollercoaster ramble explores the heart of this atmospheric realm.
Walk from the car park to Wycoller, crossing the eye-catching packhorse bridge towards the ruins of Wycoller Hall – thought to be the inspiration for the novel’s Ferndean Manor. But instead of falling victim to a dramatic fire, this hall sadly fell into disrepair over the generations.
Join the track upstream, with the water to your right, soon passing the ancient single slab of Clam Bridge. Follow the track to the left and fork right up the concrete road – on the Brontë Way – to Dean House.
Beyond this farmyard, follow the field road, pass immediately left of the old workings and rise beside the waymarked wall, passing posts, to a cross-wall.
Turn right through the handgate onto a well-used path below the higher wall. Cross the massive Tank Bridge and turn left above the beck on to the Pennine Bridleway, soon bending right outside a substantial wall. Keep ahead as a tarred lane swings in from the right. Follow this for about 750m (820yds), to a concreted lane opposite a barn.
Take a seat
Turn left up the lane; beside the enclosed reservoir drift slightly left on the path up the flank of Pot Brinks Moor, a steady climb waymarked frequently with low posts.
The climb levels at Little Chair Stones – a collection of low, wind-carved boulders perfect for taking in the view with a flask of tea.
Turn right along Boulsworth Hill to reach the trig point at
the boulder Lad Law (which
this hill is also sometimes known as). This is the highest point of the South Pennines. There’s a feeling of utter seclusion here amid the eroded gritstone tors, which erupt from the wind-riffled moors, buffering the ridge of Boulsworth Hill.
On clear days, the view is fabulous, with Blackpool Tower and the Lake District mountains in one direction and boundless moors and tors rippling forever south; an immense, engaging, virtually trackless wilderness.
Perhaps this is the wuthering that haunted Emily Brontë –
it’s certainly a gathering point of the potent winds that scour
the backbone of England.
Catch this on a blustery day and you know you’ve reached somewhere special – somewhere out of the ordinary.
Back down the hill
The worn path back down is marked by yellow-topped posts. If you look back, you’ll notice the top of the hill roughly lines up with the distinct profile of Pendle Hill
in the distance.
It’s a steep descent past
the tall, fluted Abbot Stone
and you’ll soon reach the hill-foot road beside a rough,
Turn left, then within 50m (164ft) go right over a gate-side stile, heading for the fringe of the nearby wooded clough.
Walk ahead for 450m (492yds); then head left (following the waymarks) down to a lower footbridge beyond a railed boardwalk. Turn right to the higher handgate and trace the gravel path around the buildings at Gilford Clough.
Now remain on the access lane, passing further secluded cottages before reaching a road at the old Empress Mill in Trawden, largely redeveloped as housing.
Time to head back
Turn right over the bridge and walk uphill for 370m (400 yds) to reach the lane on the left, for Alderbarrow Farm.
Just above the cottages, take a left by the cattle grid, up the domed field to the higher farmhouse at Little Laithe.
Continue in line to the nearby Germany Farm, skimming just to the left on a waymarked path that passes through the drive.
At the nearby junction, go ahead on the path heading for the right edge of the distant fir woods. Skirt the inner edge of woods to gain a farm access road, dropping down this to reach Wycoller. Turn left to return to the car park.
HOW TO GET THERE
Wycoller Country Park is signposted (brown signs) immediately east of Colne off the A6068 Keighley Road (take the Trawden turn). Look then for (poor) signposts in Trawden off the B6250 (turn sharp-left at War Memorial). Free car park before Wycoller village
FIND OUT MORE
Discover Pendle Centre
Boundary Mill, Colne BB8 9NW
Tea Room at Wycoller
A great range of meals and snacks including pies and toasties.
Rye Flatt Farmhouse B&B
Laneshaw Bridge BB8 7JB
Queen Street Mill Textile Museum
Harle Syke, Burnley BB10 2HX
Fascinating working steam-powered weaving mill.
OS Explorer OL21
Grid reference: SD 929356