If wild camping is the art of going unnoticed then we utterly fucking failed at that last night. We’d crossed back over the brook to pitch up as there were more trees, but what we didn’t notice was the low path on the other side. We didn’t notice it because no-one used it, until two blokes used it, and then we noticed it. They also noticed us. Bugger. But we were too tired to care much to be fair. If we saw a tent pitched in local woods we wouldn’t bother the occupants, we reasoned. I had the best nights sleep anyway, it’s always so warm in the woods, I even woke up sweating absolute buckets and had to ditch a layer, and for the first time this trip the tent was bone dry in the morning.
Anyway. My bowels predictably shunned the carefully crafted hole I lovingly provided for them this morning and instead waited until we were two miles into our day before insisting we power walk the remaining four and a half miles to the next toilet whilst clenching. To be fair, as frantic as the walk was, it was right along the river so we had a beautiful view to go with my panic, and it was mercifully flat until the final ascent into the village of Hurst Green where I utilised their public facilities with a two-flush monster. Thanks, bowels.
The trail led us into Hurst Green anyway and it meant I’d cleared out a bit of space for an exquisite cake at Millie’s, a tiny former cafe in the village which had to quickly rethink things during Covid when sitting indoors was banned. She still has two tables outside though, but the inside is now a little tuck shop so as well as a menu you’d expect from a village cafe you can pick up snacks and canned drinks, as well as ice cream including a dairy free flavour. She’s now classed as a takeaway, and she thinks she’ll stay that way once restrictions are fully lifted.
The cake, though. Oh my gosh, the cake! It was divine. I asked if they had anything dairy free for Tarrant but they didn’t. I was just about to buy her a couple of bags of Skittles when another woman popped her head out of the kitchen and said, “I made some dairy free brownies for a private order, I can sell you one of those if you like?” Yes please! Tarrant said it was delicious. How lovely of them was that? We liked it here a lot, I would live here, but apparently you can’t just decide you want to move somewhere just because you like the local takeaway. Something to do with needing to find a job and blah blah blah. Whatever.
We chilled outside, had a couple of hot drinks whilst they kindly charged my beast of a power bank, and we thought about how to tackle the rest of the day. We didn’t have a lot of miles to cover and we had many, many hours to cover them in. We didn’t want to get too close to Preston as we were worried there’d be less and less camping options the closer to the city we got, plus there’s a nature reserve which of course is off-limits for camping, and it just doesn’t bloody get dark here! Like, ever! Stealth camping is much harder when it’s daylight. We wouldn’t be able to pitch until late. We decided that, at whatever cost, we’d have to find something before we got to Brockholes. Fine, we’d have a chilled one then. Ribchester looked like it had three pubs, we could check those out and just take our time.
Again it was just a super easy, really beautiful stroll along the river, but this time without the frenzied clench-waddle. We noticed that the river was much higher and wider than it had been. Earlier on in the hike a lot of the riverbed was exposed, probably on account of the recent dry weather, but here it was definitely a mighty beast that you wouldn’t want to meet after a severe downpour. It was hot and I don’t think I’ve sweated this much in the north before so of course fluid replacement was necessary at the first pub we came to; the Ribchester Arms. We later found out it’s known locally as the Ribby Arms, because of course it is. We asked for two halves of something local and were served Cumbria Way. It was bloody lovely, and not just because half my body weight had seeped out through my pores on the way here and I was gasping.
It took me a long time to get used to real ale, I never used to be a fan it just tasted like flat, warm armpit to me, until I worked at a pub which served the stuff and I had to learn how to tell if it were ready to go on or not. Slowly I began to differentiate between bad armpit and good armpit, and eventually I beat my taste buds into submission and actually started enjoying the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still generally go for a cold, fizzy piss-water as a rule, but now I enjoy rocking up to a new place and demanding to sample their local cask beverages. So that tasty flat, warm armpit drink slid down far too well but we were adamant we wanted a half in each of Ribchester’s three pubs, and we also needed feeding, so we headed off back along the trail and found a bench by a war memorial to sit on whilst we applied peanut butter wraps to our faceholes. I swear, as soon as this hike is over if anyone so much as shows me a jar of peanut butter I’ll fucking throw it at them.
Next stop was the White Bull where we sat in the garden sipping halves of more local brew. I had a Wainwright Golden Beer and Tarrant enjoyed a Moorhouse’s Pride Of Pendle. We have different taste in beers, Tarrant likes her beer to taste like beer and I like mine hoppier than a rabbit on crack. We got chatting to a couple of locals in the beer garden out the back and I mentioned Tarrant’s reluctance to move up north. A woman assured us that the north was amazing and really friendly and it basically is. I’m from Stockport originally but I’ve lived in the south for over twenty years now and every time I come back up to visit family I’m reminded of how nice people are up here. You can pop into the pub for a pint and make three new friends in minutes. Down south you’re lucky if anyone even looks at you for any reason other than to try and get you to sign up for a direct debit to charity. Anyway turned out that Ribchester’s third pub, the Black Bull, didn’t open until 4pm and as much as we had time to kill we though we might as well carry on at a strolling pace.
It’s unbelievably straightforward from here on in across fields of farmland and past woods which were fenced off. Even if they weren’t I don’t think they’d be any good for camping, the ground looked steep and completely overgrown. There are a lot more cows than sheep once you get to this part of the world so that meant lots of staring straight ahead, walking at a steady pace, and hoping the cluster of bovines surrounding the stile we needed to get over fuck off, ideally before I had a nervous breakdown. Once we were past Alston Hall, however, we found ourselves in a vast, seemingly endless field with exactly zero ovine or bovine activity. Perfect!
Trees shielded us from the sod off great big mansion and we walked all the way down the fenceline separating the field from some more woods, well away from the trail, and settled down. This would do nicely. We did wait a while, just to make sure no one came this way, but no one did so we pitched up and got some sleep.
Clitheroe to Alston, Lancashire, England
Stayed at: Wild camped in a field by Alston Woods.
Activity: Hiking the Ribble Way from north to south.
Useful shit to know…
- There are public toilets at Hurst Green and Ribchester.
- Millie’s Takeaway opens at 9am and closes at 3pm. I think she might be closed on Mondays.
- There’s a pub in Hurst Green, and three pubs in Ribchester. There’s also a Spar in Ribchester, and a cafe called Potters Barn.