where climbers try new pegging ideas, climb
the obvious routes and peg the unobvious; where
lines are altered, either by design or mistake.
The hagglings and arguments about whether a
climb goes free, or with a peg; are now down
in black and white ...
... One cannot help wondering whether Lancashire
has more to offer than people think.'
Leo Dickinson, Mountain magazine, November 1969
up until the early 1960s Lancashire was essentially
regarded as a through route for the majority
of climbers who were either going northwards
to the mountain crags of the Lake District and
Scotland, or southwards for Wales. Very few
of them diverted to investigate the local crags.
Indeed despite protestations at intervals by
the local activists, who insisted that there
really was some good climbing to be had, for
many years the red rose county was virtually
a backwater visited only by a relatively few
of the first references to Lancashire climbing
(other than on the crags of the southern Lake
District fells) was in 1937 when Allan Allsopp
wrote an article on Cadshaw Rocks for the Mountaineering
Journal. Brownstones Quarry also got a mention
in the Lancashire Caving and Climbing Club Journal
in 1949 with an article by E Parr. Later, Allsopp
enthusiastically introduced Cadshaw into the
Kinder, Roches guidebook of 1951 to draw attention
to the possibilities in Lancashire. By 1960
Edward Pyatt's book 'Where to Climb in the British
Isles' was eagerly received by climbers in many
areas, especially where no guidebook was available.
In the Lancashire area it included several small
outcrops such as Quernmore Crag, Hugencroft
and Wolf Hole Crag, and there was mention of
a small limestone crag, Fairy Steps. The rather
tantalising news however was that there was
a large quarry somewhere between Preston and
Blackburn called Hoghton Quarry and that this
had yielded some hard artificial climbs as well
some free routes in the late-Fifties. Another
surprise came in 1964 when The Climber magazine
carried a front cover picture of an imposing
aid route up the Main Wall of Wilton Quarry.
actually happened next is known to very few
climbers. Early in 1966 an enthusiastic young
student, Les Ainsworth, the Meets Secretary
of the Blackburn Student Climbing Group (B.S.C.G.),
wrote a letter to the Peak Committee of the
BMC. The letter, which was a request for a sponsor
for an envisaged guidebook to Lancashire, was
received by Dave Gregory who read:
seems that Lancashire has been somewhat shelved
away by the guidebook writers in preference
to Yorkshire and Derbyshire, though I don't
know why, because it is highly populated with
climbers (Brown and Whillans for instance) and
it has got many worthwhile routes of all standards
from 100 foot XSs at Hoghton, to 25-foot problems
at Brownstones, or from easy peg routes (some
now going free), to a difficult 15-foot overhang
on bolts at Hoghton, or from coarse natural
gritstone at Cadshaw to limestone at Clitheroe.
There would be about 250 routes.'
Gregory, probably rather cautious about such
a request from a 'young' unknown climber, replied
asking for more detail then passed on the problem
to Eric Byne the guidebook Editor of the Peak
District asking him to evaluate the material.
Byne was curious to know if the guidebook was
to stand in its own right or would join the
Peak District empire. He wrote:
you wish this guidebook to be one of the series
of 'Rock Climbs in the Peak'? - (I suppose that
we could stretch the Peak that far north for
an odd volume).'
was also cautious and referred back to Jack
Longland who (as chairman of the Peak Area Committee)
according to Byne ruled over the Guidebook Editor.
Longland was a man of decision and promptly
suggested that they should encourage Ainsworth
to get on with the work subject to 'discovery
if the B.S.C.G. is competent to produce the
guidebook'! Longland commented that they might
be in trouble later on if any other group proposed
a guidebook to mid- or North Lancashire and
pondered the point. Somewhat undecided he commented
sound sensible enough but I don't know much
further communications between Ainsworth and
Byne, the former offered to donate all royalties
from the sales of the guidebook to the Mountain
Rescue Committee - a noble gesture. In one letter
Ainsworth demonstrated his faith in Byne when
were getting a little desperate about managing
to get a guidebook published and had decided
not to go ahead until we had a definite chance
of getting it published ...
guidebook can be made or broken by the Editor,
and so we would like you to edit the guidebook.'
was starting to get enthusiastic by then and
estimated that there were about 500 routes in
the area (double his estimate to Dave Gregory!).
He was also getting 'visions of grandeur' as
he said that he was contemplating including
Heptonstall Quarry which had an out-of-date
typescript guide and as one of the best quarries
in Britain ('barring Dovestones and Hoghton'!)
it needed publicity. But in the Lancashire guidebook?
By June, Byne was told that the team was starting
work in earnest and that they aimed to have
a finished script ready within twelve months.
In addition to working on the guidebook Ainsworth
also took on the task of editing the new trendy
magazine Rocksport early in 1968. The first
edition included an 'Interim Guide to Hoghton
Quarry' attributed to Paul Hamer, but mostly
written by Ainsworth - to whet people's appetites.
There was also an article by Bill Lounds in
May 1969, which described a few routes at Warton
Crags and Trowbarrow Quarry. Lounds dangled
to most Lakeland climbers who travel via the
M6 there are extensive limestone crags close
to Carnforth. Indeed one of the biggest quarries
in the area is plainly visible from a car travelling
over the last miles of the motorway.'
soon as the magazine came out there were climbers
wandering all over the road while craning out
of their cars looking for big limestone crags.
by1969 after the death of the Editor Eric Byne,
the Peak District guidebook team was starting
to have problems with publishing its own guidebooks
and with a backlog of guidebooks waiting to
be published, there would have been a long delay
before the Lancashire guidebook could be printed.
Les Ainsworth was faced with a big decision.
Finally, he took a deep breath and decided to
publish his guidebook under the Rocksport banner.
He went for a streamlined factual volume and
pruned the text to the bone by omitting Geology,
Natural History, and even the climbing History
section. The guidebook was reviewed by Leo Dickinson
in Mountain magazine in November 1969 and there
was a mouth-watering picture of Mandarin to
lure the masses.
a result of the publicity, early in 1970, Dave
Gregory and I (as two typical Sheffield climbers
who alternated between the Lake District and
Wales at weekends) decided to see what Lancashire
climbing was all about. Having already swerved
all over the motorway while scanning the landscape
keenly for large limestone crags, we decided
to have a look at some of the local delights
starting with Trowbarrow Quarry. Standing under
the great blank wall which had not then been
rent by cracks caused by explosive charges we
stared in amazement at the face wondering what
protection could be obtained and after doing
Jomo, a nominal tick, we decided that there
was a lot of potential - but that the crag was
far too loose for our liking. Warton crag was
also quickly dismissed, but after raving about
Farleton Crag we headed south and ended up at
Wilton. After a couple of routes in Wilton Three
we walked along the length of Wilton One and
we were IMPRESSED! Some of the harder routes
looked suicidal, protection seemed to be minimal,
rock in places was dangerous and the finishes
were mainly loose, vegetated and filthy. Where
were all the nice wide jamming cracks? Commenting
that only Dukes Quarry near Matlock had impressed
us as much we promptly left for home. The crag
- and Lancashire - could wait' There were bigger
fish to fry.
the 1970s the grading of many of the routes
was regarded with some suspicion as outside
Lancashire rumours circulated about parties
having epics on routes which should have been
well within their capabilities. A feeling was
abroad that Lancashire climbing meant having
fights with horrendously loose rock and jungle-like
vegetation, or dubious pegging in dank underground
quarries and so the locals had things more or
less to themselves. Which is largely what they
wanted, for although between 1968 and 1972 Rocksport
carried details about new routes all over the
country, they gave away virtually nothing about
what they were doing on their home patch. Gradually
though, the word spread abroad that there were
some gems to be had The splendid Golden Tower
of Anglezarke was on people's lips, as was an
exceptional route called Mandarin at Hoghton
Quarry. Once the cracks appeared at Trowbarrow
then classics such as Jean Jeanie and Aladdinsane
were put on the itinerary of visiting climbers.
Denham meant Mohammed the Mad Monk, while in
Wilton One Quarry Wombat threw down the gauntlet.
the crowds realized that there was a lot of
potential and over the next twenty years the
tally of routes became ever bigger, especially
as new crags were opened up. With the co-operation
of Walt Unsworth, the guidebook went to a fourth
edition and two supplements were need to keep
pace with the development. The impetus for all
of this effort came largely from Dave Cronshaw,
Phil Kelly and of course Ainsworth himself.
For some reason though, whether modesty or merely
space saving, the complete history of the area
was not recorded for posterity. A project was
started in the Peak District in the 1980s when
the Peak Guidebook Editor pleaded with Les Ainsworth
to do a similar bit of research (for both historical
sections as well as first ascent lists) but
the Lancashire lads could not be prevailed upon
to deliver the goods.
1994 when the Peak District Guidebook Committee
was approached in a similar vein to that of
over twenty-five years earlier the idea of including
Lancashire into the Peak District series was
welcomed with open arms. After all, despite
the fact that the Peak District lies in the
centre of the country, Lancashire is perhaps
really the warm red heart of Britain. The Lancashire
'triangle' has the Lake District to the North-West,
Wales to the south-west and Yorkshire (strategically
separated by the Pennines) to the east. The
red rose county is also midway between Scotland
and the South-West of England. As a wet weather
alternative to the mountains it is ideally situated
for mobile climbers from all of the great northern
cities: Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham,
etc. and bearing in mind that the weather on
the two sides of the Pennines is often markedly
different, the choice of either Lancashire or
Yorkshire is often very handy. With a mix of
limestone and gritstone, there is now a great
variety of climbing especially in the great
quarries of Wilton, Anglezarke, Hoghton and
Trowbarrow as well as several relatively new
discoveries. With greatly cleaned rock and much
improved access, Lancashire is now an 'in' place.
and the Peak District have always been close
neighbours, and in the past many of the crags
such as Shooters Nab and Pule Hill have appeared
(by agreement) in the guidebooks of both areas.
In addition many climbers from Lancashire who
climb regularly in the Peak District have contributed
towards writing the Peak District's guidebooks.
It is thus appropriate that the BMC Guidebook
Funds should be used to float a new Lancashire
guidebook. Nothing but the best will do. It
is to this end that we have worked for the last
Milburn (Series Editor) April 1998
The editing for this guidebook was mainly done
in an almost continuous concentrated spell over
the Easter period during the World Snooker Championships.
It was a record year for century breaks and
the Editor's loyalties were at times divided
and on more than one occasion his concentration
'went to pot'. As John Higgins completed the
match with yet another big century-plus break
the final corrections were made to the script.
If any slight errors remain ...
1983 edition of the Lancashire Area guidebook
was dedicated to Allan Allsopp as 'Father of
Lancashire Climbing'. Since then there has been
a feeling that this accolade should pass to
Charlie Vigano for his unstinting support and
enthusiasm for Lancashire climbing. Therefore,
although we know that Charlie would find such
recognition a little embarrassing, we intend
to dedicate this guidebook to him.
Charlie was killed in a climbing accident in
Spain as the final work on the guidebook was
being completed and so this dedication has become
a more poignant tribute to a friend who will
be missed by many climbers both in Lancashire
and farther afield.
climbing started just after the war in Scotland.
He made many first ascents, particularly in
the Glencoe Area and was a prominent member
of the Creagh Dhu. He was also involved in many
epics, the most notable of which was when he
was benighted during an early winter attempt
on Raven's Gully with Hamish MacInnes.
in 1958 he ran out of patience with the Scottish
winter weather and moved down to Lancashire.
Shortly afterwards, he joined the Rock and Ice
when members such as Joe Brown and Don Whillans
were pushing the limits of climbing.
played an active role on the Lancashire and
Cheshire Area Committee of the BMC and made
some valuable contributions over several years.
He spent a lot of time on the crags of his adopted
Lancashire and obtained an immense amount of
pleasure from all his climbing, whether it was
on a crag that he had not previously visited,
or a route that he had soloed countless times
before. Many of us will have seen him in recent
years climbing with his wife Sheilgh at Warton
Small Quarry, which he considered to be his
favourite crag. His unquenchable enthusiasm
for climbing and climbers should be an inspiration
for all climbers in the area, for by his example
he demonstrated very effectively that with a
little effort and dedication, age need not be
a barrier to enjoying the crags. Furthermore,
he also showed that it is possible to maintain
a reasonable standard of climbing during retirement
- he was hoping to climb Cenotaph Corner on
his seventieth birthday. It is to be hoped that
many of the climbers reading this guide will
follow Charlie's example and will get a lifetime
of enjoyment from the crags and the mountains.
and Cheshire Area Committee of the BMC