After two years of travel, living mostly in larger cities, our goal was to find a more rural location with opportunities to be out in nature. After our search settled in northern England, we found an apartment with the following description:
“Are you looking for a traditional English cottage holiday set in one of the north of England’s prettiest villages? ‘Blackbird Cottage’, which has been awarded a three-star rating by Visit England, is located in the award-winning village of Waddington, in Lancashire’s beautiful Ribble Valley, nestling at the foot of Waddington Fell and the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by some of England’s most gorgeous scenery.”
What more could we ask for?! So we booked Blackbird Cottage for six weeks, as the second home in our 2016 travel calendar. It was here that we discovered the beauty of living in a small village.
Waddington, England is a very small village, with a post office, two churches, three pubs, one café, but no grocery store. This pretty little village is a regular winner of the Lancashire Best Kept Village awards, and only two miles from Clitheroe, a town with large grocery stores and many other amenities. After our numerous visits in England over the last 30+ years, we had never traveled to this area, and we now agree that Lancashire is a beautiful off-the-beaten-path spot.
To more fully embrace this village experience we also decided to live without a car for at least the first few weeks. The local buses would provide our basic travel needs, and we love to walk so this is the perfect area for a break from the automobile (well, except for the cold and the rain!)
Almost every other day we walked the two miles into Clitheroe for groceries and other errands. When you have to bag and carry your groceries, you can only buy for a couple of days at a time. And arriving to a new kitchen, it takes a few shopping trips before you’re really equipped to cook. We would usually then take the bus home, making public transport an important part of our daily life, and once you know the schedule, it was really pretty easy.
Unfortunately, due to budget cutbacks, the villages are seeing their bus services reduced so with only one bus per hour between Waddington and Clitheroe, it took some careful timing, or else we’d just walk home if the grocery bags weren’t too heavy.
When we weren’t walking to Clitheroe for groceries, we walked just for the fun of it, and to enjoy the beautiful countryside. We walked the back roads and farm lanes, across fields, pastures, and farms, and through small towns and villages.
The extensive system of public footpaths provides limitless opportunities to walk in England. Using the British Ordnance Survey maps, we rambled over the countryside for miles and miles, only getting lost a few times.
And what a sensory experience walking here is. The cheerful songs from robins and other birds perching in trees and flitting across fields provided a musical accompaniment to our walks. The almost continuous bleating of sheep and lambs provided smiles as we made-up stories about their conversations. We glimpsed hares springing across the meadows and pheasant dashing behind cover.
One day we turned around and a dozen or more cows we had seen as we entered their pasture were all in step right behind us. When we stopped, they stopped, all lined up left to right. When we started walking they started again. It only ended when we crossed a stile and they watched us disappear.
The footpaths took us into wooded areas along flowing rivers then over the top of a hill to see miles of rolling green fields bounded by stone walls, and then across open moors with no plants over two feet tall.
Oh, not all is cherries and cream, the smells of the farms frequently waft through the air. Yet even though it can be pungent, it is rarely unpleasant. Then there is the mud, always around stream crossings – thick, gooey and slippery. If it has rained recently it can be deep as well. And the moors hold water like a giant sponge releasing it with every step. Good footwear is a necessity, and a stiff brush for when you return isn’t a bad thing either.
Walking clubs here are often known as Ramblers, and we joined the Clitheroe Ramblers on a couple of their walks and quickly came to understand and enjoy rambling. Then once on our own, with the local Ordnance Survey map in hand, we’d wander across a pasture, dodging the droppings of the farm animals, cross fences and walls at stiles, follow hedgerows, walk along or through woods, periodically checking the map and compass to confirm our route with small signs occasionally posted along the way.
After three weeks car-free, we picked up a rental car, and our wanderings could start further afield, but seldom more than 30 miles of travel. In our final days in this lovely village, we left our car in the parking lot, and walked the local routes to savor the sights and smells, hoping to retain the fullness of this experience. For all of our travels, this location has been exceptional and with Chris’s great photographs, we can relive our walking experience as we travel on from here.