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28 June, 2008

Hunting Andy Goldworthy on Clougha

A while ago, I discovered references to an unpublicised Andy Goldsworthy art installation somewhere on Clougha, the 413 m hill overlooking Lancaster.  Today I went to find it.

I knew it took the form of three rectilinear pillars in a hollow on the open moor, well away from the main footpaths from Quernmore and Birk Bank to the summit; having identified the most likely location by studying aerial photography at Google Maps, I decided that the quickest route would be via Jubilee Tower: 2 km in a straight line along the fence to Shooters Pile then a further 500 m across the open moor.

The Ordnance Survey's rendition of the landscape is far neater than the real thing, of course. Accustomed to walking on the well-drained limestone of the western Yorkshire Dales I'd forgotten just how wet the peat moorland of Clougha can become, so those first 2 km were slow going. Extending my walk a further 3-4 km to Ward's Stone, and 5-6 more back, as I'd considered, suddenly seemed less attractive....

The Goldsworthy installation wasn't visible from Shooters Pile (and I already knew it isn't from the trig. pillar on Clougha Pike), but I headed north across the pathless heather, trusting my memory of the aerial photography. Justifiably: it led me straight to the right place.

The three ~3m tall (so rather imposing) rectilinear pillars are within a ring of roughly-piled stones in a disused quarry. Each pillar contains an ovoid hollow, slightly offset from the middle so it intersects the outer face as an oval hole. The craftsmanship of building the dry stone structures, with crisply straight edges and a very few gaps for even light to penetrate, is very impressive, never mind in such a remote location. It was erected, one pillar per year, in 1999, 2000 & 2001 for the Duke of Westminster's Abbeystead estate. That may partly explain why it's almost hidden from locations frequented by the public but only a few metres off a gravel track laid for grouse shoots (in hindsight, that's the easiest, though not shortest, route: just follow the gravel track 3½ km from Littledale Road to the pillars).

I took time to admire the pillars, but they don't appear at all in the mere three photographs accompanying this entry, for two reasons. Firstly, the heavily overcast sky lit the scenery very poorly, so the photos I took aren't worth publishing. Secondly, my camera batteries failed. And the spares.

With no functioning camera and ominous clouds approaching rapidly on the high wind, there seemed little point in proceeding, so I returned to Jubilee Tower and my bike, and home. It was a useful scouting expedition, and I'm tempted to go back soon – maybe even tomorrow, weather permitting.

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