Interview by Sue Allonby
Janice Moughton lives with her husband George and dog Maisie in Great Harwood. She is an enthusiastic and highly accomplished walker, cyclist and amateur photographer, with a strong connection to the earth and to nature. She is also a veteran of several “hundreds” – non-stop walks of 100 miles. Born and bred in Accrington, Janice has always lived within sight of Pendle Hill, which is, in her own words, “… a real focal point in her life.”
What are your earliest memories of Pendle Hill and of walking for pleasure?
My mum used to take me and my friend to the Nick of Pendle most weeks and would always tell us about the Sabden Treacle mines on the way there. We’d probably been reading too many adventure books, and, reaching the Nick, we’d sometimes say we were going to run away. We’d set off walking along the track with the buns my mum would have made, leaving her behind in the car. We’d usually only get about 300 yards, decide it was getting a bit bleak, and agree to try again the next week!
I have always been an outdoor person, playing out as a child, making dams down in the clough and so on, and then we had a dog which I’d take for walks in the countryside. I married young and carried on dog walking, then joined the Ramblers when I was 38. That was when I started walking with clubs as well as on my own.
You mentioned walking alone, what do you enjoy about that?
You can connect to nature more easily when you’re alone. You can take photographs exactly when you want to, rush when you want to rush, and go slowly when you like. I love the solitude and connecting to the landscape and everything around me. I sometimes just stop to look at the views, the grasses, the birds and creatures – at everything around me.
Do you have favourite walking routes on or around Pendle Hill?
Many, many, many ones! I sometimes walk from Great Harwood. There are quite a few possible routes but one I really enjoy is to walk down to the Nab, then through Read Garden Centre, through Read Hall to Sabden, up to the top of Pendle via Ogden Clough, down to Barley, then up the other side of Ogden Clough round to Spring Wood, Whalley and back via the Nab – about 18 to 20 miles. I also do a lot of shorter Pendle walks, often with others, so the routes depend on what kind of walk they want. Sometimes it’s just up the steps, starting at Barley and down the Pendle Way back, but if someone isn’t quite such an able walker and they’d still like to reach the top, I sometimes use the zigzag path and park in the layby part way up the road to Downham. But there are many routes I love. The other week I caught the train to Colne and then walked to Barrowford, up to Noggarth Ridge, down to Roughlee to see Alice (the sculpture), onto Barley and then over Pendle to Sabden and back home.
You described an 18 -20 mile walk, a big undertaking for most people, and yet you have actually completed many that are much longer, both multi-day walks and non-stop walks. Can you tell me about any?
I devised a 50 miler over Pendle, starting at Spring Wood at 6am, then to Pendle’s Summit, Weets Top, Easington Fell, Slaidburn, Dunsop Head, Longridge Fell and back to Whalley via Hurst Green. It took us about 16 hours, but it was made easier by husbands and friends etc. providing checkpoints, drinks and food at intervals along the way; a wonderful long day out!
I believe you’ve also completed some non-stop 100 mile walks?
I have. One is organised by the L.D.W.A. (Long Distance Walkers’ Association), over the spring bank holiday weekend each year, with a time limit of 48 hours. The first one I completed was the White Peak 100 in Derbyshire, then the Durham Dales 100, the Kent 100 and the Lakeland 100. In 2015 I also recced the Red Rose 100 for a friend who wanted to complete one. She was very active but needed some practice map reading, so in the weeks leading up to the actual event I took her out to practice the route in 20 mile stages, and she finished the event wonderfully and without any problems . The Red Rose route actually started and finished at Rivington reservoir and included Winter Hill, Pendle Hill, Gisburn Forest, Dunsop Bridge and Hoghton Tower. During the actual event some of the marshals on Pendle were dressed as witches, much to the walkers’ amusement!
I know you have to be physically fit to complete a 100 miler, but how do you cope with it mentally?
You just have to tell yourself that you’re not giving up, that whatever happens, even if you have to crawl on your hands and knees, you’re just not giving up! And always remember that whatever you might be going through, it’s only for the one day. For instance, on one of the first 100s I did, I got really bad blisters after about 20 miles. In my head I thought to myself that if I gave up, after all the training I’d done, then I’d have to live with the fact that I’d given up for a whole year, until the next 100 event. If I could put up with suffering the blisters just for the day, then once I’d done it, I’d done it, which is what I did! I’m lucky that I produce a lot of adrenaline, which I think helps too.
Does having a checkpoint every few miles help too?
Yes, they make a massive difference, because in your head you think, “I’ll just get to the next checkpoint,” and it might only be 5 or 6 miles, so a much easier distance to get your head round than thinking you’ve still got, say, 60 or 80 miles to the finish. George always says that the next checkpoint is one step from the last checkpoint. All you need to do is to take one step away from the checkpoint you’re at and you’re on your way to the next. Keep doing that and you’ll get round.
You’ve mentioned walking alone and enjoying nature, are there other aspects of walking which you enjoy?
Company! I like being with people and do a lot of one-to-one walking, sometimes with people who aren’t feeling so good or have problems. It’s surprising how much people will share when out walking, not just because they’re relaxed from walking but also because they’re not looking at you eye to eye. People will talk about things when they’re out walking together which they probably wouldn’t talk about in a different situation. They just let go, unwind and relax in nature, just like a therapy.
I know you like to get out walking as often as possible, but what does it feel like if you can’t?
Not very nice! I might feel unwell, tired, depressed or agitated. It’s not just the physical activity; I have an exercise bike but it doesn’t replace being outside. I’ve tried the gym but it bores the living daylights out of me. What I love is being outdoors, the smells, the sounds, the wind and the weather – all weathers! The sunshine is a bonus, but sometimes it’s good to be out in stormy weather too. The weather can reflect your personality.
Tell me about your photography.
I’ve always taken an occasional photo, but it’s something that has slowly developed over time for me, and now of course we have the technology to take so many. As I started getting better pictures and seeing more of nature, then my interest in photography grew. I like taking landscapes and seascapes but especially wildlife. It’s such a blessing when I see something, like an owl for example, that to take a picture of it is like a gift. It’s something I can keep and treasure forever.
You mentioned seeing wildlife as being a blessing. Do you find walking has a spiritual element to it?
I have found that my spiritual side has grown through walking. It isn’t something I’ve looked for in a church or anywhere like that, but it’s rather something that has found me and has naturally developed. Yes, I find walking can be very spiritual and I enjoy singing when I walk, usually when I’m by myself but occasionally with others too. I realised how much I enjoyed singing and walking together whilst walking the Camino de Santiago. A hymn came in my head, but I found myself changing the words and singing to Mother Earth, making it up as I went along. And now it’s something I often find myself doing when I’m out walking. I usually don’t have a clue what I’m singing about but it’s because I’m really happy, like singing a hymn of praise to nature and the land and feeling grateful. I also enjoy drumming outdoors, either alone or with others, which can feel ceremonial and like a healing to the earth as well.
Finally, what is it about Pendle Hill in particular that makes it such a special place for you?
I’ve always lived within sight of it, it’s always there. It’s important for me because the first time I went to the top was with George, on one of our first walks together. I’m also fascinated by Pendle Hill’s history. Lots of folk talk about it having a dark history, but I think it’s important to shine a light on it, to bring some brightness. I like to remember George Fox and the crowds that gathered. I like to remember the Quakers. People always associate Pendle with the so-called witches but often don’t realise the strong Quaker connection. An important Quaker Centre in Pennsylvania, USA is actually named “Pendle Hill”.
I do also think it’s important to remember the poor folk accused of witchcraft. For example I have a friend running a retreat at Barley in the autumn which is in their memory and is all about healing the injustices. I also like going to get water from the well. Some people call it George Fox’s well, some call it Robin Goodfellow’s well, but I usually refer to it as Janice’s well!
There’s so much about Pendle Hill that’s so special, there’s so much to see there and, on a beautiful day, you can see so far and so much from the top. It’s just the beauty of the place, it has so much. Whenever I’ve been away anywhere and I’m coming back, as soon as I can see Pendle then I know I’m really home. I’ll always have to live somewhere I can see Pendle because I feel such a very, very deep connection to it.