Pendle Hill Walk

Pendle 01A few of us from Didsbury Baptist Church spent Sunday afternoon and evening walking up Pendle Hill in East Lancashire. We took the 6 mile circular route from Barley, over the hill, past the Ogden reservoirs and back to Barley. We took our time about it and, in perfect weather, enjoyed a great afternoon together.

Besides the beauty of the largely undiscovered area, Pendle is known for its historical associations. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is that it was the home of the so-called ‘Pendle Witches’. In 1612, ten of them were publicly hanged for their ‘crimes’. They were convicted on the evidence of a nine-year old girl who had been carefully coached by the prosecution. Whatever the ‘witches’ were guilty of it was nothing deserving of death. Some Christians occasionally decry the association of Pendle with witchcraft. Still, the executions of 1612 remind us of the potentially disastrous consequences of religious intolerance, confusion of Church and State, and the misuse of the Bible (Exodus 22.18). Baptist Christians will recall that at about the same time that the Pendle witches were being tried Thomas Helwys, a leader of the first Baptist church to be formed on British soil, was writing his treatise on religious liberty, perhaps the first printed argument for religious freedom to be published in England.

GeorgeFox225Some years later, in 1652, George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, visited Pendle. There he had a vision that guided him to the villages he was next to visit and that would be particularly receptive to his message. He writes of Pendle Hill in his journal:

As we traveled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered. As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before.

On Sunday I took a drink from what is purported to be the same spring, now known as George Fox’s well. I grew up near Pendle Hill and have loved it all my life. For me, it is one of the very special places in God’s world:

Old Pendle, old Pendle, thou standest alone
twixt Burnley and Clitheroe, Whalley and Colne,
where Hodder and Ribble’s fair waters do meet
with Barley and Downham content at thy feet.


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