Last week I attended the annual Chris Mayo Memorial Lecture hosted by our Bowland Pennine MRT, for whom Chris had been a doctor; always a sad occasion for me. I worked with Chris and he was a good friend. At the end of January 1993 I did a long walk in the Bowland Hills with Chris as part of my preparation for climbing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro in the next month. Whilst I was abroad, and totally unknown to me, 45year old Chris, his 15yr old son Matthew, both from Longridge, and his 40 yr old brother from Edinburgh were killed in a tragic accident in Coire an Lochan in the Cairngorms. Long shall we remember them.
I am worn out from lots of tree felling and pruning in the garden and too many sessions at the climbing walls, its too wet and wild for anything else. So I needed a short relaxing walk at the weekend. Deciding to stay low and sheltered Mike and I headed for Old Langho in the Ribble Valley to explore the area around Brockhall Village. We parked next to the 16th century St. Leonard’s Church.This little sandstone chapel built c1557 with stones coming from the recently dissolved Whalley Abbey, on the outside are several carved features from the abbey. We were lucky that the church was open, it no longer hosts services but is maintained by the charitable Churches Conservation Trust, so were able to investigate the inside features. Walking past the entrance to Brockhall Village, more of this later, we crossed fields outside Hacking Wood to reach the lane leading to Hacking Hall a grade1 listed early 17th century property. We had distant views of the massive hall with its mullioned windows and prominent garderobe. Closer at hand was Hacking Barn an interesting early Cruck structure. The exterior has been much modified but the interior cruck trusses are impressive, the agricultural surrounds are a mess.
We next went down to the River Ribble just where the Calder joins from the south. The path downstream was washed away in parts and even today a large volume of water was charging down to Preston. A couple of canoeists were thoroughly enjoying their rapid transit. It was near here that there was a historic 17thcentury ferry and I believe an old wooden boat was in Clitheroe Museum. The house across the river was apparently occupied by the ferryman up to the 1950s.
At the end of Brockhall Wood, above the turbulent water of Jumbles Rocks, we turned ‘inland’ towards the farm and former site of Brockhall Hospital. From 1904 to 1992 this functioned as one of Europe’s largest mental institutions. On its closure [care in the community!] a property developer Gerald Hitman bought the lease and developed a gated village of 400 properties. Blackburn Rovers have their extensive training grounds here, Mr Hitman also built his own contemporary home in extensive gardens, The Old Zoo. We skirted around the youth football fields and at the first road walked up into the village. On our left was the well secured Old Zoo but we spotted a lake, a few sculptures and a beech hedge maze, it would be fascinating to look around the grounds but I don’t know who now owns the property. The streets wandered through a variety of properties, a few adapted from the hospital buildings, many newish apartments and a scattering of architect designed detached mansions. There didn’t seem to be much soul to the village, no obvious shop or pub, commuting hell or heaven? On the way out through the permanently manned barriers, to keep out the riff raff, we passed an upmarket restaurant next to the modern Rover’s training facilities.
How times have changed here.