I’m back on the rattly but reliable train to Rufford, along with the regulars, and I find out that a token is still used between Midge Hall and Rufford on the single track section, failsafe.
I’m straight onto the canal, the branch of the Leeds Liverpool destined to merge with the River Douglas and the Ribble Estuary from where The Ribble Link connects to the Lancaster Canal. Here it is wide and stately reminding me of the Canal du Midi. The old hall of Rufford is just visible through the trees, started in 1530 and associated with the Hesketh family for generations. Now in the hands of the NT and only open weekends in winter. The canal here traverses low lying drained lands, made more sombre by today’s low weak sunlight, there is no one else about and only a few boats moored up. With no distractions, I soon reach Sollom Bridge where the towpath seems to run out and the canal has wilder rushy borders. I come inland to the small hamlet of Sollom, on a corner is a medieval cross base. The cottages and barns here have been sensitively restored and it is an oasis of calm just off the hectic A59. Whilst I was walking down the next track my camera somehow switched onto an ‘artistic’ mode’.I was able to disable it by the time I reached St. Mary’s Church. I have driven past here many times on the main road and wondered about its origins and unusual architecture. There had been a chapel on this site from early C16 but the present church was erected in 1719, the bricks would have been hand made. It was extended in 1824 when the rotunda was added to the tower. Apparently, the interior has many original items, box pews and oil lamps, but was closed today and I could only peep through the keyhole. The church is no longer in use and is administered by the Churches Conservation Trust.
On a busy junction again hidden in the trees is Carr House. It is commonly thought that Jeremiah Horrocks made his observation of the transit of Venus across the sun, 24 Nov. 1639, while living at Carr House. More of this soon.
Glad to leave the busy A59 onto a little lane leading towards Much Hoole. Ahead was another interesting church, St. Michael, an early C17 building. The church has connections to the above Jeremiah Horrocks who may have been a curate there at the time of his important astronomical observations. There is a marble tablet commemorating him as well as some of the stained glass windows. The church has a two-decker oak pulpit and a long upper gallery.
I next crossed boggy fields towards the River Douglas. There were some new ‘No Public Right of Way’ notices on the public footpath which annoyed me and have been reported to the appropriate authorities.
The tide was out so the river was more of a mud bath than a waterway. Ahead was only a vast flood plain marsh though the sheep seemed to know their way around. Following the sea wall, I eventually arrived at the renowned Dolphin [Flying Fish] Inn. We used to come drinking here in the seventies, shrouded in mist and at risk of flooding the place had a certain atmosphere for late-night carousing. Its been gentrified since but the public bar was welcoming with plenty of locals enjoying a lunchtime pint. I like to give as much prominence to the pubs as well as to the churches.
A walk into Longton and a bus back to Preston.