The bus drops me off at the Preston Crematorium and I stroll down the remembrance avenue. The land to the right is industrial units on the site of the former Courtaulds Mill which produced Rayon. This was a large operation on the edge of Preston with its own power plant and railway, a branch of the Preston -Longridge line. Over 2000 jobs were lost when it closed in 1979. Its prominent chimneys and cooling towers dominated the landscape until demolition in 1983 when lots of the population of Longridge went to view the explosive event.
I was now on the top of Red Scar, a steep escarpment dropping to a horseshoe bend of the Ribble. I’ve joined the Ribble Way which goes eastwards high above the river which is glimpsed through the trees. Worryingly I start to notice ‘Footpath Closed’ signs but continue to see what the problem is and not wanting an unnecessary detour. I climb over barriers. The path drops to cross Tun Brook and there have been landslides damaging the footbridge and its abutments. I can’t drop into the stream bed as the mud is too steep and unstable but can I cross the bridge? The stepped way to it is impossible but with a little sidetracking I reach the edge of the bridge which has been further damaged by a falling tree. Tentatively I make my way onto the creaking structure thinking if it fails nobody will find me here. I’m relieved once across the other side. Satisfying but foolish.
Moving on after I’d climbed out of the ravine I was on country lanes and in wet fields well above the Ribble. Distant views were rather dull. Coming the other way you wouldn’t have been too pleased by this sign…
Hereabouts was a Roman road marked on the map but not much evidence on the ground. I passed close to Alston Hall and the Observatory previously attached to it. There was plenty of evidence of horses ruining the fields.
A curiosity along here I know about is the ‘Hothersall Boggart’. A buried stone head was found on the land and placed in the fork of the tree leading to tales of fairies and boggarts, Heads are found in this area and were often placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. [see more in Roman Museum to follow]
Along the lane is Hothersall Hall rebuilt in 1856 in the gothic style and looking resplendent today. I sat on a stone nearby to eat a sandwich which set off a dog barking in the garden, a few crusts seemed to please him.
Across the river was Osbaldeston Hall, another place with a long ancestry.
Ribchester is famous for Bremetennacum the Roman fort strategically situated on the banks of the river at a crossroads of several important routes. Not only was there a cavalry fort but also a vicus, a village community surrounding it. It was time to visit the Roman Museum…
The phrase ‘good things come in small packages’ applies to this excellent little museum. The Roman history of the area is comprehensively explained and artefacts displayed and interpreted well. One of the first findings  of Roman occupation was by a schoolboy in a ditch – The Townley Hoard – now displayed in the British Museum. As part of this hoard is a well-preserved helmet and there is a replica on display here. Of great interest are the more mundane items on display – combs, leather shoes, brooches, glassware, slingshot balls etc. Oh, and there are some more stone heads.
Well worth a visit.
Behind the museum are the excavations of a Roman granary and nearer the river a Roman Bath House [heading photo]. How much more must be lying beneath the present-day Ribchester?
Inside, the Dutton Chapel contains a small C14 wall painting of St. Christopher and some medieval coloured glass pieces in one of the windows. There is recorded a mass burial from the Black Death in C14 where the chapel was added. Black Death wiped out a large percentage of the population and following it there were not enough peasants to work the land, the feudal system fell apart and it became more economical in Lancashire to graze the fields with sheep. Hence the wool trade giving way to the cotton trade where spinning and weaving skills existed, leading in turn to mills and urban industrialisation.
The nature of Thomas’ death seems clear – he died in an accident, probably a marle pit of which there are many in the area. They were dug to obtain lime-rich mud which was used to improve the land, most are now small ponds.
Church Street is lined with weavers’ cottages many of them listed but spoilt with all the parked cars. The White Bull, an iconic inn with its porch supported by columns possibly from a temple to Minerva, a place of worship in Roman times. The attached sandstone mounting block is cut into three steps.
Further on is the Black Bull inn and nearby my bus stop where I was preparing for half an hour wait when up pulled one of my neighbours with the offer of a lift home, a good end to a satisfying day.