Monday, November 16th. 9miles. Scorton/Dolphinholme.
The river Wyre takes a sinuous route between Scorton and Dolphinholme and you can see from the map many fishing lakes along the way. Years ago it would have been a different scene with leats, millraces, serving the numerous mills in the valley. My ‘guides’ for today live in the area and know an awful lot of relevant history. The last walk with Peter and Denise was a couple of winters ago when we followed and traced the Lancaster Canal from Preston to Kendal.
After driving 14 miles, within my 15mile limit, I meet up as the one other socially distanced person. We are all following the rules now, even Boris has to. Off we go along lanes close to the motorway passing the farm of a close friend, sadly departed 5 years ago, where my family of cats originated from. It is eerily deserted today.
We pick up the Wyre Way which seems to have changed since I walked it a few years ago. The footbridge over the motorway has been dismantled, apparently the path goes under now. The caravan site we walk through has expanded dramatically but of course nobody is allowed to stay at present. The big attraction is the fishing lakes established from old gravel pits, stocked with carp, pike, bream, tench, roach and perch. They don’t have a sympathetic feel for a path. A better stretch alongside the Wyre brought us to a bridge that used to lead to Wyreside Hall. Further along is the old Coreless water mill with its restored wheel.
We come out into Lower Dolphinholme. Peter points out the old mill warehouse, now apartments. The road down to the bridge used to come to a ford and when it was built up the doors to the cottages became smaller and smaller. The mill manager’s and mill owner’s houses are prominent and there is a redundant gaslight on the corner. The large mill here was originally for worsted manufacture and was one of the first mills to have its own gas works to light the mill and village. Apparently behind the private walls is evidence of the gas containers. Peter knew all about this but for you a good history is really worth consulting – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1466557
We were going up Waggoners Lane an obvious reference to the mill’s transport and then into Tinkers Lane, another reference to the past. This led past Belvidere House with its unusual hexagonal attached tower. Up here we were on the edge of the Bowland Hills and sheep were the only animals in the fields, subsistence farming. We came to a crossroads at Street where the Roman Road from Ribchester to Galgate was supposed to have run.
Now back onto paths alongside becks and fishing lakes. We saw a roe deer pirouette across a stream and vanish into the woods. It was muddy going. We skirted the grounds of Wyreside Hall, a large C18 pile which seems to be undergoing renovations/extensions – maybe a hotel or wedding venue? The local couple we met leading a thoroughbred racing horse didn’t know what was afoot.
The grounds of a farm and barn complex felt unwelcoming – high walls and vicious barking dogs. Coming out onto a road we parted company with Denise who took the direct route home to hopefully put the kettle on., I wanted to go through the grounds of Wyresdale Park which I had noted on my recent visit to Nicky Nook and Peter was all too ready to give me some more history. The hall was the work of Lancaster architect Paley in the mid C19, better known for his churches, in a Gothic Revival design and over the years has been adapted to its present state as a recreational facility. Cafés, craft centres, camping pods, weddings, playgrounds and fishing are all on offer or at least they normally would be. I couldn’t see the hall but know where to drive through in future for a peep.
We strolled through Scorton with its iconic motorway spire. There once was a large cotton mill here, and we could see the line of the millrace now in a modern development. It was easier to walk along the road for a while rather than the soggy fields. I was then shown the lodges for the mill at Cleveley Bridge. We then followed the line of another mill race coming from the Wyre some distance away. Apparently in the early years of the C20 there used to be a series of commercial fisheries along here with water siphoned off the mill race. I had no idea where I was but soon we were climbing up to Shireshead, past the little chapel, now a recording studio, and along the lane for that cup of tea.