Tuesday 15th December. 5.5 miles. Hoghton.
The de Hoghton family have owned the land around here for centuries. I’ve never visited Hoghton Tower even though it is open to the public in normal times but today I walk around the area. The present house was built on its hill in the 16th century and has been added to over the years. You can read about Sir Loin elsewhere. The situation is pleasantly wooded and drops to the valley of the River Darwen on the east side, Hoghton Bottoms. Down that side is a largely hidden quarry which provides some classic climbs but unfortunately is in the pheasant breeding and shooting grounds of the Tower, the dark side of the Tower, so access is strictly limited to a short period of the year. It was always an exciting place to visit.
I started my walk alongside the Hoghton Wesleyan chapel which is looking rather worse from wear. I went alongside period cottages which were linked to the estate quarry and down to the railway we used to cross when going climbing, often leaving a coin to pick up on the return, suitably squashed. Today I followed the track down past the pair of old buildings, Quarry Cottages, that are becoming more and more ruinous.
Down at the bottoms the old Higher Cotton Mill has been converted into expensive housing. Ahead is the imposing viaduct carrying that Blackburn to Preston railway. Once under it the roar of the River Darwen takes over – the river is flowing fast through the gorge and the path alongside follows the former leat to the mills. I reached the weir but the low sun precluded photos head on. From there on the Darwen takes a gentler course through its glaciated valley and the mud on the path increased as I progressed. A dodgy crossing of a wooden structure, couldn’t call it a bridge, concentrated the mind. Eventually I left the river and climbed out to join the busy main road in Feniscowles. I took a path through an industrial wasteland where I remember a former paper mill, now demolished. There were in fact two paper mills – the Sun and the Star. Once through the fenced off areas I suddenly arrived at the Leeds – Liverpool canal which gave pleasant walking for a mile or so. I chose a footpath to take me back towards Hoghton, this proved to be particularly muddy. The only highlight was a large bird of prey that took off and flew past me, it wasn’t a buzzard and looked more like a red kite, but I couldn’t be sure.
Ahead was a distant view of Hoghton Tower on its hill. On my way along the road I passed the 19th century Anglican Holy Trinity Church, I looked around the graveyard for de Hoghton family tombs but found none, apparently there are memorials within the church although the family were predominantly nonconformists. Across the road was a fine looking house, the Old Schoolhouse, and on the roadside a shelter dated 1877 with GdeH initials. Further on was a war memorial with a fine wayside cross of limestone. The land was given by Sir James de Hoghton, whose third son was killed in 1915 and is named on the memorial. I did wonder if there had been a pinfold by the road here but could find no reference to one.