Sunday. 28th February. 6 miles. Whittingham.
Spring has arrived for a simple circuit making the most of the unspectacular Whittingham countryside. A route through fields was planned checking out some stiles that Mike had had difficulty with recently.
We started in Cow Hill again. It was busy with cyclists and family groups walking around the block, all looked over by the ginger cat. At the bottom where Savick Brook was crossed, with three buzzards wheeling overhead, we took the Bridleway up the hill behind the strangely quiet kennels. We knew about the fierce hound that stalks the yard of Seed Hill Farm. The way has been diverted around barns to avoid the farmyard and dog. From here a lane leads up to and crosses Haighton Green Lane into soggy fields that we followed towards Whittingham. There were no waymarks so prior knowledge was of great help. A wooden footbridge has been washed away but fortunately there is a brick farm bridge close by. The path goes through the farmyard of Whittingham Hall Farm which was previously part of Whittingham Psychiatric Hospital where inmates would have work. In a barn today there was a remote robotic cleaner going round the cows, I’ve never seen one of those before.
At one time there were over 2500 patients with its own railway, telephone exchange, church, post office, reservoirs, gas works, brewery, orchestra, brass band and ballroom. It has been closed since 1995, many buildings have been demolished and planned housing developments have stuttered. We walked around the back of some new houses and the church which is boarded up onto the main road. The footpath sign shown in the header photo dates from the old hospital days.
Fortunately there is a footway on the road to Withy Trees where we took to the fields once more. This took us through an Alpaca Farm, but today there were only sheep and three donkeys. Across the way Harrison’s Farm is a metal recycling plant and the footpath is diverted around it. It was near here that one of the broken stiles was encountered and was very awkward to cross – or are we getting old. Duly reported to the Local Authority – not our age but the state of the stile. It will be interesting to see if anything is done about it, a lot of organisations are hiding behind Covid rules. Normally Lancashire is very good at footpath repairs. In the fields here is the clear course of the railway which served Whittingham Hospital.
Better tracks through Dixon’s brought us onto Grimsargh Green and back to Cow Hill.
The walk seemed longer than the measured 6 miles, Mike uses ‘Strava’ but he usually forgets to switch it on and off leaving some of our walks without a beginning or end.
I remember walking round the abandoned Whittingham many years ago and thinking what a spooky place it was evcen then. I love the cow photo – “are you looking at me.”
The major part of the Whittingham site is now demolished and cordoned off. A brown site waiting to be developed whilst all the green fields around Longridge are disappearing under houses.
The cows were very suspicious of the robot under their feet.
That robot cleaner looks very handy.
And I love the ginger cat. 🙂
You can get robotic ‘Hoovers’ that go round your house whilst you have your feet up. Would freak Hugo out.
The cat is there every day..
I had an uncle who spent time in Whittingham in the 60s. He’d had a breakdown after a gruelling spell caring for his mother who had dementia. I remember my parents talking of going to visit, and they never had a bad word for the place, but reading this article after your blog gave me pause for thought.
I was involved with the hospital in the 70’s and 80’s after the scandal had died down. The place had become a victim of its size. Things had improved as newer methods of approaching and treating mental illnesses developed. The unfortunate fact though is that patients had been inmates for so long and had become institutionalised. Many were still being prescribed Largactil [with its many side effects] for their perceived psychoses and old men shuffling and shaking around the grounds and village were a common sight. Closing the hospital and trying to rehabilitate all those patients is another story.
Yes, the impression I have now is of heavily rationed provision, “in the community” and families left coping as best they can without much help at all. Quite a piece of history.
Yes the old asylums had their faults, and we wouldn’t want to return to them, but there is not enough support in the community as you say.
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