Wednesday, May 5th 11miles. Samlesbury.
Where haven’t I been for a while? Well it’s several years since I explored the countryside visible southwards across the River Ribble. In the past I thought that the footpaths were difficult to follow and rights of way ignored on the ground. Time for a revisit. So I found myself parked up in Balderstone; a school, a church and a couple of houses. I waved to a man delivering hay to one of the houses and then I was off along quiet country lanes. At Lane Ends I visited a trig point, for no obvious reason, at the lofty height of 74 m.
My first objective was to visit Balderstone Hall on the River Ribble and view from this side the former ford across to Alston. I’ve recently been looking at this scene from the Alston side.
A pleasant stroll down fields above the river brought me out into the confines of expensive and secluded properties. A right of way was shown on the map but it looked daunting. As it happened a couple of builders whom I knew were working on a wall of the Hall, they said nobody was about and showed me the way through past the rather intimidating signs. I didn’t like the look of the river crossing, maybe in high summer and low water I’d be tempted. The old map marks the ford.
I retraced my steps and left the exclusive properties for a path past a more run down farm. Crossing fields on the flood plain I bypassed a large farm and climbed back up the escarpment to reach a road heading west to Bezza House. Years ago, when Bezza was a tree nursery, I used to come here with Dor and many of the trees in her and my garden originated from here. One in particular that she bought was the ‘handkerchief tree’ Davidia involucrata, an exotic specimen from China. It takes years to flower and so one spring whilst they were away for the day I went around with a ladder and white paper tissues which resembled the flowers from a distance. Suffice is to say that they were well and truly tricked but the tree had the last laugh by flowering the next year and every year since.
Where the road used to continue bollards have appeared and now only a bridleway continues to Samlesbury. And what a pleasant bridleway it was; lined with spring flowers, bordering fields full of lambs and having views across the Ribble to Alston, Longridge and beyond.
It was getting near lunchtime so I hurried to reach St. Leonard the Less Church where I expected there to be seats. I was not disappointed, in fact a couple of walkers were already occupying the prime bench. The church unfortunately was closed. It has some very old box pews, apparently. I had to be content with the exterior views of the oldest, C16th, sandstone part and the distinctive tower built at the end of the C19th. In the graveyard was an ancient sundial, 1742, and a large font, 1769. The adjacent primary school is also of a certain vintage, I’m always cautious taking photos near schools.
An old sunken track high above the busy A59 was a hidden delight to walk. Peace came to an abrupt end when a stile deposited me onto the pavement adjacent to the traffic lights at the busy junction next to the Five Barred Gate motel.
Once across safely I was happy to follow the quiet lane past the extensive sewage works. Up and down it went until I was able to take a footpath across to another lane, thus by-passing the Nabs Head pub which has too many recent memories for me. I was soon on the pavement outside the C15th Samlesbury Hall. What a magnificent building this is and to think it was bought in 1920 for demolition, only to be saved by a local trust. I crept into the grounds for a closed look.
Crossing the busy road I made use of a quiet bridleway, Park Lane, taking me to Mellor Brook. I wished I’d had a bag to collect some wild garlic. From up here I could look across the extensive BAE site and the Ribble Valley to Longridge and the Bowland Hills.
The village deserves a better look with little alleyways and old houses. An unknown lane went under the A59 and out into the countryside. Fields headed back to Balderstone with the church spire always prominent. On the way I passed the grand looking Grange, you could rent its nine bedrooms on Airbnb for £2000 per night.
Arriving back at the school I was greeted by the man who’d seen me set off this morning. Turned out he was the school caretaker and seemed impressed by my modest mileage. I had time for a look around the outside of St. Leonards Church. It dates from the C16th but was rebuilt in the 1850s, the tower and prominent steeple were added in 1905 by those old favourites of Lancashire church architecture Austin and Paley.
I have had perfect weather for today’s enjoyable amble in this delightful backwater just off the A59. It was worth crossing the Ribble. Looking at the map I will return and complete another circuit to the east based on Osbaldeston.