I’m just about to eat my supper; wild garlic encrusted fish, a poached egg and new potatoes. The wild garlic was picked on today’s walk from one of the numerous wooded dells I traversed, my rucksack will smell of garlic for days.
Two days ago I was in Balderstone and today I’m parked in Osbaldeston, a few houses in a row. Obviously ‘balderston’ is the common phrase. I’m off to explore another bit of countryside south of the Ribble bypassed by the busy A59.
The little lanes around here are fairly free of traffic mid-morning, but I suspect will be a different matter at school and work times. As I said Osbaldeston is hardly a village, a row of mixed cottages and affluent houses with large gates, you know the sort. I was soon in fields where one stile led to another making navigation simple. I’ve just realised that hedges and not walls mark the boundaries in this area. The elegant steeple of Balderstone church was always peeping over those hedges and up above Mellor Moor, but more of that later.
I spotted a deer running off up a field and when I passed this dell I heard crying – and there were two very young calves left in the grass. A quick photo and I left as soon as possible, what a start to the day.
The next group of houses, Studdlehurst, were hidden away at the end of a lane. Again large gates and horsey activities were evident. The man mowing the lawn of what was probably the original farmhouse was chatty, mainly about the weather, his massive garden and the state of the footpaths since lockdown.
The next house had distanced itself from the general population behind electric gates, but had provided excellent waymarks, gates and stiles on the public rights of way – what more can you ask? Mercyfield Wood was full of bluebells, I apologise if I took too many ‘bluebell pictures’ today.
Crossing fields towards the river a new fence was going up but the original stile will be reinstated, the workers told me. At last, I was down by the River Ribble which was flowing quickly after overnight rain. I was on the lookout for Otters but to no avail. All the usual birds were present with Sand Martins making a return. Across the way was Hothersall Hall and I had a different view of it than from my usual walks.
The RofW path cut across the land to Osbaldeston Hall however a concessionary path was signed by the river so I gratefully followed that. A large group of Swans were paddling about farther on below the Old Boathouse. At Osbaldeston Hall I was pleasantly surprised to find the footpaths well-marked and the landowners going to a lot of effort to make life easy for the walker. I had only seen this hall from the Ribchester side before so it was good to come close up. A pleasant spot for a snack in the sunshine which had been in short supply until now. The old ‘Boathouse’ on the other side gives a clue as to a former ferry as well as a ford marked on an old map.
One cannot but sympathise with the farmer if his sheep are being worried, I fear that with the vast increase in dog ownership there will be a corresponding increase in irresponsible ownership.
Once I approached C17th Oxendale Hall I was being watched by security cameras, the footpath became enclosed circling the property and I could have continued into the woods without seeing the Hall. An unmarked public footpath, not meant to be used, in fact crosses their frontage for a close up view. Of course, I was spotted and asked, or rather shouted at, if I was lost? I wasn’t lost, and I didn’t have the time of day for further conversation so continued on my way.
The next hall, Showley, another Grade II listed C17th but much altered, was something of a difference. The agricultural junk started well before the house and continued in most available directions. They deserve a listing for the amount of junk. I wonder if they get on with their neighbours at Oxendale Hall.
I picked up a lane taking me back to the A59 and after some time was able to cross safely this busy road. Once on the other side I had a choice of low level field paths back to my start or climb up onto Mellor Moor, the weather had improved and I knew the view from up there was worthwhile. Hence, I started the slow trudge up the lane and onto the open moor. Stopping for breath gave me an excellent view of Pendle.
The top of the moor is marked by a trig point but more unusually by the site of a nuclear monitoring post. A plaque relates its history. The Lancashire Telegraph had this write-up.
Concrete blocks amid the swaying grass are the only outward signs of what used to be a large underground nuclear monitoring post for the Royal Observer Corps, which opened in 1959. It closed just nine years later and has since been sealed.
Three men would have entered the post during times of potential nuclear attack and reported on explosions read off special equipment installed to read blast pressure, power and flash. The bunker, therefore, had its own source of power, ventilation, communications, sanitation, food and water.
The monitoring post was just one of 1,500 across the country which would be able to track and report any nuclear fall out, keeping the local population informed of the level of danger. Thankfully they were only ever used for training and exercises.
In the Second World War, an above ground look-out post was built here, too, by the Royal Observer Corps, for spotting identifying and tracking hostile or friendly aircraft flying over this part of East Lancashire.
A direction indicator has also been installed for the far-reaching 360 degree views across the surrounding countryside, Wales, the Lakes and Yorkshire as well as all the nearby Lancashire hills. Apparently this was also the site of a Roman signalling station, overlooking Ribchester from around AD 80. Earthworks are marked on the map but I’ve never identified them on the ground.
I intended to follow footpaths back down the moor but came across this unfriendly gate. Not one to turn back on a public footpath I entered the grounds leaving the gate ajar in case of a hasty retreat. No hounds appeared so I was able to progress to the next obstructed stile. Why do people buy properties knowing there are rights of way through them only to do their best to keep the public out? Another one for reporting to the local authority.
More friendly fields took me down and across the A59 again to bring me back into Osbaldeston. Today I was luckier and my friends in Mellor Brook were home so a pleasant glass of wine was enjoyed in their garden before coming home to cook my supper.