The first house I bought in Longridge had a disused railway passing through the garden, alongside the old Queen’s Mill wall. My neighbours to one side did not enjoy gardening so I was able to buy another stretch of the ‘railway’ creating an L-shaped plot. In today’s ideals of cycle ways linking towns I suppose I was as much to blame for hindering green transport. I hasten to add that there have been many more incursions onto the line.
The line in question is the Preston to Longridge Railway for which there are many historical references at the click of a search button as here.
I have dabbled on bits of the line in various walks, particularly during our pandemic lockdowns, it was part of the fabric of Longridge for a hundred years. Today I wanted to follow as closely as possible the line out of Longridge to Grimsargh.
The main reason for the line’s existence was the numerous stone quarries on the lower slopes of Longridge Fell. So I started today’s walk at Lord’s Quarry above the town. This was the furthest that the line extended. It is now a popular footpath leading out of the village. From the quarry, now filled in, I followed the track which soon crossed an embankment into the modern John Smith’s park. It was here that a side track veered off through a tunnel into the extensive Tootle Heights Quarry. At the end of the park houses have been built on the line so there is a slight divergence to get onto Willows Park Lane. Along here were goods sidings serving several cotton mills. The track then went more or less on the same line to cross Berry Lane, the town’s main street, to the station at a level crossing. The crossing has vanished but the station platform is still there, now a community centre and café.
So far so good but from the station platform buildings block the way until using the adjacent recreational ground the original line can be followed on a tarmacked path leading directly to the tunnel under Stone Bridge. The tunnel has been blocked off at both ends. Where the line emerged are shops and then houses including that one of mine.
At the top of Shay Lane the line can be picked up again as it goes through the industrial estate. Although not exactly on the line, I was able to walk down Shay Lane and return to the line as it emerged from the buildings. Now I was on the elevated line heading out into the countryside with the path being good on the cinder track. This continued through several fields with a bit of gate climbing to be done. This is not a public right of Way, but there were some stiles and others have come this way. Most of the way was on an embankment which in some places has been dismantled to give flat fields. I was looking out for the Whittingham Hospital Branch [more of that later] but there was not much in evidence as I entered Grimsargh down an enclosed path next to the Plough Inn.
Opposite the path continues past where Grimsargh station was situated as a pleasant walkway linking parts of the village. At its end is the bridge that carries the road over the railway and again no farther progress is possible. I have attempted to explore the section between here and the outskirts of Preston before, so I stopped here.
Whilst I was at this end of Grimsargh there were a few things I wanted to look at. Down the road is Grimsargh War Memorial which is built on the base of an ancient cross and next to it the remains of the village stocks.
Nellie Carbis was a local schoolmistress, she established a garden that the schoolchildren could be involved with. After her death the garden has been maintained by volunteers and is a haven of peace and nature.
Walking across the village green, one of the largest in the NW, I called in on a friend for coffee. In conversation, she recalled that as a young child she would take the free train from Grimsargh to Whittingham Hospital and back. She remembers the hard wooden benches. When the line had closed to Longridge the hospital branch continued and linked up with buses to Preston. The trip was made free for staff and presumably young children hitching a ride.
My way back through fields was enlivened by flocks of lapwings circling and calling above me as I probably entered their nesting territory. I also crossed evidence of the Whittingham Hospital link. The Savick Brook accompanied me back into Longridge.