January 20. Darwen Tower.
It’s almost 5 years since I had a day out with Poppy, the Rockman’s Airedale Terrier.
I didn’t remember the car park at Ryal Fold being so large, of course we ended up in different areas before successful rendezvousing. Whilst I was waiting, I got into an emotional conversation with a gentleman from Darwen. He had walked up through Sunnyside Woods and was heading onto the fells, his local walk. He told me of the loss of his wife of 53 years during lockdown, and also of one of his sons. The conversation became tearful as he recollected their walks together and his now empty house. There is a huge amount of pent-up emotion from the last two years. I seem to come across these people.
The morning was perfect, frosty with bright sunshine, so lots of others were setting off on their perambulations. It was really too soon for a coffee in the café/information centre, so we just picked up the bridleway heading into the fold of hills past the workers cottages of Hollinshead Terrace. A cotton mill had stood where the car park is today. It was stone-built for Eccles Shorrock of Darwen in 1859. (He also owned India Mill in town, seen later today from above). At its peak, the mill had 333 steam-powered looms and employed 150 people. It was demolished in 1903.
Once out onto the moor, Poppy went her own way, sniffing from grass to grass, the slow pace suited me. The frozen way led steadily uphill until it came alongside Stepback Brook. We were tempted to continue into the shady gorge and view its waterfall but decided to leave that for another day when we may explore the way farther south and perhaps the remains of Hollinshead Hall as well. No, we climbed up on a zigzag path out onto Darwen Moor. There were signs of disused mining shafts up here, ?coal. More tracks led away from long forgotten sandstone quarries.
A well-used track then headed straight to the tower. From our elevated position down to our right was Darwen, with the chimney of India Mill very prominent. More dogs joined in the fun with Poppy.
85ft high Darwen Tower, more correctly called Jubilee Tower, was constructed in 1898 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the year before, but more importantly to commemorate freedom of access to the local fells. A dichotomy of interests, nonetheless. It was always known to my children as ‘the space rocket’ seen from afar.
An extract from Wikipedia is worth a read — Packmen, peddlers, farmers, and labourers used tracks and moorland paths to go about their business. In the 1870s the Lord of the Manor of Over Darwen, the Reverend William Arthur Duckworth, blocked ancient rights of way preventing access to the moor even though he was an absentee landlord. Game rights were a valuable commodity, and Duckworth did not wish to have his land devalued by trespassers on the moors. William Thomas Ashton, manager of Eccles Shorrock’s mines at Dogshaw Clough and Entwistle Moss used the moorland footpaths as well to deliver coal to farmers and other customers. Whenever Duckworth’s gamekeepers blocked his way, Ashton cleared the paths. The struggle led to the courts where Duckworth lost and in September 1896 people resumed walking the moorland footpaths. Ashton had died in 1884, his sons led a procession onto the moors in celebration.
Renovations of sorts were being carried out on the tower, and it was cordoned off, cloaked in scaffolding and sheeting. Over the years there have been several repairs including a new steel dome winched into place by helicopter in 2012., the last time I was up here.
On our way down the badly eroded old quarry track, modern steel industrial units glistened on the Industrial side of Blackburn, with Pendle looking rather diminutive behind. Poppy made friends with some horses in the adjoining paddock. There seemed to be tracks going off in all directions, no doubt reflecting the early industrial past.
We were heading for Sunnyhurst Woods, a public park purchased by Darwen Corporation in 1902 commemorating Edward VII’s coronation. The Sunnyhurst Inn was not open, so we continued and entered the woods through the Lychgate. It was like entering another world of trees, ferns and deep secret valleys. A handy metal seat provided by The Friends of Sunnyhurst Woods was ideal for a drinks break as it was in the sunshine. Once lower down, we came out between the paddling pool and the Greenway Shelter (the bandstand). We realised we had never been farther downstream where there are other attractions – again another time.
Lots of families and dog walkers were making the most of the sunshine and exploring the paths. How lucky to have this area on your doorstep if living in Darwen. We found our way up the valley past Earnsdale Reservoir, with the tower overlording it above. Fields took us to the original C17th farmhouse at Ryal Fold and back to the car park. The Royal Hotel was now open and people were enjoying a socially distanced and probably cold drink in the garden.
The 4-mile walk was easy, but I didn’t feel that my plantar fasciitis appreciated it. I spent a lot of time chatting to the Rockman so wasn’t concentrating on photography, but here’s a selection….
Poppy had a great time, hopefully so did the Rockman.
Thanks to Michael of The Rivendale Review fame for reigniting my interest in this area.