There is a lot of bad weather about. Heavy rain most of the weekend and this morning, with storms forecast for the rest of the week. But there was a glimpse of sun this afternoon and I had something in mind. A post by Eunice (more of her later) and a comment from Sharon reminded me that it was snowdrop season, as if I didn’t know – having included a picture of a clump in one of my recent posts. Snowdrops are one of the first Spring flowers to bloom, helping us out of the winter gloom with shiny white petals. I wanted to view a larger expanse such as at Lytham Hall or Bank Hall, Bretherton, but I knew of a ‘secret’ place nearby.
Leagram Hall sits on the hillside above our lovely local village of Chipping, originally a lodge for the Medieval Deer Park. It was replaced by stone structures in the C18-19th when the Weld family inherited the estate from the Shireburns (of Stonyhurst). The present house was built in 1965 by the Weld-Blundell family. I’ve never visited the house but often walk past on a bridleway through the ancient deer park. I knew of a walled dell within their grounds which is renowned for snowdrops at this time of year. I was heading there today.
Farther up the lane and over the wall I had my first glimpse of the snowdrop spread. I was keen to get a closer look and even thought about climbing over the wall. Just then a woman appeared from the direction of the house. After a greeting and comments on the weather I asked her if she lived here. Yes she did. (She must be one of the Weld-Blundells!) I stated I had come to see and photograph the snowdrop display and wondered whether there was any chance of getting closer. She explained the gardens were private but then proceeded to show me a hidden entrance, said be careful and left me to explore.
I could have finished there but as the weather was improving I decided to continue my walk up the lane towards the Bowland Hills. Laund Farm, (laund was a grassy area in a deer park) home to a large herd of Blue Faced Leicester sheep. They pride themselves in the quality of the sheep milk cheese they produce. There was a new batch of lambs to boost the flock.
Since I was last this way a new sign has been erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, along with its dedication to some local footpath activist. I’m always pleased to see these classy additions to the countryside and at one time considered tracking them all down – a mammoth task, no doubt completed by someone.
I continued on past the scattering of buildings at Birchen Lee, all slowly becoming more gentrified. The access lane from there onwards has been recently improved giving easy walking to the road under Saddle Fell, the starting point for one of my favourite ways of climbing onto the Fairsnape-Totridge fells. Today I ignored the heights and strolled down to a junction of interestingly named lanes. Some research needed there.
I didn’t drop down to Wolfen Mill, originally Dewhurst’s spindle and fly works supplying the burgeoning local cotton mills but continued down the steep lane, Saunders Rake. Heading down to Chipping this passes the site of the Bond’s cotton spinning mill which later became Tweedy’s foundry, now occupied by a cheese factory. Farther on is the millpond for the still standing Kirk Mill, originally a cotton spinning business and later part of the chair making empire. There is a wealth of historical information on Chipping’s industrial past at https://kirkmill.org.uk/
Most of the chair factory across the road has been demolished and there were plans to develop the whole site into a hotel and venue complex. Not much seems to be happening on that front – we are all in for some difficult economic years.
Chipping was sleepy today. The Cobbled Corner Café, thankfully recently reopened, but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I shall have to have a cycle ride another time for cups of tea and toast. I remembered the last time I came this way and popped into the graveyard to pay my respects to Lizzie Dean’s grave under of the old yew tree.
A good use of a February afternoon and I would recommend this modest circuit, all on tarmac, for keeping your feet dry at this time of year. There is far more to discover in Chipping than I have mentioned.
But beware storms Dudley and Eunice are on their way…