Sunday and I take the easy way out again as lunchtime comes around. I pick another walk from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Not wishing to drive far, I find a low level circuit from Great Eccleston in the Fylde. It turns out to be one of the flattest routes in the county, with only a few feet of ascent on the return leg. It was good to get this rural walk out of the way before the cattle are put out into the fields.
My plan when I revisited this book was to maybe do one walk a week as an incentive to get me walking farther, but somehow I’m up to number four in just over a week. So far I’m impressed with Mark’s style, he has chosen well, and his directions have been spot on – suitable for the casual walker. Today’s walk was complicated in places, and yet I didn’t put a foot wrong.
I find a place to park in the main street only to see it is an electric charging point. Having moved the car I walk out of the village past the old pinfold, on across the main road and down a well-used, dog walkers mostly, path to the river Wyre. Here is a fairly unique private toll bridge next to the Cartford Inn. The ‘cart – ford’ prior to the original C18th bridge. In the grounds of the inn are modern staycation ‘pods’. I recognise these from a walk I found for myself last winter, or was it the one before – the pandemic seems to have confused my recall.
Easy walking along the riverbank to a footbridge where I crossed to the road near the extensive and impressive, possibly haunted, grounds of White Hall. I often wonder who owns these multi-million pound properties – Russian oligarchs?
Using farm tracks, I joined The Wyre Way, linking farms in this flat rural landscape. This is the way I should have come on my disastrous attempt on this section when I almost drowned and then lost my map, leaving me with no alternative but to follow the road.
The guidebook said, “head for the grain silo” and it was correct, the silo stood out across the field, one of the tallest I have seen. In the distance were the Bleasdale fells, everywhere else was flat, a strange landscape for one accustomed to the hills.
Turnover Hall was next. There were duck ponds with piles of grain to fatten the birds before they are shot. The Hall is surrounded by hundreds of caravans, whether for sale or in storage I couldn’t make out. Oh, and just for good measure, the obligatory junk waiting to be recycled.
I rejoin the Wyre embankment and walk into St. Michael’s, arriving at the road bridge near the chocolate box cottages and the Medieval church across the way.
You know I like an interesting church when I see one, this one is Grade I listed. It is thought a church existed here, near a safe river crossing, from 640AD. The Domesday book mentions a church on the same site. The present structure dates from the C15th. When you enter the church, the most obvious and unusual sound is the loud ticking of a clock, the giant pendulum hanging on one side of the tower. There are two naves and a northern Chapel. This Butler chapel has older Medieval stained-glass fragments, seemingly randomly incorporated into the windows. In the same window is a C16th Flemish sheep shearing scene. In the west wall is a striking modern window depicting the parable of the ‘sower’. Outside is a ‘Norman’ door and an ancient mounting stone. In the graveyard are three unusually shaped graves, these are the ‘Soldiers Stones’ dating from 1643 when a Spanish ship was wrecked on the Wyre estuary and thought to be for Spanish sailors.
The rest of the afternoon I follow drainage dykes across the landscape, eventually to rejoin the Wyre for the last time before re-entering Great Eccleston. The two bulls face each other across the high-street, with a period Austin7 on show.
That’s quite a lot for a lazy Sunday walk in this quiet corner of west Lancashire.