“Colonised by orchids and teaming with butterflies, Cross Hill Quarry is a shining example of how nature reclaims the relics of our industrial past.”
I found parking difficult on the road used by all the lorries visiting the cement works but eventually found a quiet spot on the Pimlico Road. The area is dominated by the works, limestone Cross Hill Quarry was apparently abandoned in the early 1900s. I entered by the path next to the railway to walk round in a clockwise direction. What struck me most was the notice board for the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail. in This was established in 1993 to make art accessible to all whilst enjoying the walks in the park. Artists liaised with the local community to produce works relating to the specific environment. I had previously passed a few of them on the riverside walk, part of The Ribble Way through Brungerley Park. There have been many newer installations, so why not follow the whole trail today? Download your own leaflet here.
The first sculpture is one of several by Halima Cassell, a flower head of Great Burnet, 2009. Made up of many ceramic bricks it displays strong patterns reflecting her Islamic heritage which you will recognise in her other works.
To start with the path was very close to the industry on the left, but one soon lost oneself in the greenery. I diverted to see the Tawny Owl Seat, 2018, created out of sandstone by the prosaic Ribble Valley Stonemasonry. I wasn’t impressed, but it did have a good view of the Ribble and distant misty Bowland.
In contrast, was the diminutive stainless steel Butterflies, 2007, the first of three waymarks by David Appleyard. He developed these in collaboration with local schools. The symbolic nature of the cutouts demand a much closer attention.
The higher path led into the more formalised Brungerley Park. A workman was busy blowing the leaves off the paths, work I always think of as lazy and ultimately unproductive when the next winds blow. Here was the strangest of sculptures in the park. The Cook House, 2000, Helen Calaghan. Apparently depicting a pan of boiling tripe, is there a history of this in the quarry? She has incorporated fossils, as found locally, into the goo. Very strange.
…only to re-enter the park lower down near Brungerley Bridge.
Again a comforting installation from Halima Cassell welcomed me back – Alder Cone, 2009.
This path now was closer to the river. The garden blower was still at work but had time to explain to me how at one time there was a landing stage for pleasure boats here and long before the bridge was built hipping stones across the shallows, with links to Henry VI’s capture in the C15th.
Disappointedly I couldn’t make much of Tom Dagnall‘s Two Heads in an elm tree from 1993. I know the artist but couldn’t see one head never mind two. I think they must be on the other side or have rotted away.
Down some steps to the riverside I found Fish Mobile, 2007, by Julie Ann Seaman. Depending on where you stand the fish either swim in the Ribble or leap above the water. Mine did neither.
Down here was also As the Crow Flies a compass feature in wood by David Halford from 1994. Wooden sculptures don’t seem to last long in the damp NW. The next ceramic mosaic was inspired by Victorian shop doorways in Clitheroe, Wildlife, from Louise Worrell, 2000. It looked more Roman than Lancastrian.
Alongside the riverside track were three Mosaic Waymarkers created by Paul Smith in collaboration with Clitheroe primary schools in 2005. They depicted wildlife found in the area with glass and ceramic mosaics.
My side trip into the quarry was not a great success, I forgot to look for Thomas Dagnall’s Footprints as I examined the slanting strata of the limestone. I was too soon for most flowers, though the delph was alive with birdsong.
Where the Ribble Way leaves the park to follow the river there was a striking sculpture of an Otter in white limestone, Fiona Bowley, 2007. I don’t know why, but it reminded me of the Little Mermaid on the waterfront in wonderful Copenhagen. I have yet to see an otter on the Ribble.
Fittingly, as her geometric representative floral statues composed of multiple ceramic bricks have been a highlight of the trail, my last as I left the reserve was Halima Cassell’s Thistle. Again this had been installed in the relative recent 2009 which explains why I had not seen them on my infrequent visits.
An eclectic collection of statues all having some relevance to the Ribble Valley environment. I like the way schools have been involved in some installations but from a purely visual impact the more professional statues had the most impact on my limited appreciative sensibilities. My favourite has to be the Sika Deer.
Back at the car and looking at the map there was another disused quarry on the other side of the road with a green public right of way around it. I couldn’t resist it, but unfortunately the quarry has been in filled and the path is fenced in most of the way, so there was little to see. At least I tried.
Salthill Geological trail will have to wait for another day, perhaps in early June when those rare orchids may appear.