Walk no 36 from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide combines the hills of Billinge with the River Darwen.
The River Darwen winds its way through the urban environments of Darwen and Blackburn and then has a glorious run in the countryside to eventually empty into the Ribble. I first met it today as I followed Mark’s route from Pleasington Station into Witton Country Park. Here it flows quietly through the meadows and playing fields. Walking upstream I met lots of families, dog walkers and picnickers in the afternoon sunshine. The park s very popular and well-used by the multinational people of Blackburn.
Soon after leaving the river I was climbing steadily for what seemed ages but was only a mile or so. There are paths everywhere in Billinge Woods, there is even a tunnel, and I do find them confusing, so it was with some surprise that I found myself at the summit without any problem. The instructions in the guide were spot on. The OS map shows this as a viewpoint, but that was long ago before the trees took over. Maybe a bit of forest management by the council is needed. The plaque commemorating a court up here in 1429 is looking worse for wear also.
I headed west to find my way out of the woods and onto the ridge of the Yellow Hills (named after the Gorse that flowers here most of the year) pausing at the toposcope dedicated to Alfred Wainwright who needs no introduction. There were views over the nearby towns, but it was too hazy to see his beloved Lakeland. There are several links to walks to the memorial For more details.
Paths, now following The Witton Weavers Way, led down through bluebell woods, lush meadows, inquisitive cattle, newly cut fields, into the wooded gorge to meet the River Darwen once again. This I followed on familiar ways through the old mills at Hoghton Bottoms, under the railway arch and past the weir into meadows alongside the river. The last time I was along here the paths were almost impassable with mud and water, today the ground was bone dry.
I didn’t enjoy the stretch alongside the busy A road and was glad when I turned off on the lane back to Pleasington. A seat in the garden of the parish churcof Feniscowles, Immanuel, was ideal for a break and snack. The River Darwen was crossed for the last time at Walk Mill, and I was back at the station where the local bowls club was in full swing as was the pub opposite.
I had seen a sign for Pleasington Priory and realising it was just a little farther up the lane went to investigate this Grade I listed Catholic Church. Trees in the grounds prevented a good view of the exterior with its tall front elevation. Above the arched entrance doorway was a prominent rose window. Gargoyles and statues seemed to be everywhere.
A well thought out and varied walk, apart from the short unavoidable A6061 stretch. The day was perfect with the countryside at its late spring best, making me feel truly alive. The modest 7 miles took me nearly four hours against the three suggested in the guide, I wasn’t rushing as I tried to protect my knee ligament and there was a profusion of colourful flowers to photograph.