I’ve probably walked out of Hurst Green dozens of times. The Tolkien Trail takes you along the River Ribble and going the other direction towards Longridge Fell you have the delightful Dean Brook and Stonyhurst College. Today I was walking with a group whom I first met at Haigh Hall a month ago – they always walk the last Wednesday in the month.
It was still raining when we met up at The Shireburn Arms at 10am. The forecast said it would stop at 12. I didn’t bring my camera partly because of the weather but also because in a group there are limited chances for photography. Of course, we all have our phones these days with functional built-in cameras. Anyhow, I didn’t expect to tread new territory.
As we walked up through the village and down into Dean Clough I contented myself with idle chatter. The interesting mill weirs and races in Dean Brook went unnoticed to most. The quarry, Sand Rock, where the building materials for many houses in Hurst Green originated passed us by. Greengore, a medieval hunting lodge of the Shireburns was duly admired. It is currently up for sale £1,250,000.
Onwards up the bridleway and I realise it has stopped raining which is a bonus for the assembled crowd, although it is very muddy underfoot. We are on the edge of woodland belonging to Stonyhurst College where they have their own private lake as a water supply and fishery. I have trespassed many times into those secret lands where there is a hidden cross, Park Cross, with a history going back possibly to a Maria Shireburn, whose body may have been carried past here on the way to her burial at Mitton in 1754. It is one of nine Stonyhurst crosses I incorporated into a walk from Hurst Green. I digress.
To my delight our leader takes us off on a bridleway through Hudd Lee Woods an area I had never knowingly trodden. The bluebells were over but the greens of the beeches and ferns were splendid, as a little sunlight filtered through. My spirits were lifted.
On down to the main road where we saw the remains of the C18th grade II listed Punch Bowl Inn. It is said to have been visited by the highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King in 1738. They stayed for three days after which Turpin travelled to York while King attacked travellers on the local roads. King was executed in 1741 and his ghost was reputed to haunt the pub. The pub had been closed for many years and the new owners tried to get planning permission for several schemes which were turned down so last year they demolished it without permission. An investigation followed, leading Ribble Valley Council to instruct the owners to rebuild it! I can see them appealing the decision and getting away with a slap on the wrist. We seem to have lost any sense of duty and honesty in this country as exemplified by the findings of the Sue Gray report published today on the goings-on of our ‘honourable’ Prime Minister.
Back onto the quieter Shire Lane with views over the Ribble Valley. Just when I thought we were cruising into Hurst Green we were taken through a farmyard and into fields trampled by a herd of frisky bullocks. While most of us tried to avoid the worst of their excrement a brave member of the group held the beasts at bay with his walking poles. “They weren’t here yesterday – honest” was the plea of our leader.
A bonus was one of those Peak & Northern Footpaths Society green signs erected in 2016.
A couple of awkward high stiles slowed the less agile of the party, but they were the only ones uncounted all day. Then we were heading downhill quickly and slipperily back to Dean Brook. At the bottom we found ourselves in the garden of a couple of stone built properties, one had been originally a bobbin mill supplying bobbins and shuttles to the Lancashire cotton mills using power from a mill race taking water from Dean Brook. Again this is something I had missed in the past.
We had come full circle and retired to the excellent Shireburn Arms for lunch.
That had been an excellent circuit and I regretted not bringing my camera.