This is one of my favourite walks for the wetter months. Virtually dry underfoot the whole way and yet in touch with the imposing Fells of Bowland. I’ve been walking these paths for 50 years since moving to the area. We used to push our two young sons around in a double buggy in the early seventies, remember those.
I keep returning and have since introduced my grandchildren to the delights. But looking back at my recent traverses, there have been many on here, I always seem to have walked anti-clockwise from Bleasdale Church. Time for a change.
I am always looking for somewhere new to explore locally. Today, despite the clocks going back and giving me an extra hour in bed, I’m not really up and going till midday. I have missed my chance to cycle the Fylde Coast or even the Guild Wheel, it will be dark or gloomy before five. So I fall back on the tried and trusted – Bleasdale Estate. But let’s look at the map and why not go clockwise for a change or even for the first time for years, unlikely though that seems.
The mention of Bleasdale Estate may jog memories in some of you of the disastrous court case in 2018 of their gamekeeper, James Hartley, accused by the RSPB of raptor persecution. Technicalities ruled the damming video evidence of his crimes inadmissible. I still question the partiality of the judge. Is Mr Harley still employed on the estate? Have a read for yourself – Case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper collapses as RSPB video evidence ruled inadmissible – Raptor Persecution UK
Putting that all aside I park near the Lower Lodge, I’ve always wanted to live there, it’s so cute. The road is still marked Private, but pedestrians seem allowed, I’ve never been challenged, famous last words. Now that the estate have introduced a ‘Glamping’ site quirkily called ‘Lantern and Larks‘ on their property (more of that later) there is more traffic up and down the private lane.
I must say that everything about this estate, maybe apart from their raptor persecution problems common with most shooting estates, is immaculate. They obviously take a pride in their appearance. The driveway past the lodge is newly mown either side to perfection. The Bleasdale Fells are in the background of every view on this walk. Since I was last here there has been a lot of clearance of the mixed plantation on the right which was becoming invaded with the dreaded rhododendrons. It will be interesting to see how they develop it further with plantings.
Across the way, as I walk down the manicured lane, Bleasdale Tower, built in the early 19th century sits at the base of the fells. The sun is not quite making an appearance, but the temperature is high for almost November. There is not a drop of wind and all is silence as I stroll up towards the Tower. Well not quite because a delivery van keeps passing backwards and forwards looking for some address. It won’t be easy out here when the post code covers a vast area. A lady dog walker helps him out – hopefully as he speeds past me to the remotest of houses.
I walk on past the buildings that at one time in the C19th served as a Reformatory School for Preston. North Lancashire Reformatory for Boys, Bleasdale, near Garstang, Lancashire (childrenshomes.org.uk)
The lady with the dog catches me up as I’m taking photographs of stone walls. I’m reading a book by Angus Winchester all about Dry Stone Walls, recommended by Walking Away, and I’m keen to put it into practice. I would hazard a guess that these walls are mid C19th when the estate was being established. Her dog photo bombs my picture of an old ‘gate’.
The lady lives in a property on the estate and tells me she was born at Vicarage Farm along the way. That brings back memories of my attending that house in the middle of the night, when GPs did home visits. I’m talking about the late 70s or early 80s. She recalls her mother telling her of an occasion requesting a visit to her ailing aunt in this remote farm and the doctor saying put on all your lights, and I’ll be able to find you. That was probably me. What a small world.
She talks of living out here and attending the local school and church. The school is now closed, but the church, St Eadmer, is open and has a service once a month. She disappears into a farm to meet a friend but tells me to look out for the original site of the school marked by some stones along the way.
On the old track, now grassed over, and in my own world I startle to hear a bike bell ringing behind me. A cyclist is taking a shortcut home to Chipping. He dismounts, it’s muddy anyway, and we walk together chatting about all things cycling. I forget to look for the old school foundations after the vicarage, next time. We also pass the diversion to Bleasdale Circle, though I doubt I would have taken it as the fields are so waterlogged. At the little school I take the estate road going west, and he pedals off down the main track.
It is along this stretch of lane are the Glamping pods, Lantern and Larks. They don’t look the most attractive, a cross between a shed and an awning from this vantage point. Turns out they are part of a National Group with other locations. As you can imagine they are not on the cheap side of accommodation, but where is nowadays? In their blurb they talk about the wild life to find in the surrounding area and highlight the Hen Harrier. It is these grouse shooting estates that are responsible for most of the deaths of the Harrier, a mixed message there.
Just past here on the right over the infant Brock is an old packhorse bridge said to have been on the way from the estate properties to the church and school. I would like to know more. Cutting across some fields I’m soon back at the car from there.
Well that has been a very satisfying round.