Author Archives: bowlandclimber

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 3. Rufford to Longton.

Marshy Lancashire.

I’m back on the rattly but reliable train to Rufford, along with the regulars, and I find out that a token is still used between Midge Hall and Rufford on the single track section, failsafe.

I’m straight onto the canal, the branch of the Leeds Liverpool destined to merge with the River Douglas and the Ribble Estuary from where The Ribble Link connects to the Lancaster Canal. Here it is wide and stately reminding me of the Canal du Midi. The old hall of Rufford is just visible through the trees, started in 1530 and associated with the Hesketh family for generations. Now in the hands of the NT and only open weekends in winter. The canal here traverses low lying drained lands, made more sombre by today’s low weak sunlight, there is no one else about and only a few boats moored up. With no distractions, I soon reach Sollom Bridge where the towpath seems to run out and the canal has wilder rushy borders. I come inland to the small hamlet of Sollom, on a corner is a medieval cross base. The cottages and barns here have been sensitively restored and it is an oasis of calm just off the hectic A59. Whilst I was walking down the next track my camera somehow switched onto an ‘artistic’ mode’.I was able to disable it by the time I reached St. Mary’s Church. I have driven past here many times on the main road and wondered about its origins and unusual architecture. There had been a chapel on this site from early C16 but the present church was erected in 1719, the bricks would have been hand made. It was extended in 1824 when the rotunda was added to the tower. Apparently, the interior has many original items, box pews and oil lamps, but was closed today and I could only peep through the keyhole. The church is no longer in use and is administered by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Through the keyhole.

I crossed the canal and river, soon to be united on their way into the Ribble, and noticed this old warehouse.

Hidden in the trees to the right is Bank Hall.  C17 Jacobean, under restoration. All I could see was a possible gate lodge.

Up the road is Bank Hall Windmill, built in 1741, now converted into private living accommodation.

On a busy junction again hidden in the trees is Carr House. It is commonly thought that Jeremiah Horrocks made his observation of the transit of Venus across the sun, 24 Nov. 1639, while living at Carr House. More of this soon.

Glad to leave the busy A59 onto a little lane leading towards Much Hoole. Ahead was another interesting church, St. Michael, an early C17 building. The church has connections to the above Jeremiah Horrocks who may have been a curate there at the time of his important astronomical observations. There is a marble tablet commemorating him as well as some of the stained glass windows. The church has a two-decker oak pulpit and a long upper gallery.

I next crossed boggy fields towards the River Douglas. There were some new ‘No Public Right of Way’ notices on the public footpath which annoyed me and have been reported to the appropriate authorities.

The tide was out so the river was more of a mud bath than a waterway. Ahead was only a vast flood plain marsh though the sheep seemed to know their way around. Following the sea wall, I eventually arrived at the renowned Dolphin [Flying Fish] Inn. We used to come drinking here in the seventies, shrouded in mist and at risk of flooding the place had a certain atmosphere for late-night carousing. Its been gentrified since but the public bar was welcoming with plenty of locals enjoying a lunchtime pint. I like to give as much prominence to the pubs as well as to the churches.

A walk into Longton and a bus back to Preston.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 2. Burscough to Rufford.

Glorious Lancashire.

My day starts rattling along on the NothernRail train to Burscough. The morning mist is lifting off the fields and blue skies promise a good day. I’m starting a loop around this unfamiliar area hoping to spot more religious sites than on my first outing on this Lancashire Monastic Way. One of the first streets I turn down in suburban Burscough is Chapel Lane  – a good start. And yes there at its end is Catholic Church of St.John the Evangelist, C19. Next to it is the rebuilt Burscough Hall Farmhouse which dates from the early C16/17 and where services took place before the church was built.

The hoar frost defines the path across marshy ground whilst giant diggers joist on a nearby landfill site, all very romantic.

I’m aiming for the remains of Burscough Priory, in a private garden but visible in the winter months – just.

The priory was established in the late C12. and followed the Augustine order, named after St. Augustine of Hippo an early Roman African theologian. Apart from being a religious institution, the priory looked after the needy and the traveller until dissolution. All that remains are two massive Gothic pillars from the central church tower.

Next door is a large residential caravan site where this unusual car was seen, ?a self-built cross between a Nissan and a 2CV.  From the sublime to the ridiculous.

On the corner of the lane is Cross House and there is the base to an ancient cross suggesting a pilgrim route.

Along the lanes that I followed through the Lathom estate were these two cottages – the cruck framed farmhouse…

and a Keepers Cottage, 1868 in the Jacobean Style…

More of the Lathom Estate followed across the road at a gateway to the estate where there are two octagonal gatehouses, one occupied and the other up for sale.

The gates themselves have very ornate stonework…

My main object was the Lathom Park Chapel, established in 1500 by Lord Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby, from benefits received after the Battle of Bosworth. It escaped suppression at the Dissolution of the monasteries. Attached are some delightful almshouses.

Nearby in fields below the remaining west wing of Lathom Hall was a nostalgic remembrance statue. Let us not forget…

This has a particular significance as the Lathom Estate played a key role in the British war effort during the First World War as a Remount Depot. Lathom offered his land so that horses and mules could be prepared for their duties at the front line. Horses came to West Lancashire from all over the world. After unloading they were ‘drove on the hoof’ through the country lanes to Lathom. The park was divided into ‘squadrons’ of 500 horses, each with its own superintendents, foremen and 150 grooms. The War Office statistics indicate that between September 1914 and November 1917, 215,000 horses and mules passed through Lathom Park. There was a recent stone memorial dedicated to these forces.

I found a way out of the estate on an unmarked path…

… to yet another war memorial to Lathom residents…

I was not looking forward to the walk alongside the busy B5240 but it soon passed and there were a few interesting properties of unknown origin.

I was then back on the Leeds Liverpool canal with a long-distance view of Ainsworth Mill, a mid-C19 steam-powered corn mill handily located next to the canal.

I was soon at the junction with the Rufford branch, my way ahead, which leads to the River Ribble and the Ribble Link to the Lancaster Canal.

After the top lock, I came face to face with a blocked towpath, they were replacing the railway bridge over the canal ahead. A massive crane was being used to lift sections of the bridge and there was obviously no way I could sneak through. However, a little lateral thinking and a few fences climbed had me back on my way.

The flat fields hereabouts are perfect for growing turf and I watched a clever machine ‘harvesting’.

Fast walking followed along the towpath towards Rufford. I was surprised to see in the far distance the Bowland Fells, Longridge Fell and Pendle. Winter Hill was a little closer.

I crept past these sleeping swans and went through the stone bridge circle.

As you arrive in Rufford there are busy marinas on either side of the canal.

I had time before my train to look at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built 1869 on the site of a 1736 Chapel. The church was closed and I wandered around the graveyard looking for a C11 preaching cross. Luckily a churchwarden appeared from nowhere and pointed out the said cross base [with an incongruous addition] along with a mass grave from when the church was extended. He pointed out one more gravestone with the words  Richard Ally   Bassoon
The inscription was a reminder of the time when the choir, stationed in the west gallery sang Psalms to the accompaniment of Instruments of Music, which included a bassoon,  played
by Richard Alty. Apparently, the said bassoon is preserved in a case in the church – I wish I’d had time to see that. Inside the church are also several monuments to the Hesketh family closely associated with the nearby Old Rufford Hall.

Bassoon player.

‘Mass grave’

‘Preaching cross’

I caught my train and was back in Preston before dark.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY 1. Upholland to Burscough.

Stunning Dean Brook.

A train to Wigan, a bus ride and I’m in West Lancashire armed with my latest walking guide, A Lancashire Monastic Way. Not the best of starts – my first monastery, the remains of Upholland Priory – is a wall in the car park of the local Conservative Club.

I was exploring the grounds of St. Thomas the Martyr Church in Upholland. The church grounds were extensive, I’m always amazed by the number of graves in some of these old churches. In fact, there were so many graves that the stones have been used to pave the area around the building. The Benedictine monks established a priory here in 1319. Monasteries served as hospitals, schools and places of refuge for the needy and homeless but by the Dissolution, the priory here was only helping two elderly and two school children. The chancel of the priory became the nave of today’s Parish Church and the rest of the monastery dispersed, apart from that wall. Due to my early start, I was unable to see the interior of the church which apparently has a window made from medieval glass found in the ruins.

As this is a ‘Monastic Way’ I’d better educate myself on the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries was a process instituted by Henry VIII  between 1536 and 1541 where monasteries, priories, friaries and convents were appropriated by the Crown.  Henry wished to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, for failing to give him a male heir. The Pope refused to grant the divorce so Henry set up the Church of England breaking from Rome along with the Reformation throughout Europe. Apart from religious changes, the idea was to increase the income of the Crown. Much monastic property was subsequently sold off to fund Henry’s military campaigns in France and Scotland. The gentry and merchants, Henry’s sympathisers, who bought the land prospered.  At the time there were nearly 900 religious houses in England with thousands of monks, nuns and friars. The majority of these were given money or pensions.   Some abbots refused to comply and were executed, their monasteries destroyed. The fabric of English society was changed almost overnight.

Back to the walk  – a lot of cottages in the surrounding streets appeared quite ancient, one in particular. Derby House, with mullioned windows and the Stanley ‘eagle and child’ crest, 1633.

The usual suburban, hemmed in paths led to a deserted golf course and out into fields with a misty view across the flat landscape to Winter Hill. A ravine appeared alongside the track and I dropped down to the water below, Dean Brook. All was autumn colours and splashing waters, a joy for the next mile or so. At one point I climbed out of the valley only to drop back down to a muddier path crisscrossing the Brook. A hidden unexpected gem that makes these walks memorable. The Brook discharges into the River Douglas where I have a little detour under the motorway and railway at Gathutst to join the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. The Douglas rises on Winter Hill and goes into the Ribble estuary near Tarleton. Back in 1794, it was made navigable between Wigan and its mouth for small boats mainly carrying coal. It was soon superseded by the Canal opened in 1783 although apparently the remains of several locks can be found on the way to Parbold. The Navigation Inn here has suffered the ignominious name change to The Baby Elephant.

River Douglas.

I’m on the towpath for the rest of the day and once under the motorway and railway into open countryside. I had to think which direction I was going in. Several swing bridges in varying states of repair were passed, the minor ones still giving access to farmers fields. I was welcomed into West Lancashire although I thought I was already there.

Once past Appley Bridge, there were double locks built to speed transit when the traffic was heavy, now only the one is in use. On the map nearby is Prior’s Wood Hall, a C17 listed building with possible associations with the Upholland Priory, I am kicking myself for not diverting to see it.

At the next stone bridge, a cobbled lane goes between cottages to reveal a stone cross marking the site of Douglas Chapel. There was a chapel on this site from C13, rebuilt in 1420 possibly by the Knights Hospitallers as a catholic place of worship. It continued in service until 1875 when its replacement, Christ Church higher in Parbold, was consecrated. Around that time it was demolished and its pulpit and font moved to the new church. I have found some old pictures before demolition, notice the wooden pews.Further along the canal, Parbold was bustling with a cafe and pub alongside an old windmill, built at the time of the canal, truncated and now an interesting art gallery. Shortly afterwards the River Douglas, which has been running parallel goes off under the canal towards the Ribble. I caught up with these two…The countryside here is flat and fertile and there was an almost surreal view across fields with the remains of the recent pumpkin crop. Nearby was the “Lathom Fish” by the talented Thompson Dagnall which provided a good seat for a brew.

Leaving the canal at the Ring O’Bells I had a minute to spare before a bus arrived taking me to Burscough Junction where my mad rush down the forecourt was watched by the guard of the waiting train, he kindly held things up until I’d collapsed aboard. Who says we can have trains without guards?

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY.

I have stumbled across a guide book written by John Convey for this walk through Lancashire. A two-section walk linking medieval monastic sites of Lancashire and South Cumbria, beginning in southwest Lancashire at Upholland, and making its way up to Furness Abbey in what is now Cumbria. The first section finishes at Sawley Abbey. The second starts at Cockerham Priory and continues to Furness Abbey. The author has researched the area well and writes a lively account of the history of the various localities. A third of his guide consists of references and sources to his research and give more than some authenticity to the places visited.  Time will tell if his walking route is worthwhile.

The guide gives good public transport information and I intend to eschew my car for the duration. Out with the bus pass and Senior Railcard. I hopefully will complete the way on an ad hoc daily basis with regard to the winter weather and other commitments. Should be ideal for the short daylight at the end of the year.

Convey has an obvious liking of the variety of landscapes in the ‘old’ Lancashire. As well as the monastic houses from Medieval times he includes many other religious places of note along the way. As he says –

“Every time I see a church

  I pay a little visit

So when at last I’m carried in      

 The Lord won’t say ‘Who is it’?

*****

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 14. HONISTER TO BUTTERMERE.

  Haystacks.

Haystacks didn’t make it into A Wainwright’s top ten fells but he loved the place so much that he had his ashes scattered by Innominate Tarn on its flanks. And so our journey through his life and works comes to an end. Looking back on Nick Burton’s Wainwright’s Way, from Blackburn to Buttermere, I can say every day has been enjoyable and would highly recommend it to anyone regardless of the AW associations. A journey through northern hills as varied as any.

The car park at Honister is packed, people having left early to reach the summit of Great Gable for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club remembrance service. We have the track up into the abandoned mines virtually to ourselves. At 11am we hear the atmospheric bugle call from Gable.

Across the way are more abandoned levels and inclines next to the rather spooky climbing venue of Buckstone How, in centre of the picture. Looking back snow-topped Helvellyn shone out.

Our way came past an MBA bothy in an old mine building, Dubs Hut. We wondered if it had been occupied the night before. We did meet one chap who had spent the night camped atop Fleetwith Pike, seen going down the track. As we followed the old mine tramway we got our first glimpse of Haystacks with Pillar and High Crag behind.

There was a drop in height to cross Warnscale Beck and then begin the winding path up the flanks of Haystacks. Top of Haystacks arrowed.

From time to time to distract us, there were stunning views down to the Buttermere valley.

A Wainwright. 1973.

The way was rough and undulating until suddenly we were on the shores of Innominate Tarn, AW’s last resting place, his ashes having been carried up by his widow, Betty, with Percy Duff and his two sons. March 22nd 1991. A beautiful place with Gable and Pillar as a background. His famous quote from Fellwanderer reflecting his often hidden humour – “And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.”

A Wainwright. 1973.

Cleaning our boots we scrambled up onto the summit ridge of Haystacks to be joined by many more enjoying the splendid clear November day. There were paths everywhere through the rocks and there was, surprisingly, a tarn almost at the summit. An unexpected view down Ennerdale from the top. Most people had come up from the Buttermere Valley via Scarth Gap and several scrambles to the top. We were now faced with this steep dropoff which Sir Hugh’s two mechanical knees objected to. As stoical as ever he made the descent slowly but surely, onlookers were impressed.  Once down the worst, we stopped in Scarth Gap for a bit of lunch.

Crowds going up.

Sir Hugh coming down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The long descent from Scarth Gap, across the side of High Crag, went on forever but our route around the west side of Buttermere Lake was a joy. Eyes kept looking back to the rocky Haystacks and its neighbour Fleetwith Pike.

Our final destination was to be the little church of St. James to view the Wainwright Memorial window but we were thwarted by a remembrance service taking place.

VisitCumbria image.

VisitCumbria image.

We were content to stand outside listening to that evocative bugle call –

*****

WAINWRIGHT WAY. 13. ROSTHWAITE TO HONISTER.

A wintery interlude.

This was a short walk, not necessarily in sequence, bridging a gap in our WW progress through the Lakes. It had been a wild night with snow falling on the tops and we were in full waterproofs when we left the tiny village of Rosthwaite following AW’s Coast to Coast Walk. 

Field paths soon had us alongside the River Derwent at Longthwaite. All these ‘thwaites’ in the area derive from the Norse meaning of clearing or meadow. In the meadow here were some camping pods alongside the YHA as well as a collection of boots.

There was a short stretch of rocky scrambling by the river protected by chains, not quite a Via Ferrata. You have to go up to Honister for a full Via Ferrata experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn colours accompanied us to Seatoller. We passed above the Glaramara Hotel where we had spent a very comfortable night. In the background were Glaramara Fell itself and Seathwaite Fell leading to Esk Hause in the clouds.

Seatoller was sleepy and the 17th Century Yew Tree Inn seems to have become holiday accommodation. Cottages here were occupied by German miners back then digging for graphite seams.

A Wainwright. 1973.

We were to join the old toll road leading to the Honister Green Slate mines. A steep stepped path gained height quickly and we were then above the modern road making good progress against the wind and rain.

The old road was intact for most of the way and lead us straight into the quarries at the pass.

Honister Mine still produces green slate but has diversified into an ‘adventure experience’ with mine trips and Via Ferrata. That steep track ahead is our way up to the final day on Haystacks.

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 12. LANGDALE TO ROSTHWAITE.

Zigzagging to Borrowdale.

I walked the Cumbria Way with one of my sons in 1988. It follows a mainly low-level route for 70 miles through the Lake District from Ulverston to Carlisle. We had enjoyed a traditional, comfortable night in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and then the next day walked over the Stake Pass down into Borrowdale and on to Keswick. The route passes from what was Westmorland into Cumberland and that is what we had in store for today, albeit only as far as Rosthwaite. The clocks have gone back and day light is getting short. Add to that we have created for ourselves an awkward drive for two cars – one at either end of Borrowdale and Langdale. Sir Hugh loves to be up and away before light but I’m a night owl and like my mornings to start slowly, preferably after a cup of coffee at 9am. So it was a shock for my system to be getting out of bed at 5am and on the road 30minutes later.

Once again beautiful early light shone on the Langdale Pikes as we started the route up the valley.

The last time we were both here was the sad occasion of scattering our friend Tony’s ashes. A little ‘ceremony’ involving flasks of tea and muesli bars with family and friends in the valley bottom below Gimmer Crag had some of his ashes duly scattered. This was followed by myself and Sir Hugh taking Tony’s son, Robert, with the remaining ashes in his rucksack, up a climb on Gimmer, Tony’s favourite Lakeland crag. I chose what I thought was an easy route for the occasion, a three-star VD, Oliverson’s Variation and Lyon’s Crawl. A long rising traverse in a superb position. We placed Robert in the middle and set off on what turned out to be an exciting exposed and in parts tricky climb right across the West Face. To help progress Sir Hugh says he had to pretend he wasn’t frightened as we coaxed an ashen-faced Robert across and up. Nevertheless, we accomplished our mission, and Tony is up on the top of Gimmer looking down upon us today.

Pike O’Stickle with Gimmer Crag further right.

Our route continues along the valley floor for about two miles and then starts a zigzagging ascent alongside the beck on a well-reconstructed stone path, Stake Pass.

Great Langdale with Bowfell up left, Rossett Gill centre and our route Stake Pass in mist right.

Heading to Stake Pass.

Looking back down Langdale was a geology lesson – U-shaped glacial valley with moraine debris.

A Wainwright. 1974.

We reached what we thought was the top just as clouds piled in from the west. There followed a strange endless hummocky plateau before we finally crested the pass and looked down into Langstrath. Down we went on a series of superb zigzags taking us right into the valley bottom. I have no recollection from the Cumbria Way of this unique path.

Alongside the path, as we descended was the lively Stake Beck cascading down rock slabs.

Sitting on rocks, enjoying lunch, we tried to make out features across the valley, there were crags everywhere but we only identified Cam Crag Ridge correctly. The track down the valley was rough and we made slow progress, enjoying the scenery and reminiscing. I had forgotten how much of a slog up the hillside on the right it was to reach Seargent Crag Slabs and lower in the valley BleakHow Buttress seemed to be disappearing under vegetation.

Bleak How.

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A Wainwright. 1973

Another enjoyable day on our Wainwright Way, not so many AW connections today but he would have appreciated those zigzags.

 

*****