Category Archives: Art and architecture.

THE RIBBLE BETWEEN MITTON AND CLITHEROE.

The clock on the tower of Mitton Church says 4.30. I’m glad I’ve delayed my departure until the sun has come out leaving a beautiful evening for my walk.

I’ve walked the East bank of the Ribble up to Clitheroe several times, it is on the Ribble Way.  I’ve often contemplated walking back down the other side. The problem was there didn’t appear to be a public footpath going south from Edisford Bridge which would mean walking some distance on a busy road.  A closer look at the 1:25,000, however, showed a black dotted field path on that section so maybe there was a way. Time to find out.

Mitton is a rather amorphous district of scattered farms and houses, Great and Little Mitton are separated by the Ribble just north of where the Hodder joins.  Mythe in Old English means the joining of two rivers. The Shireburn family of Stonyhurst were the principal lords.

 All Hallows Church where I parked is in Great Mitton and has C13th origins with a C15th tower. Today it was closed [Covid precautions] so I was unable to visit the interior famous for its Shireburn tombs and wooden artefacts from nearby monasteries. So instead I wandered around the graveyard coming across the sundial dated 1683 and an unusual cross with an ancient C14th rounded head featuring crucifixion carvings. From the graveyard is a lovely view down to the Ribble with proud Pendle Hill in the background.


Neighbouring the church is C16th Great Mitton Hall now smartly renovated with classy gardens visible over the wall. This is not to be confused with Mitton Hall, now a wedding venue, down the road in Little Mitton. The Three Fishes pub opposite the church has been closed for some time now.

I crossed over the Ribble on Mitton Bridge, another classic view of river and hill in heading photo, to reach the temporarily closed Aspinall Arms. This was once a coaching inn known as the Mitton Boat. A ferry boat operated across the River Ribble before the present road bridge was built in the C19th. This was the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire before the reorganisation.

A signed path goes down the side of the inn into fields alongside the River Ribble. There is quite a high banking along here and sand martins were in evidence swooping low over the water ‘chattering’ as they fly past. After a short way, a rather elegant aqueduct crosses the river, the pipes carrying water from Haweswater in the Lakes to Manchester.

A farm road is reached and followed almost to Clitheroe. Taking this photo I managed to get an electric shock from the unseen live wire I was bending over! A calf was brand new in a field and there were new countryside signs on display.

A riverside path continues to Edisford Bridge. It was along here the last time I passed that I had a wonderful view of a Kingfisher. No such luck today as the river is running very fast from all the rain we have endured. The campsite hidden in the trees was packed with people taking advantage of the easing of coronavirus lockdown.

I sat by Edisford Bridge for a drink taking in the scenery. This is a place where there was a ford before the present bridge was constructed, although it goes back to Medieval times. I crossed the bridge and found there was the start of a path going downstream although it wasn’t signed. A muddy section led to a gate into woods, this was now designated a concessionary path so I was confident of a way back.

A long bend of the river was closely followed at the edge of a large meadow. This side of the river was much quieter. A couple of girls were frying some sausages up for a picnic supper in the warm evening sunshine. I met another couple walk in the other way and they assured me of a route back to Mitton. The sand martins were again plentiful. At one point I disturbed a family of mallards which took to the fast-flowing water, I was concerned for the ducklings that seemed to be swept away but they ended up in a calm stretch by the other bank.

Steps led away from the river and a field was crossed signed by large yellow dots. A strange seat carved from a trunk with a couple of Bears was not that comfortable. This brought me onto the Public Footpath having avoided any road walking. Now that was what I would call a sensible concessionary path serving a good purpose and well used.

Stiles led through the lush fields. Looking back there were fine views of Waddington and Newton Fells, all familiar ground. Eventually, a narrow enclosed path brought me out onto the road less than 100 yards from the church.

A very satisfying walk of about 4.5 miles, one I will repeat. Beautiful English countryside and curiosity satisfied.

The clock now read 6.30.

*****

THE BLEASDALE CIRCLE AGAIN.

Bleasdale Circle with Fairsnape and Parlick looming above.

Another of my winter favourites. This circuit is mainly on lanes and good tracks but takes one right into the hills. I’ve written about it many times but today I have come across some interesting new facts.

For a start, Bleasdale School dating from 1850 where I park is now closed. It soldiered on since the Millenium with about a dozen pupils from the surrounding farms but when the number dropped to two or three its fate was inevitable.

Up the lane, the Parish Hall is heated using a wood pellet boiler with a wind turbine to generate electricity, forward-thinking for a small community. Further on is the uniquely named St. Eadmer Church.

The lane then heads into the hills past a few farms. A footpath diverts to visit Bronze Age Bleasdale Circle. Originally two circles of wooden posts with ditches and a central burial chamber. The wooden posts of the inner circle have been replaced by concrete posts but still are evocative of the site. There is the usual speculation as to the uses of these circles and their positioning. Burial urns from the site have been on view at the Harris Museum in Preston.  The whole site has been planted with a circle of trees which are visible from many parts of Bleasdale. The outer circle, obstructed by the trees, was possibly from an earlier Neolithic era. Ritual sites are often reused over the ages. I visited it today and got my feet very wet in the approach fields.

themodernantiquarian.com

Further into Bleasdale, there is a section of boggy ground before the next farm tracks which come in from the west, like crossing a watershed. All around are good views of the surrounding hills. As well as the Curlew and Lapwings a small flock of Pied Wagtails entertain me flitting along the wall tops. I’m now approaching the properties of the Bleasdale Estate. The estate is now run as partly agricultural and partly a shooting concern but I’ve just unearthed some of its history.

In the C19th a Mr Garnett lived in nearby Bleasdale Tower, he was an agricultural reformer and philanthropist and in 1857 founded The North Lancashire Reformatory School constructed on the estate. It catered for over a hundred boys who worked on the land and in trades such as tailoring and shoemaking as well as receiving an education

“In November 1857, a few weeks after its opening, three boys escaped from the institution due to the fence wall having not been completed. They were all apprehended in Preston the same evening and returned to the Reformatory.”

“Of the 51 discharges for 1865 thirty-three were doing well, twelve convicted, one dead and five missing”

As I walked down the lane today I crossed over Clough Head Brook on a substantial stone bridge which apparently was constructed by the boys. Stonemasons’ tools are depicted on the parapet.

The lane goes through the original school buildings which are now used as cottages and workhouses for the estate. The school enlarged over the years and eventually closed in 1905. A map from 1893 shows the school

In a wall on the corner is a King Geoge V post box [1910 -36]

Taking the shorter route on tarmac brought me past Brooks Farm where an arched ‘packhorse’ bridge is visible over the River Brock. Despite its appearance, it was never built for horses with steep steps at either end. It is not on a known packhorse trail and didn’t appear on maps till 1893. It has been suggested that the bridge was built to provide access from Bleasdale Tower to Bleasdale Church, I wonder if those reform boys built it.

In the wood nearby are some new, not particularly attractive, chalet type holiday lets, a sign of the estate diversifying.

My way back to the school was enclosed by smart beech hedging for which the estate is renowned.

I took this photo of the Bleasdale hills on my way home, St. Eadmer’s church is right of centre.*****

*****

This walk was completed two days ago and since then advice about walking and climbing during the coronavirus emergency has been sensibly updated. As I’m in the vulnerable group I’m taking heed. We are all responsible for limiting the seriousness of the situation in the next few months.

BMC Advice.  18/03/2020

  • People need access to the countryside for their health – both mental and physical.
  • Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing. Currently Public Health England’s advice is: “you can go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.”
  • Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
  • Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
  • Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
  • Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops.

 

THE EAST COLNE WAY.

A walk through the green lungs of Colne.

I picked up this leaflet at the cafe on Beacon Fell the other day, it looked interesting. Despite my friend Sir Hugh stating  ” The ones I am not enamoured by are where some local authority has connected a lot of inferior paths around the edges of crop fields with no particular objective other than perhaps encircling their borough or domain and claiming this as The Whatevershire Way”  to discover relatively new territory I was prepared to give The East Colne Way a chance.

I’ve driven along the A6068 Nelson to Keighley road many times on my way to walks in the Bronte Country and climbs on Earl Crag and familiar landmarks which I would visit today. This another of my short walks I’ve been doing recently to fit in with the weather and other commitments. I turn off the road to a lakeside carpark at Ball Grove Nature Reserve. This was the site of an C18th water-powered cotton mill which became in 1860 Sagar’s Tannery, the largest in Europe. Production ceased in 1970 and the buildings were demolished all but the present-day cafe.

I strolled alongside the lodges, now nature reserves, and Colne Water to a weir with a fish ladder.

An unofficial scramble brought me onto the road opposite the old cottage Hospital bequeathed by the Hartley family which has been converted into retirement accommodation.

 

Hartley Hospital.

Along the road are the Hartley Almshouses donated again by the Hartley family, yes those of jam fame. Talking to two residents one was very positive the other concerned about damp.

I cut up through some rough fields with ancient boundary walls and stiles, I’m surprised to find a waymarker for my walk, these continue to guide me around the circuit. 

I pass the workers cottages at Bents without a photo and press on up Skipton road to pass the Georgian  Heyroyd House, Apparently round the back are walled gardens.

More stone stiles led across fields to a lane alongside Colne Golf Course. A clapper bridge has had rails added to it – health and safety? It opened onto a lane that looked more like a stream.

The rocky ridge visible ahead is Noyna Hill, a real ‘green lung’ of Colne.

Farm lanes followed and I was soon crossing the causeway at Foulridge Upper Reservoir. The sun was quite warm and I lingered admiring the views over to Pendle Hill, Blacko Tower and round to Noyna and the Great Edge all Pendle walking areas par excellence.

The large gated property, Lower Clough owned by the Barnsfield Construction Co, had some impressive, well-guarded grounds. An open area The Rough is what remains of Lob Common, worryingly new housing seems to be creeping up the hill. Curlew are calling as I walk through. I come out onto a surprising lane lined on one side by handloom weavers’ cottages, several three-storied. Down at the roundabout is the old Turnpike House which I’ve driven past without realising its existence. Also on the lane is Lidgett Hall dated 1749. This delightful Conservation Area backs onto the open countryside where the housing development is occurring – so much for town planning.

Turnpike House.

 

Lidgett Hall.

 

Another open field heads towards a church with the hills above Wycoller in the background. I finish the day with a coffee in the lakeside cafe at Ball Grove Mill. This turned out to be a 5mile walk through beautiful northern countryside giving an insight into the past life of this area on the edge of industrial Colne. The only sour note is the lack of protection from developers to land unchanged from the C17th. 

*****

 

THE SINGING RINGING TREE.

There aren’t many trees on the bleak Pennine Moors above Burnley but in 2006 one was planted on Crown Point south of the town. Architects Tonkin and Liu designed a structure composed of metal pipes which, as well as being a stunning visual feature, creates a musical noise from the wind playing through the pipes. The Burnley Way [which I walked in 2017] predates it and thus avoids it which is a shame, some minor re-routing would easily include this notable landmark.

JD mentioned he had never visited the ‘Tree’,  not many of our friends have either. A walk was hatched to include this site, we procrastinated on several occasions during the stormy weather but today we set forth with a better forecast.  Several suggested walks start off from Townley Hall but parking is charged there so we, or rather I, decide to park up on a street in nearby Walk Mill.

We pick our way up various bridleways, parts of The Burnley Way and The Pennine Bridleway, onto Deerplay Moor. I’m not saying it was all easy going, the farmyards were a mudbath but we got through. Views to our left are down towards the Cliviger Gorge where road and railway head for the delights of Todmorden. We come across a memorial stone to Mary Townley who was instrumental in establishing long-distance routes in the Pennines for horse riders. In 1986 she road from Hexham to Ashbourne to draw attention to the poor state of England’s bridleways. Today these improved bridleways probably benefit mountain bikers rather than those on horseback.

The quotation The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.” is, in fact, an Arabian Proverb.

We had a bit of a depressing section on a road where there was evidence of fly-tipping every few hundred metres. I just cannot understand this blatant antisocial behaviour.

The ‘tree’ had been out of sight most of the walk but at last on Crown Point, we left the road on the well-trodden path across to it. Unfortunately, a Union Jack has been stuck into it diminishing the visual impact of the fine installation. There was only a light breeze today so the tubes were only murmuring. We speculated on what sounds were produced in the recent gales, there will probably be something on youtube. 

Crown Point is a fine viewpoint in itself with Burnley below and a backdrop of Pendle Hill. There had been some patches of old snow as we walked up and there was a definite white rim to Pendle Hill. Easy walking took us off the hill directly back to Walk Mill and its historical past,

*****

 

A QUICK WALK ROUND BEACON FELL.

Longridge Fell is usually my quick fix hill for some fresh air and views but the tracks up onto it will be muddy, to say the least. I choose instead Beacon Fell with its well-made tracks,  it is no further to drive. Longridge Fell Is reputedly the most southerly named fell so Beacon Fell must be the second being only one mile further north. I can ascend both of them easily from my house for longer walks but this afternoon I only have an hour or so spare.

As I arrive in the quarry car park a pair of Roe Deer stand and look at me but quickly disappear when I open the car door. I thought I had a photo of the male but nothing shows up.

I walk briskly in a circle around the hill on familiar paths. I’ve never come to terms with the waymarking here.

There are a few dog walkers out, the cafe is strangely quiet. Everywhere seems green and moss-covered, a sign of a mild and very wet winter.

As I’ve mentioned on previous visits up here storms have taken their toll on some areas of the forest with a lot of tree felling taking place to tidy things up. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise as the fell has a more open feel to it now and some of the new plantings are of native deciduous trees. Also, wood carvers have been busy creating new pieces.  I add a few more to my collection. There are ‘Green Men’ carved on some trees… … but today I find something a bit different – a ‘Green Woman’ or has someone taken a fancy to one of the lady volunteer rangers?

An obligatory visit to the trig point and I notice that the views to Fairsnape and Parlick are becoming obscured by growing firs – time for another storm?

I’m back at the car within the hour feeling much refreshed.

DRY FEET TO PILLING.

Knott End to Pilling.

On display next to a caravan site in Pilling is a restored Hudswell 0-6-0 steam engine similar to the ones used on the old Knott End To Garstang Railway, it has been painted in their livery and renamed the Pilling Pig. This abandoned railway was built to link the agricultural areas of Wyre with the mainline. It had a chequered history.

The whistle of these engines squealed like a pig – hence the name Pilling Pig.

The cafe where I park this afternoon is on the site of the old railway terminus at Knott End, next to the ferry over to Fleetwood. This was a favourite place of the painter LS Lowry and several of his paintings include the ferry slipway. To celebrate this association a statue, by local designer Tom Elliot, has recently been installed.

Jetty at Knott End. L S Lowry. 1957.

The above diversions link my walk this afternoon from Knott End to Pilling.

Storms are continuing and fields are flooded so I opt for the raised sea wall to keep my feet dry today, I’m confident enough to walk in trainers. Talking to a resident of the seafront he explains the sea is either way out of sight or breaking over the promenade. Recent sea defences have prevented flooding which is good news.

At the moment the tide is coming in. There are views across to a vague Black Combe and a clearer Morecambe Power Station.

The portion of the foreshore still visible is thronged with wading birds, I forgot my binoculars and the wind is too strong to take zoom shots with my little camera so their species will remain a mystery.

That is apart from this Little Egret which seem to becoming more and more common on our shores and estuaries.

The landside of the path is uninspiring with a few houses, caravan sites and flooded fields. At one point I pass a fenced off reedy area, a tractor is just leaving it and my query of the driver reveals that it is a Mallard breeding area with 40,000 birds who are elsewhere at present. I do not feel it is the moment to discuss my opinion of breeding birds for the shooting fraternity.

All afternoon the Bowland Hills filled the skyline to the east, what a contrast to the flat coastal area. Nearly all the other walkers on the wall have dogs.

The sea wall continues but seems to be fenced off [I’m tempted], the Lancashire Coastal path I’ve been following continues down Fluke Hall Lane into Pilling alongside a delightful period Junior School. Across the way, The Golden Ball inn looks ominously quiet. I’ve time on my hands but decide to explore the village rather than prop up the bar. Dam Lane takes me to a bridge over Pilling Water with a nearby desirable converted windmill. Another raised sea wall goes north to join the embankment I had previously considered following. Signs state that this should not be used from December to April but without a reason given.

I next look around the Parish Church, St. John the Baptist, yet another designed by the Lancaster firm Paley & Austin and built in 1887. There is fine stained glass in the east and west windows. I didn’t realise this church replaced an earlier C18th chapel which is just down the lane, Apparently, it still has the original wooden galleries. One to visit on another occasion.

The only other visitor attraction is Pilling Pottery which was closed. I sat in a cold and windy bus shelter hoping my bus back to Knott End would arrive on time before I froze.  It did –  and my feet were still dry!

I messed up my navigation driving home and ended up on one of the worst roads in Lancashire through Eagland Hill – very narrow, lined by flooded ditches, twisting with sudden right-angled bends,  undulating from subsidence on the marsh and the tarmac breaking up in many places. With Storm Jorge in full swing, I was relieved to reach Nateby and the A6.

*****

NORTHING 438. SKIPWITH COMMON TO FOGGATHORPE.

The correct carpark was found this morning, 50metres down the road. We were the first arrivals and waited for a torrential downpour to pass. The start couldn’t be delayed any longer and waterproofs were needed for the light rain. We headed due east on a good track into the woods, mainly birch at this end with Scots pines further on. All around was heathland, waterlogged at this time of year, giving a pleasant start to the day despite the dampness. The information board states that this is one of the last remaining lowland heaths in the north. Longhorn cattle, Hebridean sheep and Dartmoor ponies graze it to help maintain the habitat. It must be a joy in the summer when the heather is in bloom.

Good progress was made on the easy tracks and soon we were in North Duffield, a rather undistinguished village though it did have a village green and pond. Down a side street was a hut adverting woodcrafts, Stan was busy inside and offered to make us anything from a pillbox to a Welsh Dresser. It would have been good to purchase something from this craftsman who had previously worked in church restorations.

We had been dreading the 2K walk on the busy A163 road, there was no pavement but most drivers gave us a wide birth and by now the sun had come out. In the distance to the south was the massive Drax power station one of several in this area of Yorkshire presumably established when the coal industry was at its peak, what future now?

Over to our left was another nature reserve, the Lower Derwent Valley, and we wondered whether we could have found a way by the river. People were walking their dogs along the embankment and bird watchers scanning the flooded fields [header picture]. Our stint on the road came to an end at the elegant bridge over the Derwent.

Bubwith had some period brick houses and an old church started in Norman times.

Whilst looking around the churchyard we found a seat overlooking the River Derwent for lunch. Looking at the map I notice that this river comes all the way from the North York Moors near Scarborough on its way to join the Ouse. There was a good view back to the bridge with its flood arches.

Originally when plotting a route I thought we would be stuck on the A163 a lot further but Sir Hugh had spotted an old railway line now converted into a trail. We gladly went slightly beyond our ‘mile either side’ limit to access it.

This was the route of the Selby – Driffield railway which closed in 1965. Work has been done recently to unearth Bubwith station platforms. On the way, we met a chatty man walking his dog who worked part-time counselling rugby league players at Castleford Tigers, sounds an interesting job. We steamed into Foggathorpe station ahead of the time table.

That was the end of our three-day jaunt on the 438 line, good walking each day and not a hill climbed or a Harry and Meghan mentioned.

*****

NORTHING 438. CHURCH FENTON to SKIPWITH COMMON (ALMOST)

In this area are scattered some delightful small villages of which we knew very little, a combination of limestone and red bricks giving each one a friendly feel. We are getting to know them and today visit several.

Church Fenton is a long village street with a community shop and a couple of pubs, one doing better than the other. My thoughts today were to photo all the pubs we passed but I kept forgetting. More importantly, there is a railway station. East Coast mainline trains rush through but there is a stopping service to Leeds and York adding to our thoughts that these villages are commuter dormitories.

We opt for a quiet lane rather than muddy fields around an old RAF aerodrome, there is no sign of life this morning.

Rather out of the blue in this flat landscape, we climb stairs to cross that main rail line, a couple of trains thunder through shaking the bridge alarmingly.

A quieter stretch through ploughed fields but fortunately on good tracks and we enter Cawood on the Wolsey Way, more of him later. The village is built around an old medieval manor site, the Garth, which the village own as an open space. We wander into it over a ditch which despite its modest size was used to transport limestone out of the area for buildings in Southern cities. The outline of a moat is clearly seen on the ground. Hidden behind trees is the original gatehouse to the castle and adjacent banqueting hall, the only traces remaining.  An information board tells the history; how the Archbishops of York owned it, how Cardinal Wolsey was arrested here for high treason and the link to Humpty Dumpty, and how the Garth was saved from development by the crested newt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cawood_Castle

Through the town with its brick houses and narrow streets, two pubs with different fates.

We cross the River Ouse on a fine metal swing bridge which won’t be used for shipping very often.

Once across we use a path on the raised flood embankment into Kelfield with its closed pub and seemingly inadequate flood defences. Lunch is taken in a very comfortable bus stop. Several of the older buildings in this locality have moats and there is one to see just along the lane.

We progress on continued good paths alongside the prosaically named Main Drain, the water flow is considerable given the lack of a discernable incline. One has to be on the alert to mischievous gates. The Watermill Bridge is a bit of an anticlimax. Riccall is another interesting village with a large church.

Once on King Rudding Lane all we have to do is walk back to the car but there is more about this place than is obvious. An information board tells us of its ecology, coal mines, and a wartime aerodrome. The country park car park where everyone is heading is not where we parked this morning so we have more to find tomorrow.

Our walk is finished just after 3pm, ideal to drive back to our comfortable hotel in Hambleton, The Owl.

*****

NORTHING 438. BARWICK IN ELMET TO CHURCH FENTON.

It has taken us nine days to walk on our straight line, 38, Blackpool to Barwick last year. We are back in the maypole village this morning hoping to progress further along the grid line. It turns out to be worthwhile, unfrequented walking country, virtually all new to us, ideal for a short trip.

A quiet lane leads to Potterton where we pick up a bridleway heading across fields. On the map, there are numerous ridges marked as antiquities. People were building defences or just marking their boundaries from the iron age.  Our path goes along one of these ridges which are obvious on the ground, a ridge and maybe a ditch. The ridges have been taken over by trees and would probably be better seen from the air as is the case with most earthworks. Rather than keeping to the public footpath, we keep to the ridge as close as possible. Walking harmlessly along the edge of a field of cropped maize we are accosted by an angry gamekeeper. We plead innocence but he suggests that we have ruined the shoot for tomorrow. We actually only saw one pheasant fly out of the cover but we were not prepared to argue, we just accepted – mea culpa. Fortunately, we were by now almost back on the right of way. Close by guns could be heard loudly blasting away, enough to disturb any birds in the vicinity. Putting aside the question of shooting beaten birds we had already enjoyed the glorious sight of buzzards and red kites, hopefully flying without danger of being shot.

We emerged on an access road to Becca Hall, probably the owners of the fields we had been trespassing in. Another ridge, Becca Banks was followed into Aberford; this ridge probably protected the important ford during Roman times. The village once lay astride the Great North Road equidistant between London and Edinburgh.

A curiosity was the uniquely named Arabian Horse Inn.

The C19th  bridge, replacing the ford, over the River Cock is far larger than the present water flow warrants.

Further through the village, we should have visited the Gothic-styled Almshouses built by the Gascoigne family who had made their money from coalpits in the area.

Wikimedia

We couldn’t find a way under or over the motorway and ended up on a lengthy diversion to rejoin our route.

The fields are large here and planted with cereal crops. The soil had a tendency to stick to one’s boots. We found a rickety bridge crossing the fast-flowing River Cock which we then followed seemingly flowing uphill.

I wanted to visit the little church of St. Mary abandoned in a field where previously there had been a community. The chapel was open and exhibited some old wooden pews, a triple pulpit, an ancient font and old gravestones. It was a peaceful place and we took the advantage of a bench for some lunch in the sun, I’d forgotten to mention what a beautiful day it was.

The nearby Crooked Billet pub set us off on a debate as to the derivation – I suggested army beds, Sir Hugh pieces of wood. We were both correct, but why crooked?

Open fields headed towards Saxton and past a quintessential English pub next to the church.

This area is steeped in history but no more so than the Battle of Towton, in March 1461, a War of the Roses struggle that is said to be the bloodiest battle in English history.

Once we crossed a busy road a quiet lane through a golf course continued on a wide, open grassy trail.   We had to contend with the wettest field yet to enter Church Fenton where we failed in a roadside boot cleaning operation.

*****

 

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 14. Ulverston to Furness Abbey.

                                                                          Furness Abbey.

I’m away early from Ulverston station, the footpaths are slippery with ice. Houses are soon left behind as I take a well-worn track down into a small valley and up the other side to Swarthmoor Hall. This C16 house belonged to Judge Fell and his wife who befriended George Fox, founder of the Quaker Movement.  Fox bought a property around the corner to be used as a Quaker Meeting House with an associated burial ground. The hall was closed today but I was able to wander into the grounds, it has an impressive set of bay windows on the east side. The Meeting House was also closed and I could only peep through the gate.

Back on the route, a quiet lane, I have time to look around. There is that iconic tower above Ulverston with the southern Lakeland Fells behind and down there is the Glaxo works and the Leven Estuary. Annoyingly the low sun is directly in front of me obscuring lower Furness. Once into fields, I look out for an Iron Age fort on Skelmore Heads to my right, I just about make it out on top of a low limestone escarpment, what a view though. Down below me is a large tarn and the village of Great Urswick. On the way in I chat to a farmer with a cage of ferrets, I haven’t seen one for years yet all my uncles used to have them for catching rodents.

The village consists of lots of interesting cottages surrounding the tarn, a well-hidden gem off the beaten track. I knew of the church but I first came across one of those ‘tin tabernacles’ erected in 1915 and now used by the United Reformed Church.

The Parish Church of St.Mary and St. Micheal was along the way hidden in trees. It is reputedly the oldest church in Furness, maybe 10th Century and predating Furness Abbey. The outside looked old but inside was much changed. When I entered there were two local ladies giving the church a good clean, hoovering and polishing. Work stopped as they gave me a guided tour of the interior. Of note was an ancient C9th cross, wood carvings by Alec Miller in 1910s, a triple-layered pulpit with a sounding board, some interesting stained glass and a C18th painting of The Last Supper by local artist James Cranke who was a tutor to a young Kendal artist George Romney. Onwards, this is going to be a long day, I take old byways to Little Urswick and then climb the limestone escarpment of Urswick Crags I’m interested in the ancient settlement marked on the map and need GPS to locate it. Two areas of stone walls are found, one squarish and the other circular amongst the limestone outcrops.

Great Urswick and Tarn with Skelmore Heads and my descent track behind.

Ancient track.

Ancient settlement.

Once over the crags, I pick up an enclosed track ahead with Black Coombe in the distance. The soil now has changed to the red colour normally associated with Furness and it sticks to your boots. Changing direction to Standing Tarn. The water level is high.

 

I’m glad to escape the heavy red soil and walk on roads into Dalton. Rows of cottages were built for the iron ore miners back in the late C19th, now upgraded with satellite dishes and cars.

The middle of town is a conservation area but many of the old buildings have been mutilated by commercial development. Things are better from the Market Square upwards with the castle tower and church dominating the scene. Lots of cottages with several courtyards. The Castle Pele Tower was built by the monks of Furness Abbey in 1330 as a place of refuge. The  Church of St. Mary was designed on the site of a much earlier church by that well known architectural firm, Paley and Austin, 1885. Built with sandstone with chequerwork decoration. The lane by the church takes me out of Dalton through fields towards my final destination, Furness Abbey. I walk down a road to an entrance gate into Furness Abbey. It is closed but I can walk around it on a public road. A Savignac abbey was established in Tulketh, Preston in 1123 but moved north to this Furness valley and was later absorbed by the Cistercians. To reach here the traveller had to cross the tidal sands of Morecambe Bay and the Leven Estuary. The abbey provided guides for these crossings. Despite the aspirations of the Cistercians to lead a simple and austere life acquisition of wealth, property and trade soon had Furness Abbey second only to Fountains Abbey in riches. At Dissolution the land was given to Thomas Cromwell and later transferred to the Cavendishes of Holker Hall. Now the ruins are in the hands of English Heritage. The main ruins are the church and cloisters as well as dormitories, infirmary and lay buildings, all laid out in classical monastic style.

The setting in this valley and the extent of the remains make this a fitting end to my Monastic Way through the ‘old’ Lancashire. Well, almost for I have to walk further south to a rail station. A green valley has a fine little stream and over it is the medieval three arched Bow Bridge built for the monks to access a mill. I’ve explored many unknown areas, met some very friendly people, learnt a bit more history, visited fine religious sites and completed before the year’s end. Here’s to 2020.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WALK. 13. Ulverston and Conishead Priory.

                                                            Chapel Island Leven Estuary.

I avoided crossing the Leven Estuary sands by taking the train from Cartmel to Ulverston.  In the estuary is Chapel Island. In the 14th century, Augustinian monks from  Conishead Priory built a small chapel on the island to serve the needs of travellers using the ancient crossing from Cartmel to Conishead.

But first a little tour of Ulverston.

The station was designed by the renowned Lancaster architects Paley and Austin for the Furness Railway in 1873. This railway was independently operated between 1846 and 1923, originally conceived as a mineral line supplying iron ore to Barrow but soon passengers were using the service from Carnforth to Barrow and beyond. Prior to this, the only road to the area crossed those treacherous Morecambe Bay tidal sands. The station itself is red sandstone with some ornate metal and glass awnings. Inside the waiting room are two original cast iron seats with the squirrel motif from the Furness Railway. The crest of the railway was based on Furness Abbey’s seal. Interestingly throughout Ulverston are placed 50 seats, all numbered, based on the same design donated by Glaxo to commemorate 50 years production in the town.

The most celebrated statue in town is of homeboy Stan Laurel with Oliver Hardy and a dog. It was unveiled by Ken Dodd in 2009.      Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into !” Ulverston’s maze of streets has many fine Georgian and Victorian listed buildings. The market area seems to have lots of small independent shops which attract tourists and locals alike, not to mention all the old inns.

Close to the centre is the run down Hartley’s Brewery closed in 1991 after 236 years brewing, bought by Robinsons and production transferred to Cheshire. Nearby is Oddfellows Hall in an old church with a link to Furness Abbey. Looking up as you walk through the streets there is the sight of a 100ft  monument on Hoad Hill. Built in the style of a lighthouse in 1850 to commemorate Sir John Barrow, born in Ulverston and a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society.Walking down the elegant curving Sunderland Terrace brought me to the basin of the Ulverston Canal. This straight mile and a half canal was opened in 1796 to transport iron ore, shipbuilding was also an important trade based on the canal. The stroll down the canal was a popular walk this morning with the locals. Along the way are large metal sculpture relating the history and several of those numbered blue seats.

Glaxo seat number one.

Halfway down was the rusting rolling bridge, a complicated structure that carried a rail line into the ironworks but could be rolled aside to allow ships to pass. It was on the site of the ironworks, closed in 1938, that Glaxo started producing antibiotics in 1948 and whose large factory dominates this end of Ulverston.

At Canal Foot are the sea locks and access across to the Bay Horse, an old coaching inn from when the route was across the sands. A bridleway sign pointing to the sands and sea states “This route has natural hazards” an understatement. There are views across the sands to Cartmel with the Leven Rail Viaduct. Down the estuary is Chapel Island mentioned above.

A detour around the Glaxo works and on past the slag heaps from the ironworks and I was on a pebble beach opposite Chapel Island. Permissive paths ran from the beach into woods, the grounds of Conishead Priory. Conishead was originally founded by the  Augustinians in the C12th as a hospital for the poor and was a priory until Dissolution, nothing is left of it now. The present Gothic building dates from 1821 built for a Lancashire family, the Braddylls. The house passed through several hands before in the thirties being used as a Durham Miners convalescent home. It was sold on and fell into disrepair before being purchased in 1975 by a Buddhist community who have slowly carried out restoration. There is a lively cafe and a shop on the ground floor.

In the grounds of the house, the Buddhists have built a modern ‘Peace Temple’. Prayers were in progress so I didn’t go inside. My curiosity satisfied I walked back along the road into Ulverston with the  Hoad monument as a constant beacon ahead of me.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 12. Grange to Cartmel and Cark.

                                                     Hampsfell Hospice.

There are brown signs off the motorway now for the Lakeland Penninsulars. What are they? – well, presumably Cartmel, Furness and Copeland. Lancashire previously hosted Furness and Cartmel and hence they are included in this walk. Today I’ll briefly cover the Cartmel Peninsula which I reached by train although travellers of old, on foot, would have taken the perilous crossing of the Kent Estuary. From the station at Grange, I walk into the bustling town, but only as far as  S Cafe in one of the Victorian Arcades, opposite the duck pond. Once that coffee pleasantry was over a short walk up Windermere Road and I took a signed path into Eggerslack Woods. Hampsfield rather than Hampsfell though I hoped they would be the same. This is limestone country encircling the southern Lake District. For about a mile I followed a good path through trees; birch, holly and yew. I suspect that this area would have been heavily coppiced in the past perhaps for bobbins for the textile mills and for wood for charcoal burning,

Climbing a stile suddenly brings you out onto the open fell with paths going everywhere. I select a well-walked route that fortunately steers me directly to the Hospice on the summit. I kept looking behind as views over the Kent Estuary opened up with Arnside Knott dominating the coast. I was last here whilst exploring the ‘Wainwright Outlying Fells’  4 years ago almost to the day so I won’t repeat all the information. For more history look here. The shelter was erected in 1846 by a vicar from Carmel for the benefit of walkers so is not a hospice in the traditional sense. From up here, I can see down into Cartmel with the Priory prominent and behind Mount Barnard where perhaps the first priory was established. That visit 4years ago also included an ascent of Cartmell Fell from a little church that happens to be a Chapel of Ease to today’s priory.

 

A steep descent brings you into the back of the village and directly to Cartmel Priory. As I  entered through the graveyard I noticed that a large fenced off area of graves is grazed by sheep, unusual. The priory was established by William Marshall in 1188 and now all that remains is the church and a gatehouse. The Augustinians had allowed the locals to worship here and at Dissolution, the church was spared even if its roof was destroyed. A benefactor, George Preston of nearby Holker Hall, reroofed the church in the C17. The exterior of the priory is noted for the upper tower built diagonally on the Norman one.

Once inside the grandeur of the church is revealed – a massive nave with a dominant East Window containing medieval glass. The choir stalls from the C13 – 14 are famous for their mouldings and inventive misericords. The wood has an ancient feel to the touch.

Elsewhere is the elaborate tomb of Lord Harrington who may have slain the last wolf in the kingdom. at nearby Humphrey Head. There are graves to people lost in crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay. At one time the Priory was responsible for providing guides for those crossings. Skull and crossbones decoratives are on several graves.

In a corner of the church is an alcove with a loaf of bread bequeathed by Rowland Briggs in the C18 to the poor of the parish and the tradition is maintained to this day.

Completing the interest is Cromwell’s Door which shows bullet holes either fired by villagers on the Roundheads or by the visiting army itself.

The only other original remnant of the priory is the Gatehouse on the edge of the village square. Everywhere was busy with festive celebrations.

From the village square, with its ancient cross, I walked across the racecourse to join a track going all the way to Holker Hall. Holker Hall was closed and nothing can be seen of it from the road although the estate buildings are of interest. Down the road, I walked into Cark alongside the River Eea on its way from Cartmell to the Leven Estuary. The station at Cark was soon reached concluding a short but enjoyable stroll of considerable interest.

 

*****

 

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 11. Carnforth to Arnside.

                                                                   Silverdale.

This is easy – just walk around the coast with not a single religious site to visit but a myriad of paths in an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’

From Carnforth station, a steam train was just getting ready to head off on a Santa Special, I tramped dingy streets to find a back road leading to a bridge over the River Keer. Familiar ground led up onto the higher road above Warton Sands. The terrifying main limestone quarry was just catching the early sunlight. The views across the marshes obscured by trees. At the end of the road is the familiar chimney at Crag Foot, all that remains of a pump house used to drain Leighton Moss.

I head across the marshes towards Jenny Brown’s Point where there is another preserved chimney, this one from a short-lived C18 copper smelting endeavour. Flocks of geese wheel above me. Across the bay, Morecambe power station appears to be in the sea.

Despite the tide being out walking along the muddy beach doesn’t seem attractive so I take the little lane above until I can go onto NT land at Jack Scout Cove. From up here, I can see the remains of ‘Walduck’s Wall’, an attempt to reclaim an area of land between the point and Carnforth in the midC19.  This disappeared beneath the sands before re-emerging in 1975 as the channels changed. I used to climb on a small limestone cliff, with perfect water washed handholds and fossils, hereabouts but trying to identify it from above is difficult. I do however come across a limekiln which was restored some years ago and I remember it being fired up to celebrate the event.

Back on the lane, I pass Lindeth tower, apparently originally built as a summer house and now available to rent as holiday accommodation.

This area holds so many memories for me; camping at Gibraltar Farm, dodging the tides at Jack Scout’s Cove, bouldering at Woodwell, cosy teas in The Wolf House Gallery and buying unusual plants from brothers at the nursery along the road.

In Silverdale, I take the grassy path across The Lotts shown to me by Sir Hugh on a previous occasion. This takes you straight to The Cove an enchanting place next to the sea with a prominent cave on one side. NT volunteers were out cutting back vegetation. Back on lanes, I cross the boundary from Lancashire Into Cumbria. I presume my guide refers to the ‘old’ Lancashire as it heads towards Furness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holgate’s caravan park is massive but well laid out and maintained. I stop for a snack in a wrought iron shelter celebrating the life of Frank William Holgate, 1941 – 2015.

A good track leads to the tottering pile of Arnside Tower a C15 Pele tower built because of the threat posed by Border Reivers.

Looming above was Arnside Knott, another NT estate. Having climbed it many times, today I had the luxury of following woodland paths around its base. Even from this lower elevation, there were good views across the Kent estuary to Grange and Humphrey Head. I picked up a path across Red Hills Pasture and into the woods where I became disorientated until popping out next to the cemetery. Before you knew it I was seated in Sir Hugh’s sanctuary with a strong cup of coffee. He even gave me a lift back to Carnforth so I didn’t make it to the promenade and station in Arnside.

 

*****

 

 

 

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 10. Lancaster to Carnforth.

                                                                 Morecambe Bay.

Another day snatched from Winter.

In his guide, John Covey follows the Lancaster Canal from Lancaster to Carnforth. That is a route I’ve walked often in the past so I decide after exploring Lancaster to follow the Lancashire Coastal Way instead.

Covey details a Lancaster Friary,  a Dominican community of preachers. [1260 until dissolution] There is no trace of any building now.

He also mentions St. Leonards Hospital established in the C12 as a leper hospital later having a church and chaplain for the poor. It closed in 1470 and all trace has gone.

Gardiner’s Hospital was established as an almshouse in St. Mary’s Gate near the castle around 1485. These almshouses were rebuilt in 1792 eventually to be sold in 1938 and the site built upon. To replace them four almshouses were built in Queen Street. At last, I had something to seek out and find. On the way, I happened upon the Friends Meeting House, a Quaker building from 1708. That set me musing in this election week. would the Quakers be the ‘Greens’ of religion? what of the rest?  RC’s – Tories, CofE – Labour, Methodists – Lib Dem. We will know our fate tomorrow.

Also in central Lancaster, I already knew of the Penny Almshouses. William Penny, several times mayor, gave funds in 1715 to build 12 small houses and a chapel for ‘poor indigent ancient men and women’. They received a house, an allowance, a suit of clothes and the services of a chaplain. The plaque over the entrance records Penny’s generosity and warns in Latin ‘profanos hinc abesse’ – those of ill-repute should keep away.  Next door Assembly Rooms were built in 1759, income from events helped provide for the almshouses.

On my way up past the castle, I noticed another property – ‘served as a dispensary providing health care for the poor 1785 -1833’  Lancaster has been very charitable in the past.

My object of climbing up here was to visit Lancaster Priory Church. A Benedictine priory was founded around 1094 on the elevated site, about the same time as the castle was being established on an old Roman Fort. The remains of the priory are under the Church which was built in the C15. Becoming a parish church it avoided destruction in the Dissolution. Inside are the celebrated carved choir stalls with their misericords from 1340, two sets of impressive organ pipes along with some beautiful stained glass.  From up on the hill, the site of the Roman Fort, a path led down and passed close to the Roman Baths.

All I had to do now was walk a dozen miles to Carnforth.

The Millenium Bridge was right in front of me and I crossed the Lune to pick up a cycle path all the way to Morecambe. The views across to St Georges Quay had the Priory high above and a crooked house squashed in below. There was not much to see on this straight route so I made good progress and was suddenly in front of the Midland Hotel, no I didn’t go in for coffee. I saved that till a little later at the Lighthouse Cafe, a community cafe with a comprehensive menu. Whilst I ate toasted teacake [homage to my good friend Tony] I gazed out at Eric Morecambe bringing me some sunshine on the prom. Unfortunately, when I emerged from the cafe the rain came down and had me scurrying for my waterproofs which once donned, of course, the rain stopped for the day.

The promenade went on forever with a few installations to distract one. Suddenly I was free of roads and walking on the shoreline. Stoney and muddy in equal proportions. The tide was out but following all the recent rainfall the marshes were very boggy.  Views across Morecambe Bay were obviously extensive but the background hills came and went. Ahead was the prominent but diminutive Arnside Knott.

At Red Bank Farm, busy with visitors to the cafe, I came across The Praying Shell statue carved in limestone above the sands where 23 Chinese cockle pickers died in 2004.   Artist Anthony Padgett has said a link may be made to that tragedy but the idea was conceived before.          “It’s symbolism is intended to parallel humanity’s openness to a larger dimension and the way cockle shells open as the tide comes in,” Another couple of miles of marshland with lots of channel hopping where there was no distinct path, probably underwater at high tide. I climbed to higher ground in one or two places, I must admit to being uneasy on tidal areas. The Keer Channel was a muddy mess. I finally hit solid ground on the little road running alongside the Keer and realised I’d been here before with Sir Hugh on our Way Of The Crow Walk between Longridge and Arnside, that was a very wet day 2 years ago.

I had a brief encounter with Carnforth Station before catching my train.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 9. Cockerham to Lancaster.

                                                         Lancashire Coastal Way.

It is strange weather – one day of wind and rain, the next bright sunshine and then more rain. I take my chances on a sunny day. I’ve moved on to the northern part of Lancashire’s Monastic Way by John Convey, will think about a link-up from Sawley at a later date. It is a clear morning with a chilly wind coming off the sea as I walk down the lane to  St. Michaels Church, an Anglican Parish Church in Cockerham. Of course, it is closed when I arrive. The oldest part is the C16 tower. The body of the church was rebuilt by the Lancaster architects Austin and Paley.  who were responsible for much church architecture from the mid 19th century. Cockerham Priory from the C13 was situated hereabouts but there are no remains from when it was dissolved in 1477.

Soon I was on The Lancashire Coastal Way following flood defences surrounded by low tide marshes around the coast to visit Cockersand Abbey. The obvious remains are the C13 Octagonal Chapter House with a few other bits of walls from the Abbey Church. There had been a hospital on the site which was dissolved in 1539. The land was subsequently acquired by the Daltons from Thurnham Hall and the Chapter House used as a mausoleum hence its preservation today. It is a bleak spot for an Abbey.

Out in the Lune estuary is the Plover Scar Lighthouse, also known as the Abbey Lighthouse, an active 19th-century lighthouse now fully automated. The last time I was along here the lighthouse was being repaired following a collision with a commercial vessel. Nearby on the coast is the original lighthouse keepers cottage. The lighthouse can be reached at low tide and in the past, the keeper would have to attend to the paraffin lamps.

After Crook Farm, I followed what had been Marsh Lane which disappeared under flood water at one point. Wet socks resulted.

But soon I was seated outside the friendly Glasson Cafe enjoying a coffee and pasty.

The marina was quiet at this time of year, I joined the Glasson Branch canal, which when it was completed in 1825  joined the Lancaster Canal near Galgate. Then along in 1883 came the railway to link to Lancaster, it was on this disused line I would continue the walk. But first I had a look at Christ Church alongside the canal. This Anglican Parish Church was designed by Edmund Sharpe who became involved with the Lancaster firm of Austin and Paley mentioned above. Originally built in 1840 but added to in the C20. I walked in to find that the west gallery has been converted into an accessible coffee/reading room. The stained glass in the east window was impressive, designed by Joseph Fisher [1979] of the Lancaster firm  Shrigley and Hunt

Returning to the Railway track I crossed the River Condor and headed north, easy walking with views across the Lune estuary. To my right were the grounds of Ashton Hall now a golf course. I could not see the hall which was established in the C14, a tower apparently is from that date. The hall has had many owners but in 1884 was sold to the wealthy lino manufacturer, James Williamson whom when he was knighted took the title Lord Ashton. With reference to today, he arranged to have a halt built on the railway line I’m walking on. After his second wife’s death, he had the Ashton Memorial built in Williamson park, an elevated site seen from afar and later today.

River Condor.

Ashton Hall Golf Course.

Along the line, the hedges were loaded with red berries, no wonder lots of birds were about, Redwings and Fieldfares. A solar farm has been built near Stodday, they must have more sunshine here than the rest of Lancashire. The climb away from the line up to Aldcliffe was steeper than expected. I was now heading directly into Lancaster along the Lancaster Canal a route I’ve used before.

Today I had time to leave the canal to have a look at the nearby Lancaster Cathedral.  When in 1791, the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed local Catholics built a mission in Dalton Square. When a larger church was needed local architect Paley designed this church for the present site, consecrated in 1859 it became a cathedral in 1924. The tower and spire are 240ft high making it visible throughout the city. The interior was impressive but with too many fussy side chapels. Some of the stained glass was by Shrigley and Hunt, mentioned at Glasson. Unfortunately, I found a lot of the information preachy, I can appreciate the stunning architecture without being religious.Time to catch my bus.

                    Lancaster with the Ashton Memorial, Cathedral and Town Hall.

 

*****

 

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 8. Whalley to Sawley.

                                                                         Sawley Abbey.

Time we visited an Abbey or two.

But first a visit to Taste Buds Cafe for a second breakfast and coffee, what a great takeaway. Good coffee and tasty bakery.

Fortified I wander through the graveyard of St Mary & All Saints, built on the site of an 8th Century church and a later Norman (circa 1100) church. The present church building dates from around 1200 with the tower being added in 1440. Inside are apparently ancient pews, some from the Abbey. Despite several visits, I’ve been unable to see inside. The Saxon Crosses in the graveyard I’ve pictured before.

I go through the Eastern gate of Whalley Abbey to look at the remains of one of the largest monastic sites in the north.A Cistercian order started here in 1296 and was still expanding in the C15. There was a church, monastic lodgings and infirmary. After the dissolution, it passed into private hands and most was demolished, so mainly only low walls remain. The larger walls were part of the monks quarters. A manor house was built on the site and today is used as a religious centre. An image from their website gives an idea of the layout. The last Abbot, John Paslew was executed for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising against Henry VIII actions. The emblem of the Abbey – Three Fishes – crops up a lot in the locality.

I leave the village via the vast west gate and out under the railway into the countryside along the Calder River.

Dog walkers were out in force using footpaths that were new to me, I walked around the site of Calderstones Hospital, an institution for people with learning disabilities. Most of the site has been demolished and redeveloped for housing. Out the other side of the complex, I’m into semi-frozen muddy fields on the line of a Roman Road to Skipton and somewhere there is a base to a medieval cross. I spend some time looking for it, backwards and forwards. Frustrated I carry on only to stumble into the large, unmissable stone nowhere near its OS mapped site.

From this open ground I have good views of Pendle to the east… … and to the north Longridge Fell. In this shot can be seen the domes of Stonyhurst College and closer at hand in Mitton the old hall and the C13 All Hallows Church. It is a shame this church isn’t visited on this walk as it is full of interest including medieval woodwork from Sawley Abbey and memorials to the local Shireburn family, dating from the late 16th century.

Now back on the Ribble Way, I start meeting lots of dog walkers out from Clitheroe. I come round a corner to see a lady with binoculars studying a tree, she points out the kingfisher to me. Wonderful. Off it flies only for me to come across again shortly it in some reeds upriver. Its times like this that I wish I had a better camera.

The walk by the river around Clitheroe was very familiar to me and I made good progress as the sun became lower and lower in the sky. The works at West Bradford are all too familiar. Near Grindleton the path climbs up onto the road from where there were good views of misty Pendle.

Ahead is the bridge over the Ribble at Sawley.

I reach the  Sawley Abbey grounds with half an hours daylight remaining.

Another Cistercian monastery, founded in 1146, it bordered onto the lands of Whalley Monastery and there are records of quarrels over fishing rights on the River Ribble. After dissolution, the abbot William Trafford tried to resurrect the abbey under the Pilgrimage of Grace. This failed and Trafford was hanged at Lancaster in March 1537 and the abbey immediately plundered of its valuables. Over the years stone from the monastery was used in local buildings. On the ground, there is little left of the church but remnants of the refectory and a grand fireplace are visible. Outside the site earthworks connected to the monastery can be seen in surrounding fields. I’ve now finished the first half of A Lancashire Monastic Way from Upholland to Sawley and thoroughly enjoyed the new paths and history I’ve encountered. The next half is from Cockerham Abbey to Furness Abbey, I’m wondering whether to devise my own walking link up between the two?

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 7. Ribchester to Whalley.

                                                                         Whalley Arches.

I’m away early on a clear frosty morning as I continue my way linking Lancashire’s religious sites.

Walking out of Ribchester I divert up a little lane leading to some interesting treasures. Firstly on the left is St. Peter and St, Paul, a barn church, around 1789. At that time it was still illegal for Catholics to have public places of worship. Therefore it was built to appear like a barn. The church was considerably enlarged in 1877. The inside is very plain but there are some outstanding new stained glass windows designed by Deborah Lowe and executed by Pendle Stained Glass in memory of the Walmsley family.  One celebrates the life of St Margaret Clitherow, the York martyr whose remains are reputed to have been possibly buried in the nearby Stydd church of St Saviour. [See below]  Margaret was crushed to death in York at Easter and the window references Stydd and York’s shambles and minster as well as the spring season and her reputed last words: “Jesus have mercy on me.” Another window celebrates the region’s history and landscape and depicts a scene from the River Ribble. Fishes, a kingfisher, sheep and a horse are included in the scene which shows wildflowers and a dandelion clock, suggesting the passage of time.

In the graveyard, I came across a type of ‘triptych’ gravestone of the Pratchett family. Who were they?

Across the way is a delightful small building, the Stydd Almshouses.  Built by the Shireburn family in 1728 to house poor people of the parish. Quite unique. Even the well is listed.

Further up the lane in a field is St. Saviour’s Chapel established in C12 – 13. Associated with it was a ‘monastic hospital’ of the Knights Hospitaliers providing accommodation and aid to pilgrims and the needy. There is no sign of the hospice but the chapel remains after several modifications.

Fortunately, it was open this morning so I was able to view its simple interior. The original studded south door gains entry. The most obvious initial feature above the altar is a graceful C13 window reflected in the design of the oak chairs. The Norman north doorway is blocked but the original wooden door rests against it. There is a stone coffin of unknown origin and several tomb slabs on the floor of the Sanctuary. A lavishly engraved C14 one, Sir Adam and Lady de Clitheroe; a straight cross, Father Walter Vavasour 1740;  a simple cross, possibly St. Margaret Clitherow a martyr who died during the C16 Catholic persecutions. High on the west wall is an old entrance from another building and possibly a gallery similar to the one in St. Michael’s Church in Much Hoole I visited a few days ago. Outside, the northern door has Norman dog toothed carving. To complete the picture there is also a  medieval cross base in the grounds.

Back on the road, it was a short walk to Ribchester bridge over the Ribble. Here the Ribble Way continues as a track past farms to come alongside the river. At one of the houses, I was accosted by a weather-beaten gardener and given a lesson in how to save the world through nature. The path alongside the river was very familiar to me. A couple of herons took flight and there were cormorants this far inland. Ahead Pendle Hill looked resplendent above the valley and the new Dinkley Bridge shone out white.

Once over the bridge, I followed lanes, line of a Roman Road at one straight. Over to the left was Longridge Fell and the green domes of Stonyhurst College could just be made out. Its origins began abroad as a Jesuit School when Catholic education was banned in England. The local Shireburn family owned the C13 hall and their descendants donated it to the Jesuits in 1794. It has flourished as an international Catholic School until this day.

This was the reverse of a day on Wainwright’s Way a couple of months ago so I knew my way across the fields and up past those modern static caravans to reach the Church of St. Leonard at Old Langho.

I popped into the Black Bull Inn next door for the keys to the church. Like St. Saviours at Stydd, this is a simple building. Interestingly it was built around 1557 using stones from the dissolved Abbey at Whalley. a number of carved stones are in the exterior walls. Inside the pews have carved ends from late C17 with initials of their benefactors. Fragments of medieval stained glass have been incorporated into the north chancel windows. The tiles in the sanctuary are Victorian.

The graveyard was extended in early C20 to serve the nearby Brockhall Hospital. There is one mass grave commemorating 600 patients, but that is another story.

More lanes brought me into Whalley where I crossed the River Calder on Old Sol’s bridge alongside the brick arches of the railway viaduct. The light was starting to fade as I came through the massive, vaulted west gate of the Abbey. It was too late to visit the Abbey, that can wait until tomorrow morning. The nearby Parish Church always seems to be locked when I pass by, it apparently has stalls removed from the Abbey. I was able to see the Saxon crosses in the graveyard before catching my bus home.

 

 

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 6. Red Scar to Ribchester.

                                                                      Roman Ribchester.

The bus drops me off at the Preston Crematorium and I stroll down the remembrance avenue. The land to the right is industrial units on the site of the former Courtaulds Mill which produced Rayon. This was a large operation on the edge of Preston with its own power plant and railway, a branch of the Preston -Longridge line. Over 2000 jobs were lost when it closed in 1979. Its prominent chimneys and cooling towers dominated the landscape until demolition in 1983 when lots of the population of Longridge went to view the explosive event.

Lancashire Evening Post.

I was now on the top of Red Scar, a steep escarpment dropping down to a horseshoe bend of the Ribble. I’ve joined the Ribble Way which goes eastwards high above the river which is glimpsed through the trees. Worryingly I start to notice ‘Footpath Closed’ signs but continue to see what the problem is and not wanting an unnecessary detour. I climb over barriers. The path drops down to cross Tun Brook and there have been landslides damaging the footbridge and its abutments. I cant drop into the stream bed as the mud is too steep and unstable but can I cross the bridge?  The stepped way to it is impossible but with a little sidetracking I reach the edge of the bridge which has been further damaged by a falling tree. Tentatively I make my way onto the creaking structure thinking if it fails nobody will find me here. I’m relieved once across the other side. Satisfying but foolish.

Moving on after I’d climbed out of the ravine I was on country lanes and in wet fields well above the Ribble. Distant views were rather dull. Coming the other way you wouldn’t have been to pleased by this sign…

Hereabouts was a Roman road marked on the map but not much evidence on the ground. I passed close to Alston Hall and the Observatory previously attached to it. There was plenty of evidence of horses ruining the fields.

A succession of ups and downs finally brought me out onto Hothersall Lane which drops dramatically down to the River Ribble near the outdoor centre.

A curiosity along here I know about is the ‘Hothersall Boggart’. A buried stone head was found on the land and placed in the fork of the tree leading to tales of fairies and boggarts, Heads are found in this area and were often placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. {see more in Roman Museum to follow]

Along the lane is Hothersall Hall rebuilt in 1856 in the gothic style and looking resplendent today. I sat on a stone nearby to eat a sandwich which set off a dog barking in the garden, a few crusts seemed to please him.

Across the river was Osbaldeston Hall, another place with a long ancestry.

.

I was alongside the river now which today was meandering slowly but this area is prone to flooding and Ribchester often makes the headlines on those occasions.

Ribchester is famous for Bremetennacum the Roman fort strategically situated on the banks of the river at a crossroads of several important routes. Not only was there a cavalry fort but also a vicus, a village community surrounding it. It was time to visit the Roman Museum…

The phrase ‘good things come in small packages’ applies to this excellent little museum. The Roman history of the area is comprehensively explained and artefacts displayed and interpreted well. One of the first findings [1796] of Roman occupation was by a schoolboy in a ditch – The Townley Hoard – now displayed in the British Museum. As part of this hoard is a well-preserved helmet and there is a replica on display here.  Of great interest are the more mundane items on display – combs, leather shoes, brooches, glassware, slingshot balls etc. Oh, and there are some more stone heads.

Replica Roman Helmet.

Tombstone of Asturian Cavalryman.

 

 

Well worth a visit.

Behind the museum are the excavations of a Roman granary and nearer the river a Roman Bath House [heading photo]. How much more must be lying beneath the present-day Ribchester?

Granary.

Built on a site close to the Roman Fort is the C13 St. Wilfrid’s church, stones from the fort most likely being used in its construction.

Inside, the Dutton Chapel contains a small C14 wall painting of St. Christopher and some medieval coloured glass pieces in one of the windows. There is recorded a mass burial from the Black Death in C14 where the chapel was added.  Black Death wiped out a large percentage of the population and following it there were not enough peasants to work the land, the feudal system fell apart and it became more economical in Lancashire to graze the fields with sheep. Hence the wool trade giving way to the cotton trade where spinning and weaving skills existed, leading in turn to mills and urban industrialisation.

In the porch is a beautifully carved tombstone of obvious antiquity from a grave of a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, an order once based at St. Saviour, Stydd – but that’s for tomorrow’s walk.

One of the gravestones in the churchyard has the following inscription…

Here lieth the body of
Thos. Greenwod who
died May 24 1776
In ye 52 year of his age
Honest, industrious
seeming still content
Nor did repine(?) at what
he underwent
His transient life was 
with hard labour fill’d
And working in a
makle(?)pit was kill’d.

The nature of Thomas’ death seems clear – he died in an accident, probably a marle pit of which there are many in the area. They were dug to obtain lime-rich mud which was used to improve the land, most are now small ponds.

Nearby is a C17 sandstone sundial…

Church Street is lined with weavers’ cottages many of them listed but spoilt with all the parked cars. The White Bull, an iconic inn with its porch supported by columns possibly from a temple of Minerva,  a place of worship in Roman times.  The attached sandstone mounting block is cut into three steps.

Further on is the Black Bull inn and nearby my bus stop where I was preparing for half an hours wait when up pulled one of my neighbours with the offer of a lift home, a good end to a satisfying day.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 5. Preston to Ladyewell.

Guild Wheel and Ribble Way.

I was back in Preston bus station and a short walk, including Winkley Square, had me in Avenham Park. It wasn’t supposed to rain but I was donning waterproofs under the old railway bridge before setting off along what was mainly the Preston Guild Wheel shared with The Ribble Way. The weather remained dull and damp all day.

The 21-mile, Guild Wheel cycle and walking path  [National Cycle Route 622] was opened in 2012 as one of the projects of that year’s Preston Guild. Established by royal charter in 1179, the Preston Guild of traders was initially held every few years on an irregular basis but has taken place every 20 years since 1542, other than 1942 when it was cancelled due to World War II, resuming in 1952. It circles the city of Preston on mainly off-road trails and is very popular with cyclists.

In the park, a group of Cromwell’s soldiers were preparing to re-enact the Battle of Preston.

I normally cycle this route so it was a different experience on foot but I was able to make fast progress. I was soon on the banks of the river opposite Cuerdale Hall, the site of the Cuerdale Hoard discovery in 1840. The hoard was a vast collection of Viking silver coins and jewellery now displayed in the British Museum.

Cuerdale Hall

The trail became busier once in the Brockholes Nature Reserve, a large wetlands area. I didn’t have binoculars with me so there was no lingering. The steep track up into Red Scar Woods was easier without having to push a bike. Leaving the Ribble Way the Guild Wheel goes through the grounds of Preston Crematorium.  The diversion to Ladyewell Shrine involved roads and tracks very close to the motorway so the traffic noise was everpresent. The lane leading up to the shrine is thought to have been a pilgrim route for centuries and continues to be so. The present Ladyewell House incorporates a chapel from 1685 which was used until St. Mary’s Church was built up the road in 1793. [I have photos of my children in a nativity play in the present-day church when they attended the neighbouring Fernyhalgh infant school, now closed.] Our Lady’s Well is the object of pilgrimages to this day, pressing a button serves you with water from the well. There is also an ancient cross base here amongst the modern Catholic shrines and religious tat.I’m not sure why The Ladyewell Shrine has become so popular as a pilgrimage destination.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 4. Longton to Preston.

The Ribble Way.

I’m late setting off today and my bus gets me into Longton just before 12am but I only have to walk back to Preston on The Ribble Way. As I arrive on the route, having walked down Marsh Lane, another walker appears and asks as to the whereabouts of the RW. I know where he went wrong as the signage was very poor. We walk down the lane to join the riverside way, it turns out he is in training for a long Camino route next year. To be honest there is not a lot of interest on this flat featureless stretch so we fall into step and conversation. Having cycled the Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay in France to Santiago de Compostela I took great interest in his plans and pledged to support his chosen charity. Today he was planning to pick up the Guild Wheel at the docks but hadn’t realised there was no bridge across the Ribble until Penwortham – thus giving him some extra training. Along the way I pointed out on the far bank the dug out Ribble Link enabling a link-up from the Lancaster Canal to Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the rest of the system. I’m not sure how often it is used as you need a pilot boat to take you down the Ribble to enter the Douglas. The entrance to Preston Docks was passed without a bridge. The tide was out and the river did not look its best.

The Ribble Link.

Preston docks entrance.

Past Penwortham Golf Club we entered a parklike space which was the former Penwortham Power Plant, demolished in the 80s. I realised I needed to leave the river to seek out the monastic sites above, Penwortham Priory, so we went our separate ways and I wished him the best with his efforts. I climbed out into Castle Walk, there was a Norman ‘motte and bailey castle’ hereabouts until 1232. The castle was built to control a ford across this important waterway. I marched around Castle Walk until directly below the present church but the developers had defended it well there was no way through. Backtracking I encountered several ‘Priory’ road names all related to a Benedictine priory and subsequent mansion situated here until demolition in 1920. All is now new housing. [one of my climbing friends lived in Priory Crescent until recently, he has made a good choice by moving to France.]

No way through.

Round the corner was St. Marys Church which I approached down an avenue of trees. Nearby was the base of a stone cross for which I can find no information. The prominent Lych Gate was surprisingly locked, not a very welcome sight, nonetheless, I worked my way around into the extensive graveyard. Somewhere is the tomb of John Horrocks the noted C18 Preston cotton manufacturer.  The church itself dates from the C15. To the north of the church is the mound the Castle was probably built on.

The river was just below but the defences, present-day wire fences, were impregnable until I found a chink in the armour and escaped onto the river embankment thus saving a long walk out on the busy road. Now back on the Ribble  Way, I was aiming to cross the river on the ‘old Penwortham bridge’, there are new and newer bridges downstream. A cobbled way took me over to the north bank.  Alongside the old bridge are the remains of a dismantled railway bridge, this was the former West Lancashire Railway from Southport leading to its terminus at the bottom of Fishergate Hill. Nearby one of the cottages is named Ferry House suggesting the presence of a ferry before the bridges were constructed. Ahead was the present mainline rail bridge and seen beyond it the redundant East Lancashire Railway bridge previously bringing trains from Blackburn into platforms alongside  Butler Street goods yard which is now The Fishergate Shopping Centre. So that is three rail bridges entering Preston from the south.

The two C19 parks, Miller and Avenham, provide a wonderful recreational facility on the edge of central Preston and have been smartened up in recent years. I managed to get lost in road works in East Cliff and reappeared in the rail depot alongside the station. I’d only been walking for 3 hours

Miller Park.                                                                                                 

Within Preston Convey mentions three other religious sites which are not visited saving me some leg work.

Preston Friary, in what is now Marsh Lane,  established in 1260. Friars were different from monastic orders in that they spent their time in the local community preaching and doing missionary work.

Tulketh Priory, a Cistercian abbey established in 1124 but moved to Furness soon after. Tulketh Hall was built on the site and demolished in 1960 for housing.

St. Mary Magdalen’s hospital for lepers,1177, run by monks. Its chapel became a site of pilgrimage until the Dissolution. St. Walburge’s church was built on the site. this church is famous for its 309ft steeple seen from all the surrounding areas. The notorious Fred Dibnah’s last job was working on this steeple back in 2004.

A distant view of St. Walburge’s steeple.

*****