Category Archives: Lancashire.

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 5. HORNBY TO HOLME.

Let it rain.

The good weather had to end – it had been raining all night and I was half expecting a ring from Sir Hugh to call off today’s walk. No, not really, he is far more resolute than that. And anyhow it would be drier by late morning, I do miss Dianne Oxberry giving us the NW forecast but there are some interesting successors.

 

The River Wenning in Hornby was probably running a good two feet higher than when I finished my last walk.

Hornby was short-lived and we were on a lane passing the motte and bailey of  Castle Stede, C10th, somewhat obscured by trees and rain. Down below was our first view of the River Lune which we crossed on the graceful Loyn Bridge. Wainwright sketched thsese in his Lune edition. It was here we left Bowland which has provided some excellent walking in a thankfully relatively unknown backwater.

A Wainwright. 1980.

We splashed our way through soggy fields, struggled over slippy awkward stiles, jumped or waded through little temporary rivers; all the time the rain came steadily down. Everywhere was drowning.  After the Gothic style Storrs Hall a tarmacked lane gave some respite although it was more like a river in parts [damp heading photo]. It climbed over pleasant hills but the views were minimal, vaguely ahead was Hutton Roof an area of limestone outcrops which we regularly climbed on. My camera was safely stashed most of the time.

Unhelpful.

Storrs Hall.

I’d never heard of the River Keer before although I must have crossed it many times by road, rail and canal as it winds its short way onwards through Carnforth to Morecambe Bay. Today it was a raging stream barring our progress but hidden in the trees was a small bridge. Unfortunately, a sign stated it was closed as it had been partially washed away in floods, we had no option but to trust it as we couldn’t have waded the fast-flowing water.  I sent Sir Hugh across first.

Pleased with ourselves for overcoming that problem we were nearly run down by a train whilst crossing the Morecambe to Leeds line.

Oh! and it was still raining into the early afternoon. More importantly, we had just left Lancashire and entered Cumbria, formerly Westmorland. Westmorland was a county of the Lake District until in 1974 it along with Cumberland and bits of Lancashire became Cumbria. Wainwright must have had a soft spot for Westmorland because he brought out an academic book on its history and villages – Westmorland Heritage, 1975, now out of print and expensive second hand.

More ups and downs followed on paths that receive very little usage. Eventually, there was a glimmer of blue sky as we reached a better path on a ridge, it was nearly two before we found somewhere dry to sit and eat a spot of lunch.  Here our topic of conversation turned from Brexit to Sir Hugh’s flask which he was convinced was not his, maybe the top was but certainly not the body. It seemed to pray on his mind as he was still debating it as we started on our way.

My camera had not been used much in the wet weather but now as things cleared we had views of Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott and the southern Lakes. When I use the term ‘Lakes’ I am really referring to the Lake District and particularly its hills, odd that we use such a  contraction.

The distant ‘Lakes’.

Arriving at a familiar road leading out of Burton up to Hutton Roof, we are less than a mile from the former but WW climbed a wall and took us on a circular tour of the land around Dalton Hall [which we never glimpsed]. There didn’t seem to any logic for this but I suspect Nick Burton is taking us on a voyage of discovery based on AW’s Westmorland book. No complaints, except the extra mile, as the estate was quintessential English parkland of a certain era. A wonderful selection of trees planted way back when.

Dalton Old Hall Farm.

A pair of ‘kissing trees’.

We eventually arrived in Burton-in-Kendal, to give it its full name. People drive, too quickly, through its narrow main street, I’ve probably been guilty of that, but on foot you realise the wealth of architectural buildings in the village. At one time Burton was an important stopping off point on the Lancaster to Kendal carriageway. It became an important corn market in the C17-18 and its wealth is reflected in its houses. The canal and then the railway took all its trade to Kendal and it has not really improved since then. I was sorry to see the Royal Hotel, in the centre next to the market cross, looking closed and derelict, we used to drink a pint or two here after a climbing evening on Hutton Roof or Farlerton.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Our next objective was to join the Lancaster Canal for a mile or so into Holme. We followed a lane signed from when Burton had a station, the mainline trains just fly through now……as does the motorway with Farleton Crag above.

We took to the more sedate towpath of the Lancaster Canal for our final mile into Holme. I have walked this stretch before and the towpath was just as muddy. No boats use this northern section which has been cut off from the rest of the system by the motorway. Below us at one point is Holme Mill with its lake, at one time a flourishing C19 linen mill with flax grown locally. On the other side of the canal are some well-preserved coke ovens.

At bridge 149 we climbed out into Holme which we will have more time to explore on our next stage of WW. Apart from some dampness of my socks I had coped with the day’s rain and floods which had given us an extra perspective to a simple walk.

*****

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 4. DUNSOP BRIDGE TO HORNBY.

The heart of Bowland.

I knew this would be a long arduous day so I did it out of sequence in the good weather mid-September. I used devious tactics to complete the walk but I’m happy to write it up as it should be.

Head of Whitendale. A Wainwright. 1981.

Following a coffee at Puddleducks Cafe,  I set off along the lane out of Dunsop Bridge heading into the fells. A gentle stroll, alongside the Dunsop River, leads to the prominent Middle Knoll where the water board roads divide, one going left into the Brennand Valley the other going right into Whitendale. Wainwright’s Way follows the latter but I know a better way.  Cross the river and follow a path up the right bank before climbing into Costy Cough and picking up a level path all the way to Whitendale Farm.

Middle Knoll.

Costy Clough.

Whitendale Farm.

There is lots of interest along this path but today the highlight was seeing a Hen Harrier rising from the valley and fluttering up the fell. This is a rare sight these days as their population over grouse moors has been drastically reduced by foul means. Bowland should have a decent population of Hen Harriers, a book well worth seeking out is Bowland Beth by David Cobham which highlights major issues in UK conservation.

At Whitendale Farm, part of the Duchy of Lancaster, paths go in several directions. WW goes up the valley following the Whitendale River. The dogs in the kennels give you a good send-off. This is shooting country and bred pheasants are everywhere. The grouse shooting this year has been restricted due to the Heather Beetle devastating large areas. It is usually a squelchy route up the valley and today is no different. A few random boardwalks don’t really help but the waymark posts keep one in the right direction. I plod upwards in the heat with the occasional submerged leg.

Side valleys often have Ring Ousels and Dippers but none today.  A post on the Hornby Road beckons and I’m soon sat on a convenient rock for a snack, I could probably sit here for hours before another person appeared.  This old road over Salter Fell has been described as one of the best moorland walks in England. The Romans came this way en route from Manchester to Carlisle and then the packhorses, bringing salt to Lancashire and wool to the coast. The Lancashire Witches were dragged across to Lancaster Court for sentencing and hanging. I’m surprised that WW comes up Whitendale, a difficult route rather than the easier way from Slaidburn, AW was familiar with both. His Bowland Sketchbook from 1981 illustrates the area well and he had a certain respect for relatively unknown Bowland, not much has changed from his time.

I set off along the good track, below on the left is the head of Whitendale and way above the rocks of Wolfhole Crag. All is wild and remote. the track follows the slopes of Salter Fell for a good way before views open up to the west. The infant Roeburn River gradually gains volume running west, To the north Ingleborough and its neighbours stand out, a little hazily in the afternoon sun. The silence is only disturbed by a couple of motorcyclists making the through trip.

Upper Roeburndale.

A lone cyclist comes the other way. The track goes on and on and slowly loses height towards Higher Salter Farm. There are hazy views of the Lakes, Howgills and the Barbon Fells. The last time I was up here was on The Lancashire Witches Walk which at Higher Salter veers off to Littledale and Caton Moor.

 

 

Higher Salter Farm.

Higher Salter Farm.  A Wainwright. 1981.

Today I carry on past Middle Salter to Lower Salter where there is a small Methodist chapel. Built in 1901 it will have been a meeting place for the far-flung farms in Roeburndale. It was open so I rested a while in its plain interior.                                                                                                                                                                               Looking back up the Salter Fell Road Mallowdale Pike is prominent, described by AW as “one of the few fells in Bowland with a graceful outline”  It is an outlier of the Clougha Pike/ Ward’s  Stone range. The road drops further to cross the Roeburn, a river of hidden delights. WW follows the road for almost a mile with the bonus of good views to the Northeast but I notice concessionary paths possibly by the river, I haven’t time to explore today but make a mental note to return.

Reaching Back Farm the way goes steeply down into the heavily wooded valley on a path that gets little use. There are signs of occupation: yurts, sheds, coppicing, vegetable plots, orchards between the trees. Looks like an organic environmental settlement but there is nobody about. http://www.middlewoodtrust.co.uk/

A narrow wooden bridge crosses the river into more orchards. There is still no sign of anybody about. I suspect that one of those concessionary paths would bring you here without the road walking. Anyhow, I gain a cart track leading up through the woods and fields to arrive at a small road heading back down to a converted mill. Wray Mill started as a woolen mill but adapted to produce silk, cotton a nd bobbins, it closed in the 1930’s.  Kitten Bridge, nice name, crosses the Roeburn and a little track leads straight into Wray.

This bridge was washed away in the August 1967 floods along with cottages at the lower part of Wray. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in Wray before, it’s off the beaten track. Anyway, the Main Street off the main road is a pleasant collection of cottages with a homely feel to it. There aren’t many buses so I have to continue a further mile through fields to Hornby. Ingleborough is over my right shoulder all the way and ahead is Hornby Castle, its C13 base obliterated by a C19 Gothic building. I join the River Wenning for the last stretch into the village.

A Wainwright 1980.

 

 

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WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 3. LONGRIDGE FELL TO DUNSOP BRIDGE.

Across Chipping Vale.

Here I am back at the trig point on Longridge Fell, it is a beautiful, cold but sunny Autumn day. Sir Hugh has joined the fun and we’ve taken one car to Dunsop Bridge and driven back to park below the fell. I’m sorry we are not keeping to AW’s use of public transport.

A warm-up walk and a catch-up chat soon sees us on the ridge with the compulsory visit to the summit trig. A few people are wandering about up here not wanting to miss the good weather. After a photo session and orientation of distant hills, mainly the Fairsnape ridge, Bowland and the Three Peaks, we find the steep rake dropping down into the Vale of Chipping, spread out below us. Our distant destination of Dunsop Bridge visible in the folds of the fells. This brings us to the road next to the Bradley Hall complex of buildings. WW says to go through the complex but our more modern map says go round the diversion to the left. This is the start of troublesome field navigation for the next mile or so. The waymarks run out, the paths run out, the stiles disappear, the fields get boggier and we are left to our own devices, no fences were damaged, no wires cut when we finally stumbled down a ladder stile onto the road next to Doeford Bridge. I think it took us longer than we realised.

A sign tells us we are entering the Queen’s land which we enjoy for the rest of today

.

This beautiful sandstone bridge spans the Hodder just downstream from where the River Loud joins having come out of Chipping Vale. The bridge is sketched in AW’s Bowland book.

Doeford Bridge. 1981. A Wainwright

There was a good volume of water today after several days of heavy rain. Having crossed another field we dropped down to the Hodder which had looped round a different way.  I wanted to have a look at the stepping stones next to Stakes farm so we made the short diversion, there was no way you could have crossed the river here today. Luckily we found a bench overlooking the river and stopped for lunch.

AW?

Behind us was Stakes Farm an early C17th house with mullioned windows and a plaque in Latin, translation please. Amazingly a brick extension has been built into the angle between the two wings.

We follow fields just above the river. The area between Longridge Fell and the Bowland fells is beautiful and unknown countryside, especially in today’s sunny weather, backed by the dark hills. Across the river used to be a ‘Wild boar park’ but it has closed recently. We cross the road into more fields running above the Whiewell Gorge where the river runs deep in the woods. [It is on the opposite bank that you can find the Fairy Hole caves.] Views into the Bowland Fells surrounding Dunsop Bridge keep us going.

I think we are following one of the aqueducts taking water out of the to industrial Lancashire, the distinctive Waterboard gates accompany us. We drop down past a graveyard and pop out onto the road next to the famous Inn at Whitewell. There is time to have a look into the adjacent Church of St. Michael with its striking stained glass window.  We resisted calling at the inn as time was drifting on and I think once seated it would have been difficult to get going again. A permissive path close to The Hodder leads deeper into Bowland with the next feature sketched by AW – Burholme Bridge.

Above us on the right was the distinctive Birkett Fell scene of one of our recent struggles. Our pace was slowing and instead of the familiar track by the river to Thorneyholme we crossed the pipe bridge, erected by Blackburn Borough Waterboard in 1882. with its unusual turnstile gates at either end. The way along the river was convoluted as we bypassed Root Farm famous for Kettledrum, a Derby winner bred hereabouts. Our arrival into Dunsop Bridge was unfortunately too late to have tea at Puddleducks Cafe.

Dunsop Bridge.   A Wainwright 1981.

We reflected on this wonderful crossing of Chipping Vale, Lancashire at its very best but wondered why 8 miles seemed so far. I was glad I’d divided this stage of WW into two enjoyable days, days to be savoured.

Here is an evening photo of the rake we descended from Longridge Fell early in the day.

Possibly Sir Hugh may have a different view of the day.   http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/

*****

PRESTON GUILD WHEEL – WHAT’S NEW?

 

I first rode around the wheel rather disastrously in 2014. and have repeated it several times since.  It has rained solidly for over 24hrs meaning the fields will be sodden and unpleasant for walking. Having used my bike to assist with a few walks recently I thought it time to revisit the well-surfaced route.

A toss of the coin determined which way I went, heads sent me anticlockwise. The beginning is not inspiring, through an industrial estate including a metal recycling plant where my last car ended its days. The roundabout on Bluebell Way I always find confusing, there is a choice of a level route on pavements or a steeper way directly into the countryside, I found myself on the latter. Pleasant parkland is encountered but the noise of the adjacent motorway is offputting. I walk up the first steep hill. I’m enjoying the riding and soon cover a few miles, it is 21miles for the full circuit as posts every mile remind you. Most cyclists seem to be coming the other way, clockwise.  I watch as most seem to steer straight through the awkward wooden barriers designed to slow one. They certainly slow me I come to a standstill and walk through, my bike manoeuvrability is not what it was or maybe I’m just broad-shouldered.

D’Urton Lane is soon reached and appears to have been opened to traffic after several years or building Broughton Bypass. Housing estates are being built with access onto this previously quiet lane. At its far end all is changed with signalled crossings over the Broughton Bypass, here called James Towers Way named after a WW1 VC decorated soldier from Broughton.Safely over the busy roads and round the corner the old A6 is very quiet without much traffic and changed lanes……and my once favourite curry house has been demolished for development of the site.

There are major housing developments around Preston Grasshoppers rugby ground and further on the housing is closing in on the wheel, there will be a lot more traffic to contend with in future.

I had my usual coffee stop sat outside The Final Whistle Cafe in UCLAN’s sports ground. Climbing over Blackpool Road dark clouds were massing over Preston as I headed back. Along past, the docks was a memorial stone, erected 2018, in memory of Ben Ashworth a local marathon/charity runner. Apparently, there is a plaque entering Miller Park as well but I missed it.

The old tram bridge over the Ribble at Avenham Park has been closed due to structural defects, I wonder if it will ever open again.

At the end of Brockholes Nature Reserve is a new sign erected by The Peak and Northern FootpathsSociety, I don’t remember seeing it before though it’s dated 2013.

All that was left was to push my bike up that last steep bit [have stone sets been laid recently?] and cycle through the crematorium to complete the circuit. Very enjoyable and it didn’t rain.*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 2. WHALLEY TO LONGRIDGE FELL.

The Ribble at Dinckley.

A Ribble Valley walk of history, graveyards and conversations along the way.

As I wait for a bus to take me to Whalley a lady of a certain age enquires as to my journey, I’m in boots with a rucksack and attached walking poles.  When I tell her of crossing the Ribble at Dinckley Bridge she recollects a time when a ferryman would take you over for a penny. It was like that in AW’s early years when he explored the Ribble Valley north of his home in Blackburn.

My bus deposits me in the middle of busy Whalley at 12.30, I’m a late starter these days. Wainwright’s Way takes me past the ancient parish church, I make a mental note to revisit between 2 and 5 when it is open. I do however make the effort to seek out some of the Saxon crosses in the churchyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walk past the Abbey grounds which I visited last weekend.   The lane out of town actually goes through the oldest West Gate.  It has an impressive ceiling but is somewhat diminished by the road passing through it. Almost immediately you pass through another arch, that of the railway viaduct, the longest and largest in Lancashire. 48 arches of immaculate brickwork. A functional ‘Old Sol’s Bridge’ crosses the Calder River, built in 1993 to replace the 1909 one of Solomon Longworth, a local mill owner. Backstreets of Billington, old and new, take me out through horsey country to cross the A59 and into a more rural scene. I wander across fields which have the clearest signing and stiles  I’ve come across, an example for other farmers to follow.  Although I’m aiming for Longridge Fell in the distance the view of Pendle behind me is everpresent.

I recognise Old Langho Church, built using stones from Whalley Abbey after the dissolution. I take a picture to compare with AW’s Ribble Sketchbook.

A Wainwright. 1980.

I then make the effort to seek out, in a far graveyard, the memorial to 600 who died in the nearby Brockhall Hospital. The tablet is inscribed …

‘In an isolated institution located to the northeast of this stone there lived from 1904 to 1992 a large number of people who were thought to be too strange, too difficult or too challenging to be cared for in their own communities. The institution, in turn, was called Lancashire Inebriates Reformatory (1904) Brockhall Hospital for Mental Defectives (1915) Brockhall Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal (1959) Brockhall Hospital for Mentally Handicapped People (1974) and Brockhall Hospital for People with Learning Disabilities (1991). Although those who lived there carried heavier burdens than most they were part of our common family.

‘Brockhall Hospital closed its doors in 1992 and the land on which it stood was acquired by Gerald Shimon Hitman of Newcastle upon Tyne who raised this stone as a memorial to those who ended their days in the hospital and are buried here. God full of compassion grant perfect rest beneath the shelter of your presence to these your children who have gone to their eternal home. Master of mercy, cover them in the shelter of your wings forever and bind their souls into the gathering of life. It is the Lord who is their heritage. May they be at peace in their place of rest.’

Poignantly, Gerald Hitman, mentioned on the memorial is buried nearby.

I pop into the old Bull Inn for a pint but am dismayed at the internal  ‘improvements’ that have totally destroyed the place. What a shame, another pub ruined, I shan’t be returning.

The footpath now goes alongside a development of ‘luxury lodges’ extending into the open countryside. A lady occupant says that they are holiday lets but that quite a few are permanent homes. How to get around our flimsy planning regulations. Another field ruined.

A steep drop leads to a hidden footbridge over a lively Dinkley Brook. I’ve never been here before. Soon a lane is reached, the line of a Roman Road from Ribchester to Ilkley. At a farm along here, I watch as a golfer practises his drives across the fields, he has spent his life as a dairy farmer and only now has time for leisure pastimes. He too remembers, as a child, the ferry at Dinkley and much more.

At last, I’m on the lane dropping down to the Ribble, Longridge Fell is ahead.  Two local ladies on their daily walk are also keen to chat refreshingly about the area until they realise they have to rush for the school pickup.

Dinkley Hall is too far away to observe behind ‘new’ barn conversions but the new shiny bridge is glimpsed below replacing the suspension bridge damaged by floods. The river scenery here is stunning and timeless. [heading photo]

A Wainwright. 1980.

Over the bridge The Ribble Way is joined – an ill-fated long-distance path but with perhaps the best-designed logo The lane up to Hurst Green goes on forever but there is an inn at the top if required. From up here, there is a view back to Whalley NabI had a snack sat on a bench next to a war memorial cross which unusually refers to The Boer War. It is inscribed – This cross commemorates the services of Frederick Sleigh first Earl Roberts K.G.V.C.and his companions in arms the soldiers and sailors of the Empire who fought in the South Africa Campaign 1899-1902.

Opposite on a small roundabout is the WW1/WW2 memorial. Higher in the village are the Shireburn Almshouses, sketched by AW, but when he was wandering this area as a youngster were still up on Longridge Fell. Erected in 1706 but removed and rebuilt in 1946 in the village providing accommodation for Stoneyhrst employees. I’ve never discovered why they were high on the fell in the first place.

A Wainwright. 1980.

Stoneyhurst College is intricately associated with the village and much has been written about it.  Up the road, circumventing the graveyard, The Our Lady Statue looking down the avenue to the College has been restored and is shining bright, I think I prefered it as before. It is not marble but steel painted white. That famous view is also timeless, that’s not me yomping up the road.

My accent of Longridge Fell continued by picking up an old bridleway, a favourite of mine, alongside lively Dean Brook with its old bobbin mills and then past buttressed Greengore, an ancient hunting lodge. The day was passing and the forecast predicted rain by 5pm.  There has been a lot of change up here with storm and fungus damage to the trees so I used local knowledge to find my own familiar tracks to the summit. The Bowland Hills across the Vale of Chipping were darkening and rain was spreading across the Fylde towards me. I reached my previously stashed cycle and hurtled down to Longridge just in time. I shall regain Wainwright’s Way at the summit trig point when time and weather allow.  Bring on Bowland.

*****

 

 

 

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 1. BLACKBURN TO WHALLEY.

Escaping the city.

My train was full of lively pre-match Blackburn supporters. Most didn’t have tickets and exited the station somehow, I was glad I wouldn’t be on their train after the match. AW was a lifelong Rovers supporter.

Outside the station, as I gathered my bearings I was struck by the number of expensive-looking cars, with modified exhausts and booming stereos, cruising around aimlessly at high speeds. I refrain from comment.

I began the long walk up Audley Range. Mills at the lower end near the canal have gone and been replaced by budget shopping units. From the canal upwards AW would have had almost a mile of two-up, two-down terraced housing. There has been demolition in parts giving little cul-de-sac estates. a mosque and many Asian shops but the higher you get the more you are attuned into AW’s time when he trudged up and down from the centre to number 331, his birthplace and where he lived until 1931 when he married. Until 1935 a tram ran halfway up before going to Queen’s Park.

I couldn’t resist calling in at one of the little Asian ‘Sweet Shops’ to buy a couple of samosas for my lunch.

Fittingly there is a plaque on 331 to commemorate Wainwright though I wonder whether any of the Asian population hereabouts will realise the significance. Opposite his house is an open space formerly a brickworks producing the millions of bricks for the housing and mills.

I reached busy roads on the edge of town. Up here AW attended primary schools, now demolished under ring roads and Tescos. I was glad to turn down to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal at Gorse Bridge. The canal would have been lined by warehouses and mills and here is one of the last, the derelict Imperial Mill once employing 300 until closing eventually in 1958. Many of the mills diversified into minor industries after cotton had crashed.

The canalside walk took me past the Whitebirk Estate, shops and car salerooms, and under the maize of roads connecting with the motorway system. One always sees things differently from a canal and then the next time I drive around these roads I’ll reminisce to myself and try and spot the canal. I ate my samosas as I walked the towpath and realised they had quite a kick to them.

Before long I was in a more rural landscape and leaving the canal to climb steeply up onto the ridge of Harwood Moor. An old bridge is crossed, this is the line of the former Blackburn to Padiham railway. The industrial landscape is left behind and suddenly you have a view of Longridge Fell, the Bowland Hills, Yorkshire peaks and Pendle. It was these northern edges of Blackburn that AW  explored as a youngster and subsequently with work colleagues. A certain Harry Green wrote a regular walking column in the newspaper and produced some guidebooks to the area and into the Ribble Valley and Longridge Fell.  One of AW’s walking companions, Lawrence Wolstenholme, kept a diary of Harry Green inspired walks and his descendants still have a copy of Rambles by Highway, Lane and Field Path. H Green 1920. So it is certain that they walked these trails out of Blackburn.

I entered a farmyard patrolled by a bull and hesitated before rushing to the other side and safety. All the fields up here seemed to contain frisky bullocks so I did a little creative road walking to get me on my way. I was soon on a higher ridge with even more extensive views.

Looking back to Blackburn.

Longridge Fell and the distant Bowland Fells.

Down a reedy path to the Dean Clough Reservoirs with Pendle in the background and then I make my own way up above them to come out onto Moor Lane above Langho, it was only last week that I visited The  Lord Nelson Inn here for lunch. Its a very basic but friendly pub with good beer and a limited home-cooked menu,  a couple came in and asked about dining “have you a gluten-free option?”   “No!” was the simple answer.

I didn’t have time today to call in for a pint but marched off along the virtually traffic-free Moor Lane. At one point I glimpsed a deer eyeing me through the trees. Whalley Nab is at the end of the lane directly above Whalley and the River Calder. The River Calder flows through Whalley to join the Ribble, leaving behind its industrial hinterland where in the distance can be seen the Martholme Viaduct which carried the aforementioned Blackburn to Padiham railway. I had a birds-eye view of the Ribble Valley and Whalley, making out the street plan and the more famous railway viaduct over the Clitheroe – Blackburn line I travelled this morning. The Ribble Valley was one of AW’s many sketchbooks done in later life, Nick Burton has illustrated his text with some of these sketches.  It will be interesting to compare AW’s views with my own as I proceed.

A Wainwright 1980

Before I knew it I was crossing the Calder into the busy main street. The impressive 13thC church was closed. Whilst waiting for my bus I had a very short time to look round the Abbey ruins, free entry today – Heritage Week or something. They deserve more so I’ll return for a longer visit.

I’ve finished the first stage of Wainwright’s Way and I’m looking forward to the rural walking to come.

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY – AN INTRODUCTION AND A VIEW OF BLACKBURN.

Wainwright’s Way is a 123-mile long-distance route linking the place where he was born, a Victorian terraced house in Audley Range, Blackburn, with his final resting place, by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks in the Lake District.

The walk follows in his footsteps linking his youthful walks, the sights he sketched and wrote about in Lancashire and Westmorland, time in Kendal before entering the Lake District, land of his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

I have obtained a guidebook written by Nick Burton which as well as giving a route description goes into detailed aspects of Wainwright’s life. Nick’s first chapter is devoted to AW’s time in Blackburn and suggests a short tour of the sights that he would have been familiar with. I have already made a ‘pilgrimage’ to his Memorial on the hills above Blackburn and now I’ll explore the town centre.

Wainwright lived in Blackburn from 1907 until  1941. How different the town would have been when he went to school and from the age of 13 worked as a clerk at the Town Hall. Blackburn had been a boomtown based on the cotton industry which was slowly contracting, mills were still dominant and the pollution and noise must have been all invading. Rows and rows of basic housing accomodated the workforce of which many faced poverty in the slumps of the 20s and 30s. The town centre reflected its former glory with buildings of Victorian splendour and daily AW would walk to work at the Town Hall in the centre. So much has changed as Blackburn has been redeveloped but Burton tries to show you a glimpse of AW’s time. There’s not much left. The town seems to have suffered from the bulldozer more than others.

Nick Burton.

The bus station from where he departed for adventures further afield has been moved and the station forecourt ‘modernised’.

The Cathedral stands centre stage, the land around it has become a pleasing open space. There are tombs of past notaries such as the Fielden and Peel families. Queen Victoria’s statue occupies one corner while closer at hand is a modern statue.

Variety theatres have disappeared from hereabouts and the centre is dominated by a large shopping mall cum market. On Darwen Street is the old Post Office now a thriving Wetherspoons.

On a corner is the ornate old Lloyds Bank and then the remains of a Victorian Exchange Arcade. Northgate survives but with a poor selection of shops. Ahead is Gladstone’s statue pointing to King George’s Hall and courts.

Across the way is the impressive terracotta Technical School and behind is the shell of Blakey Moor Higher Elementary School where AW was briefly a pupil in 1919-20 before leaving for a job at the Town Hall.

The Italianate Town Hall is still standing and now connected to a multistorey extension overlooking the statue of W H Hornby a cotton baron who became Mayor in 1857.

Nearby are two other Victorian buildings from AW’s time. The scruffy Cotton Exchange, a cinema in the early 20th century,  and the former Library now a museum.

Georgian Richmond Terrace is mainly legal offices but was built for rich local gentlemen before they moved out to the countryside when the railways came.

James Street retains its cobbles if nothing else.

Alongside St. John’s Church is the earliest church in the town, started in 1789.  Recently run as an arts centre it was gutted by fire earlier this year and looks lost and forlorn. Somewhere in the grounds is a memorial stone to the Thwaites family, local brewers.

Speaking of which their town centre brewery is being demolished since they have moved away. The sight of dray horse waggons a memory. Past the bingo hall, Penny Street has become a large soulless car park next to the new bus station.

Nick Burton suggests a diversion up Old Eanam Road past the old Soho foundry to view a few remaining canalside buildings and wharves. Despite the coming of the railways, there would have still been commercial canal traffic in AW’s time.

 

In Nick Burton’s book, AW’s sketches from his many books are used to supplement the descriptions. I can find none of Blackburn.

Back to the station and time to escape to the country.