Category Archives: Long Distance Walks.

A SETTLE CIRCULAR. Second day.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go – but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be”  Douglas Adams.

As I slogged up the steep lane out of Stainforth I was regretting the good and filling breakfast I’d just eaten in The Craven Heifer. I’d had a quick look around the churchyard, crossed the stepping stones over the beck and then followed the Pennine Bridleway signs. At the top of the lane was a gate giving access to some more spectacular waterfalls – Catrigg Foss. A placid beck wanders through upper pastures before disappearing into woods. Looking down from the top only revealed a very steep ravine with the water rushing way down below, it was time to explore the lower reaches by a steep path. The falls tumble down in two stages through vertical strata. A magic place to while away time.

Back on the Pennine Bridleway, I cross fields to reach a footpath going towards Attermire, passing a prominent erratic on the way. The day was not looking good with low cloud covering all the tops, down to about 400m. The bridleway I was intending to follow would be in the mist all the way to Ryeloaf Hill which couldn’t be seen – my resolve faltered. I was close to Jubilee Cave so I thought I would climb up to have a look not having been here for years. The two entrances were obvious and I went into the main one but didn’t explore further. This cave and several others in the area have been excavated finding animal bones from before the last ice age and evidence of early human since. There is a large platform area outside the cave, more evidence of human activity, where I sat and had a coffee and debated the day. Why not explore a few more caves at Attermire and then take a short cut to Rye loaf if the cloud lifts.

So I took the footpath leading around the corner passing Wet Cave … … just spotted on the photo that good looking layback crack to the right of the cave.

Higher still was the larger Victoria Cave, discovered in 1837 and excavated extensively. Plenty of animal bones were found. The earliest, at 130,000 years old, [Upper Pleistocene interglacial]  when the climate was much warmer than today, included hippos, rhino, elephants and spotted hyenas. The glaciers returned and the cave filled with clay.  After the last Ice Age brown bear and reindeer bones were found as well as an 11,000-year-old antler harpoon, the first evidence for people in the Yorkshire Dales.  More recent Roman layers yielded bronze and bone artefacts including brooches and coins. The inner depths of the cave are now barred to preserve any further archaeological finds but I remember years ago exploring deeper connecting passages.

Returning down to the main path which goes south through the gap between Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scars.

The back od Warrendale Knotts.

This area was one of my favourite climbing venues with a whole range of buttresses and tiers of limestone, all facing south and giving a huge variety of routes.  The scene as you approach the rocky crest from the south reminds me of those old cowboy films when hundreds of Indians suddenly appear along the horizon. Today one could hardly make out the features shrouded in mist. Anyhow, I walked on to find the trod leading up through the screes to the long escarpment where I remembered Attermire Cave should be.

It seemed much steeper and exposed than I recall but I think the mist added to the atmosphere. I reached an area of solid rock which I recognised from past climbs, Hares Wall etc, some of the best VS to E1 routes hereabouts. The vertical rock is immaculate limestone with cracks and pockets leading to overhangs higher up. I was pleased to identify so many climbs but I couldn’t find Attermire Cave itself. Exploring around the corner I came across the vertical cleft of Horse Shoe Cave, more of a landslip than a cave. Now pacing back and forth along the base of the cliffs I remembered that the cave I was looking for was on a higher shelf. [It’s there on one of the photos above!]  So  I scrambled up at a likely spot and traversed airily along a ledge to an exposed step into the mouth of Attermire Cave. The cave entrance is smoothed off from the previous flow of water, phreatic, and one can walk in, under an ominous wedged boulder, for several metres before a crawl takes you through to another chamber. I was not equipped for crawling today but the light on my mobile illuminated the outer large chamber well enough. Again this cave has yielded animal remains but also more recent human artefacts including of all things part of a chariot suggesting the cave had some spiritual significance.

Views were restricted so I retraced my steps carefully and descended the screes below. In the valley floor, previously a lake at one time, are metal targets apparently commissioned in the C19  when it was thought France may invade. They were used again before WW1.

There was no point me going up the valley to climb Ryeloaf Hill as it was completely obscured by the low cloud. Another time. To save the day and incorporate a ‘loaf’ I climbed the easy low Sugar Loaf Hill on the way back to the car.

On reflection, my amended walk would be better called ‘Caves and Fosses AKA Loaves and Fishes’. I had made the best of today’s weather by keeping low and searching out those caves. I ended up climbing 20000ft in the space of 5miles.

*****

 

My Settle Circle below…

Caves and Fosses Walk.

A SETTLE CIRCULAR. First day.

You often hear the sound of crashing waterfalls before you reach them. A sign off the road directed me to Scaleber Foss in a wooded valley. Scrambling down to the base gave the best views as the water cuts through the horizontal strata. There are some lively smaller falls before  the beck disappears down a valley at a more sedate pace to be met later.

I had just started another walk plucked from the LDWA database. A circular 23-mile walk in Limestone country from Settle in North Yorkshire named  ‘Loaves and Fishes’. I enjoy a two day walk away from home, I’m not sure this brings it into the long-distance category but it is a good excuse to have a night in a pub halfway. Considering the winter days and my level of unfitness this walk would seem to fit the bill perfectly. At the last minute, whilst parked up at the start I changed the direction of my walk to fit in with the weather forecast, rain today and maybe drier tomorrow when I would be higher in the fells.

Back up onto the road, I was soon on an old lane following Brookil Gill, this is Langber Lane an ancient drove route linking Settle with Otterburn and on through to Skipton. Easy walking left me thinking on important topics: the state of the world politics, our future after so-called Brexit this Friday, Coronavirus, our own mortality and is that water getting into my right boot?

After a hop across the beck, a path continued into pasture land where the stream from Scaleber Foss joined at a wooden footbridge. An ideal wild camping spot.

A steep climb out of the valley and I joined a lane overlooking Long Preston, one minute I could see it and next clouds and hale showers obscured the view. As I came out onto a road there was a bench perfect for an early lunch. I’m not sure why this road heading onto the moors is surfaced, there are no properties up there. On old maps it is Queen’s Road [?Elizabeth I ] and was the direct route from Long Preston to Settle over Hunter Bank before the turnpike road was built in the valley in the 18C. An old milestone was thus inscribed.

Dog walkers told me of the fine views up and down Ribblesdale, not today. Once over the top, I took to a direct footpath and a blurry Settle appeared below me. Little lanes, some still cobbled, thread their way into town. I took a coffee and dried out in The Folly, a late C17th manor house built by a wealthy lawyer Richard Preston.

I didn’t have time for more coffee and cake in the Ye Olde Naked Man, formerly an undertakers with a ‘naked man’ on the outside wall, 1663 covering his privates. There were more delights to discover off the beaten track in Settle. Narrow streets, quaint cottages, a Quaker burial ground and an old Victorian Music Hall.

I was aiming for a footbridge over the Ribble and then I would follow the river upstream past Stackhouse and Langcliffe Weir to Stainforth. The imposing large quarries at Langcliffe were in the gloom. I must be on a Long Distance Walk according to the signage. The going was muddy and by the time I arrived at Stainforth Falls, the light was fading. Sat-Nav is responsible for wide vehicles becoming stranded and damaging the old packhorse bridge.

I stayed the night in The Craven Heifer,  a friendly and comfortable inn. There are a number of pubs named after the Craven Heifer, a massive cow bred on the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey estate at the beginning of the C19th.

The restaurant was fully booked for a Chinese New Year banquet but the chef was able to cook a fish and chip supper for me in the bar before festivities commenced.  The fish was significant as it was the only one I saw all day – remember the title of the walk. The loaves come tomorrow but the fish are the salmon seen in October/November leaping the falls at Langcliffe and Stainforth, not my battered variety.

Gung hay fat choy!

*****

 

VIRTUAL WALKING.

Since the successful weekend away with Sir Hugh walking our straight line, coast to coast, on Northing 438  there have been some sunny days and the forecast is for several more soon. I would expect to be posting some interesting walks. But no I have developed one of those annoying twinges in my right knee. I’ve strapped it up and I’m hobbling about trying to keep off my legs as much as possible. There goes the phone again and by the time I’ve reached it, the line is dead, probably a nuisance call anyway.

This gives me time to think about future trips but first I have to sort out some National Grid conundrums. Sir Hugh and I set off from Blackpool last year on the Northing 438  line, I called it the SD 38 but hadn’t realised that it would take us into the SE and then the TA squares, There were more 38 crossings in Britain so I had to be more exact. A little revision on the National Grid site was used to resolve the nomenclature.  I needed to re-evaluate my title. SD38 to SE38 to TA 38 was too cumbersome and inaccurate so I dropped the letters and used numbers only arriving at the more precise 438 Northing.  Interestingly I have an app on my phone that gives me my precise grid reference at any one point with the touch of a button, but that uses the lettered 100K squares, ie SD. Using ordnance survey maps if I click on a point I’m given both the latter and additionally the all number reference. I’ve also the app ‘whatthreewords’ which pinpoints my position in a more literary way. I didn’t realise I had so much technology at my fingertips. I should never get lost, if only life was so simple.

Anyhow now I know where I am – where am I going? Well, nowhere at the moment but I’m always dreaming.

I don’t want to be away for long as I have certain commitments at home. The LDWA has a very good, nigh on encyclopedic, index to any walks you may aspire to. The search system allows you to choose any length of walk in any area of the country. My two latest searches for three or four days came up with St. Hilda’s Way in North Yorkshire [40miles and designed as a pilgrimage visiting sites associated with St. Hilda] and The Cuckoo Way along the Chesterfield Canal from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire [46miles along the 240-year-old canal.] A quick click on Amazon and the guide books are coming to my postbox. I think the latter may be most suitable for walking at this time of year. If my knee settles I should find a window of opportunity for the canal walk whilst Sir Hugh is occupied and then we will be able to complete our coast to coast.

Time for another Brufen and then I can continue following the routes on my maps.

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.

*****

 

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 3. Rufford to Longton.

                                                           Marshy Lancashire.

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

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

Through the keyhole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A walk into Longton and a bus back to Preston.

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 2. Burscough to Rufford.

                                                                            Glorious Lancashire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and a Keepers Cottage, 1868 in the Jacobean Style…

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

The gates themselves have very ornate stonework…

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

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

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

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

… to yet another war memorial to Lathom residents…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bassoon player.

‘Mass grave’

‘Preaching cross’

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

*****

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY 1. Upholland to Burscough.

Stunning Dean Brook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

River Douglas.

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

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

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

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

*****