Bleasdale Circle with Fairsnape and Parlick looming above.
Another of my winter favourites. This circuit is mainly on lanes and good tracks but takes one right into the hills. I’ve written about it many times but today I have come across some interesting new facts.
For a start, Bleasdale School dating from 1850 where I park is now closed. It soldiered on since the Millenium with about a dozen pupils from the surrounding farms but when the number dropped to two or three its fate was inevitable.
Up the lane, the Parish Hall is heated using a wood pellet boiler with a wind turbine to generate electricity, forward-thinking for a small community. Further on is the uniquely named St. Eadmer Church.
The lane then heads into the hills past a few farms. A footpath diverts to visit Bronze Age Bleasdale Circle. Originally two circles of wooden posts with ditches and a central burial chamber. The wooden posts of the inner circle have been replaced by concrete posts but still are evocative of the site. There is the usual speculation as to the uses of these circles and their positioning. Burial urns from the site have been on view at the Harris Museum in Preston. The whole site has been planted with a circle of trees which are visible from many parts of Bleasdale. The outer circle, obstructed by the trees, was possibly from an earlier Neolithic era. Ritual sites are often reused over the ages. I visited it today and got my feet very wet in the approach fields.
Further into Bleasdale, there is a section of boggy ground before the next farm tracks which come in from the west, like crossing a watershed. All around are good views of the surrounding hills. As well as the Curlew and Lapwings a small flock of Pied Wagtails entertain me flitting along the wall tops. I’m now approaching the properties of the Bleasdale Estate. The estate is now run as partly agricultural and partly a shooting concern but I’ve just unearthed some of its history.
In the C19th a Mr Garnett lived in nearby Bleasdale Tower, he was an agricultural reformer and philanthropist and in 1857 founded The North Lancashire Reformatory School constructed on the estate. It catered for over a hundred boys who worked on the land and in trades such as tailoring and shoemaking as well as receiving an education
“In November 1857, a few weeks after its opening, three boys escaped from the institution due to the fence wall having not been completed. They were all apprehended in Preston the same evening and returned to the Reformatory.”
“Of the 51 discharges for 1865 thirty-three were doing well, twelve convicted, one dead and five missing”
As I walked down the lane today I crossed over Clough Head Brook on a substantial stone bridge which apparently was constructed by the boys. Stonemasons’ tools are depicted on the parapet.
The lane goes through the original school buildings which are now used as cottages and workhouses for the estate. The school enlarged over the years and eventually closed in 1905. A map from 1893 shows the school
In a wall on the corner is a King Geoge V post box [1910 -36]
Taking the shorter route on tarmac brought me past Brooks Farm where an arched ‘packhorse’ bridge is visible over the River Brock. Despite its appearance, it was never built for horses with steep steps at either end. It is not on a known packhorse trail and didn’t appear on maps till 1893. It has been suggested that the bridge was built to provide access from Bleasdale Tower to Bleasdale Church, I wonder if those reform boys built it.
In the wood nearby are some new, not particularly attractive, chalet type holiday lets, a sign of the estate diversifying.
My way back to the school was enclosed by smart beech hedging for which the estate is renowned.
I took this photo of the Bleasdale hills on my way home, St. Eadmer’s church is right of centre.*****
This walk was completed two days ago and since then advice about walking and climbing during the coronavirus emergency has been sensibly updated. As I’m in the vulnerable group I’m taking heed. We are all responsible for limiting the seriousness of the situation in the next few months.
BMC Advice. 18/03/2020
- People need access to the countryside for their health – both mental and physical.
- Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing. Currently Public Health England’s advice is: “you can go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.”
- Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
- Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
- Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
- Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops.