Tag Archives: Canals

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?

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY – A KENDAL INTERLUDE.

A Kendal snapshot.

Nick Burton’s book Wainright’s Way is far more than a walking guide as he incorporates so much well researched biographical detail of AW. Already I’ve have covered his early life in Blackburn which included a look at the town where he lived from 1907 – 1941.

Now having reached Kendal, where AW lived from 1941 until his death in 1991, Nick takes a short tour of the town pointing out places AW was associated with and I found much of interest on my stroll around. Kendal Civic Society has placed green information plaques everywhere marking historic buildings, far too many for me to mention here, all I can say is that Kendal is worth a days visit.  It was not a town I was particularly well acquainted with, in the past queuing through the main street on the way to and from the Lakes, now it is thankfully by-passed.  Visits to the climbing wall in an old milk processing mill on the outskirts gave no time for exploring the town and anyhow the traffic is awful and parking difficult.

Today I start above Kendal Green, a lovely open space, at the end of a culdesac where AW had a house built in 1949. He lived here with his first wife, Ruth, and then with his second, Betty until his death. Being elevated he had good views to the Kentmere Fells. What a contrast to Audley Range in Blackburn.

AW would walk down past Kendal Green on his way to work, this is a large open space with mature trees. Halfway down is a plaque commemorating an oak planted in 1864 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. I wasn’t sure that oak was still standing but there is a further plaque for one planted in 1964, 400 years since his death. The link is explained in the first plaque.

At the lower end, you arrive at Windermere Road where AW caught buses to the Lakes on a Sunday. Here also is the corner shop where he stocked up on pipe tobacco.

The long straight road into the town is  Stricklandgate leading to the distinctive Town Hall where AW worked from 1941 to 1967, becoming Borough Treasurer in 1948.

To get here I passed the  Library, Stricklandgate House, and ‘Wainwright’s Yard’ The latter a newly developed shopping arcade made more memorable by the present-day premises of Westmorland Gazette who published most of AW’s books.

The ‘yard’ is one of the dozens off the main street that at one time hosted small industries and shops, most have been altered over the years but all are numbered and can be located with a leaflet from the tourist information. One nearby is named Webster Yard after the architect who designed much of 19th-century Kendals’ prominent housing. Another is C17th Sandes Hospital built with wool money, it now encloses rebuilt almshouses designed by Webster’s firm. Apparently many of the properties AW would have known were demolished in the 1970s.

 

Sandes Hospital

I wandered into the back yard/garden of The Brewery, formerly a Vaux brewery and now an arts centre and Yough Hostel, and was delighted to see the Leyland clock which I’ve discussed in a previous post about the A6 over Shap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further on are some ornate gates that lead to Holy Trinity Church. Built when Kendal was prosperous from the wool trade it is one of the widest churches in the country with five aisles. What an amazing church.

There is the Old Grammar School and Abbot Hall and I’m on the banks of the Kent for a riverside walk. A small park had a plaque referring to K Shoes, once one of Kendal’s largest industries. Howard Somervell of Everest fame, 1920, belonged to the family running K Shoes and naturally wore Kendal-made boots on the mountain. Nearby is a record of historic flood levels.

MIller Bridge, Webster designed, was built in 1818 as part of a complex of warehouses serving the terminal basin of the Lancaster Canal. Aynam Mills were originally for the wool trade but in AW’s time were the premises of a well-known tobacco and snuff manufacturer, Illingworth’s. I became a little lost in the maze of lanes amongst all these warehouses, many being put to good use.

My route took me along an elegant Georgian terrace the home of the all-encompassing Kendal architect George Webster. A little further was another terraced area with an open space where the residents dry their clothes to this day.

I passed another church and then Castle Dairy one of the oldest occupied houses in Kendal. Apparently, the Elizabethan interior is worth viewing as part of a meal in the restaurant now in the building.

 

 

 

 

Round the corner is the town’s Museum where AW was heavily involved for the time he was in Kendal. It was closed today so I was not able to view a collection of Wainwright memorabilia.

Over the busy Victoria Bridge with associated sympathetic warehouse accommodations alongside the Kent. Ahead back on Stricklandgate was the third of Kendal’s parish churches. On the next corner are the premises of Titus Wilson, printers since 1860, AW’s first publisher.

It was now a short walk back up the side of Kendal Green.

Kendal is certainly worthy of further exploration.  I can appreciate it would be a good place to live and did I mention Kendal Mintcake?

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 7. HAWES BRIDGE TO MITCHELLAND, B5284.

Westmorland Country.

Sir Hugh and I are progressing on our Wainwright Way journey, over halfway now. We’ve been able to do at least one trip a week between other commitments and weather windows. Today we pass through Kendal, AW’s hometown from 1941 to his death in 1991, featured prominently in his Westmorland Heritage book, 1974. Then we climb Scout Scar one of AW’s The Outlying Fells, 1974, “ a pictorial guide to lesser fells .. of Lakeland written primarily for old age pensioners…”  We were hoping for good views from this fell into Lakeland and in particular the Kentmere fells leading to High Street our objective in a couple of day’s time.

The day starts well with a gentle stroll along the River Kent into Kendal, we chose a riverside option over the suggested canal route which we have both very familiar with. Perfect, sunny and clear, boding well for the day ahead. The filled-in Lancaster Canal was joined on the edge of town as it headed for defunct wharves and warehouses at the heart of a previously industrial Kendal, the coming of the canal improved the supply of coal from Lancashire to those industries. However today we were diverted up past an enormous cemetery to visit what remains of Kendal Castle on its elevated hill. AW, when he first moved here lived in a council house just to the north-west of here.

Castle Grove AW’s first house in Kendal.

Many of Kendal’s dog walkers were up here this morning enjoying the weather and views, Scout Scar was prominent to the west whilst looking north to the Lakes there were some ominous clouds on the summits. The castle has guarded over Kendal since the C12th and has apparently strong links with Katherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Heading down we walked through neat Victorian terraces, crossed the River Kent on a footbridge and joined the crowds on Kendals high street. The town hall where AW was Borough Treasurer stands proud at the top of the street.  When I explored Kendal recently I was unable to find Collin Croft one of the sites sketched by  AW in his Westmorland Heritage, I tried a little harder today and we found our way into a hidden maze of alleys typical of the town.

We then walked up leafy streets heading out of town. A sign above a gateway alluded to links with a previous Presbyterian Chapel. An obelisk appeared without any information. Over the Kendal bypass, interesting milepost,  we entered fields that are marked as an old racecourse and also the start of the Lake District National Park. The sky was clouding over despite the optimistic forecast. Scout Scar, or more correctly Underbarrow Scar, is a limestone escarpment popular with the people of Kendal and today walkers and joggers appeared from all directions.  We arrived onto the ridge near a large cairn with the trig point to the north. It was then that the heavy rain hit us, views disappeared and we walked on grimly towards the ‘mushroom’  shelter. Any semi-shelter was already taken and it was too cold to hang about so we just carried on to the end of the fell, a slight anticlimax to what should have been a memorable situation. The shelter was erected in 1912 in recognition of George V’s coronation. It has a 360-degree indicator which I had been interested in viewing but all that was lost in our haste to get off the fell.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Calmer sunnier conditions returned as we walked off nearby Cunswick Scar on Gamblesmire Lane, a bridleway we followed down into a different landscape. Undulating green fields, stone walls, sheep, whitewashed squat farms all make up the Cumbrian landscape, of course in AW’s time it was Westmorland. Gamblesmire Lane, almost Quagmire Lane in parts continued through this landscape. In sections it was a unique, hedge defined rollercoaster.

We eventually found somewhere to sit and eat and then it was field after field heading towards an isolated tower. A farmer was sorting out his sheep for market and seemed keen to chat, he must lead an isolated life up here. Eventually, we reached the restored bell tower of the C17th St. Catherine’s Church, the rest of the church was demolished and a new one built a short distance away, seen in the picture below.

A Wainwright. 1975.

 

More idyllic fields were traversed and we were soon back at the car and a drive home in lovely low sun.

*****

WAINWRGHTS WAY. 6. HOLME TO HAWES BRIDGE [NATLAND]

 

 

A bit of limestone.

This walk gets better and better. We are lucky today with the weather, sun and heavy showers. We only had a few of the latter, whenever Sir Hugh put his waterproofs on the sun came out. The walk out of Holme was easy along a couple of quiet lanes which brought us to Holme Mills the linen mill I mentioned in my last post. A delightful spot with its mill pond but we had taken the wrong way and were well off course. Rewind back into Holme and we started again, this time picking up the path alongside Holme Beck with a series of squeeze stiles. These iconic stones become a feature of the day linking fields together.

We then had a few flooded fields to negotiate to reach the A6.

Safely across the floods with Farleton in the background.                                         

Now little lanes, between occasional characterful cottages, ran parallel to the A6 but in a different time zone. This is limestone country.

 

We passed the fortified farmstead of Beetham Hall, built to defend the locals from marauding Scots.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Next, we were in Beetham, a little hamlet with a long history from the Doomsday Book. I didn’t know about the village stocks until today but I’ve spent many hours in the village pub, the C17th Wheatsheaf Inn. What made Beetham prosperous was the corn mill dating from the C12th and we passed it on the River Bela.

What followed was a promenade through the parkland of Dallam Tower with its Fallow Deer wandering freely. We exited by a bridge over the River Bela before it slides into the Kent Estuary.

Milnthorpe was bypassed on an enclosed path climbing a little ridge with superb views of the Kent Estuary and the Lakeland fells ahead. Across the way was St. Anthony’s Tower a ‘folly’ erected in 1832 as a memorial to the passing of the Great Reform Act, they did things like that in those days. A folly to remember ‘Brexit’  would be very appropriate – but where would you erect it?

A Wainwright. 1975.

We popped out onto the A6 and walked down the pavement until a lane going right. Paths were followed into Heversham, crossing at one point the disused Furness rail line linking Arnside to the main west coast line at Hindcaster. We passed Dallam school, a well-respected establishment. Lunch was taken on a seat in the churchyard of St. Peter’s. There was an ancient cross [?C8th] in the porch but the inside of the church was uninspiring Victorian, having been ‘restored’ by the Lancaster firm of architects Sharpe, Paley and Austin. They were responsible for a large amount of work on churches and country houses in the north-west.

Avoiding the A6 surprisingly steep paths over little hills gave good views down the Kent Estuary, ahead to Scout Scar above Kendal and distant Kentmere with the HIgh Street range we have to tackle. Eventually, we dropped down to Levens Hall, its topiary hedges hidden behind high walls. I was looking forward to the walk alongside the River Kent in Levens Park as I have passed it so many times without venturing away from the car. It didn’t disappoint. It was a delight. Competing with Dallam Park the path climbed above the winding river through mature trees, Bagot Goats walked past us and Black Fallow Deer sprinted by.

Don’t get in my way.

 

Leaving the park we had a short stretch on the line of the Lancaster Canal with its incongruous field bridges. We left the canal at the aqueduct and skew bridge in Sedgwick visited on another occasion.

Today we walked down past Sedgwick Hall, the previous home of the Wakefield family, of gunpowder fame, to rejoin the River Kent.

A Wainwright. 1975.

A lane brought us onto its banks at a suspension bridge. The original bridge here was built in 1858 to take workers across the river to the gunpowder works on the west bank [now a caravan site] it was washed away and replaced by the current bridge,1875.

The river could be heard roaring ahead and soon we were above a gorge with great views down to the rushing waters.  The river then had a short peaceful passage before rushing once again under Hawes Bridge, all very exciting and a fitting end to today’s walk.

 

 

 

A Wainwright. 1975          

For videos of the river in spate have a look at Sir Hugh’s http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/2019/10/wainwrights-way-holme-to-crowpark-bridge.html

*****

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. 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.

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