I was kicking myself by lunchtime today. The forecast was for rain but there was hardly any and now the sun was shining. Could easily have had a meet up with friends for a day’s walk. My new boots haven’t arrived yet, tomorrow?, so walking in trainers I need to stay on dry ground which is difficult around here at the moment. A cursory look at the map and I had inspiration for a quick afternoon’s outing on lanes around Barnacre, a rural area to the south and east of Garstang.
In less than half an hour’s drive I’m parked by another deserted looking pub, the Kenlis Arms. originally an 1856 hunting lodge,
The walk itself is on quiet lanes on the edge of the Bowland Hills passing a few farms and lots of sheep.
White sheep of the family.
My first real objective is the Church of All Saints, yet another designed by Austin and Paley of Lancaster, 1905. Set in a peaceful woodland area its red roof stands out across the fields and its tower is castle-like. A lane takes me down to cross the motorway and main railway line.
Forge Lane passes the old forge where the family are splitting logs with a hired machine, looks great fun.
The lane continues down to a ford on the swollen Wyre but fortunately there is a nearby footbridge. This whole low-lying area is part of the local flood defences when water can be diverted into the fields to reduce the flow downstream. I walk through the Millennium Green past the hydraulic weirs for controlling the flow of the Wyre. It must be quite a sight to see the floodplain filling up. I’ve been this way before on The Wyre Way.
Millennium Green with a misty Nicky Nook in the background.
A diversion into Garstang’s High Street highlights several interesting buildings.
The old grammar school, C18th.
The old Town Hall. 1760.
I walk over the twin arched bridge on the Wyre and a little later drop down to the Lancaster Canal for about a mile of quiet towpath back to my car.
A walk snatched from nothing and dry feet at the end of it.
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.
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.
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  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.
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.
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 prioryand 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
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.
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.
I caught my train and was back in Preston before dark.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What could have been an uninspiring day in the hinterland of Bradford and Leeds turned out to be almost a green corridor of pleasant walking. It was not difficult to keep close to our lateral line with the proviso from Sir Hugh to incorporate a visit to his primary school in Thackley.
From the rail station in Saltaire we quickly reached the Leeds – Liverpool Canal to follow it off and on throughout the morning. At first all was industrial, historically relating to the canal with some fine mill buildings brought into the 21st century.
There were a few scattered sculptures including this one which was a pun on the Salt Mill connection…Hanging on the wall of my garage is an Ellis-Briggs cycle frame, probably 40years old, so I was delighted to pass their establishment which has been building steel frames since 1936. The cycling scene was booming in the 1930’s and the other notable established builder was W.R. Baines, whose factory was based at Thackley, see above and further into the walk. Coincidentally I rode a 1950’s Baines ‘Flying Gate’ cycle for many years.
Some nondescript scenery followed enlivened by some dubious and unsuccessful canal boat manoeuvering, it is difficult to do a three point turn.
Climbing away from the canal on cobbled paths above railway tunnels we entered Thackley, a mixture of old stone houses and modern estates, and found Sir Hugh’s school still open and extended since his time. Up here was the local cricket club with a very challenging sloping pitch, Sir Hugh’s father had been a member.
From the map we were not sure whether we could access the canal towpath from open country but thankfully there was a bridge. Soon we were sat on a bench looking down locks near Apperley Bridge, this was a busy stretch with pedestrians but no boat movements.Crossing busy orbital roads took time unless there were lights. We switched from the canal to follow the River Aire alongside the sports grounds of Woodhouse Grove School. The river continued through remarkably rural scenery despite being close to the railway and new housing developments.
Pleasant suburbs gave us twisting streets heading for Hawksworth Park which turned out to be a wooded valley. More parkland and upmarket housing and we arrived at our excellent budget hotel for the night.
There were several unexpected highlights on today’s walk and despite heading into the congested Aire Valley we enjoyed rural walking throughout on one of the warmest sunniest February days I remember.
Continuing our straight line walk meant once again logistics of two car parking. Sir Hugh suggested Saltaire as a finishing point so we arranged a rendezvous in the large free car park there, all went well with my journey until I became stuck in early rush hour traffic, not the best of starts for a day’s walking. With the late start and more traffic problems we drove back to our last point in the Ponden Valley. Sir Hugh seemed to know all these intricate Pennine roads and little villages or at least the lonely Public Houses where he spent his money when living in the area as a young man. We were stunned when the lane up to our isolated parking spot was closed necessitating back tracking and finding an alternative route on what was becoming a frustrating morning.
At last we set off down a bridleway high above Ponden Reservoir only for Sir Hugh to realise he’d left his phone on the car, fortunately we hadn’t gone far. This initiated a conversation on things left behind on walks and the cut off distance where one is prepared or able to return. Poles, passports, waterproofs, cameras and particularly hats were prominent on the list. We ran into problems with unmarked, difficult to follow and blocked paths in the Oldfield area and at West House farm admitted defeat and took to the road for a while. None the less there were many interesting houses passed.
High above Ponden Reservoir.
Before he’d realised his loss.
We were concerned with our poor progress after the delayed start on what would be a long day but as often happens things suddenly improved and remained so all day. We encountered a deep gorge not apparent on the map and decided to take the old flagged path alongside down to the River Worth which was then followed for a mile or so through green fields. We reached a road at an old mill that had been restored to provide modern living accommodation. There were several pack horse type bridges on this stretch reflecting the days when the valley was thriving with small riverside mills.
On the edge of Haworth I had noticed on the map a ‘Railway Children’s Walk’. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, published in 1906, was set in Yorkshire and a 1970 film used The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway as a backdrop. I remember watching a BBC TV series back in the 50s. Thus Haworth’s tourism benefits from both the Bronte connection and the preserved steam railway. We followed the lane across the Mytholmes railway tunnel made famous in the film …
… I regret now not going the extra few hundred yards to view the authentic Oakworth station featured prominently in the film. No trains today so we climbed up the steep hill to the busy Cross Roads and would you believe it – halfway up a steam train came into view way below us in the valley, bad timing. Up on the road the stone houses all bore that blackened look of the industrial past.
At Barcroft we reached high open countryside and enjoyed marching out with distant views to Bingley. In the fore ground was a prominent rocky tor, Catstones, and we speculated on the climbing possibilities and the height of the faces.
A bench below was perfect for lunch, I didn’t have the energy to ascend to the rocks. An inscription was dedicated to a Cllr. Ron Senior who pioneered a circular walk around Cullingworth, Senior Way. We felt well qualified to follow it.
We ended up just using the pavement through Harden but then entered St.Ives country park for a popular woodland walk to the edge of Bingley. The park is yet another old estate taken into council ownership providing a wide range of activities, we only skirted the edge.
A lane dropped down to bridges and fords at Beck Foot, a site of old mills, all very picturesque in the sun. An ecyclist proudly showed us his bike and extolled the virtues of battery powered leisure, not sure what it is doing for his fitness.
The River Aire, on its way into the industrial Leeds, was followed through fields to give another aspect to this day’s walk. Surprisingly rural although there was rubbish evident. A last stretch of woodland linked to the Leeds Liverpool Canal which took us into the heart of Salts Mill at Saltaire. Formerly a textile mill, now an arts centre, built by the philanthropic Sir Titus Salt in 1853, along with the adjoining Saltaire village in the hope of improving the conditions for working people. The whole complex is worthy of a day’s exploration. We found our car as the sun was setting and joined the heavy traffic home.
We are out walking our Northing 438 line again. A lane leads steeply out of Barrow through mainly new housing, ribbon development if ever I saw it. Crossing the busy A59 we continued climbing into Wiswell, an interesting little hamlet with a famous gastropub. A van was delivering organic vegetables to houses, one of these expensive subscription ideas where you probably finish each week with a box still full of potatoes and carrots. From here the route became moorland onto a ridge which was really an outlier of Pendle Fell, the mast marked on the map seems to have disappeared. We had climbed 500ft in a mile and were beginning to steam in the mild weather. Sabden could be seen in the distance. Below us was the large hidden valley of Sabden Brook and we slowly made our way down to pick up tracks into the village. I mentioned the famous Sabden Treacle Mines of which Sir Hugh had no knowledge, sadly they are no more and I will leave those with curiosity to investigate. We followed lanes to the 19th-century church and then out past a farm from where a pipe led into the fields. This pipe actually came out of the midden slurry tank and snaked into the fields, a tractor pump was starting up to inflate the pipe which we followed almost hypnotically for several fields. Eventually, the pipe seemed to connect up with another tractor with spreading machinery, but nothing happened. By now we realised we were off track so diverted back onto a rough farm road. This led to the 16th century Dean Farm with its wonderful mullioned windows and incongruous 19th-century extension. Muddy fields and rough reedy grass below the ridge of the so-called Forest Of Pendle led us to lunch on the wall of Tinedale House. A climb onto the grandly named Rigg of England which was mainly equestrian farms. Up here were good views back to the massive bulk of Pendle and across to Newchurch in Pendle which we had visited on The Lancashire Witches Walk. Below to the south was the industrial Burnley – Nelson – Colne corridor. It didn’t look too bad from up here. Ancient tracks down the hillside brought us into Fence alongside the White Swan pub where I recalled a seasonal wild garlic meal. Where do these memories unexpectedly come from?
We made a mistake in trying to follow footpaths parallel with the busy road, we were hemmed in by unnecessary plastic ‘hedging’ on the boundary of more equestrian enclosures. Escaping eventually into a large graveyard, where we were surprised by the number of Muslim graves. We started dropping down into the valley alongside a small beck. Surprisingly green paths led us into the heart of the Lomeshaye Industrial Estate. At the large Wellocks complex we enquired what ‘The perfect ingredient‘ was but unfortunately only Polish was spoken. Subsequently, we discovered that it was a high-end food distribution firm to the restaurant trade founded originally by a potato merchant whom Sir Hugh had known from his Yorkshire days. It was pleasant to enter Nelson through Victoria Park with its bandstand and paths alongside Pendle Water.
Under the motorway, over the canal and then a steep road heading up into Nelson town centre where we found the modern bus station which gave us a busy ride back to Barrow.
This was probably the worst section of the ring, it started off well in the Pennines but became a dreary trudge after Mossley.
The Standedge Tunnel has no towpath so after a good breakfast in The New Inn, Marsden, I caught the bus over to Diggle. It has only just started going into the village after all the snow and ice they’ve experienced up here. This felt like cheating and I should go back one day and work out the route over the summit moors that the canal horses took to connect either end of the tunnel, it would only be about 4 miles. I’m told that in Summer boat trips can be taken through, that would be an experience. Anyhow this morning I’m at the southern gated tunnel entrance and setting off down the Huddersfield Narrow to Ashton. The surface of the canal is lightly frozen over but it is beautiful weather and the dog-walkers are out enjoying the sunshine.
Flights of locks head downhill quickly. This flight has uniquely single paddles top and bottom and on this side side of the Pennines have the suffix W denoting west. Local mills proclaim their names proudly from their chimneys or towers reminding one of the dominance of weaving in these hills. Shout it from the rooftops. Wool, cotton, coal, limestone were transported on the canal.Before long I was down eight locks and passing through Dobcross.
Just past was the old transhipment warehouse for transferring goods to mules prior to the Standedge Tunnel opening. I believe it is now used as the headquarters of the Huddersfield Canal Society. The smaller building was thought to have been a smithy. Also on the other side were old weaving sheds which have been transformed into unique accommodations.A massive railway viaduct looked familiar and further down stepping stones across the River Tame jogged my mind even more – I had been here recently but couldn’t remember why. Uppermill was passed without realising it, a L&NW marker was a reminder of the railways takeover. A straight section had me alongside Tesco’s in Greenfield where the marina was backed by Alderman’s Hill with its obelisk. Snow patches clearly visible. I definitely had been here before but remember going off to the hills to the East. This time I kept to the towpath.
Woodend Mill and its chimney adjoining a lock at last jogged my memory – I had come out of the woods here on The Tame Valley Way just over a year ago.
At Mossley a mill building above me hissed, moaned, whistled, crunched and groaned like a Schoenberg symphony. apparently it is a timber recycling plant. Worth a listen…
Scout Tunnel could be traversed on a towpath in the dark before the countryside ran out. The enclosed valley with canal, river, electricity lines, rail and road became increasingly grim. Past industries have left waste lands, an old coal conveyor bridge hangs above the trees in ruins, electric substations all a bit too close, And then you are in or mostly under Stalybridge, a lot of work was needed to reconstruct the canal through the centre of town.Rather grubby urban walking through a corridor of industry and dereliction followed and after a narrow cut the final lock,1W, joined The Ashton Canal at a small basin. A couple were taking their barge for a spin, 10 years of restoration work on it so far – a labour of love.Disappointingly I was soon diverted away from The Ashton’s towpath as it disappeared underground somewhere. I found myself in an Asda car park with no obvious way out, not the end to the walk I’d imagined. However with a little improvisation and without getting run-over I found a way through and back down to the towpath just as it entered Portland Basin. This was a much more lively and pleasant place with a beautiful bridge over the joining Peak Forest Canal. The Ashton continues into Manchester but I’d walked that section in the past so my circuit of the South Pennine Ring was complete. I’d had 6 days exercise, varied scenery and lots of interest but I think I’ve had enough of canal walking for now.
As the train emerged from Standedge Tunnel into Marsden the world changed to white. The roads around Huddersfield were treacherous with the snow that had fallen and frozen. It was all gone by lunchtime. Whilst at Huddersfield station I would recommend the little station buffet on platform 8, used mainly by railway workers, providing cheap coffee and basic eats. Fortified I retraced my steps down to the Locomotive Bridge over the Huddersfield Broad Canal. The statue of Sir Harold Wilson [local boy made good] by the station wore a hat of snow.
A short last piece of the Broad Canal took me to Aspley Basin with all its moorings taken. I shared the path with students from the surrounding University and the transition to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal occurs on campus.
Work building the Narrow Canal commenced in 1794 and though it was largely completed some five years later, the construction of 3.1 miles of Standedge Tunnel took a further eleven years. It runs 20 miles to join the Ashton Canal in Ashton-under-Lyne. Passing under the Pennines between Diggle and Marsden, the Tunnel is the longest, highest (above sea level) and deepest (underground) canal tunnel in Britain. The long narrow boats on this canal couldn’t access the shorter locks on the Broad, hence the need at Aspley basin for offloading and transfer. The Canal operated until 1944. Many sections were infilled by the early 1960s and later developed. What remained of the Canal fell into dereliction. A major effort has restored it to navigable status.
Some of this major restoration has taken place in the city itself with several tunnels being rebuilt. I soon have to take to the streets to avoid one such section where there is no towpath. Heading out now all the usual canal side developments are underway. The River Colne runs alongside and is crossed from time to time. The river provided the power for the mills, supplanting handloom working, and the canals subsequently improved transport before the railways came.
Britannia Mil 1861.
One stretch had been drained to allow workers to repoint the walls, the sad looking canal exposing its normally hidden treasures.This area, not sure where I was, was all a bit run down. Not much civic pride and ne’er do wells hanging about under bridges. I was glad to pass through and head for the hills.
A whole series of narrow locks gained height. A design feature was just one paddle on the upper side yet two on the other end, I couldn’t understand the logic to this, opening one paddle is simpler than two but why not both ends. Incidentally the E on the lock number denotes East side of the system.
Fields opened up at Linthwaite and across the way was the massive woolen mill – Titanic, an iconic building in the Colne Valley. It was built the same year as that fated vessel,1911. It has been restored as apartments and a health spa.
The canal enters Slaithwaite in a narrow channel rebuilt to take it through the village. It has become an integral part of the central area which today was busy with shoppers and visitors enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The old Spa Mill and the Globe Worsted Mill look down on the bustle. There are locks right in the middle of town. All very pleasant and what’s more I was directed to the Handmade Bakery and Cafe in the Upper Mill where I enjoyed soup and a basket of their famous bread. The other half of the mill is occupied by a microbrewery, Empire, which I wisely did not visit as there was more climbing up to Marsden 3 miles away.
The River Colne was always in close proximity with its weirs and mill races. Trains kept rumbling by heading for their Standedge Tunnel.Near Sparth Reservoir, one of ten built to ensure the canal’s water supply, were pleasing cottages and their ruined mill, Cellars Clough.
Marsden, to which I will return to, was glimpsed down below and now in close proximity to the railway Standedge Tunnel was a short distance away. It’s entrance has been described as a Mousehole in the Pennines. The trains to and from Manchester have their own tunnels above. When they were horse drawn barges were ‘legged’ through the tunnel, taking up to three hours. The horses fol owed trails over the hill. The nearby information centre in an old canal warehouse is full of canal history and worth a visit.I walked back down to the surprisingly busy Marsden, a typical gritty Pennine town, to find my accommodation for the night – the welcoming New Inn.Yet another varied walk on this circuit.
As I stepped off the train in Sowerby Bridge I was face to face with an old climbing friend, Sandy, whom I’d not seen for a few years. A brief chat before the doors closed and he was on his way to Leeds. One of life’s unusual coincidences.
My walking trip around the South Pennine Ring was interrupted last week with the arctic weather which cut off this area.
From Sowerby’s main street the last section of the Rochdale Canal is reached and a couple of locks go down into the town’s basin. This morning I was pleased to see a barge coming up, a couple had taken 6 months leave to follow an ambitious circuit of the country’s canals. In the historic basin itself little moved. This was the beginning of a short section on The Calder and Hebble Navigation which travels to Wakefield and is part canal and part River Calder, hence the name ‘Navigation’. It was engineered by a renowned 18th century canal builder, John Smeaton. The work started in 1759 and the canal opened in 1764, much earlier than the others.
Walking out of town I was surprised by the amount of house building on low ground between the canal and the river- watch this space in a few wet winters’ time! A long level towpath, popular with walkers and cyclists, brought me to Salter Hebble locks where previously a branch ambitiously climbed up to Halifax. Lots of interesting canal architecture on display as I dropped under busy road intersections to a calmer stretch. An electric guillotine lock lies at the bottom. Down here are the usual grouping of canal, river, rail and road. There are some impressive arched bridges constructed by the railway companies. More industrial heritage followed, some ruinous others renovated and reinvented. Balconies on mills mean apartments.I lost my way a bit in Elland where roads have blocked the towpath which swaps sides, a short diversion over a bridge and down Gas Works Lane had me sorted. Elland was noted for the production of Gannex Macs, a favourite of Sir Harold Wilson. More of him later. High heeled office staff from canalside offices were walking to lunch, I was heading to Brighouse, The river was in close proximity ready to join in the action.
Two tall towers, disused wheat silos of Sugden’s Flour Mill, greet you at Brighouse. They are now unusual climbing walls. My excellent lunch was taken at the busy No 43 cafe, canals get you to the heart of these Yorkshire industrial towns. The canal basin is alongside shops and car parks. Unfortunately soon my way was blocked and I took to the desert of an industrial estate, is this what keeps Brighouse alive? Interspersed with the metal sheds were remnants of workers back to back cottages.Where do the workers live now, not in the luxury mill apartment conversions I bet.
Canal trust workers were busy tree cutting and lock mending but I squeezed past to a surprisingly rural section. Up to now the towpath had been a metalled walkway but from here on after the M62 was a muddy path, soon to get worse. Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway markers remind one that as the canals lost their influence the railways took over. The River Calder joined the canal for several sections. The path alongside became dangerous and I had doubts that I could reach Cooper Bridge where the Calder goes off to Wakefield and I would join the Huddersfield Broad Canal heading back up west. Opened in 1776 it was known as Sir John Ramsden’s Canal, a wealthy Huddersfield landowner at the time. Coal was carried from East Yorkshire to power stations until 1953. A friendly man lives in the lock-keepers cottage at the start of the canal.
The canal immediately starts climbing. Industry reappeared, its never been far away in these valleys, with a mixture of derelict structures and modern sheds. The light was fading as I entered Huddersfield, dubious characters and graffiti appeared so I cut short the day at the elaborately engineered Locomotive Lift Bridge, a vertical lifting bridge from 1865 now under electric operation, and climbed past the seven storey Brierley mill to the station for a quick trip back to Manchester. Things will look better in the morning.