Following on from my last post which described a half aborted climbing session, today we now have a walk that didn’t quite work out. I’m on a losing streak. Again I’m with Mike reconnoitring for walks he could lead with his monthly walking group.
Remember the stipulations “should start at a place with toilets, not too much rough ascent, between three and four miles, the fewer stiles the better and finishing at a pub for lunch” He thought he had found one in a book of short walks in Lancashire, I didn’t catch the title. This time on the outskirts of Blackburn, Pleasington in fact, incorporating Wainwright’s Memorial on Billinge Hill and the popular Witton Country Park. Sounded promising when he invited me to join him.
Things didn’t go well when we struggled to park near the Railway Inn, yes there is a station here for commuting into Preston or Blackburn. We eventually settled on roadside parking up the lane which wouldn’t be ideal. Shame that the nearby Butler’s Arms is closed. We set off, walking up the lane past the impressive Pleasington Priory. Pleasington Priory – Wikipedia We don’t even think to have a look inside, if it is open.
Up a smaller lane past expensive building conversions to the gates of the Old Hall.
A track goes left here, and we soon come to our next problem, a loose eroded bank leading to an awkward stile. Probably no go for those of his group not into mountaineering. I didn’t think to take a photo of the obstacle.
A wandering route through rough fields brings us out onto a lane I recognise from previous Witton Weaver Walks which we now follow up to the Yellow Hills, named from the abundant gorse that blooms up here – but not in September it seems. There are always a few people up here because of Wainwright’s Memorial plaque, a toposcope with a rather poor impression of Alfred in the centre. We gaze in all directions, but distant views are hazy, nevertheless a wonderful lookout. This ascent would have been better in reverse with the vista in front of you. Niggly.
I never feel at ease through the next open field which always has cows and occasionally a bull. Today they all seemed very docile, perhaps it’s just my fears.
Entering the woods of Billinge Hill we pay particular attention to the guide’s directions. There are paths everywhere up here, some I recognise, but mainly I am ‘lost’ blundering about in a hopeful direction. Using a bit of creative thinking we follow the steep and slippery paths down alonside a ravine. Mike is not happy, any of his group who may have made it this far would be now struggling.
We in turn struggle down to enter Witton Park and civilisation. Ice cream vans, car parks, sports pitches, dog walkers.
We are lucky to have this rural expanse open to all on the edge of a major town. Witton Country Park covers 480 acres of countryside with pretty picnic spots, walks, nature trails, play areas, sports pitches and a visitor centre. The estate was once owned by the Feildens, a wealthy textile family, who built and lived in Witton House from 1800 and created the park at the same time. From 1900 the house was empty for long periods and during both world wars the house and estate were used by the army. Dry-rot set in. Witton House was demolished in 1952, after being sold to Blackburn Corporation in 1946 along with the estate.
We join the crowds and follow the sluggish River Darwen down the valley to Butler’s Bridge. Now on a surprisingly busy road ahead are the gates leading to Pleasington Cemetery. I’ve never ventured farther, but the notice board shows a vast complex of burial grounds.
We divert to continue into the woods and up a sunken lane which eventually is captured by barbed wire into a most unfriendly narrow walkway back to the priory.
We have had 4 miles of exercise through an interesting environment. It took us for some reason three hours and Mike has ruled it out from his future itineraries.
Last year I did a similar, but better balanced walk , from Cicerone’s Walks In Lancashire, an excellent selection, which also took in Hoghton Bottoms in a seven-mile circuit.
Back to the drawing board for Mike.