We hadn’t intended to explore Whalley, as the walk that Mike had found written up in a booklet only skirted the village, but on a whim, we parked near the Abbey. I have visited Whalley many times, most recently on my Lancashire Monastic Walk The C13th Parish Church has always been closed when I’ve passed by but this morning we were in luck, and I was able to view the elaborately carved stalls in the chancel. They date from about 1430, and came out of Whalley Abbey after the dissolution. The misericord carvings under the seats represented all manner of everyday subjects. There were several cage pews usually belonging to one family for prayer but also near the door a churchwarden’s pew seating eight. The stained-glass windows were resplendent in the bright sunshine.
Back outside we couldn’t resist the jam and chutney sale for church funds, I came away with some lovely marmalade which we took back to the car. An hour had passed and we hadn’t even reached the start of the walk. We decided against visiting the Abbey.
Cutting down the side of the abbey brought us into a mews development based on an old corn mill, we were to pass the weir and mill race on the River Calder shortly. This whole area was inundated in the Boxing Day floods of 2015…
Down a pleasant street of cottages, all with immaculate gardens, and we were en route. There was very little water in the river today, it’s hard to believe its destructive power. Crossing a road, we entered a field which has been taken over by mountain bike tracks and jumps, they look great fun for the youngsters.
It took patience to cross the busy A671 road to reach a path up the golf course. Above the course, steep fields continued with good views back to Whalley Nab and Kemple End. No sooner were we up than the guide had us perversely coming back down again. We were not very impressed with the guide’s vague instructions. Young bullocks blocked our way, hens free ranged and horses followed us. More fields (“aim for a bush”) and then we were in the manicured grounds of Read Hall. Mike recollected a bumpy landing in a hot air balloon here, but he obviously survived.
Puzzled by the guide.
Whalley and its Nab.
Kemple End and distant Bowland.
Read Hall Gatehouse.
An old lane took us down to pass a busy little garden centre, we smelt coffee and were drawn in but queues and Covid regulations suggested a long wait, so we escaped without spending any money.
The path onwards followed the banks of the Calder until we climbed out of the valley to pick up an ancient packhorse track heading towards the Abbey.
This went around rather than over Whalley Nab and to be honest we didn’t get the best of views down to Whalley. A lovely day for a walk through beautiful English countryside, but as I said the guide was poor, we could have and should have devised a far better round ourselves.
I’m away early from Ulverston station, the footpaths are slippery with ice. Houses are soon left behind as I take a well-worn track down into a small valley and up the other side to Swarthmoor Hall. This C16 house belonged to Judge Fell and his wife who befriended George Fox, founder of the Quaker Movement. Fox bought a property around the corner to be used as a Quaker Meeting House with an associated burial ground. The hall was closed today but I was able to wander into the grounds, it has an impressive set of bay windows on the east side. The Meeting House was also closed and I could only peep through the gate.
Back on the route, a quiet lane, I have time to look around. There is that iconic tower above Ulverston with the southern Lakeland Fells behind and down there is the Glaxo works and the Leven Estuary. Annoyingly the low sun is directly in front of me obscuring lower Furness. Once into fields, I look out for an Iron Age fort on Skelmore Heads to my right, I just about make it out on top of a low limestone escarpment, what a view though. Down below me is a large tarn and the village of Great Urswick. On the way in I chat to a farmer with a cage of ferrets, I haven’t seen one for years yet all my uncles used to have them for catching rodents.
The village consists of lots of interesting cottages surrounding the tarn, a well-hidden gem off the beaten track. I knew of the church but I first came across one of those ‘tin tabernacles’ erected in 1915 and now used by the United Reformed Church.
The Parish Church of St.Mary and St. Micheal was along the way hidden in trees. It is reputedly the oldest church in Furness, maybe 10th Century and predating Furness Abbey. The outside looked old but inside was much changed. When I entered there were two local ladies giving the church a good clean, hoovering and polishing. Work stopped as they gave me a guided tour of the interior. Of note was an ancient C9th cross, wood carvings by Alec Miller in 1910s, a triple-layered pulpit with a sounding board, some interesting stained glass and a C18th painting of The Last Supper by local artist James Cranke who was a tutor to a young Kendal artist George Romney. Onwards, this is going to be a long day, I take old byways to Little Urswick and then climb the limestone escarpment of Urswick Crags I’m interested in the ancient settlement marked on the map and need GPS to locate it. Two areas of stone walls are found, one squarish and the other circular amongst the limestone outcrops.
Great Urswick and Tarn with Skelmore Heads and my descent track behind.
Once over the crags, I pick up an enclosed track ahead with Black Coombe in the distance. The soil now has changed to the red colour normally associated with Furness and it sticks to your boots. Changing direction to Standing Tarn. The water level is high.
I’m glad to escape the heavy red soil and walk on roads into Dalton. Rows of cottages were built for the iron ore miners back in the late C19th, now upgraded with satellite dishes and cars.
The middle of town is a conservation area but many of the old buildings have been mutilated by commercial development. Things are better from the Market Square upwards with the castle tower and church dominating the scene. Lots of cottages with several courtyards.The Castle Pele Tower was built by the monks of Furness Abbey in 1330 as a place of refuge. The Church of St. Mary was designed on the site of a much earlier church by that well known architectural firm, Paley and Austin, 1885. Built with sandstone with chequerwork decoration.The lane by the church takes me out of Dalton through fields towards my final destination, Furness Abbey. I walk down a road to an entrance gate into Furness Abbey. It is closed but I can walk around it on a public road. A Savignac abbey was established in Tulketh, Preston in 1123 but moved north to this Furness valley and was later absorbed by the Cistercians. To reach here the traveller had to cross the tidal sands of Morecambe Bay and the Leven Estuary. The abbey provided guides for these crossings. Despite the aspirations of the Cistercians to lead a simple and austere life acquisition of wealth, property and trade soon had Furness Abbey second only to Fountains Abbey in riches. At Dissolution the land was given to Thomas Cromwell and later transferred to the Cavendishes of Holker Hall. Now the ruins are in the hands of English Heritage. The main ruins are the church and cloisters as well as dormitories, infirmary and lay buildings, all laid out in classical monastic style.
The setting in this valley and the extent of the remains make this a fitting end to my Monastic Way through the ‘old’ Lancashire. Well, almost for I have to walk further south to a rail station. A green valley has a fine little stream and over it is the medieval three arched Bow Bridge built for the monks to access a mill. I’ve explored many unknown areas, met some very friendly people, learnt a bit more history, visited fine religious sites and completed before the year’s end. Here’s to 2020.
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.
There are brown signs off the motorway now for the Lakeland Penninsulars. What are they? – well, presumably Cartmel, Furness and Copeland. Lancashire previously hosted Furness and Cartmel and hence they are included in this walk. Today I’ll briefly cover the Cartmel Peninsula which I reached by train although travellers of old, on foot, would have taken the perilous crossing of the Kent Estuary. From the station at Grange, I walk into the bustling town, but only as far as S Cafe in one of the Victorian Arcades, opposite the duck pond. Once that coffee pleasantry was over a short walk up Windermere Road and I took a signed path into Eggerslack Woods. Hampsfield rather than Hampsfell though I hoped they would be the same. This is limestone country encircling the southern Lake District. For about a mile I followed a good path through trees; birch, holly and yew. I suspect that this area would have been heavily coppiced in the past perhaps for bobbins for the textile mills and for wood for charcoal burning,
Climbing a stile suddenly brings you out onto the open fell with paths going everywhere. I select a well-walked route that fortunately steers me directly to the Hospice on the summit. I kept looking behind as views over the Kent Estuary opened up with Arnside Knott dominating the coast. I was last here whilst exploring the ‘Wainwright Outlying Fells’ 4 years ago almost to the day so I won’t repeat all the information. For more history look here. The shelter was erected in 1846 by a vicar from Carmel for the benefit of walkers so is not a hospice in the traditional sense. From up here, I can see down into Cartmel with the Priory prominent and behind Mount Barnard where perhaps the first priory was established. That visit 4years ago also included an ascent of Cartmell Fell from a little church that happens to be a Chapel of Ease to today’s priory.
A steep descent brings you into the back of the village and directly to CartmelPriory. As I entered through the graveyard I noticed that a large fenced off area of graves is grazed by sheep, unusual. The priory was established by William Marshall in 1188 and now all that remains is the church and a gatehouse. The Augustinians had allowed the locals to worship here and at Dissolution, the church was spared even if its roof was destroyed. A benefactor, George Preston of nearby Holker Hall, reroofed the church in the C17. The exterior of the priory is noted for the upper tower built diagonally on the Norman one.
Once inside the grandeur of the church is revealed – a massive nave with a dominant East Window containing medieval glass. The choir stalls from the C13 – 14 are famous for their mouldings and inventive misericords. The wood has an ancient feel to the touch.
Elsewhere is the elaborate tomb of Lord Harrington who may have slain the last wolf in the kingdom. at nearby Humphrey Head. There are graves to people lost in crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay. At one time the Priory was responsible for providing guides for those crossings. Skull and crossbones decoratives are on several graves.
In a corner of the church is an alcove with a loaf of bread bequeathed by Rowland Briggs in the C18 to the poor of the parish and the tradition is maintained to this day.
Completing the interest is Cromwell’s Door which shows bullet holes either fired by villagers on the Roundheads or by the visiting army itself.
The only other original remnant of the priory is the Gatehouse on the edge of the village square. Everywhere was busy with festive celebrations.
From the village square, with its ancient cross, I walked across the racecourse to join a track going all the way to Holker Hall. Holker Hall was closed and nothing can be seen of it from the road although the estate buildings are of interest. Down the road, I walked into Cark alongside the River Eea on its way from Cartmell to the Leven Estuary. The station at Cark was soon reached concluding a short but enjoyable stroll of considerable interest.
This is easy – just walk around the coast with not a single religious site to visit but a myriad of paths in an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’
From Carnforth station, a steam train was just getting ready to head off on a Santa Special, I tramped dingy streets to find a back road leading to a bridge over the River Keer. Familiar ground led up onto the higher road above Warton Sands. The terrifying main limestone quarry was just catching the early sunlight. The views across the marshes obscured by trees. At the end of the road is the familiar chimney at Crag Foot, all that remains of a pump house used to drain Leighton Moss.
I head across the marshes towards Jenny Brown’s Point where there is another preserved chimney, this one from a short-lived C18 copper smelting endeavour. Flocks of geese wheel above me. Across the bay, Morecambe power station appears to be in the sea.
Despite the tide being out walking along the muddy beach doesn’t seem attractive so I take the little lane above until I can go onto NT land at Jack Scout Cove. From up here, I can see the remains of ‘Walduck’s Wall’, an attempt to reclaim an area of land between the point and Carnforth in the midC19. This disappeared beneath the sands before re-emerging in 1975 as the channels changed. I used to climb on a small limestone cliff, with perfect water washed handholds and fossils, hereabouts but trying to identify it from above is difficult. I do however come across a limekiln which was restored some years ago and I remember it being fired up to celebrate the event.
Back on the lane, I pass Lindeth tower, apparently originally built as a summer house and now available to rent as holiday accommodation.
This area holds so many memories for me; camping at Gibraltar Farm, dodging the tides at Jack Scout’s Cove, bouldering at Woodwell, cosy teas in The Wolf House Gallery and buying unusual plants from brothers at the nursery along the road.
In Silverdale, I take the grassy path across The Lotts shown to me by Sir Hugh on a previous occasion. This takes you straight to The Cove an enchanting place next to the sea with a prominent cave on one side. NT volunteers were out cutting back vegetation. Back on lanes, I cross the boundary from Lancashire Into Cumbria. I presume my guide refers to the ‘old’ Lancashire as it heads towards Furness.
Holgate’s caravan park is massive but well laid out and maintained. I stop for a snack in a wrought iron shelter celebrating the life of Frank William Holgate, 1941 – 2015.
A good track leads to the tottering pile of Arnside Tower a C15 Pele tower built because of the threat posed by Border Reivers.
Looming above was Arnside Knott, another NT estate. Having climbed it many times, today I had the luxury of following woodland paths around its base. Even from this lower elevation, there were good views across the Kent estuary to Grange and Humphrey Head. I picked up a path across Red Hills Pasture and into the woods where I became disorientated until popping out next to the cemetery. Before you knew it I was seated in Sir Hugh’s sanctuary with a strong cup of coffee. He even gave me a lift back to Carnforth so I didn’t make it to the promenade and station in Arnside.
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.
But first a visit to Taste Buds Cafe for a second breakfast and coffee, what a great takeaway. Good coffee and tasty bakery.
Fortified I wander through the graveyard of St Mary & All Saints, built on the site of an 8th Century church and a later Norman (circa 1100) church. The present church building dates from around 1200 with the tower being added in 1440. Inside are apparently ancient pews, some from the Abbey. Despite several visits, I’ve been unable to see inside. The Saxon Crosses in the graveyard I’ve pictured before.
I go through the Eastern gate of Whalley Abbeyto look at the remains of one of the largest monastic sites in the north.A Cistercian order started here in 1296 and was still expanding in the C15. There was a church, monastic lodgings and infirmary. After the dissolution, it passed into private hands and most was demolished, so mainly only low walls remain. The larger walls were part of the monks quarters. A manor house was built on the site and today is used as a religious centre. An image from their website gives an idea of the layout. The last Abbot, John Paslew was executed for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising against Henry VIII actions. The emblem of the Abbey – Three Fishes – crops up a lot in the locality.
I leave the village via the vast west gate and out under the railway into the countryside along the Calder River.
Dog walkers were out in force using footpaths that were new to me, I walked around the site of Calderstones Hospital, an institution for people with learning disabilities. Most of the site has been demolished and redeveloped for housing. Out the other side of the complex, I’m into semi-frozen muddy fields on the line of a Roman Road to Skipton and somewhere there is a base to a medieval cross. I spend some time looking for it, backwards and forwards. Frustrated I carry on only to stumble into the large, unmissable stone nowhere near its OS mapped site.
From this open ground I have good views of Pendle to the east… … and to the north Longridge Fell. In this shot can be seen the domes of Stonyhurst College and closer at hand in Mitton the old hall and the C13 All Hallows Church. It is a shame this church isn’t visited on this walk as it is full of interest including medieval woodwork from Sawley Abbey and memorials to the local Shireburn family, dating from the late 16th century.
Now back on the Ribble Way, I start meeting lots of dog walkers out from Clitheroe. I come round a corner to see a lady with binoculars studying a tree, she points out the kingfisher to me. Wonderful. Off it flies only for me to come across again shortly it in some reeds upriver. Its times like this that I wish I had a better camera.
The walk by the river around Clitheroe was very familiar to me and I made good progress as the sun became lower and lower in the sky. The works at West Bradford are all too familiar.Near Grindleton the path climbs up onto the road from where there were good views of misty Pendle.
Ahead is the bridge over the Ribble at Sawley.
I reach the Sawley Abbey grounds with half an hours daylight remaining.
Another Cistercian monastery, founded in 1146, it bordered onto the lands of Whalley Monastery and there are records of quarrels over fishing rights on the River Ribble. After dissolution, the abbot William Trafford tried to resurrect the abbey under the Pilgrimage of Grace. This failed and Trafford was hanged at Lancaster in March 1537 and the abbey immediately plundered of its valuables. Over the years stone from the monastery was used in local buildings. On the ground, there is little left of the church but remnants of the refectory and a grand fireplace are visible. Outside the site earthworks connected to the monastery can be seen in surrounding fields. I’ve now finished the first half of A Lancashire Monastic Way from Upholland to Sawley and thoroughly enjoyed the new paths and history I’ve encountered. The next half is from Cockerham Abbey to Furness Abbey, I’m wondering whether to devise my own walking link up between the two?
I’m away early on a clear frosty morning as I continue my way linking Lancashire’s religious sites.
Walking out of Ribchester I divert up a little lane leading to some interesting treasures. Firstly on the left is St. Peter and St, Paul, a barn church, around 1789. At that time it was still illegal for Catholics to have public places of worship. Therefore it was built to appear like a barn. The church was considerably enlarged in 1877. The inside is very plain but there are some outstanding new stained glass windows designed by Deborah Lowe and executed by Pendle Stained Glass in memory of the Walmsley family. One celebrates the life of St Margaret Clitherow, the York martyr whose remains are reputed to have been possibly buried in the nearby Stydd church of St Saviour. [See below] Margaret was crushed to death in York at Easter and the window references Stydd and York’s shambles and minster as well as the spring season and her reputed last words: “Jesus have mercy on me.” Another window celebrates the region’s history and landscape and depicts a scene from the River Ribble. Fishes, a kingfisher, sheep and a horse are included in the scene which shows wildflowers and a dandelion clock, suggesting the passage of time.
In the graveyard, I came across a type of ‘triptych’ gravestone of the Pratchett family. Who were they?
Across the way is a delightful small building, the Stydd Almshouses. Built by the Shireburn family in 1728 to house poor people of the parish. Quite unique. Even the well is listed.
Further up the lane in a field is St. Saviour’s Chapel established in C12 – 13. Associated with it was a ‘monastic hospital’ of the Knights Hospitaliers providing accommodation and aid to pilgrims and the needy. There is no sign of the hospice but the chapel remains after several modifications.
Fortunately, it was open this morning so I was able to view its simple interior. The original studded south door gains entry. The most obvious initial feature above the altar is a graceful C13 window reflected in the design of the oak chairs. The Norman north doorway is blocked but the original wooden door rests against it.There is a stone coffin of unknown origin and several tomb slabs on the floor of the Sanctuary. A lavishly engraved C14 one, Sir Adam and Lady de Clitheroe; a straight cross, Father Walter Vavasour 1740; a simple cross, possibly St. Margaret Clitherow a martyr who died during the C16 Catholic persecutions. High on the west wall is an old entrance from another building and possibly a gallery similar to the one in St. Michael’s Church in Much Hoole I visited a few days ago. Outside, the northern door has Norman dog toothed carving. To complete the picture there is also a medieval cross base in the grounds.
Back on the road, it was a short walk to Ribchester bridge over the Ribble. Here the Ribble Way continues as a track past farms to come alongside the river. At one of the houses, I was accosted by a weather-beaten gardener and given a lesson in how to save the world through nature. The path alongside the river was very familiar to me. A couple of herons took flight and there were cormorants this far inland. Ahead Pendle Hill looked resplendent above the valley and the new Dinkley Bridge shone out white.
Once over the bridge, I followed lanes, line of a Roman Road at one straight. Over to the left was Longridge Fell and the green domes of Stonyhurst College could just be made out. Its origins began abroad as a Jesuit School when Catholic education was banned in England. The local Shireburn family owned the C13 hall and their descendants donated it to the Jesuits in 1794. It has flourished as an international Catholic School until this day.
This was the reverse of a day on Wainwright’s Way a couple of months ago so I knew my way across the fields and up past those modern static caravans to reach the Church of St. Leonard at Old Langho.
I popped into the Black Bull Inn next door for the keys to the church. Like St. Saviours at Stydd, this is a simple building. Interestingly it was built around 1557 using stones from the dissolved Abbey at Whalley. a number of carved stones are in the exterior walls. Inside the pews have carved ends from late C17 with initials of their benefactors. Fragments of medieval stained glass have been incorporated into the north chancel windows. The tiles in the sanctuary are Victorian.
The graveyard was extended in early C20 to serve the nearby Brockhall Hospital. There is one mass grave commemorating 600 patients, but that is another story.
More lanes brought me into Whalley where I crossed the River Calder on Old Sol’s bridge alongside the brick arches of the railway viaduct. The light was starting to fade as I came through the massive, vaulted west gate of the Abbey. It was too late to visit the Abbey, that can wait until tomorrow morning. The nearby Parish Church always seems to be locked when I pass by, it apparently has stalls removed from the Abbey. I was able to see the Saxon crosses in the graveyard before catching my bus home.
The bus drops me off at the Preston Crematorium and I stroll down the remembrance avenue. The land to the right is industrial units on the site of the former Courtaulds Mill which produced Rayon. This was a large operation on the edge of Preston with its own power plant and railway, a branch of the Preston -Longridge line. Over 2000 jobs were lost when it closed in 1979. Its prominent chimneys and cooling towers dominated the landscape until demolition in 1983 when lots of the population of Longridge went to view the explosive event.
Lancashire Evening Post.
I was now on the top of Red Scar, a steep escarpment dropping to a horseshoe bend of the Ribble. I’ve joined the Ribble Way which goes eastwards high above the river which is glimpsed through the trees. Worryingly I start to notice ‘Footpath Closed’ signs but continue to see what the problem is and not wanting an unnecessary detour. I climb over barriers. The path drops to cross Tun Brook and there have been landslides damaging the footbridge and its abutments. I can’t drop into the stream bed as the mud is too steep and unstable but can I cross the bridge? The stepped way to it is impossible but with a little sidetracking I reach the edge of the bridge which has been further damaged by a falling tree. Tentatively I make my way onto the creaking structure thinking if it fails nobody will find me here. I’m relieved once across the other side. Satisfying but foolish.
Moving on after I’d climbed out of the ravine I was on country lanes and in wet fields well above the Ribble. Distant views were rather dull. Coming the other way you wouldn’t have been too pleased by this sign…
Hereabouts was a Roman road marked on the map but not much evidence on the ground. I passed close to Alston Hall and the Observatory previously attached to it. There was plenty of evidence of horses ruining the fields.
A succession of ups and downs finally brought me out onto Hothersall Lane which drops dramatically down to the River Ribble near the outdoor centre.
A curiosity along here I know about is the ‘Hothersall Boggart’. A buried stone head was found on the land and placed in the fork of the tree leading to tales of fairies and boggarts, Heads are found in this area and were often placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. [see more in Roman Museum to follow]
Along the lane is Hothersall Hall rebuilt in 1856 in the gothic style and looking resplendent today. I sat on a stone nearby to eat a sandwich which set off a dog barking in the garden, a few crusts seemed to please him.
Across the river was Osbaldeston Hall, another place with a long ancestry.
I was alongside the river now which today was meandering slowly but this area is prone to flooding and Ribchester often makes the headlines on those occasions.
Ribchester is famous for Bremetennacum the Roman fort strategically situated on the banks of the river at a crossroads of several important routes. Not only was there a cavalry fort but also a vicus, a village community surrounding it. It was time to visit the Roman Museum…
The phrase ‘good things come in small packages’ applies to this excellent little museum. The Roman history of the area is comprehensively explained and artefacts displayed and interpreted well. One of the first findings  of Roman occupation was by a schoolboy in a ditch – The Townley Hoard – now displayed in the British Museum. As part of this hoard is a well-preserved helmet and there is a replica on display here. Of great interest are the more mundane items on display – combs, leather shoes, brooches, glassware, slingshot balls etc. Oh, and there are some more stone heads.
Replica Roman Helmet.
Tombstone of Asturian Cavalryman.
Well worth a visit.
Behind the museum are the excavations of a Roman granary and nearer the river a Roman Bath House [heading photo]. How much more must be lying beneath the present-day Ribchester?
Built on a site close to the Roman Fort is the C13 St. Wilfrid’s church, stones from the fort most likely being used in its construction.
Inside, the Dutton Chapel contains a small C14 wall painting of St. Christopher and some medieval coloured glass pieces in one of the windows. There is recorded a mass burial from the Black Death in C14 where the chapel was added. Black Death wiped out a large percentage of the population and following it there were not enough peasants to work the land, the feudal system fell apart and it became more economical in Lancashire to graze the fields with sheep. Hence the wool trade giving way to the cotton trade where spinning and weaving skills existed, leading in turn to mills and urban industrialisation.
In the porch is a beautifully carved tombstone of obvious antiquity from a grave of a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, an order once based at St. Saviour, Stydd – but that’s for tomorrow’s walk.
One of the gravestones in the churchyard has the following inscription…
Here lieth the body of
Thos. Greenwod who
died May 24 1776
In ye 52 year of his age
seeming still content
Nor did repine(?) at what
His transient life was
with hard labour fill’d
And working in a
makle(?)pit was kill’d.
The nature of Thomas’ death seems clear – he died in an accident, probably a marle pit of which there are many in the area. They were dug to obtain lime-rich mud which was used to improve the land, most are now small ponds.
Nearby is a C17 sandstone sundial…
Church Street is lined with weavers’ cottages many of them listed but spoilt with all the parked cars. The White Bull, an iconic inn with its porch supported by columns possibly from a temple to Minerva, a place of worship in Roman times. The attached sandstone mounting block is cut into three steps.
Further on is the Black Bull inn and nearby my bus stop where I was preparing for half an hour wait when up pulled one of my neighbours with the offer of a lift home, a good end to a satisfying day.
I was back in Preston bus station and a short walk, including Winkley Square, had me in Avenham Park. It wasn’t supposed to rain but I was donning waterproofs under the old railway bridge before setting off along what was mainly the Preston Guild Wheel shared with The Ribble Way. The weather remained dull and damp all day.
The 21-mile, Guild Wheel cycle and walking path [National Cycle Route 622] was opened in 2012 as one of the projects of that year’s Preston Guild. Established by royal charter in 1179, the Preston Guild of traders was initially held every few years on an irregular basis but has taken place every 20 years since 1542, other than 1942 when it was cancelled due to World War II, resuming in 1952. It circles the city of Preston on mainly off-road trails and is very popular with cyclists.
In the park, a group of Cromwell’s soldiers were preparing to re-enact the Battle of Preston.
I normally cycle this route so it was a different experience on foot but I was able to make fast progress. I was soon on the banks of the river opposite Cuerdale Hall, the site of the Cuerdale Hoard discovery in 1840. The hoard was a vast collection of Viking silver coins and jewellery now displayed in the British Museum.
The trail became busier once in the Brockholes Nature Reserve, a large wetlands area. I didn’t have binoculars with me so there was no lingering. The steep track up into Red Scar Woods was easier without having to push a bike. Leaving the Ribble Way the Guild Wheel goes through the grounds of Preston Crematorium. The diversion to LadyewellShrine involved roads and tracks very close to the motorway so the traffic noise was everpresent. The lane leading up to the shrine is thought to have been a pilgrim route for centuries and continues to be so. The present Ladyewell House incorporates a chapel from 1685 which was used until St. Mary’s Church was built up the road in 1793. [I have photos of my children in a nativity play in the present-day church when they attended the neighbouring Fernyhalgh infant school, now closed.] Our Lady’s Well is the object of pilgrimages to this day, pressing a button serves you with water from the well. There is also an ancient cross base here amongst the modern Catholic shrines and religious tat.