This is a repeat of a walk I did on a lovely summer’s day last year and today was another perfect warm and sunny day. We drove over with the roof down for Covid safety and for the exhilaration of the Lancashire hill country. As we parked up a red kite was being mobbed by crows above our heads. A new notice board has been erected on the river bank highlighting the very walk I had planned for today. https://ribblelifetogether.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Slaidburn-route-guide.pdf We virtually met no one apart from in Slaidburn.
The flatness of the riverside meadows was in contrast to the steep wooded limestone escarpment to our left. Dunnow Hall was looking resplendent. Instead of using the road, we followed a concessionary alongside the Hodder all the way to Slaidburn. As usual, the café and car park were busy with tourists and motorcyclists. We sat by the bridge for a welcome drink before that steep pull up the road and into fields going over small hills to Easington. From up here the enclosing bare Bowland Hills were a contrast to the green wooded valleys. Swifts few overhead.
The little Easington Beck was followed to Easington Manor and hamlet. Mike was pointing out properties on the northern flanks of Easington Fell that he developed for a businessman who had just sold TVR (the then Blackpool built sports car). Money was no object. Now back beside the Hodder we followed an old cobbled track, known locally as the ’causer’, to the bridge at Newton. Sand martins, dippers and wagtails all made an appearance on queue.
Mike not impressed by the village hall.
Slaidburn bridge shading sheep.
Bowland at its best.
Back on the Hodder.
The pub in the village was closed, so we drove home for tea. A classic little circuit made all the more enjoyable by the weather, and of course the company.
For a more detailed description of the villages, have a look at …
It is rare for me to discover a local path that I have not walked, but I believe I found one today.
Mike phoned suggesting a walk and we agreed on driving a little further in one car to Dunsop Bridge, with the windows open. How risqué.
The plan was to walk up the waterboard road and traverse the boggy watershed between Brennand and Whitendale. Heavy overnight rain made me have a rethink, lets just walk around the Hodder. We found a place in the free [keep it to yourself] car park next to the café. Morning coffees were already being served take away style.
A stroll past the ducks on the green and the ‘Centre of Britain’ phone box and we were striding down the avenue of giant Sequoias leading to Thorneyholme Hall. Before the River Hodder a stile on the left gave access to fields which we were able to follow alongside the water. Not many people come this way, it was my first time. Old trees have outgrown their metal railings.
There is a large pipe bridge taking water from Slaidburn Reservoir towards the Fylde and a little farther on a flimsy looking suspension bridge. We examined it for sturdiness, it wobbled a lot. Continuing up the river bank we had only sheep and lambs for company. Unfortunately we had a short section on the road at Boarsden, in retrospect we could probably have used tracks in the fields with a little trespassing. Anyhow, we were soon back on an indistinct field path passing by a massive quarry which had eaten away a considerable amount of rock from a Limestone Reef Knoll. After a look around the base of the quarry we continued across fields to a suspension bridge identical to the one seen earlier, at least on this occasion we were justified in venturing onto the bridge as the public footpath crossed it. Feeling seasick we crossed another field to come out onto a lane.
I recognised my surroundings now, and we marched along over Giddy Bridge, a solid stone one, not at all giddy like the suspension bridges. The Knowlmere Manor House lies just off the track and is noted for its many chimneys, each room in the past must have had a fireplace – think of their energy rating.
The track rises past Mossthwaite with the Bowland Hills ahead and that first little bridge far below. We witnessed a commotion amongst a flock of jackdaws ahead of us, only when reaching the spot did we see the Sparrow Hawk awkwardly trying to fly off with its kill. I wanted to visit the banks of the Hodder downstream from its confluence with the Dunsop where sandbanks are home to sand martins but today, strangely, there were none.
We walked back upstream to Thorneyholme and crossed the river back to a busy Dunsop Bridge. Those metal kissing gates with the yellow latch are spreading everywhere. A takeaway coffee and cake were obligatory outside the PuddleDucks Café along with all the cyclists.
A lovely sunny morning’s stroll in stunning Bowland scenery.
JD phoned to suggest a walk by the rivers to try and spot otters which have been present recently. Suffice to say we didn’t see one but had an enjoyable walk nonetheless The stretch of waters we walked by I’ve described so many times in these pages, so I do not intend to repeat it here. We started on the Hodder and walked to its junction with The Ribble and then carried on to Hurst Green, basically part of the Tolkien trail. Spring flowers were more varied with new species appearing, the bluebells continued to put on a good show and of course the wild garlic was at its best in the damp shady places. Many of you will know the route on seeing this tree, the Winkley Oak.
Midweek is becoming much quieter as many people have returned to work, we met only a handful of dog walkers. A favourite spot is where the Hodder and Ribble join, there is a bench inside a fisherman’s hut which provided a comfortable lunch spot looking out over the rivers. Farther downstream near Hacking Hall the sandy banks provide nesting spaces for Sand Martins which were flying low around us as we passed, lovely to see them back. A thunderstorm with heavy rain caught us on the last stretch to Hurst Green, the sky above Pendle having taken on mysterious dark hues. Pubs are still only able to serve outdoors and because of the rain there were no takers in the Shireburn or Bailey establishments when we passed.
This was the first time I’d been walking with JD for probably 6 months, thus the lack of Otters didn’t dampen the day, but the rain certainly did try to.
I expected Hurst Green to be full of cars this morning, but we were able to park up outside the Bailey Arms with no trouble. I think we stole a march on most people by being away early. A new signpost has been erected near the Shireburn Inn to get you on the right track. Dropping to join the River Ribble seemed muddier than normal, a lot of people have come this way in the last few months. To start with we had the riverside path to ourselves with wide-ranging views. Only as we approached Winkley Farm did a steady stream of people start appearing from the opposite direction. Fishermen were wading in the Ribble just upstream from where it joins the Hodder. A new path, not particularly aesthetic, gives a dry way across a particularly muddy field. A lot of people were milling about at Cromwell’s Bridge and on the path alongside the Hodder, we couldn’t work out how some of these groups were constituted with no social distancing in evidence – I suspect people are coming out of lockdown of their own volition. Up at Hodder Court Gandalf is staring out over the Ribble Valley, although his hat seems ready to fall off. We walked on through the grounds of Stonyhurst College to a now busy Hurst Green. I dread to think what this walk will be like after April 12th when people can travel further.
Here are a few photos…
A deserted Bailey Arms, I wonder whether it will survive.
We were glad of our poles in the mud.
Aqueduct over the Ribble taking water to Blackburn.
Hodder and Ribble meet – spot the fisherman.
That Winkley Oak.
The new ‘bypass’
Trail walkers with Stonyhurst in the background.
A wooden Gandalf.
For more comprehensive views of this walk please have a look at
Thursday 19th November. 5miles. Cross of Greet Bridge.
I remember walking The Hodder Way 15 years ago to check the route description for an upcoming guide. We started on the watershed high on that lonely road from Slaidburn to Bentham. Next to the road is the base of the medieval Cross of Greet. A large irregular block of sandstone with a flat top having a rectangular socket, once marking the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire. This road is a favourite with cyclists continuing over Tatham Fell and perhaps making the return over Clapham Common and Bowland Knotts. This morning the whole area looked appealing in the sunshine.
From up here the Hodder starts its journey and snakes down the valley.
Back at the Cross of Greet Bridge I parked up, the Hodder is already in full flow. The bridge is strictly utilitarian. The path alongside the river was underwater, so I headed for higher ground. Rough going was to be expected and the side streams became more and more difficult to cross. I had nagging doubts about whether it was wise to set off when there was so much water about. Everywhere was awash. I was pleased to arrive at the ford over Kearsden Beck dry footed, thanks to my new boots, but the water here was too deep and fast flowing, so I scouted upstream for another crossing finding one without too much difficulty and hopped across.
Spot the barn.
A hop across.
Now back on dry land I was climbing uphill above Catlow farm to a solitary barn on the skyline, seen in one of the photos above.
Remote Catlow Farm.
Sinkhole marked on the map.
Bowland Knotts were beyond if I’d fancied an even rougher pathless walk but I decided to traverse the hillside towards New House barn with Stocks Reservoir and Pendle ahead. I was now on the upper half of the Stocks Reservoir walk which I knew well. Up here above the Hodder I can see across the valley to Lamb Hill where I’m heading. Steeply down to the footbridge over the Hodder where I remember stepping stones, they would have been underwater today. The ruined farm of Collyholme is barely recognisable.
New House Barn.
Lamb Hill across the valley.
The steep pull up to the road has been paved in places which was a help in these boggy conditions. I could have just walked back along the road but there is a footpath marked going up to Lamb Hill farm which I followed. The farm has massive modern barns making the house virtually invisible.
Lamb Hill Farm.
Across the valley Bowland Knotts filled the scene. A footpath of sorts weaved through and on down the sodden fields. I came out onto the road just above the bridge but wanted to investigate some riverside sheep pens I’d noticed earlier. Climbing over a fence and going through dead bracken gave me a bird’s eye view of the extensive walled folds. These must have been used in the past when bringing the sheep off the fells and sorting them, I doubt they are in present use. The world has moved on even up here.
My vitamin D is topped up as I’ve been in sunshine most of the day, a bonus for November and I made sure I got away a little earlier so that I would finish before dark. During the current lockdown I have imposed upon myself a maximum distance of 15 miles [30 minutes] car travel for the purpose of subsequent exercise, I hope that is reasonable particularly into the sparsely populated countryside north and east of me. Today I travelled a shade over 13 miles to Slaidburn. I had been expecting to park outside the village because it has been so popular recently but on arrival the car park was virtually empty. I’d joined some of those red dashed lines on the map to give a circuit to the east of Stocks Reservoir I hadn’t walked before.
Yesterday was Armistice Day and the memorial was appropriately decorated.
From the old bridge over Croasdale Brook I headed out towards Hammerton Hall.
An incident happened here many years ago but is still fresh in my memory. Alan and I were returning from a circuit of Stocks Reservoir and chatting away, arrived at the ford leading straight to a farm in the village. Without consulting the map we just waded through maybe a foot of water knowing we had dry gear in the car. The farmer was leaning on his gate watching us but said nothing until we were well through. A voice then boomed out “you can’t come this way, it’s not the path. It’s on the other side” Sure enough we should have stayed on the far bank down to the bridge. He showed no compassion so back we trudged through the river certain we could hear faint chuckling.
Over an even older and graceful Holmehead Bridge, past the falls on Barn Gill.
And there was Hammerton Hall on a prominent position above the River Hodder. It is a large three-gabled Elizabeth house  standing on the site of a 12th century house and incorporating parts of it. Its south facade gives a fine display of mullioned windows. Once the home of the Hamerton family, a wealthy medieval family who are reputed to have been able to ride from Slaidburn to York (approx. 50 miles) on their own land!
Unfortunately, they lost most of their wealth and power when Sir Stephen de Hamerton joined Abbot Paslew of Whalley in the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536. This was a protest against Henry VIII’s proposed dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Stephen was executed for treason in 1537.
My arrival at the next farm, Black House, coincided with a window cleaner, for some reason I found it incongruous that he would be out in such a remote spot. We exchanged pleasantries, he was from Colne and had a large rural area to cover. Farmers down country lanes are vulnerable to theft, and he has taken years to build up their confidence. He went on to talk about churches that he works on, for free, again I never really considered the cleaning of all that stained-glass. I walked on whistling George Formby’s favourite – ‘When I’m cleaning windows’
Along the elevated farm lane I had good views of Stocks Reservoir and Bowland Knotts behind although this wasn’t the purpose of the day.
At the end of the farm lane I came out onto tarmac opposite the small Dalehead Chapel. When the reservoir was constructed back in the 30s Stocks-in-Bowland village was engulfed, On the lake bed are remains of cottages, shops, an inn and a school but the church of St. James was dismantled and rebuilt here above the waters on the edge of Gisburn Forest. I sat on the church steps enjoying the sun.
It was easy to walk past my turn off into the forest, so I had to double back along the road to find it. I plunged into the woods for a short distance but then followed a farm track past a barn down to another isolated farm Brook House Green. The usual collection of huts and rubbish surrounded an interesting house with a date stone of 1761.
I always meant to put the engine back in…
I’ll gloss over the next half mile of pathless, reedy and boggy ground to arrive at Higher Stony Bank, another 17th century house. Along the road a man was exercising his large Irish Wolfhound on his own rough plantation. He, not the dog, was eager to chat about how he had bought the land and was planting it up with wild flowers and trees. “Best view in Bowland“…
Asking where I was from and where I was going he also said he had bought Pikefield Plantation, my next destination. This is a group of trees on a prominent hill in the heart of this countryside. His parents ashes were up there and as his mother had been an archaeologist he had constructed a tumulus. What will future historians make of that? I often do wonder about people who leave litter in the countryside but this had me baffled…
The way back to Slaidburn was complicated through small fields with awkward stiles and poor waymarking. I battled on. Slaidburn remained hidden in the folds of the hills until the last moments.
A chance conversation with JD reminded me that at this time of year the salmon are heading up river to spawn. Every year I promise myself to witness this wonder of nature and each year I forget and miss the spectacle. So today I set off to try and see what is happening on the River Hodder. We are going to be walking locally for the foreseeable future and I’m going to try and find somewhere or something new for each walk I do. Today was salmon.
I walked along the road to Hodder Place, originally a preparatory school for Stonyhurst but now accommodation flats in a great situation.
I dropped to the bathing places used by the college in the distant past. This is a delightful stretch of the Hodder with several natural rocky weirs and pools. I sat at one for half an hour without seeing a fish. I was becoming hypnotised watching the water flowing over the rocks.
Moving on I walked downstream to the water measuring weir, but again no luck.
I continued down to Lower Hodder bridge next to Cromwell’s Bridge, yet another picture.
There is no way along the river here so you are forced up the road but looking back is a wonderful vista of the river and bridges.
Then it is into soggy fields to walk through Winkley Hall grounds to meet up with the next stretch of river just before it joins the Ribble. There is an ancient tree, The Winkley Oak, along here which I always stop and stare at, yet another picture.
I knew of a fisherman’s hut and bench where I rested for a while now looking over the Hodder joining the Ribble.
The Hodder joins the Ribble.
There was a steady stream of people walking ‘The Tolkien Trail’ and coming towards me a lone jogger who turned out to be an old friend, Nige, I hadn’t seen for a while. We had a good half hour’s chat. He is a fit guy but told me of him catching the Covid-19 virus a few weeks ago and thinking he was going to die. A cautionary tale for those doubters.
Off he goes.
Next the River Calder slides in to join the Ribble opposite Hacking Hall. I came down the piece of land dividing the two in February when the rivers were in flood. It was here that the Hacking ferry originally operated and the ferryman’s house, now enlarged, is close by.
The Calder joins the Ribble.
Onwards and there was a new metal seat, dedicated to a young lady, opposite Jumble’s weir, so I sat awhile but again there were no signs of any salmon.
I left the river as it trundled down to Dinkley and found a new, to me, lane back towards my car. Hidden industrial units with multiple post boxes and more of those glamping pods which are cropping up all over the countryside with little or no obvious planning regulations. Did I mention Tolkien? Don’t get me grumpy.
Pendle Hill looks good from any angle.
I’m going to have a word with a fisherman friend of mine to ask about the best place/time to see the salmon leaping. But today certainly hasn’t been wasted.
JD and I make the best of this lovely late September weather on another section of Lancashire’s loveliest river. We find paths under the Bowland Hills that neither of us have traversed.
We leave a quiet Dunsop Bridge at 10am and walk the familiar track lined with giant redwoods to Thorneyholme Hall and then head upstream through fields next to the Hodder. The grass is wet hinting that the cold nights of Autumn have arrived. A fisherman appears and instantly recognises JD from their mutual BAE Systems workplace. Pleasantries are passed, and we wish him success at catching a trout.
Across the river we spy the Sugar Loaf hill, a limestone knoll which has been quarried for the kiln below. It is said that at one time a gibbet stood on its summit. I keep meaning to go and have a closer look.
Further up the river we cross a wire suspension bridge which bounces alarmingly. When and why was it built?
The road is reached at Boarsden Farm, and we walk along it for 1/4 mile leaving the river, there is no traffic. A footpath cuts up the fields past the largely unseen Heaning Farm. Some soggy fields later we pop out onto a tarmacked road only to acutely turn back into fields leading to Gamble Hole Farm. Just above it is a large hole formed when a cave system collapsed. We are in limestone country and there are several sinkholes in the next large field. There is also a bull with his cattle, so we keep the other side of barbed wire and exit eventually into the aptly named Bull Lane. Lunch is taken in the warm sunshine and I decide to alter our route. Over the wall I’ve spotted a series of paths along the base of Burn Fell, so we backtrack a little to walk up a minor road before heading to Burn House Farm and its barking dogs. This farm is at the back of beyond with amazing views to Pen y Ghent, the Easington/Waddington fells and all the familiar Bowland fells surrounding the Trough road.
Farms under Burn Fell.
Our track contours the base of Burn Fell and there is a memorial to several WW2 aircraft crashes in the vicinity. I visited one on Burn Fell last year.
A delightful interlude takes us into trees and a hidden clough. Eventually we arrive at Beatrix Farm which was on my original route. This has been a stock rearing centre since the C13th and was once a busy hamlet with its own market. There are traces of grassed-over foundations of long vanished dwellings but I’m not sure we recognise any. Ahead Totridge Fell and Mellor Knoll increasingly dominate the scene. Bowland at its best. Chatting away we soon reach Wood End Farm with its diversified herds and then Dunsop Bridge. There is not enough social distancing available in the café for tea and cake.
An excellent round on paths new to us alongside the Hodder and some remoter farms of Bowland.
I’m always driving through these two villages, so I thought it was time to visit in more detail. During this Covid-19 pandemic everyone seems to be out and about. All the car-parks are overflowing and the honey spots overwhelmed, I’ve usually kept well clear but today I had to park up in Newton. Mea culpa. I found a safe spot outside the village but noticed some thoughtless blocking of farmers’ gates etc.
I first wandered around the olde worlde hamlet of Newton – in – Bowland.
Georgian Newton Hall.
John Brabbins Old School. 1757.
Old school 1842.
Old reading room. Late C18th.
United Reformed Church. 1887.
Then I was ready to start the riverside walk to Slaidburn. The River Hodder.
Ahead was the limestone bluff above Dunhow Hall.
There are cliff faces up there in the trees and I had time to climb up and explore. On closer acquaintance the rock was overhanging and compact, not much scope for my style of climbing, i.e. too hard. Whilst I was up here I explored further and came out into meadows on top of the hill with good views towards Slaidburn. I wandered down to re-join the path near the gatehouse and then walked into Slaidburn on a short stretch of busy road. The 15th century St. Andrew’s Church turned out to be open, I had never visited it but read of rich internal features. Most of the interior was taped off, so I only had a glimpse of the elaborate screen, Norman font, box pews and pulpit. Outside there was a sundial from 1796 and a shaft of a Medieval Cross.
Next door was the Old Grammar School founded in 1717 and still in use as a village school.
Rows of 16/17 C cottages lead into the village and there in front of you is The Hark to Bounty pub.
The inn’s name is from the sound of the C19th Squire’s dog, Bounty.
At the top of the steps was the old courtroom of the district. On the outside of the iron rail the lower steps were used for horse mounting.
The war memorial is on an island and an old Wesleyan Chapel has been restored.
The café on the village green was doing a roaring trade from passing travellers. Some impressive motorbikes were on display.
Leaving the hubbub I climbed away from the bridge and crossed into fields heading over into the Easington valley I’d been in a few days ago. The weather conditions today were much pleasanter with clear views of Easington Fell.
At Broadhead Farm I chatted to the farmer as he selected lambs to go to auction.
Following Easington Brook…… I came to the impressive Easington Manor House once again. Easington hamlet was as quiet as normal. Onwards through fields by Easington Brook to join the Hodder and a path back to the elegant Newton Bridge. And that was just a short walk.
Last week my planned trip to Stocks was aborted by a last-minute decision to walk up Croasdale. I was back today though and parked at a remote spot on the hill road from Slaidburn to Bentham just short of the Cross of Greet bridge over the River Hodder, yes I renew my acquaintance with this lovely river. The Hodder Valley up here was dammed in the 1920s to create Stocks Reservoir. For an informative history, http://www.dalehead.org/ is worth consulting.
As is usual with my walks at the present I don’t set off till lunchtime when the weather is hopefully on the mend. Where I park, avoiding the busy honeypots, gives me easy access to the waymarked circular walk around the Reservoir. Incidentally, my last visit here with Sir Hugh and JD was last July almost to the day. That was a bright sunny day whereas today was dull and windy and I decided to walk anticlockwise for a change.
Immediately I was inserted into a procession of walkers who were already halfway round. It’s a busy Sunday. Behind me, a commotion erupted as a couple with a dog off the lead, despite all the notices, were frantically calling its name, Max, as it charged off after the sheep. They charged off after the dog and all ended up in a heap on the hillside, I had no sympathy and walked on.
The route I was walking was originally a rail track from a quarry providing stone for the dam. It took me past the fishermen’s cafe and centre, where I couldn’t resist a coffee, served with all the Covid precautions we are having to get used to.
Onwards past the stately mansion built by the waterboard.
From the dam I watched fishermen stood in the water or more sensibly sat in a boat, not a fish was landed.
After that were open meadows with views up the water. I would think it was fifty-fifty as to the number of walkers going my way and those completing the circuit clockwise. I’ve often debated on how we choose the way around a circular walk – prevailing weather conditions, the best views, ease of ascents, the guidebook description etc. I wonder if left-handers have a different mindset? Whatever my circuit today gave different aspects to previous visits.
At the road, I met all the mountain bikers spilling out of Gisburn Forest and all the cars parked in and out of the car park. The lockdown has highlighted selfish and illegal parking.
Once past the parking I had the trail to myself once again giving me time to nibble away at the abundant wild raspberries. United Utilities have done an excellent job of keeping us walkers off the road on a permissive path that has a good feel as it winds through the bushes.
Occasional walls remind one of the previous village that occupied this valley. I popped into one of the bird hides along here but not much was happening, cormorants were drying their wings on a promontory on the far side of the water and a kestrel was hunting closer by.
A steady pull up a lane brought me to the site of New House farm of which there is only a barn still standing, the web site I mentioned has photos of the old farms. Great views back down from up here over Stocks with Pendle in the distance.
I’m almost full circle but first, have to drop down to cross the footbridge over the River Hodder and climb up on a flagged path past more ruins to where I am parked.
Here I bizarrely meet a young lady with a baby in a pram and a couple of working dogs. , “He was teething so I’ve come out to settle him”, She lives just up the lane in one of the most remote farmhouses in Lancashire, it was Yorkshire once. She bemoans the fact that the area is becoming more accessible and well known. there are even boy racers on the road.
Back in time, the River Hodder was a boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire in these parts. The Upper and Lower Hodder bridges are inscribed accordingly and tonight I tread both sides.
My evening stroll starts from the Higher Hodder Bridge and follows the woods on the south side of the river. To be honest you don’t get good views of the river when the trees are in full leaf. I do however spot a fly fisherman wading in on the opposite side.
My path goes up and down to eventually arrive at the Stonyhurst Park Cross and on down to another cross which has been decapitated. Here a side stream is crossed by an ornate bridge and down below on the river banks are the remains of bathing huts used by pupils of Stonyhurst and the preparatory Hodder Place in past times. The river here has several natural weirs creating suitable bathing pools. It looked tempting today but I think a special trip is called for with support from like-minded friends.
Bathing Huts, Early C20.
There is a steep little climb away from the river towards Hodder Place [now residential apartments] but I didn’t think it was that steep…
A mile of easy walking alongside the Hodder brings one to the Lower Hodder Bridge and of course its historic companion ‘Cromwell’s Bridge’. He is said to have marched his army over on the way to Stonyhurst and on to fight the Battle of Preston in 1648. I do have to admire its shapely three arches. Across the bridge, a stile leads me into fields on what would have been the Yorkshire side. You climb high above the river which is not visible at this time of year through the trees. All is peaceful. This is all lovely walking country, green fields, grazing sheep and Lancashire hills. A contrast to the woods I’d walked through on the other side. The medieval Mitton Church could be seen across the way, that’s where I walked a couple of weeks ago by the River Ribble. The rivers meet less than a mile away.
A short stretch of road and I’m back in fields heading down to the Hodder again under Kemple End the eastern limit of Longridge Fell. The Higher Hodder bridge brings me back to my start point – I could almost walk it again.
I have read of five old crosses at different locations around the Stonyhurst estate and have come across them on local walks. Apparently, pupils from the school used to visit each cross in an annual pilgrimage on Palm Sunday. I was keen to know more and maybe link the crosses myself. I phoned a recently retired Stonyhurst schoolmaster who was interested in the history of the school but he knew nothing of the crosses’ pilgrimage. As it is now the summer holidays there is nobody at the school to ask further.
Internet searching gave me this – “In the countryside around Stonyhurst, 5 crosses are situated, and on 16th March 2008 (Palm Sunday), a pilgrimage was made from the College to all of them. This entailed a 5-mile walk that completely encircled the College, and showed off the wonderful countryside in a dramatic way. It is hoped to repeat the same next year, and even make it an annual event. Fr John Twist, Stonyhurst College Chaplain, led the group on an attractive circular walk,”
The Pinfold Cross is a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells. It was erected in 1834 at Stockbridge after he died in a quarry accident. On the front is inscribed the legend, ‘WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’ Above this is written, ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’. On the left is ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’ and on the right, ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′.
Cross Gills Farm Cross is thought to have come from a church. An old wives’ tale records how a farmer had to replace the cross when his cattle died after he had thrown the original into the river.
Hague’s Cross stands above the River Hodder in the woods close to the former Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the base is unknown.
Woodward’s Cross base is close by above the Stonyhurst swimming pools in the Hodder. Both these crosses are said to be memorials for young Jesuits who drowned in the river.
Saint Paulinus Cross stands at Kemple End on Longridge Fell and is a listed monument believed to date from Anglo-Saxon times. It may well mark a spot at which Saint Paulinus of York preached.
Left to my own devices I started to plot a route but I came up with four more crosses on the 1:25,000 map.
Park Cross in a plantation high on the Stonyhurst estate I can find no information except it first appeared on maps in 1910. I went to look for it in early June.
Hurst Green Cross in a garden off the village green In Hurst Green itself is Grade II listed – ‘The cross was possibly restored in the 19th century. It is in sandstone and has a base of three square steps. On the cross head is a roughly punched trefoil shape.’
Also on the village green are two more modern crosses, one for the Boer War and the other WW I & II.
This last Saturday was set fair and I was free in the afternoon to walk around the Stonyhurst estate visiting the now nine crosses. Parking during Covid19 has been difficult in popular walking areas and when I arrived Hurst Green was just about full. My start was delayed talking to a local resident about all things viral and the latest village gossip.
First stop was the village green where there the two obvious large modern crosses stand. The WW one on a roundabout and the Boer War memorial, Celtic design, on the green. But I could find no sign of the Grade II listed one on the west side of the green I even investigated the rockery stones of an adjacent garden. So that was a bad start, two out of three.
WW Memorial. Three-sided – Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley.
Commemorates the services of Frederick Sleigh, first Earl Roberts KVCO, and his companions in arms, the Soldiers and Sailors of the Empire, who fought in South Africa 1899-1902
I crossed the road by the Shireburn Alms to locate a field path dropping down to the River Ribble and there at the gate was yet another ‘slate poem’ this time a simple one.
Green fields led down to the Ribble close to where an aqueduct crosses over. There were several groups of walkers coming along the banks almost at the end of their Tolkien Trail.
I was heading upstream to find a path branching up towards a conical hill with a cross clearly seen on its top. This is the Cross Gills Cross. Unfortunately, the field it was in was surrounded by an electrified fence with the public right of way on the wrong side. A bit of crawling had me through. [I’m sure if you ask permission at Cross Gills Farm up the lane they would allow you access] The carved base of the cross looks much older than the rest which corresponds to its history. There were great views of Pendle from up here.Having crossed the main road tracks wound into the immaculate cricket ground of the college with its C19th brick pavilion. I skirt the college by Hall Barn, Gardener’s Cottage and Woodfields to enter open countryside.
The path enters the Over Hacking Woods and descends steep steps to the River Hodder. Near here are the ruins of bathing sheds used by the boys when swimming in the river in days gone by.
By the little stone bridge over a side stream I notice the base of Woodward’s Cross close to the river. It is not marked on the modern 1:25,000 map but I later find is shown on the 1894 edition.
The path climbs again and at the top of the steps, I see the Hague’sCross.
Onwards through the woods with occasional glimpses of the Hodder. I have to pay attention as I’m looking for a side path leading up to Rydding’s Farm, it is not marked but I climb the hillside to a stile on the skyline. A good place to rest with a drink and snack. Whilst perched up here in the field below a man is training his black retriever to fetch. He has some sort of gun that goes off with a loud bang and shoots out a plastic ‘ball’ a considerable distance. The dog had no difficulty retrieving with a few whistle prompts from his master. All this no doubt trying to simulate a shot pheasant.
I now have to climb further towards Kemple End for the next cross. The footpath near the top enters an enclosure but fortunately I can go round the end of the wall into the field where the Paulinus Cross is found. It is a strange shaped weathered cross sitting in a large base. Legend says that St, Paulinus preached here during his Christian mission to Northern England around 619 – 633 AD. It is certainly a commanding situation with views over the Ribble Valley and further afield.
I was soon on the Old Clitheroe Road which with virtually no traffic was pleasant to walk along on the side of Longridge Fell passing some interesting properties on the way.
On a previous recce to the next cross, I’d ended up in the replanted forest which was extremely difficult to walk through. I’d spotted a short cut across a field avoiding the worst. Tonight the field was full of cows with their calves, I hesitated at the gate but reckoned I could go round the herd without disturbing them. It was only when I was halfway across I spotted the bull in amongst his ladies. I was quickly over the wall into the woods and only 100 yds to the StonyhurstPark Cross on its hillock. I wouldn’t think anybody has been here since my last visit. Somebody must know something of its history.
My escape track from last time was virtually obliterated by tall bracken and if I hadn’t known it was there I would have had problems. The track appeared and took me out – as far as the ford over the stream, last time I hopped across dry footed but today it was in flood. I spotted a nearby log bridge but that took some nerve and concentration to commit to its slippery surface.
I emerged back onto the bridleway near the distinctive Greengore, a previous hunting lodge.
The little footpath into the woods is easy to miss. The path drops down to that stream again but this time there is a sturdy bridge.
The way now goes past Higher Deer House another reminder of Stonyhursts past, today there were only cattle in the park. Notice the evening light.
This little chap needed a helping hand to escape the grid –
The farm lane brought me onto the road close to my next cross, the prominent Pinfold Cross with its thoughtful inscriptions.
I was on the home leg now, down the lane to Stonyhurst College lakes and up the long drag to the Virgin Mary Statue. At the top I noticed, I think for the first time, Cromwell’s Stone. According to tradition, Cromwell, on the way to the Battle of Preston in 1648 stood on this stone and described the mansion ahead of him as “the finest half-house in England” as at that time the building was incomplete. For more legends and history of Stonyhurst, this site is worth a read – https://lancashirepast.com/2018/03/11/stonyhurst-hall-and-college/
Hurst Green had returned to its peaceful self when I arrived back at my car about 7pm. I’d had a good 9-mile walk in grand Lancashire countryside, visited 8 crosses and a stone but it was still niggling me that I couldn’t find the listed cross on the green. As I drove away I spotted a lady tidying her rockery adjoining the green. An opportunity I couldn’t miss. Parked up I enquired of her about the cross. She was a little reticent at first but once I’d explained my pilgrimage she volunteered the fact that the cross was inside her neighbour’s garden and no they didn’t want people wandering in. We passed the time of day and as I was about to go she kindly said I could just about see it from her garden. And there was the Grade II Listed Hurst Green Cross hidden behind an Acer, a short cross on a large base. Can you see it?
The roads at this end of Longridge Fell were still closed as they damped down the forest fires so I drove to the far end and parked near Higher Hodder Bridge. My plan was a short evening walk up to Kemple End quarry for a bit of bouldering.
I always enjoy the path through the trees above the Hodder. The spring foliage on the trees cut out some of the river views. Normally I spot herons, kingfishers and dippers on this stretch but not tonight. But I was enjoying the way so much that I ignored the intended path that would have taken me up the fell and I continued along the river.
A mother and her two children were engrossed in the river.
The path at one point climbs away from the river and I knew of the cross in the woods on this stretch, Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder close to the former preparatory school, Hodder Place [now apartments]. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the earlier monument is unknown.
[This set me thinking – I had passed the Pinfold Cross near Stockbridge yesterday and I knew of two more crosses possibly related to Stonyhurst. Saint Paulinus’ Cross near Kemple End and Cross Gills Farm Cross near the Ribble. There is some evidence that pupils of Stonyhurst would walk between the four crosses on Palm Sunday. That seemed a ready-made walk for me to follow. But looking at the map I found another unnamed cross in the woods near SD672398 and there is a cross of uncertain age in Hurst Green. Watch this space.]
Today I noticed a faint path leading up into the woods behind the cross which I followed to some steep old steps. I climbed up these higher into the trees where I found another little path heading onwards. I imagined I would be able to cut across directly to Kemple End but at the edge of the woods were barbed wire fences and ahead unknown fields with what looked like one of those glamping developments. I did have a good view of Pendle from up here above the trees before I retreated all the way back down to the cross.
I knew the accepted footpath out of the woods up lots of steps and into fields leading to Stonyhurst, this is part of the now popular Tolkien Trail.
So I found myself on the lane around the college. It was a beautiful sunny evening and I wandered on. I became a little lost again in the fields but found my way up to Kemple End, it had taken me longer than I thought to reach here. There were the usual good views, particularly to Whalley Viaduct prominent below the Nab and the Hameldon Hills in the background.
A short walk down the lane and I was back in fields heading towards the river. Halfway down my phone rang and while I took the rather long call I found a nice grassy area in the sunshine to lie down on. Later a bit further on I was crossing the footbridge which replaced a stone clapper bridge and wanted to take a photo. I realised I’d lost my camera, probably while I’d been reclining. I retraced my steps and then spent a good 15minutes combing the slope I’d been on before I spotted the camera.
The old clapper bridge.
I was soon back at Higher Hodder Bridge. I hadn’t really met anyone, perfect.
I’m content to sit and peruse OS maps on a cold, wet and windy day. In front of me is the 1:25000 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale [OL41]. I’m not too keen on double-sided maps, especially in a howling gale when you always need the reverse side. but the west side covers my local hills. Unfortunately, Longridge lies off the edge of this sheet and another, the Blackpool and Preston [Explorer 285]. It just makes the edge of Explorer 287, West Pennine Moors. All very difficult for a days walk.
Back to OL41 what takes my notice just now is a “dead-end” public right of way path leaving the Chaigley Road opposite Walker Fold and heading to the River Hodder – ‘a road to nowhere’
Curiosity aroused I wondered about its origins, the fact that it ends at the river suggests there may have been a ford here in times past, but there is no path marked on the other bank. Does anybody ever walk this dead-end path? maybe fishermen and presumably the local farmers. Does it even exist on the ground? Lancashire C.C. still shows it as a right of way on their website. On an older map, I see that the trees at its end are named Limekiln Wood, could there have been a lime kiln at the end of the track?
The sun is coming out this afternoon, time to explore and see where I get to.
I was apprehensive as I left the road at Walker Fold. The footpath sign was hidden in the foliage, the lane looked private and there was a lot of water flowing everywhere. I have to admit to carrying wire cutters in my pocket. The first ‘obstacle’ would be the grounds of the properties on the lane but I needn’t have worried – there was a stile with an arrow pointing me across their land via more stiles and a little bridge. Soon I was in open fields with well-constructed and maintained stiles showing the way, many of these appeared relatively new. In fact, this was country walking as it should be, the sign of a responsible landowner? The only downside was the rain saturated fields courtesy of our recent storms. A footbridge crossed a lively stream and the path weaved through plantations. Ahead on the horizon was the familiar outline of the Bowland Fells.
Once over a farm access road, my gravelled track started to descend towards the Hodder which could be heard before it was seen. Sheep looked at me as though they rarely saw anybody, mind you they always look like that. And then there I was stood next to the raging river with as I’d guessed a lime kiln built into the hillside. Along the banks were the limestone crags, the raison d’etre of the kiln and the original path. There was another clue as to the path’s continued existence – a small fishing hut and stiles giving access to the river. Lancashire Fly Fishing Association maintain this stretch.
What an idyllic spot on a summers day but at the moment the river is in flood mode and roaring down the valley. I was in a different world down here, the hidden Hodder, and for half an hour or so I watched in awe.
Mission completed I retraced my steps up the hill and used the road back to Walker Fold to avoid the worst of the soggy fields. A couple of things to note in this little hamlet of less than a dozen houses. It won the Lancashire’s best kept hamlet competition in 1994 and 2006 and boasts an old School/Chapel with links to The Latter-day Saints movement back in the mid C19th.
Here I am back at the trig point on Longridge Fell, it is a beautiful, cold but sunny Autumn day. Sir Hugh has joined the fun and we’ve taken one car to Dunsop Bridge and driven back to park below the fell. I’m sorry we are not keeping to AW’s use of public transport.
A warm-up walk and a catch-up chat soon sees us on the ridge with the compulsory visit to the summit trig. A few people are wandering about up here not wanting to miss the good weather. After a photo session and orientation of distant hills, mainly the Fairsnape ridge, Bowland and the Three Peaks, we find the steep rake dropping down into the Vale of Chipping, spread out below us. Our distant destination of Dunsop Bridge visible in the folds of the fells. This brings us to the road next to the Bradley Hall complex of buildings. WW says to go through the complex but our more modern map says go round the diversion to the left. This is the start of troublesome field navigation for the next mile or so. The waymarks run out, the paths run out, the stiles disappear, the fields get boggier and we are left to our own devices, no fences were damaged, no wires cut when we finally stumbled down a ladder stile onto the road next to Doeford Bridge. I think it took us longer than we realised.
A sign tells us we are entering the Queen’s land which we enjoy for the rest of today
This beautiful sandstone bridge spans the Hodder just downstream from where the River Loud joins having come out of Chipping Vale. The bridge is sketched in AW’s Bowland book.