I have never been a fan of Tolkien’s works. I dutifully read The Hobbit way back then but never progressed to The Rings Trilogy. My imagination doesn’t go along with his. Yet here on my doorstep we have a landscape which possibly influenced his writings – the Ribble Valley. He visited Hurst Green and Stonyhurst College where his son was boarding. Hence, a tourist devised Tolkien Trail, wooded valleys and secret riverbanks, has taken shape and become very popular.
I was here today for a short walk mainly to check that past storms haven’t affected an old oak tree by the River Ribble on part of that ‘Tolkien Trail’.
It’s a short day, late up after Xmas day festivities and rain scheduled by noon. I park by that bus stop shelter if you know it above Lower Hodder Bridge. The path to Winkley Hall used to be a boggy affair, but no more. It has been upgraded somehow with stone chippings across the field, an advantage of the popularity of Tolkien.
Through the farm, suitably decorated with Xmas trees, and I’m at the junction of the Hodder and the Ribble in Middle Earth. Here stands a favourite tree of mine, yet another one you may say. The Winkley Oak with its majestic lower bole. How old? Maybe100, 200 or more years. What history has it seen in these parts? It is in good shape I’m glad to see.
Blessings given I carried on my way to the next river junction where the River Calder joins in the fun. There used to be a ferry here and the old boat house is nearby. The river rushed on past Jumbles. A few dog walkers appeared coming from Hurst Green. Another tree took my attention with its skeletal winter outline against the grey sky.
I left the trail and followed a lane to Fox Fields, a curious conglomeration of industrial units, and then I was in all things Hobbity. The Winkley Estate has done up some of its cottages and built a large ‘Wedding Venue’ complete with those ubiquitous pods in the woods. Everywhere are Tolkien references.
I was soon back at the car, mission accomplished. We need more trees in our lives.
I will need longer outings than today’s three miles to walk off the Xmas excesses.
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
Longridge Fell from the south, Kemple End is the steep bit at the right.
The fell in question is Longridge Fell, may I remind you it is the most southerly named ‘fell’. It rises to all of 350m and is a 6 miles long escarpment with a steep northern side and a gentler southern slope. The town of Longridge sits at its western end. My recent, infrequent, walks have been at the western end so today I explore the eastern end above Hurst Green where it drops steeply to the River Hodder. I have a particular path I want to explore.
I start in Hurst Green near the Shireburn Almshouses, they were first built in a commanding position on Longridge Fell itself in 1906 but were moved and rebuilt in Hurst Green in 1946 for Stonyhurst College workers.
Hurst Green Almshouses.
I set off on one of my favourite paths that goes alongside Dean Brook which has found its way down from the fell and here is in a little gorge where it was harnessed to provide bobbin mills with power. Today, after last night’s rain it was flowing energetically through its twists and turns. Alongside is Sand Rock an old quarry which I diverted to see. I have climbed here in the past but it tends to be damp and green. There is a good view of the bridge from up here.
The lane leads on past Greengore … … an old hunting lodge, and heads gently up towards Longridge Fell which on this slope is covered extensively with forestation. At the road I go left to pick up the forest track going higher onto the fell. It was near here that a fire broke out recently due to those dangerous disposable barbeques and their idiotic owners.
A sidetrack leads up onto the ridge where you pass through a wall stile to sudden extensive views; Chipping Vale to the Bowland Fells, Beacon Fell and the Fylde coast leading to Morecambe Bay and distant Black Coombe. A short boggy walk by the wall brings you to the summit Trig point, Spire Hill. There are usually a few people wandering around up here. Now out northeast are the three Yorkshire Peaks.
Heading eastwards I soon enter the dark forests where paths remain wet throughout the year. Further, on Hare Hill, is an area of older Scots pines I call the enchanted forest, where paths seem to disappear amongst the shapely trees draped in moss. I’ve bivied up in this spot several times, magic evenings with owls hooting and deer wandering by.
I emerge onto a forest track which leads to an open area with views this time into the heart of the Trough of Bowland whilst way down below are scattered farmsteads. There are some logs to rest awhile.
In the sunshine butterflies, mainly Red Admirals, flit about the purple heather which is just coming to its prime.
Onwards is a much smaller path in the trees on the edge of the steep northern scarp, the land just drops away from you. When I first explored these forests 50 years ago there were no paths at all, but over time this one has become established and now appears as a dotted line on the 1:25,000. In recent years with the advent of mountain bikes, a lot of tracks have become badly eroded – my feet are certainly wet by now.
As this narrow track, now hemmed in by young spruce trees, starts to drop down the fell end I’m on the lookout for that public footpath I want to explore. It drops down back NWesterly on an old rake. At one time this was through mature trees but these were felled a few years ago, I’ve not used it since. There is little sign of it amongst the new growth and I have to take a GPS reading to determine where it starts, there are vague traces of it so I build a stone cairn to mark the spot.
As I go downhill the now reedy rake becomes more discernable but difficult to walk on. It needs more traffic but most don’t know of its existence so I’ll report it in the hope of some maintenance by the forestry people, they should have reinstated it soon after their felling operations.
Coming down to the forest edge a stile allows me to walk along an old sunken, and boggy, track. There is a bench here remembering a Liverpool hiker. I stop for a snack looking out over the peaceful Chaigley countryside with old friends Waddington Fell and Pendle in the haze. I imagine how the man must have enjoyed his trips to this part of the country escaping the urbanity of his home city.
Sir Hugh will be pleased to read that my next destination after Turner Fold was Kemple End. Here I wander past the cottages to reach a path going down the fell. This path follows the line of an old sledge way used for taking stone down from the quarries here to Hurst Green for the construction of the Shireburn family’s great hall which became Stonyhurst College. On a whim I decide to take an unknown, to me, footpath leading more directly down the fields. I come out by a delightful farmhouse, Throstle Nest, tucked away from society. The owner is strimming his verges, I stop for a chat and to compliment him on his residence. I’m the first person he’s seen on the path for months. He laughs that last weekend he travelled to the Dales to climb Great Whernside but the car parks were packed and the Covid hordes all over the hills. He won’t be leaving his Lancashire haven again during the viral pandemic. Of course, we then get to pontificating on when and how it will end so I forget to take a picture of his house but his view is good.
The public footpath goes through an unusual squeeze wall and straight across the front of the Stonyhurst College giving up-close views of the architecture and a vista of the ponds and straight drive in the reverse direction.
By the church which is unfortunately closed, I have my next ‘virus’ conversation with a mother and daughter. The daughter is reading philosophy and French at Oxford and is due to start her year abroad in Nantes. The uncertainty of the pandemic is giving her a few extra worries.As there was nobody around I took the opportunity to have a look at the old mill restoration. It dates back to 1840 when it was powered by water from the ponds for flour milling. Later in the C19th a steam engine was installed. Last time I passed it was falling into disrepair but has since been fully restored to function as a retreat centre. Apparently there are remains of a fives court which I missed.
The field paths back to Hurst Green are busy as I’m now on part of the Tolkien Trail. It is conveniently thought that J R R Tolkien, whilst staying at the college where his son was a pupil, may have used the local countryside as inspiration for his popular Lord of the Rings. You enter into the village past some pretty cottages,
I have enjoyed this splendid outing showing some of the best scenery in this part of Lancashire and have gone into more detail than usual in the hope that some of you will be tempted to visit but maybe keeping to the well worn tracks.
Another version of this walk in reverse and including a bit of the Hodder is here.
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 was weary from my day’s exertions with Sir Hugh on our SD 38 walk which involved quite a bit of travelling time today so I asked JD to sort something out for the morrow whilst I soaked in the bath.
He had researched in a book ‘Birdwatching Walks In Bowland’ by David Hindle…
… and came up with The Tolkien Trail.
Author J.R.R. Tolkien regularly stayed at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley whilst his son was studying there. It is thought, perhaps optimistically, that he derived inspiration for his Lord of the Rings trilogy from the surrounding scenery. So JD had conjured up a historical and ornithological walk for this lovely sunny day, if I’d thought I would have brought my binoculars. There is plenty of information for The Tolkien Trail on the VisitLancashire web site.
We started in Hurst Green and were surprised at the amount of housing development creeping into the green fields. A well used path into Stonyhurst College sports grounds, but there is a new sport, clay pigeon shooting, and warning signs have been erected as well as a probably ineffective ‘alarm bell’.
I had recently been reading of the original observatory at the college built in 1838 and succeeded by the modern one in 1866. So as we approached the school buildings I was keen to identify them both, old and new.
We walked out past the gardener’s cottage and then the houses of Woodfields were masters live. Pleasant fields take you into Over Hacking Woods and a staircase down to meet the Hodder. We hadn’t seen many birds up to this point, apart from Robins singing full throat, but the woods had a truly Tolkien atmosphere.
Below us were the original ruined changing rooms for the college’s swimming lessons in the river, I think they have an indoor pool nowadays. I mentioned these in a recent post when we passed this way. Up the slope is Hodder Court previously a preparatory school, but now private dwellings with a statue of Gandalf in one of the gardens. shame the trail leaflet doesn’t mention it. See the above post for pictures.
An Australian couple were following us with their friendly dog and it couldn’t wait to get immersed in the river. We saw a few ducks along this wonderful stretch of the Hodder.
This was the third time I’d arrived at Lower Hodder Bridge in a week so didn’t intend to show more views of ‘Cromwell’s Bridge’ however when we joined The Ribble Way and rose above the river there was a good view back down to the two bridges.
We knew about the heronry in the tall trees next to Winkley Hall Farm and sure enough we saw Herons flying in to their nests. Whilst watching them I spotted a small bird flitting through the hedge, a rare sight of a Gold Crest.
Where the Hodder meets the Ribble we found a fisherman’s hut with a bench, a perfect spot for lunch and watching the rivers run by.
Along the next stretch is the site of Hacking Ferry used until 1955, the last boat is in Clitheroe Castle Museum apparently. Across the river is the 17th century Hacking Hall near where the Calder enters the Ribble.
An Egret was spotted on the far bank, a couple of Canada Geese also but no Kingfishers or Dippers.
Before long we left the river and headed back to Hurst Green coming through the car park of the Shireburn Arms, we were tempted by a pint but looking at the state of our muddy boots decided not to. All day Pendle had been brooding in the background.
As you may know I’m juggling a couple of routes giving winter walking, the northing SD38 across England with Sir Hugh and this shorter walk with The Pieman between our two towns. We meet up outside Hudson’s Ice Cream Parlour where we finished last time. I’ve enrolled JD [aka Doug] into today’s stroll, The Pieman appears from behind the ice cream cone.
We left the road by the church and followed paths down towards the river. An area popular with dog walkers judging by the number of poo bags hanging in hedges, I’ve given up commenting.
The Ribble was full with last night’s rain and snow melt. We were now on The Ribble Way skirting round the massive Horrocksford complex which produces a significant amount of England’s cement. The first bridge we came to was at West Bradford. After this we entered a sculpture trail on the outskirts of Clitheroe. I think we missed most of the sculptures but noticed a few. None was outstanding.
After Brungerley Bridge we looked across to the impressive Waddow Hall a 17th century building owned by the Girls Guide Association and nowadays used as a wedding venue.Somewhere along here we passed muddy paddocks and then got sucked into new housing developments, they are everywhere, to arrive back onto the road at the sports centre. In the recreational ground we found a bench to watch the river go by and eat lunch. Edisford Bridge was built, at a former ford, in the 14th century and until 1600 was the only bridge upstream from Preston.
On the far side of the bridge is the eponymous hotel, having eaten we walked on by.
Complicated field paths led across to the complex of buildings at Withgill. All the while Kemple End, the eastern end of Longridge Fell, loomed above us, our onward route for another day.
The scenery improved and the paths became more interesting as we dropped down to the River Hodder.The river was crossed by the Higher Hodder Bridge with its historical boundary markings.This bridge is on our Skipton to Longridge line and from here our route will be up Kemple End and along Longridge Fell. But to finish off today we want to show the Yorkshireman some stunning scenery alongside the Hodder between the bridges.The familiar path undulates above the Hodder in splendid isolation. At one point a cross is seen, it has no inscription and local opinion is that it marks the spot of a drowning.Above us is the Stonyhurst estate and the long established Jesuit College. Down by the river are the remains of bathing houses where pupils changed before a bracing swim.And yet above us are buildings previously used by St. Mary’s Hall, a preparatory school for Stonyhurst College. It was closed in 1970 and converted into high-end living accommodation. There is a connection between Stonyhurst and Tolkien and hence there is a carving of Gandalf, the wizard, in the garden.
All that remained was a stroll alongside the Hodder to the Lower Bridge where the customany diversion was made onto Cromwell’s Bridge.
We had finished for the day. Rather mundane but highly enjoyable.
I’ve been up Longridge Fell three times this week, all from different directions. This lack of originality is partially based on my reluctance to drive far, partly on the weather [torrential rain on alternate days put boggy Fairsnape out of the question] and mainly on my slow re-acquaintance with hilly country. Anyhow it is a great little fell, the most southerly named fell in the UK with the easy to remember 350m height.
Today, Thursday 5th April, was fantastic, you couldn’t have wished for a better Spring like day. Blue skies, no wind and warmish sun [that’s that round yellow thing in the sky]. Of course the paths were still muddy and slippy but that’s par for the course at this time of year in Lancashire. A few groups were out on longer rambles and the dog strollers were making the best of the day.
I parked at Higher Hodder Bridge and tackled the steep Birdy Brow road head on, One gains height quickly and just past Kemple End the forest track leaves the road zigzagging into the trees. I was already sweating as the morning warmed up. The forest track on a day like this reminded me of walking through Southern Spain on the GR 7 where there is much forest. I was going to say ‘wish I was there now’ but on a day like this you can’t beat Lancashire. A hidden little path through the trees brings one out at a lovely open viewpoint with the Bowland Fells full on, the frosty Yorkshire peaks off to the East and Chipping Vale at your feet,
Higher on the fell I came across forest workers hand planting thousands of spruce saplings in rough ground that had been felled a couple of years ago. These are disease resistant ones and I will watch their growth over coming years.
Knowing that the track was blocked ahead with fallen trees I again took to smaller paths through the trees some of which are old Scots Pines, an enchanting place. I’ve been known to bivy in this secret place with the bonus of deer wandering past in the night. Further on is the ‘wall path’ leading towards the summit. Years ago this path was hardly visible but has become more used and hence more boggy, most of the wall that ran alongside it has been now used as infill for the path.
Once out in the open the white trig point was clearly seen ahead with more stunning views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills. If I had kept walking down the ridge I would have been home in an hour but I had a circuit to complete so headed south on forest roads, with Pendle Hill dominant ahead above the Ribble Valley, to come out at the road above Crowshaw Quarry where I had a bite to eat in the sunshine.
The bridle way down past Green Gore to Hurst Green is very familiar but I realised I nearly always walk it in the opposite direction. One of my favourite places is Dean Brook as it descends off the fell and through old mill placements at Hurst Green. The bridge there is a great launching pad for poo sticks.
I came out at the Almshouses which somehow were brought down from Kemple End. The Bayley Arms pub seems to be closed so I carried straight across on Smithy Lane through muddy fields and into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College.
I took the private road to Hodder Court where I picked up the popular footpath alongside the Hodder river. This is a roller coaster of a path in the trees above the river as I headed back to Higher Hodder Bridge. A delight with the fast flowing Hodder below, emerging Wild Garlic under my feet and expectant bird song in the air.
A beautiful day starts with a sharp frost, but bright and sunny again!
To keep this post topical, I had been listening to the radio about a new film on release, The Hobbit, which is sure to be a big success after The Lord of the Rings. The premier was in New Zealand where I believe some of the locations were filmed. However it is well known that J R R Tolkien, the author, spent many days walking around the Hurst Green countryside, whilst his son was studying at Stonyhurst College. The area was said to have given him inspiration for the fantasies of Lord of the Rings.
So after lunch, I don’t know what happens to the mornings!, I set off to drive up to Kemple End on Longridge Fell to take in some of the Tolkien rambles. The road up Longridge Fell had been quite icy and tricky even after noon.
Parked up at Kemple End [SD 688 404] and was rewarded with views across the still misty Ribble Valley towards Pendle and Boulsworth Hill.
Distant Boulsworth Hill
Couldn’t resist a look into the quarry where there is some good climbing. A couple of Roe Deer ran off when I descended into their territory. The rock faces were dry as they always seem to be, sheltered from any prevailing weather. This quarry had provided stone for the village of Hurst Green and Stoneyhurst College.
I realised that photography today would be difficult with the low sun. One was either shooting into the sun or having your long shadow cast across the picture.
Walking through the delightful houses, that comprise the small settlement of Kemple End, I picked up a sunken track across the hillside. This was probably some constructed rail or sledge way to transport stone from the quarry down the hill. Dropping down lanes I came into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College which one is able to traverse on public rights of way. Putting aside thoughts of the privileged classes one cannot but admire the grandeur of the place. Building started in 1523 for the Shireburn family and from 1794 the Jesuits ran it as a college. Today it is a renowned, and no doubt a very expensive, RC boarding school. Girls as well as boys now attend. The college is very proud of some of its past pupils including a certain Arthur Conan Doyle, actor Charles Laughton and Mark Thomson ex director general of the BBC.
Moving on through the grounds I dropped down through fields to arrive at the Lower Hodder road bridge which is sited next to the ancient, arched, packhorse bridge over the River Hodder. This is better known as Cromwell’s Bridge as it is thought that Cromwell’s parliamentary army crossed it before defeating the King’s men at the Battle of Preston in 1648. Sorry but the picture below is poor…
Now I embarked on the delightful path leading up river to the Higher Hodder bridge. The river was quite low as we had not had rain for a few days. Because there are few leaves left on the trees it was easier to spot the bird life. Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds, flocks of Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a flash of a Kingfisher, a nod of a Dipper and lots of Herons poising patiently above the cold waters.
The path passed first the base of a damaged cross and then an intact relatively modern cross. These must be connected in some way to the college but I’ve been unable to discover their history. Any ideas?
The path through the woods next to the River Hodder is popular and well maintained with steps and good footbridges over side steams. Whenever I use these Lancashire County Council bridges I have to say a quick ‘hello’ to a deceased, dear, friend who worked in the bridge department of the council. He much preferred the challenge of a humble footbridge project in the countryside to being in his office.
Lancs County Council Footbridge.
Soon I was approaching Higher Hodder Bridge and the path doubles back and starts to climb in zigzags up the hillside to Kemple End. Pausing for breath gave me chance to survey the scene over the Ribble Valley towards Waddington Fell and Pendle — the changing light from the low sun was magical. This route up from the river is part of my Longridge Skyline Way [from now on LSW] which I mentioned whilst crossing Beacon Fell.
Pendle in Evening Sun from Kemple End
As there was plenty of light left I crossed over the wall by the road at Kemple End to investigate a nearby cross a couple of hundred yards away in the field. This is the so called Paulinus Cross dating from the 7th century when St. Paulinus, Bishop of York, was supposed to have preached here on his mission [1619-1633] to convert us heathen Lancastrians to Christianity. It is a rather strange looking cross!
Quite a long post today, but for a short afternoon walk there was a lot to be included.
Nearby on a lane is another cross dating from 1934 with the haunting inscription — WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY, NOR THE HOUR.