Midge Walkers

Walk  No. 103

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Ribchester and the Ribble Way walk

On the same sunny day as the London, Plymouth and Blackpool marathons, with the temperature at around 11 degrees, 15 of us met at the car park in the ancient village of Ribchester, which can trace its history back to the Bronze Age. In A.D. 72/73 the Roman Fort of Bremetennacum was established here by the 20th Legion and over the years many artefacts have been discovered some of which reside in the British Museum. More recent times saw cotton weaving as the main source of employment from two mills, but Ribchester now is purely a commuter feeder predominantly for the towns of Blackburn and Preston.

Our walk set off at 2.10 via the Millennium Sculpture Gardens adjacent to the playing fields and took us into Church St where we turned right towards the river, passing the White Bull pub on the left, dating back to 1707 and the former courthouse for the area. Passing weavers cottages on both sides, we followed the road, past the entrance to St Wilfred’s Church and continued through a farm yard and along the Ribble Way which clearly followed the river route. On the opposite bank, we could see Osbaldeston Hall, a Grade 2 listed building dating back to the 1600’s. One of its former occupants Edward Osbaldeston, a Roman Catholic Priest, had the distinction of being hung drawn and quartered in York in 1594.

Continuing along the track we passed The Boathouse Barn, where the occupants were tending their very attractive garden with its beautiful displays of spring flowers and ultimately passed through a gate, into a field and up an incline which revealed spectacular views of the surrounding area. Dropping down the other side brought us to a gate and track leading to Hothersall Hall. Originally a 12th century building and the home of the Lords of the Manor of Ribchester, we learned that it had been demolished and rebuilt in 1850 in Gothic style and its present owners finished an extensive refurbishment, taking over 2 years, completing in time for the millennium.

Passing the Hall and turning right through an open gate, we ascended through a field, to eventually exit by a gate into Hothersall Lane, along which we continued until we arrived at Oxhey Barn and Farm where we turned right along a farm track into a field, through an open gate and veered left to cross a footbridge which passing down the side of a garden, we emerged onto Fleet Street Lane and turning left passed Eatoughs Farm where we stopped for our coffee break. The barn here was in the process of reconstruction and would undoubtedly become a desirable property for anyone looking to live away from the hubbub of town life.

After suitable refreshment, our route continued along the lane, passing other quality properties, until turning right through a farm yard into a field, at the end of which a style took us across another field and then via a gate on to the Preston Rd (B6245). Turning right towards Ribchester we subsequently took a route to the left, down a lane and through to the rear of Buckley Hall and a gate which displayed a sign telling us to aim for the “Red Spot”. This turned out to be a post at the far end of the field with a red spot on top of it. Here we crossed a style and followed the path down steps to cross Boyce’s Brook via a footbridge and across a field to a further footbridge. Here we rose up a slope to be faced with a style which to reach the first step would have involved something like a 30inch step. Chivalry took over and out of his “Mary Poppins” bag, Ray produced a folding step stool which enabled the otherwise almost impassable obstacle to be overcome.

Following the route, skirting Ashmoor House, we left the field via a gate and style, to join a farm track leading to Boyce’s farm where we turned left, through a field, over 2 further styles to exit on to Stoneygate Lane, opposite a property named Cherry Yate, a former farm house with linked barn, tastefully converted to form residential accommodation. Turning left we crossed a style through the hedge on the right to descend through a field to a stream which we crossed by stepping stones to rise through the yard of Stydd Manor Farm and join the Lane, which brought us after a short distance to the ancient Anglican church of St Saviour dating back to the 12th century. The property of the Knights Hospitallers, an Ecumenical, Christian, Chivalric order, focussed on the traditions of helping the sick and maintaining the traditions of 900 years of service, is still used although being somewhat sparse in its facilities, which includes the lack of electricity, is only used in the summer months with the lighter nights. Further along the lane we passed a block of recently refurbished Alms houses, and the Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and Paul which dates back to 1783. On reaching the end of Stydd Lane and turning right we passed the Ribchester Arms and continued along Blackburn Rd, through the village to regain our starting position.

Four hours had elapsed since starting out, the weather had been kind to us and we had enjoyed what was promised as a fantastic walk. Whatever method we use for assessing the distance travelled, whether it be by the state of individuals aching knees, or something slightly more scientific like a pedometer, we all agreed that the afternoon had been most enjoyable, informative and somewhere just less than 6 miles. We are grateful to the organisers and look forward to our next merry outing.