#15 Hurst Green & the Ribble

28 05 2010
28th May 2010
6.7 miles
Explorer 287 (West Pennine Moors)
sunny, breezy

I was meant to be doing walk #19 in Garstang with Mrs NLW but illness struck so I was left on my own – and a spur of the moment decision led to this walk. The book says that Hurst Green has “limited roadside parking”, and I guess that is technically true in that there is a physical limit to the number of cars that could park by the side of the road anywhere, but in my opinion there’s a lot odf such parking available in Hurst Green. I parked right by the impressive war memorial on the central green.

The River Hodder near Hodder Place

StonyHurst College

I set off past one of a number of very nice looking pubs, lovely cottages, and an old hall that I can’t identify despite a good bit of googling. I leave the village via Smithy Row and emerge in fields full of sheep, I skirt these and some woodland before I arrive at Stonyhurst College which I confess I weas not aware of – but apparently it is the ‘Catholic Harrow’ and has educated such individials as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JRR Tolkien, Chris Morris, and Kyran Bracken! It seems mad that I haven’t heard of it as it is beautiful. The buildings, the grounds the cricket fields are all stunning; the observatory which is mentioned in the book, and was one of the observatories used by Kristian Birkeland in determining his theory on the aurora borealis – is actually the least impressive part of the college.

I skirt round the college to the south eats and then head north east again, crossing Knowles Brow to the cottages at Woodfields, where JRR Tolkein stayed whilst his son was studying at Stonyhurst. Tolkein was known to stay in this area whilst writing Lord of the Rings, and there is a lot of supposition around Hobbiton being based in Hurst Green, and ‘Shireburn’ (the family which once owned the college and gave their name to  the Shireburn Arms) being the route of River Shirebourn in The Hobbit. Part of me would like to throw scorn on this – but the area does feel like The Shire – all babbling brooks and quaint little bridges.

Past Woodfields the path enter into a field and then drops again into wild garlic filled woodland. Crossing a stone bridge and heading uphill towards Hodder Place until suddenly I am beside the Rover Hodder. The river here is slow and low, and at points I can step on raised cobble beds into the middle of the stream. I walk along the side of the river rather than the path until I notice a hillock in between the path and the river, so I climb up it and have lunch (even though it’s 11am!)

Confluence of the Hodder & Ribble

After lunch I reach the B6243 Whalley Road at Lower Hodder Bridge, next to which is Cromwell’s Bridge, allegedly vandalised by Cromwellian toops in the march on Preston in 1684. I turn west and head up the road back towards Hurst Green, but if I had turned east and then south on B6246 I would be at The Three Fishes within 15 minutes. The Three Fishes is part of the excellent Ribble Valley Inns group run by Nigel Haworth.

Anyway, I headed west along the road until I got to the bottom of Knowles Brow where I headed into a field opposite the junction. Now, as my then two year old nephew once commented: “I scared o’ cows”, and in this field were a bunch of skittish looking bullocks, but looking at the map there weren’t many other options so I stepped gingerly around the outside of the field – within a few yard of the most skittish looking until I reached the style I was aiming for.

Jumbles Rocks on the Ribble

This may seem overly cautious to some, but I remember well as a child the panic on my parents face as we were crossing  a field in Derbyshire – only to hear an odd rumbling sound, and then to see a herd of bullocks charging over the hill straight at us – we made it back to the style with the bullocks about 20 yards behind us! Next field was just cows so felt a bit happier.

A few fields later I reached Winkley Hall, and then Winkley Hall Farm. The book promises that the route is waymarked through the farm – it is not, but the route is fairly intuitive, and the abundant farm staff were very cordial. Exiting the farm we are back on the Hodder which very soon merges with the Ribble. It’s a much bigger river now, deeper and wider but still quite slow, there are sheep everywhere.

Most of the rest of the walk is a stroll by the river, past a rocky natural (?) weir, and an aquaduct until finally leaving the river and climbing through woodland until a final field with some massive cows until reappearing at the back of the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green.



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