Les and I set out to do an easy walk from Billinge in Lancashire. We had our map, compass, GPS and a route description. The route description was from Country Walking Magazine and was dated December 1996. But nothing would have changed ,how could it!
How wrong can you be. Never have we had to backtrack so many times. Our map-reading skills were tested to the limit. I need to set up a new section on my blog – Misadventures with Les!!!!!.
Things went wrong right at the start. The car park mentioned at Billinge Wood was no longer accessible, an iron gate blocked the way. No problem, we parked at the nearby pub.We walked back to where the car park should have been and climbed the stile in the corner, turned left and headed downhill. All seemed well and a quick check on the compass confirmed that we were heading in the right direction. The path curved away to the right and then became a tarmac lane. It still seemed to fit the description – almost. Soon we were trying to convince ourselves that it matched and then we knew we were wrong. We were at a dead end – literally. We were at the gates of Pleasington Crematorium. It seemed a long way back to the start.
We had been almost correct. Only a few yards out but the wrong side of a wall. The difference hardly discernable on the GPS. We headed downhill through the woods on a clear track flanked by bluebells.
We emerged onto Pleasington Playing fields part of Witton Country Park and once again tried to make sense of our notes. It was impossible, we gave up. Not the walk, just trying to follow the instructions. We realised we were on a section of the Witton Weavers Way. one of the Long Distance Paths in Lancashire.
We walked alongside the River Darwen for a while and then crossed the bridge before following field paths towards Pleasington Priory.
The Gothic Roman Catholic Church dates from the 19th century but has an imitation Norman pointed arch which features kneeling monks above which is a rose window.
We now headed for Hoghton Tower but our way was blocked. The bridge over the River Darwen had been severely damaged by the floods caused by Storm Desmond over the Christmas period. It was unsafe and we decided not to risk it.
A visit to the 16th century Hoghton Tower might have been interesting as it is sometimes open to the public. King James 1 visited in 1617 and was so pleased with his meal of loin of beef that he knighted it – hence ‘sirloin of beef’
We needed to plot a return route. We walked alongside the river to Hoghton Bottoms where we stopped for lunch. We realised we were still on a section of the Witton Weavers Way and it would lead us back to our starting point at Billinge Wood. There were actually waymark signs for Witton Weavers Way.
Back at the start we decided to climb up Billinge Hill. a modest 800 ft. The view from the top was obscured by trees. They were probably only saplings when my route description was published. We discovered a plaque which informed us that here on the 15th May 1429 the Three Weekly Court of the Blackburn Hundred was held. John Nowell paid homage for land that he held in Great Harwood from Thomas Hesketh of Rufford, the Lord of the Manor of Great Harwood.
Back at the car, I was intrigued by the pub sign, they all have an history. This one refers to the attire worn by the landlord at the beginning of the 20th century. A Billycock being the old name for a Bowler Hat.
I would have loved to have called in for a pint but that would have to wait as we had to drive down the motorway.
Now that I have had chance to look at my notes I realise that we had walked most of the ‘Beamers Trail’ part of the Witton Weavers Way.
It had been an interesting day made more enjoyable by a bit of old fashioned Map and Compass work.