Ski Club of Manchester, Late Summer Stroll 19th August 2018
Walk: Leader Vanessa Miller
Reporter: Helen Richardson
For this late summer stroll in the Ramsbottom area, ten of us met at a small car park on Lumb Carr Road, on the outskirts of Holcombe Village, at OS grid reference SD781163. We were accompanied by four canine friends: Freddie, Foster, Jim, and Sweep - a ‘guest’ for the day in Vanessa’s charge.
Instead of the dry summer weather that we had all started to take for granted, there was a fine misty drizzle, - but we did not allow this to dampen our spirits, and quickly put on waterproofs. We had a leisurely start – scheduled to meet at 11 o’clock to begin walking at 11.15am; but we all arrived early, signed-in, and were togged-up by 11.00, so that’s when we set off. We crossed the main road and walked down Holcombe Old Road, a gently sloping cobbled lane. At the foot of the lane we turned in a north-westerly direction towards Redisher Wood Nature Reserve, and were soon enjoying the woodland scenery as we followed a lovely path alongside the river. On leaving the wood, we climbed a short steepish path up onto an open area below Holcombe Moor. Shortly after, as we climbed another short steep section, Vanessa explained that the nearby Army Camp was where the ‘Krypton Factor’ TV series assault course used to take place. Our track then led us in a generally northerly direction across National Trust land, with Harcles Hill to our right; whilst, to our left, MoD land was designated ‘Danger Area’ on the map, but as no red flags were flying, we presumed we were safe from stray bullets on this occasion!
After crossing a stile on the open moorland, it was time for a refreshment stop. We made ourselves comfortable, making use of mossy boulders, and a bench set within a drystone-walled surround, for our picnics - being mindful not to eat too much, as we were booked for a pub lunch later in Holcombe.
We continued along a good track across the top of the open moorland of Holcombe Moor, where we passed a stone monument. This commemorates the ancient Pilgrims’ Cross which once stood on the site, where pilgrims prayed and rested along the pilgrim trail to Whalley Abbey in the Ribble Valley. An inscription on each face of the monument tells part of its history, though it is difficult to decipher in places: a Pilgrims’ Cross had existed there at least as early as 1176 AD; in that year and again in 1226, ‘the cross was named in charters of Gifts of land in Holcombe Forest’; in 1662, ‘King Charles II gave the Manor to the Duke of Albemarle through whom it has descended to the present Lord of the Manor’; that ‘nothing is known of the removal of the ancient cross’, but ‘its massive socketted foundation stone remained here until August 1901’; and, the memorial stone was placed there ‘on May 24th 1902 by the copyholders of the Manor and others’.
Shortly after, as we descended gently sloping Beetle Hill, our track crossed the ‘Rossendale Way’. From here, our view northwards was towards Helmshore, whilst to our left, our view was of Musbury Tor, (also know as Tor Hill, as shown on the OS map), - with its distinctive flat-topped shape, where a Millstone grit cap, which over aeons has resisted erosion, protects softer underlying shales.
Soon, we came upon another stone memorial; this one commemorates Ellen Strange Broadley, and is associated with a tragic tale: Ellen disappeared in 1761, and her body was found under a pile of stones. The story goes that her husband, John, was tried for her murder, but there were no witnesses and little evidence apart from her body, and he was acquitted. A memorial to her was erected where her body was found, and a cairn has built up adjacent to the memorial, as walkers have developed a tradition of leaving a stone there.
Another historical monument awaited us soon after, as we passed a spring, with an interestingly shaped capstone and more modern stone-constructed trough. The basis of its name, Robin Hood’s well, is unclear, but, (according to ‘Lancashirepast.com’), it may have originally been called ‘Robin Goodfellow’s well’ (after Puck in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream), conjuring up magical folk such as fairies and hobgoblins, apparently often associated with rural landmarks in traditional folklore. On this notion, only more recently, has it become known by its current name. Others think that it was named for the hooded pilgrims who used to pass through the area on their route to Whalley Abbey. Either way, it has no connection to the legend of Robin Hood.
Soon we turned right and walked southwards along a high level track. This track was historically used as a route for people, horses and carts to avoid the toll once levied on the turnpike road built below in 1812. Along this track, we came across a boarded up building with several, inexplicably massive, flying buttresses. This is Chatterton Close Farm, parts of which date back at least two centuries. It is part of the Stubbins Estate belonging to the NT. Our track then led us gradually downhill to the end of our walk in Holcombe village.
Our walk complete, we removed our wet outdoor clothes and were soon drying out and enjoying a drink at the ‘Shoulder of Mutton’ Pub a short distance from where we had parked. Like much of Holcombe, the pub has a long history, - its date stone indicating its origin back to 1751. What could be more appropriate than a lamb Henry or lamb Sunday roast in such an aptly named hostelry! - although I am told the beef roast, and steak & ale pie were also very good!
Our thanks to Vanessa for leading this very enjoyable walk, with lovely views and with the added bonus of lots of historical interest; to Dave for back-marking & keeping us all in tow (or should that be ‘toe’?), and to both for arranging an excellent lunch to round off the day. Many thanks indeed!