Last Thursday promised to be a fine day – time to take advantage of my changed work:life balance and get out for a walk. I didn’t feel like travelling to far so a local ramble was in order. I’ve spent countless hours wandering on the West Pennine Moors ever since I was a teenager, but I’ve never explored the countryside to the west of Wigan – unless you count a couple of stays at the Tawd Vale and Bispham Hall Scout camp sites when I was in the cubs and scouts – and even then we didn’t stray too far. So I decided to take the train over to Parbold (only a 15 minute journey from Wallgate station on the Southport line) for a walk that would take me through over a couple of small hills, down a hidden “fairy glen” and along a stretch of the Leeds Liverpool canal.
After a relatively dry spell of weather the the footpaths over the fields and through the woods were dry and the going was good. However, this would probably not be a good route to follow in the winter (unless there had been a hard frost) as looking at the uneven nature of the paths it was pretty clear that much of the route would be very muddy after a period of wet weather. Wellies would definitely be in order!
I left the station and walked through the village joining a quiet lane and then out onto the path through the fields
After crossing a minor road I reached Hunter’s Hill. There used to be a quarry here, but it’s been transformed into a small Country Park and Nature Reserve
My route skirted the edge of the site from where there were extensive over the West Lancashire Plain over to the coast, with Blackpool Tower visible in the distance. There was a hint of the Lake District Hills on the horizon, but they were hidden in the haze.
Leaving the Nature Reserve my route took me down hill on a minor road
Passing the entry to Harrock Hall
before turning down a quiet lane
which would take me towards my next destination, Harrock Hill
I passed some attractive stone barn conversions (you’ve got to have a few bob to live around here – a pleasant area within commuting distance of Liverpool, Manchester and Preston)
and then turned off, climbing over a stile onto a path that led through the woods and across a field and then onto a path through woods up to the top of the small hill
At the summit there’s the remains of an old windmill, which dates back to the 17th Century
Leaving the summit, I turned south down another path through green fields which had extensive views across to the West Pennines
Further along the path the views opened up to include Pendle Hill and the Bowland Fells
I was passing land owned by the Harrock Hall estate, my route effectively circumnavigating Harrock Hall, although it was hidden in the trees. The Hall dates back to the 17th Century and was extended in the 19th Century and is a listed building. It used to be the ancestral home of the Rigbye family, local landowners, and John Rigby, a Catholic martyr, was born here around 1670. He lived during the turbulent Tudor period when both Catholics and Protestants were executed due to their beliefs. Rigby was executed in 1600 and was canonised in 1970. A Catholic 6th Form College in Wigan is named after him.
I reached another minor road at High Moor and after a short distance on the tarmac turned down another minor lane and then along a path across the fields
Reaching the main Wigan to Parbold Road, I crossed over and set off down the Fairy Glen another Country Park. It’s a narrow wooded valley created by Sprodley Brook which has, over time, cut down through the underlying sandstone to create a narrow valley with small waterfalls and cliff faces. Despite living only a few miles away, and having driven past many times on the way to Southport, I never knew this very peasant hidden valley was here.
I emerged in fields overlooking Ashurst Beacon on the other side of the Douglas Valley
I carried on through fields and woodland where there were displays of bluebells
eventually reaching the Leeds Liverpool canal
I carried on along the towpath towards Parbold
More bluebells on the other side of the canal
I reached Parbold where I left the canal near the old windmill which has been converted into a gallery selling art works.
There’s a pub here
and a cafe
Time to reinvigorate myself with a brew and a cake!