Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Another July walk in the Ribble Valley

Today I'm walking  from Great Mitton, where Hodder and Ribble's fair waters do meet, according to a  line from the  song, Old Pendle.
There are two grand halls in Mitton, one in Little Mitton,   on the Lancashire side of the river and now a hotel and restaurant, and one at Great Mitton, north of the river, and in Yorkshire until the boundry changes of 1974. A carved stone set into the fabric of the bridge indicates the old boundary between the two counties.  Both halls are now in Lancashire.  Great Mitton Hall was originally built to house monks I believe, and was once used as a hospital, but it is now a private home and the gardens are open to the public under the National Garden Scheme.

Next to the hall stands All Hallows Church, which dates back to 1103, but it would have been a timber building at that time. Turner spent a lot of time painting in the Ribble Valley, and he was so impressed by this church that he did a detailed pencil drawing of the interior. He also painted a canvas depicting the interior of Little Mitton Hall.

Some people are a little squeamish about graveyards, but personally I can't resist them. First of all you get the most fantastic views of the oldest surviving buildings  in Britain, and they are havens for wildlife, which seems to be much more approachable in churchyards and public parks than anywhere else. This churchyard was full of rabbits on my visit, which were quite happy to pose for photographs.

I also discovered this wasp's nest in a hedge. Late July and August are the months for wasps, as anyone who has tried to eat or drink outdoors in summer will have realised, and the little bleeders think nothing of stinging you just for the hell of it. The only thing that can be said in their defence is that they kill a lot of garden pests, now not a lot of people know that.

Time to leave Great Mitton and head for Bashall Eves, but I want to make a short diversion to show you Cromwell's bridge,  a pack horse bridge built in 1561, which crosses the river Hodder. Cromwell crossed it in with 8,000 men in 1684 on his way from Gisburn to Preston. The Battle of Preston took place the following day and the Royalists were routed. Cromwell states that he held a council of war at the bridge.

We have finally reached Browsholme Hall at Bashall Eves and I can now reveal my real reason for undertaking this walk. It's actually a genealogical journey for me. The present house was built in 1507 by Sir Edmund Parker, my 13th great grandfather although a house built by my 18th great grandfather, Richard Parker, stood on the site from around 1400. My 10th great grandfather Roger Parker didn't inherit and became the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral,  but his son Thomas was christened at  Mitton and married in Whalley.  I had hoped that there might be a family connection to Great Mitton Hall, but it would appear not.

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