Walk: Ribchester

Ribchester

Ribchester

First published in Walks in Lancashire

Last week I was given a set of postcards of old Ribchester and these persuaded me to take a walk around the village, which dates back to Roman times.

There is so much to see.

  • From the car park turn left to reach the Sculpture Garden on the right. This has a Roman theme and, despite the fact that it is a modern attraction, it does have a real feeling of ancient Rome.
  • Continue to the White Bull pub, which has its porch supported by Roman pillars. I have photographs of the street in 1905 and the pub can still be recognised.
  • At the pub, turn left along Water Street. Look out for a row of cottages which were once part of an old coaching inn called the Red Lion. Look carefully and you will find lots of clues to 19th century travel. Look for the cottages on Greenside and turn right along a narrow road.
  • Take the first right to approach the Roman bathhouse. This is a fine example of Roman hygiene and should not be rushed. Read all the informative labels which point out the positions of the cold rooms, hot rooms, a plunge bath and also shown clearly is the underfloor heating system called a hypocaust.
  • From the bathhouse turn right and follow the path alongside the River Ribble, which is on the left. Also look out for an indicator board showing the levels of the river. Obviously these have reached danger points during most of this summer.
  • Approach the village school on the right to reach a narrow road through the village. Keep the river on the left and to the right are some attractive old cottages. These contain stones pinched from the old Roman fort.
  • Approach the vicarage and turn sharp right to reach the Roman Museum. Here there are plenty of Roman artefacts, including leather shoes, jewellery and even children’s toys. This means that this is a child-friendly museum and there is an excellent little bookshop. From the museum enter the churchyard and keep an eye open for a 17th Century sundial which carries an inscription “I am a shadow. So Art thou. I mark time. Dost thou?”
  • Time should certainly be marked, especially around St Wilfrid’s church, which has a hagioscope. This is also known as a leper’s squint and is a hole in the wall through which those who had infectious diseases could watch the service inside without infecting healthy people. Inside the church there is a 14th Century wall painting of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers. This dates to the time when people had to cross the Ribble before the present road bridge was built.
  • From the churchyard turn right through a gate and follow a path along the ramparts of the old fort. Here it can be seen that over the centuries the Ribble has changed its course. As this happened large areas of the fort were submerged and have been lost. Continue along the obvious grassy rampart path and through a wooden stile. Turn right onto a metalled road leading back to the car park. Here was the Roman parade ground, which is now a large children’s playground. Now return to the starting point.

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