I have always been fascinated by bridges and rivers and this summer the rivers have been spectacular and in a few cases even more than spectacular. I needed no excuse to return to one of my favourite strolls.
From the Shireburn pub, cross the B6243 and follow the gentle incline up into the village of Hurst Green. Pass the Bayley Arms on the right. Look for a line of attractive cottages to the left and then splendid alms houses on the right. At one time these were located on the nearby hillside at Kemple End. By 1947 they were all but derelict, but they were then moved stone by stone and rebuilt in the heart of the village.
Continue along the narrow road through a woodland area. Find a religious statue on the left and then look sharp right. The view across to Stoneyhurst School is spectacular. Follow the long drive up to the school. The building overlooks a pair of large lakes which are the haunt of wildfowl. The road turns sharp left in front of the school gates. The Sherburn (or Shireburn) family were staunch Catholics and survived all the religious upheavals only for the male line to fail. The infant son of Sir Nicholas died in 1702, apparently from eating yew berries. Sir Nicholas himself died in 1717 and the property passed to his daughter who had married the Duke of Norfolk. After her death the Weld family inherited and in 1794 they leased the mansion to the Jesuits who founded the school which has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Follow the winding road, keeping the school on the right. It was on the roads in 1826 that John L MacAdam first tried out his now famous road construction methods.
At the junction between the school track and a minor road turn left. Continue for ½ mile and turn right at a crossroads. On the right is a little car park at Kemple End. Look out for the foundations of old alms houses.
The road descends to another T junction. Turn right here and descend to reach the Higher Hodder Bridge. Turn right over a stile to find a footpath which leads through splendid woodlands. These woods inspired the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899) who was a teacher at Stonyhurst. He wrote beautifully about the Hodder Woods.
Follow the footpath to reach Lower Hodder Bridge and cross the road. Look upstream to see one of the most famous packhorse bridges in Britain. This was built in 1562 and is locally called Cromwell’s Bridge. It is said that Cromwell’s troops crossed the bridge in August 1648 on his way to the Battle of Preston.
The span is too narrow for ordnance to cross and they probably used the ford which can still be seen under the bridge. From the bridge turn left and follow the road back to the starting point at Hurst Green.