This week I was glad of an excuse to repeat one of my favourite strolls through history. I had a friend visiting and he had been a lecturer in Roman history in London.

He told me he’d never been to Ribchester but had seen a bronze Roman cavalry helmet found in the River Ribble. It dates from the first century AD and was removed from our area years ago and is now in the British Museum.

My friend’s wife is interested in alms houses and so on this walk I was able to satisfy them both. I’ve a feeling they’ll return to the area soon.

Ribchester is the only village situated directly on the banks of the River Ribble. In AD 79 the Romans based some 500 cavalry here at a fort they named Bremetennacum. The suffix Veteranorum was added, indicating that retired soldiers were able to retire here after 25 years service and were given a plot of land. This route follows in the footsteps of the Roman legions marching to and from the fort, which was an important stop on the roads between Chester, Lancaster, Carlisle and Hadrians Wall.

Most of the cottages in Ribchester date back to the 18th century, a time when handloom weaving was in full swing. The lack of a canal or rail link thwarted later efforts to develop the village into a mill town.

My walk From the car park turn left and keep right to see the Roman garden with seats and sculptures set up in 2000 to celebrate the Roman connection.

At a road junction turn right along the main street lined with weaver’s cottages to reach the White Bull pub on the left. An inscription over the door dates it 1707, but I suspect there was an earlier building here. The porch is supported by Roman Pillars no doubt ‘quarried’ from the fort. Turn left to follow Water Street and at the first track, turn right.

Approach and pass through a wicket gate into the Roman bathhouse which is looked after by English heritage. There’s a display indentifying various rooms, including details of the heating system, called the hypocaust. Those who think underfloor heating is a modern invention - think again! The bathhouse is open all year and is free of charge. Look for a set of steps. Descend these and pass through a gate down to more steps. Turn right and follow the footpath towards the river. Ignore another wicket gate on the left and keep to the path on the right. Follow the long distance Ribble Way footpath alongside which are a number of seats. To the right is St Wilfrid’s Church of England School and on the right and left is the Environment Agency’s river level monitoring system.

From the school bear left along the road through the village. Right is the Rectory and at the next right is the splendid Roman Museum. Set up in 1914 it’s been extended and open daily on the payment of a fee (Tel: 01254 878 261).

From the Museum pass through metal gates leading to the church of St Wilfrid. The fine church clock bears the date 1813. The church itself incorporates many Roman stories including an altar built into the Norman structure.

From the churchyard track a right turn leads onto an obvious footpath. Look to the left to see the ditches and ramparts of the Roman fort which was oblong in shape.

Pass through another gate and turn sharp right along a paved path. This passes tennis courts and a children’s playground. This is the site of the old Roman parade ground. Follow the obvious track back to the car park and starting point. Some prefer to end their walk here, but I prefer to walk to the hamlet of Stydd.

Turn to the road back to the village and this time turn left. At the Black Bull Inn turn right along the B6240. Pass the Ribchester Arms on the left and look out for Stydd Lane. Turn left along a narrow cul-de-sac to reach the Alms Houses on the left. These date back to 1726 and were built using masonry from the Old Fort including a balustrade and a fine set of pillars. The houses still serve their original function and there is a grand old well. Continue up a steep track leading to a farm and to Stydd Chapel. This dates mainly to the 12th century but has a fine 13th century doorway and was built by the Knights Hospitalers of St John of Jerusalem. This order still survives as it evolved into St John’s Ambulance Service.

Retrace your steps to the car park, which has toilet facilities and a choice of picnic sites and places to eat. This walk proves that there is plenty of Roman history to be seen in our local area.

How to get there:
From the A59 between Clitheroe and Preston turn at the traffic lights onto the B6240. Follow signs to Ribchester, crossing a bridge over the Ribble. Turn left into the village and then right into the Pay and Display car park. 
S Landranger 103 - Blackburn and Burnley
Grid Reference:
649 345
Length of walk:
5 miles