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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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184.  Three Ways to Gawthorpe Hall

For the first time in my life I stopped a train. Burnley Barracks is a 'request stop' on the train that trundles between Preston and Burnley, so I asked the ticket-woman for it to stop there and she didn't forget to tell the driver. As I was the only person to get off and nobody got on, I claim full responsibility for stopping the train.

My plan was to walk on the Burnley Way and the Brontë Way, passing Gawthorpe Hall near Padiham, and continue to either Hapton, Huncoat or Accrington station, depending on my energy and enthusiasm at the time. From the station I located the Burnley Way (although I saw no sign of it) and it took me under the railway line, alongside a bright green canal, over the M65 and into the suburbs of Whistlefield. I found myself on Pendle Way, which is not to be confused with the Pendle Way. The former is the name of the road that I was walking along, the latter is a 45-mile trail that wanders around the hill of Pendle but not here.
green canal

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Whistlefield

The Burnley Way led me away from the houses to a short stretch of the River Calder, as if to reaffirm that the Way is indeed a Recreational Route. The Burnley Way is a 40-mile circular path that passes through Burnley and Pendle Witch country. It is not, I think, a trail that walkers set out to walk from end to end (being circular, it doesn’t have ends). It is more one that walkers may walk bits of, sometimes by chance, like me. The path curved around to the north of the houses, separated from them by a high fence to preserve my privacy. Along the way, the Burnley Way turns north (although I saw no sign of it). So I was back among the houses.

I found a path through them and arrived at what I assumed to be the Brontë Way (although I saw no sign of it). The Brontë Way is an end-to-end path but I doubt that many people walk it end-to-end. The 44-mile path starts at Oakwell Hall (probably the Fieldhead of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley) near Birstall and ends at Gawthorpe Hall, perhaps appropriately since Charlotte Brontë also ended here, according to the narrative that has her catching a chill on a visit to Gawthorpe Hall in January 1855, after which her health deteriorated, leading to her death two months later. In other accounts, she was very poorly anyway from a troublesome pregnancy.

A view of Pendle

From the A671 I walked on along Habergham Drive, which is no longer a drive but is part of the Brontë Way (although I saw no sign of it). I arrived at Gawthorpe Hall. It looked a sombre building to me: four-square, dark sandstone coloured, mottled black. The present hall is a 19th century renovation of a 17th century hall built around a 13th century pele tower. The central turret that rises above the roof level is, I think, pretending to be the pele tower. The hall is variously described as Elizabethan (of the era of Elizabeth I (1558-1603)) and Jacobean (of the era of James I (1603-1625)). I rather doubt that the externals of the hall are quite that old. Inside, there are, I expect, grand rooms and furniture of that vintage.
Gawthorpe Hall

Gawthorpe Hall

gawthorpe hall 2 Right: Gawthorpe Hall from the other side.

Gawthorpe Hall was given to the National Trust in 1970 by the 4th Lord Shuttleworth. The National Trust began in 1894 as something of a campaigning organisation, seeking to protect open, green spaces for the public, but after it became possible in 1934 to avoid death duties by leaving land assets to the National Trust, it perforce focussed upon the country houses of landed gentry. The Trust owns great swathes of land in the Lake District and lesser but still substantial swathes in the Yorkshire Dales. However, in the northern part of Lancashire (the part within the scope of these Saunterings) the National Trust logo can be seen in only three places: Silverdale (visited in Sauntering 134), Heysham (Sauntering 101) and Gawthorpe Hall. This hall, then, is this region’s only representative of the stately mansions within the National Trust portfolio.

I wandered up to the main door, where a woman of the hall was in dispute with a bridal party that had arrived for photographs without permission or payment of the usual fee. I was relieved to find that the hall was not yet open for visitors, so I could not be tempted to pay the £6 (for non-members of the National Trust) to enter.

When I cancelled our National Trust membership in 2017 I received a letter asking me why – so I told them, and I’ll tell you too but if you’d prefer not to read a word against a beloved national institution you may skip this list:
     (1)  The Trust had (I will use the past tense because some of these comments may no longer apply) over one billion pounds in reserve funds or long-term investments and it received over £250 million a year in member subscriptions. It therefore didn’t need our money, at least, not as much as other charities.
     (2)  The Trust had an army of nearly 50,000 volunteers, which helped the management to pay themselves an adequate salary, for a charity. How many National Trust employees do you think receive over £60,000 a year?  Have a guess ...
     (3)  The Trust seemed to help itself to more of our money by increasing our direct debit every year by more than inflation, without mentioning, let alone justifying, this. Even our utility suppliers feel an obligation to justify price increases.
     (4)  The Trust seemed to focus on its stately mansions rather than, as I would prefer, on the nature preservation that its founders emphasised. The latter would be less expensive. Nature does a pretty good job of preserving itself.
     (5)  (This one was more a source of amusement.) The Trust always addressed its letters to us to “Mr” although Ruth and I were joint members. I asked them to change this to “Mr and Mrs” or “Mrs and Mr” but was told that it was beyond the computer’s capabilities. I am not sure that the Trust saw the point of my request.
To answer the question in (2) above, in 2020/21 there were 269 employees who received more than £60,000.

I see that the National Trust is in a spot of bother. And not before time. It is good that we and the National Trust reflect upon its aims. For too long the Trust has blithely assumed that the general public will continue to feel it almost a patriotic duty to support its worthy objectives. The Trust has always been a conservative (small c) organisation, concerned to protect what it considers to be the best of our national heritage. Now it has become embroiled in the Conservative (large c) Party’s wrangles, with a group of right-wingers called Restore Trust seeking membership of the National Trust’s council in order to influence policies and urging people to “rejoin the National Trust to save it from wokery”. If I knew what wokery is then I might rejoin to ask for more of it.

I walked west along Stockbridge Drive, which is a drive, into Padiham. Padiham is a more substantial place than I had envisaged but I hadn't come to savour its attractions. I aimed to be re-united with the Burnley Way, which according to the map winds through Padiham more or less beside the River Calder. Yes, you've guessed it – I saw no sign of it, the Way that is, not the river.

A sign of gaiety in Padiham

I somehow found myself in the backside of Padiham, walking past scrap metal merchants and the like, feeling increasingly that this was unlikely to be where anyone would be encouraged to walk. After studying the map later I think that I was indeed on the Burnley Way (and I have a photo to prove it – yes, I saw a sign of it, see below) but at the time I lost my nerve and my patience. I recalled having seen in the middle of Padiham a sign to Hapton railway station, so I retraced my steps to follow it. I had had enough of plodding through built-up regions, some of scruffiness, in search of Ways that seem largely a figment of the map-maker's imagination.

Back in the centre of Padiham I couldn't at first re-find the sign to Hapton railway station. I walked up and down the main street (the A671) wondering why the two pubs are called the Flying Dutchman and the Hand and Shuttle. The Art Deco Town Hall, built in 1938, has been renovated as contemporary office space after being damaged in the Boxing Day 2015 floods but it looked rather inactive to me. Padiham once had twenty cotton mills and two large collieries. I don't know what it has today, despite my more-extensive-than-planned exploration.

Eventually I found the sign to Hapton station and walked, with no detours, along the road to it. The station was another request stop and I looked forward to re-using my new powers of train-stopping. But I didn't have to – there were ten other people waiting to do the job.

Three signs more representative of this walk:

burnley way sign

In the Padiham scrapyards, the only Burnley Way sign I noticed (without knowing it was a Burnley Way sign at the time)

hapton rly station sign

The sign to Hapton railway station (no wonder I had trouble re-finding it)

request stop sign

The sign informing us how to behave at a request stop

    Date: September 23rd 2023
    Start: SD832328, Burnley Barracks station  (Map: OL21)
    Route: (linear) S, E, N on Burnley Way, NE – River Calder – N, E – road – N, NW – Bronte Way – SW – A671 – W, NW on Habergham Drive, N – Gawthorpe Hall – SW on Stockbridge Drive – A671 – NW – in and around Padiham – S on road – Hapton railway station
    Distance: 7 miles;   Ascent: 50 metres

The two following items:
     186.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Holme to Carnforth)
     185.   The Peace of Shap
The two preceding items:
     183.   On the Moors and Pastures above Bentham
     182.   Along the North Fylde Esplanade
Two nearby items:
       77.   Bridging the Lower Little Ribble
     150.   Psychogeographic Walking around Burnley
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell