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Lancashire Walks - Garstang and Greenhalgh Castle

PUBLISHED: 19:23 16 November 2009 | UPDATED: 19:11 13 November 2018

Greenhalgh Castle


Keith Carter leads a walk past one of the county's forgotten castles at Garstang

Did you know that Garstang has its very own castle? It’s not the kind of castle under the careful eye of English Heritage or the National Trust with visitor centres and guided talks; just the corner of a rather wobbly looking wall on a grassy mound up a farm lane with not so much as a brown tourist board sign to direct you to it.

Still, it was certainly a castle with a history. William Stanley, Earl of Derby built it after the land was granted to him for service at the Battle of Bosworth Field. And a couple of centuries later, in the Civil War, Cromwell came this way and the castle was one of the last Royalist strongholds to stand against Parliamentary troops.

The castle was pulled down by order of Cromwell and all that now remains is the ruin like a broken tooth, the stones plundered over the years

to build local farms.

Garstang is always pleasant to visit. The town has kept its genuine country-town ambience and resisted the modern mania for retail standardisation and you can still get local produce - try the homemade ice-cream at Carrs on the High Street or the fantastic range of cheeses in the Market Hall.

Our walk takes a look at Greenhalgh Castle,  wanders across pasture and field, calls in at a lovely hidden gem of a church and enjoys fine open views of farming country to the coast.

Park at the pay and display car park next to the visitor centre and take the riverside footpath upstream with the river on your left. This is the River Wyre which gives its name to the borough and the bridge which we cross after emerging onto the High Street and turning left along it as though heading out of town.

A bridge has spanned the river here since the 15th century and once across, turn left and walk down Castle Lane. The ruin soon comes into view in a field on the left but it is not accessible to the public. There is not much to be seen, it stands abandoned and largely forgotten

Castle Lane ends at Greenhalgh Castle Farm where we keep left and look for a gate on the left of the house leading to a track between the main house and barn conversion.Where the track bends right, take the kissing-gate on the left, the first of four similar gates which have been erected as part of footpath management in the area. They all look rather new at present but in time they’ll blend in.

Stay along the left-hand boundary and at the third kissing-gate follow a signpost’s direction across a short field to the fourth where steps lead down to the bed of an old railway track and up steps the other side. Two rustic benches have been installed here, a pleasant spot for idle contemplation.

Climb the stile and the path can be seen leading across the field at two o’clock narrowing to the top corner where another stile gives access to the bridge over the main line and the motorway, two major arteries linking north and south. The roar of traffic stays with us for quite a long time. Once across the bridge, take a stile on the immediate left by a cottage and walk through a field with the motorway on your left.

Climb two ladder stiles where the path crosses a culvert then keep right along the course of a stream to where the next field tapers to where a gate and stile lead us to a lane. This turns out to be Delph Lane and we turn right along it to pass the lovely church of All Saints, Barnacre, built thanks to the generosity of the Rushton family in 1905.  The son of the founder was killed in the Air Force during the Second World War and is commemorated in a stained glass window depicting the RAF insignia.

Once past the church, keep right at the bend in the road. On the left is the gatehouse to Barnacre Lodge, long a ruin but now restored. It was considered as a home by Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson but they ruled it out because of the motorway noise.

Stay on the road until it bends right where we turn left on to a farm track with a white painted house on the corner. Look carefully for a stile on the right before the cattle grid and cross it into a field. From here our heading is slightly south-east, the footpath maintaining a line with the field boundaries on our left, crossing a series of stiles and two footbridges.We pass a plantation, North Toppings Wood and an extensive area of bracken until, through a gate we follow a way-mark on a post pointing slightly right. At a footbridge and stile we change direction, turning sharp right to head back towards Garstang through a descending field along a righthand boundary.

We pass another plantation on our right, Janet’s Hill Wood, mostly clusters of well-established conifers. As we reach the far corner of the wood we cross a stile on the right and cut the corner of a field to a stile with a finger post where we meet the road. Go directly across and take a track past a farm to cross back over the motorway and railway line. Stay on the track which curves left, passes through two gates then crosses a field heading for a stone bridge over the Lancaster Canal.

This would be a convenient place to join the canal and walk back to Garstang on the towpath but the hedging has effectively prevented this possibility, obliging walkers to keep ahead on a path that leads along a drainage ditch to Dimples Lane. One more obstacle stands in our way, a gate that is chained shut with no stile beside it even though this is a public footpath. I think this is one for the Footpaths Officer.

At Dimples Lane turn right and walk down to the junction with the main road into Garstang, turning right at the roundabout. Once across Wyre Bridge you can either return to the car park along the riverside path or go along the High Street where there are plenty of cafes and pubs if you’re in need of refreshment.



Area of walk: Countryside east of Garstang

Distance: 6 miles

Time to allow: 2½-3 hours

Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale

Refreshments: Cafes and pubs in Garstang

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