Lancashire walk - Witton Park and Billinge Hill
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 January 2019
John Lenehan’s hike takes us from Witton Park to Billinge Hill via a memorial to Alfred Wainwright
Witton Park has almost everything a family could need for a day out. There are playground facilities for the youngsters and an adventure playground for older children. There are also all weather floodlit football pitches and Witton Park Arena with an athletic running and field event track plus gym and fitness studio.
There is a small animal zoo in the old stables, now part of Myerscough College, a lovely lily pond and, for the hungry, a nice little café in the pavilion.
There are many walking routes around the park and others involving the dominant Billinge Hill and an orienteering course. I decided on a route that takes in Billinge Hill and utilises some of the 32-mile long distance Witton Weavers’ Way.
1. Leave the car park and follow the road into the park going behind the gym and children’s playgrounds and keep on until the road enters the woods then take the right fork that leads towards the buildings of Myerscough College. Keep to the right of the buildings and pass the small animal enclosures on the left then go up some steps that lead to an iron gated little tunnel.
Turn left and carry on up the steps and reach a junction in a path, turn left and follow the path uphill into the woods and keep bearing right to reach some ornamental steps and stone work. Go left down the steps and keep straight on then on the right there is a metal gate stile leading into a field.
Note: The buildings of Myerscough College were once the stables of a huge mansion called Witton House, built by the Feildens, a prominent family of Blackburn in 1800 and demolished in 1952 after it had fallen into disrepair. With help from a benefactor, the estate was bought from the Feilden family by Blackburn Corporation and turned into the present Witton Park. The iron gated tunnel was an ice house for the mansion and the ornamental steps and stone works were part of the landscaped gardens.
Cross the stile and head straight on towards a metal gate.When you reach it turn left and follow the path with a fence on the right to a stile leading into the woods. Cross the stile and keep straight on with a fence and a meadow on the right. Do not be tempted to follow any paths that go left downhill. The wire reaches a path junction and turns right. Follow the path uphill with the wire fence on the right. Cross two metal stiles on either side of a track to a farm and then a little further two more metal stiles and keep uphill until reaching a tarmac track. Cross this and go through a tunnel in the wall opposite.
Note: The wall is the perimeter of Billinge Hill and its thick woods. I heard from someone that there is a species of every tree in the UK in these woods and they were planted by the Feildens. I don’t know if this is true. Can anyone confirm it?
Once through the tunnel turn right and follow the path uphill. It reaches a crossroad of paths at an orienteering marker that is a wooden post with a blue and white square on it. Keep straight on going uphill until the path forks. There is a bridleway sign and in front of you there is a sign with number 4 on it. Turn left and carry on uphill to a point where a path forks with the right fork going downhill. Keep left and carry on uphill to a marker post with number 6 on it. Turn right for a few metres and reach the summit of Billinge Hill.
Note: There was once a great view from here over Blackburn and the surrounding hills but this is obscured by trees. There is a blue plaque that is interesting at the summit about a court being held here. There is also a mountain bike trail on the hill.
2. Return from the summit on the same short path and re-join the main path up from the tunnel then turn right and follow it to join a larger path and a post with number 5 on it. Turn left. Follow the larger path as it goes slightly downhill. The path forks, keep left and carry on until a small clearing with a very impressive tree and a post with number 9 on it. There is a minor path going right, follow this downhill and at a minor path junction keep right and keep on going downhill then turn left and enter into a disused car park. Bear left and in the corner of the car park there is a metal stile leading into open fields. Cross the stile and go straight on an indistinct path to a small hillock with a tree just before it. There is a stile next to the tree, cross this and climb the small hill. There is a small water filled quarry on the left.
3. The path passes Wainwright’s Toposcope, a memorial to the great Lakeland fellwalker Alfred Wainwright whose magnificent guidebooks opened the way to the Lake District fells and mountains for generations of walkers, climbers and runners. It was on the hill of the Toposcope that he saw the Lake District fells and vowed to explore them. The views from the Toposcope are really impressive on a clear day.
Pass the Toposcope and follow the path downhill as it bears slightly left to a stile next to woodland and a wire fence. Cross the stile and follow the fence on the left to another stile and cross this and follow the path downhill through some trees to reach a track. Turn left, there is a footpath sign pointing the way and follow the track to a second footpath sign pointing right. Turn right and follow the path downhill into the woods. There is a sign saying Witton Weavers’ Way. The path forks, take the right fork to a stile and cross this into a field.
Note: The woodland the path passes on the left from the Toposcope hides a rather big quarry that is now totally overgrown. The spoil heaps from when it was in production could be seen for miles and were known as the Yellow Hills. Vegetation has hidden the scars and now they are camouflaged.
Cross the stile and head straight towards a gate with a footpath sign. Go through the gate and carry on with a hedgerow on the right to a metal gate with a stile next to it, cross the stile and the path leads to a track. Join the track and keep straight on with the hedgerow on the right until the track reaches a main road.
Cross the road and go through the metal gate opposite with a footpath sign Witton Weavers Way, keep straight on with the hedgerow on the right and head towards a gap in the hedge with a yellow footpath sign on a post. Keep the hedgerow on the right until a footpath sign directs right into the next field then keep the hedgerow on the left and follow the path as it passes Close Farm on the left to a stile leading into a lane.
4. Once onto the lane turn left then keep to the right of the gates of the farm and carry on to a stile to the left of a metal gate. Cross this and pass through a gap between a rotting wooden fence and a hedgerow and keeping this on the right follow the path until the hedgerow turns right. At this point, keep straight on following an indistinct path between two trees. There is a footpath sign by the trees pointing straight on. Pass a small valley on the left to a stile at the end of a stone wall that is straight ahead. Cross the stile and follow the path steeply downhill into the valley then, with a wire fence on the right, follow the path out of the valley following the fence past an old wooden gate to meet a wire fence directly in front. Turn left and follow this fence downhill with it on the right. Eventually the path reaches the River Darwen on the right and keep on the path onto a stile by a farmhouse. Cross the stile and go through the yard in front of the house.
5. Turn left, do not go over the green metal bridge in front. Go through a stile and carry on with the river on the right. The path reaches a metal gate with a stile on the right, cross the stile and keep following the river. Do not be tempted to follow the more obvious track uphill.
6. Follow the river and then cross a stile and turn left and follow a wire fence and track uphill to reach a wall then turn left and follow the wall now on the right to a stile and cross this and with the wall now on the left follow this through some trees to a stile leading into a field. Cross the stile and keep a wire fence to the right. Note: at waypoint 6, the map shows a bridge over the river leading to a lane. The bridge has been demolished and that was the reason I said do not cross the green metal bridge and take my first intended route through the hamlet from waypoint 5 to 6.
Follow the fence to a stile and cross this and, with the fence still on the right, follow the path steeply uphill and cross a still at the top. Keep straight on with the fence on the right to a stile and cross this and follow the path past a lovely thatched house and through a small housing estate to the main road at Pleasington by the Butlers Arms.
7. Cross the road and take the obvious path that passes to the left of Pleasington Priory and the right of some houses.
Note: The priory is truly magnificent. It was built between 1816 and 1819 and is a grade 1 listed building. It was built after a donation of around £20,000 from John Butler about £ 1.5 million today who lived at Pleasington Hall.
Follow the path all the way down to the football pitches at Pleasington Fields then turn left and then cross the road leading to the cemetery and walk past the football pitches with the river on the right to a blue painted metal bridge and cross this. Turn left and follow the path with the river on the left and pass a bridge over the river on the left and carry on along the path to a footbridge over the river on the right, cross this and walk to the car park.
Start/finish: Witton Country Park Blackburn car park next to sports complex.
Distance: 6.6 miles/10.6 kilomtres
Terrain: Apart from the climb up Billinge Hill the walking is relatively easy though a bit muddy in places. Good boots will be fine.
Time: 4 hours
Facilities: Public toilets near Pavilion
Map: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors.