After a promising sunny start early this morning the sky had turned grey by 10am so as I didn’t consider it nice enough to take the dogs for a long countryside walk I decided to go on a local voyage of discovery instead, to a place less than two miles from home and where, even though I’ve lived in this town all my life, I’ve never previously been to.
Firwood Fold is a small hamlet tucked away down a quiet cobbled lane behind one of the main roads on the north east outskirts of the town. It was the town’s very first conservation area but is best known for being the birthplace of Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule and probably Bolton’s most famous son. The hamlet consists of former farmworkers’ dwellings and outbuildings, with the earliest ones dating back to the 16th century and other buildings added in the 17th and 18th centuries. Number 15 was built using the cruck construction method and with wattle and daub walls; it was later clad in stone but the original oak truss can still be seen and it’s believed to be the oldest inhabited building in Bolton. Number 5 originally served as the school and had two entrances, one for the school itself and the other for the teacher’s house, while number 6 was originally a pig house but is now a residential building. Unfortunately photograph taking round the hamlet was rather limited as several cars were parked in various places and I didn’t want them in the shots.
Samuel Crompton was born at Number 10 in 1753 and lived there with his family until they moved to Hall i’ th’ Wood five years later. A stone plaque on the front wall of the cottage commemorates Crompton’s birth and the cottage itself is the only building in Bolton with a thatched roof, although looking at the current state of the thatch I would hope it’s in better condition than it actually appears to be.
At the bottom of Firwood Fold itself a short flagged path took me down to a dirt track with a signpost pointing to some fishing lakes – water meant possible photos so I decided to explore a bit further, however I hadn’t anticipated part of the track being muddy and my white trainers were soon rather black. Of course if I’d thought that might happen I would have worn my wellies but I hadn’t originally set out with the intention of going down any dirt tracks.
The first pond I came to reminded me of an Amazonian swamp with trees growing out of the water at all angles but just beyond it were two other lakes which were far more open. Ducks, geese and coots were very much in evidence and on the smaller lake a couple of mute swans came gliding up to say hello, though they weren’t impressed by the dogs and both of them literally had a hissy fit.
At the far side of the lakes was a vast area of open land which I knew to be part of Seven Acres Country Park; that was another area which I’d never explored but I would leave that for another time as there was somewhere else I wanted to see. Retracing my steps back through Firwood Fold I retrieved the van from where I’d parked it at the top of the lane and drove to Hall i’ th’ Wood less than a mile away.
Hall i’ th’ Wood (literally meaning ‘hall in the wood’) is a large timber-framed house set in several acres of park land and dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century. One of the most important buildings in Bolton it was originally the residence of a family of wealthy merchants but is best known as the home of Samuel Crompton and it was where, in 1779, he devised the spinning mule, an invention which had a profound impact on the fortunes of Bolton and North West England.
Crompton eventually moved out of Hall i’ th’ Wood and in the late 19th century the building fell into disrepair, though it was rescued from ruin by Lord Leverhulme, a local businessman and founder of the company now known as Unilever. After carrying out extensive renovations he presented the building to Bolton Council in 1902 and it now functions as a museum exploring the life and works of Samuel Crompton. Unfortunately greatly reduced opening times don’t include Sundays so being unable to access the building or its immediate grounds I had to be content with a few shots from the lane, though after looking it up on the internet it seems like a place which is interesting enough to go back to on a nicer day and when the building is open.
The lane past the hall ran down through woodland to a river and though I was tempted to continue my walk in that direction I suspected it may very well be muddy so I decided to save that one for another time. It was time for a coffee anyway so with one final shot of some snowdrops sheltering in the angle of a stone wall I returned to the van and drove back home. Firwood Fold had proved to be a very quaint and attractive little place and judging from the window boxes in various places I can imagine it will be very pretty in summer, so a return visit on a sunny day is definitely on my list.
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s finding churches, chocolates and chickens over in Portugal, with a whole heap of photos added for good measure – time to make a brew now and settle in for a good read.