The first part of this walk done just yesterday has already been, or will be, covered in other posts, so I’m starting and ending in Barrow Bridge village which is still within walking distance of home. The village was originally created during the Industrial Revolution for the workers of the mills which were there at the time but with the closure and eventual demolition of the last mill in 1913 the workforce was dispersed and Barrow Bridge became known for a while as Lancashire’s ‘deserted village’, though gradually the houses and cottages were bought to be private residences. The village became a well known local beauty spot and has been so ever since; it was designated as a conservation area in 1970 and has won several awards in Best Kept Village/Most Beautiful village competitions, and though it looks very pretty in summer when everything is in full bloom it still looks nice enough now for a few photos.
Dean Brook rises on the slopes of Smithills Moors and runs through the village on one side of the narrow road, with each house on the far side of the brook being accessed by its own bridge. Beyond the cottages the road takes a sharp right turn across the brook and heads up towards the moors but on the corner a gate leads to a footpath running alongside the brook. Not far from the gate the path splits into two with the right hand side leading to the locally well know ’63 steps’; having been up the steps the last time I went that way I took the left side which took me up a long steep track through a wooded area.
Eventually I left the trees behind and the path opened out to views across fields and farmland to Winter Hill on one side and a local golf course on the other side. The path ran through the golf course for quite a distance, at one point turning into a short cobbled lane before reverting to a rough path and eventually coming out on the road leading across the lower stretches of Smithills moors. Not far away, at the end of the road, was Bob’s Smithy Inn; originally built in the early 17th century it’s said to get it’s name from one of its regular customers at the time, a blacksmith who lived across the road, though I decided against walking down just to get a photo of it.
Apart from being passed by an occasional car and a couple of cyclists the road was deserted so rather than walk on the rough ground which passed as a pavement I was able to walk on the tarmac for most of the way. Eventually I came to a piece of ‘roadside art’ set in the angle of two stone walls close to a farm; I featured it in a post a couple of years ago though I’ve never been able to find out what it is or what it’s supposed to signify, but the central design is the same shape as those featured on various outer walls of Smithills Hall so as the land is part of Smithills Estate I assume it has a connection to that.
A distance along the road was a barn which had been converted into a house back in the 1960s and behind it was a hamlet of half a dozen modern cottages in a quiet little cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel track. Set back off the track and alongside one of the stone walls was a border with several brightly coloured tulips and other flowers so I couldn’t resist stopping for a few photos before continuing along the road.
Beyond the hamlet the road bent sharply left and then right, also going down and uphill, and in the dip the upper reaches of Dean Brook ran through a tunnel under the road. The tunnel is known as the Cigarette Tunnel and at one time the only way to get to it was by a rather dangerous scramble down the very steep bank from the road or by a rough walk upstream from Barrow Bridge, however after the bank was recently shored up at each end of the tunnel there’s now a rough gravel path leading down to it.
At the top of the incline were the cottages of Old Colliers Row, built up off the road and separated from it by a high stone wall. Further along several horses grazed peacefully in a field and beyond the field gate were the cottages of New Colliers Row and some more colourful tulips set alongside the corner wall of one of the cottage gardens.
Continuing straight along the road would eventually take me back close to home but I wanted to make the walk a circular one so I turned down the lane opposite the Colliers Row cottages. This took me back to Barrow Bridge village and after taking a couple of shots of yet more flowers and some of the cottages across the brook my walk ended where it began at the beginning of the village.
Of course that wasn’t really the end of the walk, I still had to get back home from Barrow Bridge, but for the purposes of this post I’m not counting that bit. With yet another day of lovely sunshine the circular walk had been very enjoyable and will no doubt be one which I’ll repeat in future months and years – and it’s also given me an idea for a future post on here.