After most of the month being cloudy and grey with a fair bit of rain we had a few days of sunshine last week so on one of the days I took Snowy and Poppie on the first really good walk of the year. At first I was reluctant to take the camera as it’s a walk I’ve done many times before and featured on here more than once but the day was too nice not to take it.
A short 7-minute drive from home took me to the Last Drop Village and leaving the van in the rear car park I set off across the adjacent fields, with the moorland of Winter Hill in the distance ahead of me. I expected a lot of the ground to be wet and muddy but a few recent very frosty nights and cold days made sure most of it was frozen and dry. The track at the far side of the fields took me through an area of scrubland to the traffic-free lane bypassing the old quarry; at one time I enjoyed wandering round the quarry and would often see rabbits scampering about in the sunshine but now it’s really overgrown and has an oppressive feel to it. Even the once pretty little pond on the top level is so overgrown and choked with weed that the one photo I took was immediately deleted.
At the end of the lane I turned right along the path running between farmland and the fenced-off forested rear edge of the quarry; if I was going to encounter any wet and muddy patches that’s where I would find them as the narrow drainage ditch running between the path and the fields often overflows in wet weather but again everything was dry. A left turn at the end of the path took me up the side of the first field to the gate onto the golf course and not far along the track I was rewarded with the sight of a small clump of early flowering bright yellow gorse, while further along the iced-over pond looked like it needed some work to clear all the overgrown reeds.
Just past the pond three golfers pushed their trolleys up a track on the left to the green at the top of the slope and out of sight on my right the sound of a small tractor indicated that some work was being undertaken somewhere. Following the track downhill I eventually came to the fence and gate separating the golf course from open grazing land and I was just about to open the gate when my eye was caught by a movement a distance ahead. Two deer were running across the field but before I could even lift up the camera they had disappeared into the trees at the far side.
Across the fields a second gate and a cattle grid took me over a small brook to the lane leading across the castellated railway bridge to the grounds of Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line; James Kay, who owned the tower and it’s grounds at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and while the second bridge is just a normal footbridge this one incorporates a viewing tower.
At the far side of the bridge a path took me through the nearby woods where I wandered along to the formal garden and lawn then round to the front of the building. Back on the lane it was just a couple of hundred yards to the main road then almost a mile-and-a-half of road walking to get back to the Last Drop Village.
Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family who once lived at Turton Tower. In 1930 William Carr, a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally, bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but over the years the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm and its land were sold.
The new owner, Carlton Walker, was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal Mr Walker’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and it’s also a very popular wedding venue.
With the sunshine just taking the edge off the coldness of the day and the bonus of seeing the deer running through the fields it had been a very enjoyable walk, now it was time to head for home and an appointment with a mug of coffee.