Bleasdale
Next weekend sees the great celebration of history and culture with Heritage Open Days which were first set up in England in 1994. As well as events in established attractions such as museums, parks and halls there are also opportunities to see places of interest which are not open to the public at other times of the year. Interested readers should refer to www.heritageopendays.org.uk for useful information about events in the North West of England.
Earlier this year Lancashire Dotcom Walkers went to Bleasdale the small village tucked between Beacon Fell and the high hills of Bowland. Here local historian Jean Fone conducted us on a guided walk highlighting that area’s fascinating history. On Saturday 9th September Jean will be leading two tours at 10.00am and 1.30pm as part of the Heritage weekend programme. These will follow in the footsteps of people who lived, worked and served in Bleasdale during World War 1. Jean’s guided walk “Bleasdale Remembers” starts at Bleasdale Parish Hall, Bleasdale, nr Garstang, Lancashire, PR3 1UY on Saturday 9th September at 10.00am or 1.30pm
Tel: 01995 602125 to book a place.
For readers unable to go at that time I have described a short walk below which reveals something of Bleasdale’s long and remarkable history.

Start/finish: Bleasdale Village Hall. Distance: 4 miles 6k
 

Time: 2 - 3hours

Grade: Easy
 

Map: OS OL41 The Forest of Bowland

 

Map by kind permission of Johnston Press 

Directions: From the village hall turn left, pass the village school (Built in 1850)

 

and turn right onto an estate road leading through pastureland. After ½ mile the road dips into woodland to cross the infant River Brock. Here to the right look for what is marked on the map as an ancient packhorse bridge.

 

A further half mile will bring you to a junction at Brooks Barn. This is close to Bleasdale Tower a 19th century residence built by William Garnett. Garnett was a leading campaigner in the reformatory school movement. Until the 1850s young offenders (termed "juvenile delinquents") were imprisoned with adults in a system that was open to all sorts of abuse. Following an act of Parliament in 1854 children under the age of 16 could be sent to Reform Schools to be taught basic and life skills under a strict regime in the expectation they would be "reformed" from criminal ways. Garnett set up the North Lancashire Reformatory the building of which can be seen at Clough Head Cottages on the next part of the route. Turn right at Brooks Barn and come to the cottages in a little over 100yds.

 

Between 1857 and 1905 it is estimated over 2000 boys passed through the gates of this complex. For many it must have been an almost surreal experience - the rural tranquillity of Bleasdale in stark contrast to the mean streets of Preston, Blackburn and Liverpool. Further along the track as you enter woodland a substantial stone bridge crosses Clough Heads Brook - a substantial stone bridge built by… you've guessed - the inmates of the Reformatory.

 

This was an early project directed by the Governor of the school - Grant King. (1820-1880). Today it probably wouldn't be allowed on health and safety grounds yet the structure stands as a legacy to Victorian drive, determination and ambition.

The route exits the wood and crosses farmland to Hazelhurst. Keep ahead at the farm and follow the route as it turns right

 

to another farmstead at Holme House. Cross its yards to leave the farm on a rough track that after fording a stream bears right. At the next junction of paths keep ahead soon to pick up a track that will take you past the entrance of Admarsh Barn Farm on the right. ¼ mile further on the way reaches Vicarage Farm. Here take a permissive path on the left leading to Bleasdale Circle. After negotiating two marshy fields the path enters an enclosed stand of conifers. In the middle a circle of low concrete posts marks the position of a timber circle in what has been identified as a Bronze Age "urnfield" in use 700BC.

 

Without historical records many aspects of how and why these structures were built remain a mystery. We do know however that they attest to a sophisticated understanding of the movement of the sun and the moon.

Return to the main track turn left and soon arrive at St Eadmer's Church.

 

As far as it is known this is the only church in the world dedicated to the Saxon saint. To the left of the path leading to the church building Grant King's memorial can be seen.

 

The village hall is a little way beyond the church.

Note for readers following the above route: Bleasdale is part of a private estate and normally there is no public access by car unless you are joining Jean's walk. The estate office recommends readers park on Delph Lane Quarry car park (PR3 1UP) 1.3 miles from Brooks Barn. The route described follows public rights of way.