Parks are not the only big features
Some time ago I was asked if I would suggest a few heritage and health walks.
As most walks can be rich in local history, I have decided to include some of the ones I have already devised in my column.
I will describe two kinds of walks – those that take in the countryside and others of a more urban nature. The latter will be published in memory of my late friend Ken Bolton who, for many years, was a frequent speaker at a number of local groups where he got out his slides and projector and presented many humorous accounts of his walks around Burnley.
Today’s walk links a number of parks – Thursby Gardens. Thompson Park, Bank Hall Park and the Brun Valley Forest Park – but, interesting as the parks are, they are not the only places you will enjoy visiting.
The walk is about four miles, and it finishes at the Thornton Arms at Pike Hill where you may be able to get some refreshment. There is a nearby bus stop or you can walk to Burnley centre, or back to the station, by a few different routes. Make your way to Burnley Central Station where there is good parking for cars. Notice the path, formerly the route of a mineral railway. It leads around the retail park which includes the Sainsbury’s store.
The retail park is built on part of Thursby Gardens, formerly Cronkshaw Meadows. “Cronkshaw” means “the wood where the cranes nest”. The land for the Gardens, which once had tennis courts and other facilities, was given to the people of Burnley in 1906 by Sir John Thursby, the owner of Burnley’s largest collieries.
The Gardens opened in 1910 and included the site of Danes House (Dancer’s House, the home of the Folds family of Foldys Cross at Towneley Park). Nothing now remains of Danes House but the last incarnation of it had been built c1590. It stood near the stone “ginny track” bridge by the canal. The house is recalled in the name “Daneshouse”, one of the electoral wards of Burnley Council.
The canal is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which took 46 years to build.
This section, built by 1795-6, was the first to be opened in Burnley. The then terminus was at Colne Road Bridge where there was a small waterside warehouse.
Before you pass under the bridge, note the stand of silver birch trees, to your right. They mark the site of the old Hargreaves Dock (or Boat) Yard which built, and repaired, wide barges for the canal’s coal trade.
The retail park, which includes Sainsbury’s, is built on the site of the Prestige factory which has a very significant claim to fame. It opened in 1937 when it was the world’s first factory built out of the rates. In other words, with this factory, Burnley Council can claim to be the originator of modern commercial regeneration. The Colne Road frontage of the building is listed.
Walking along the route of the mineral railway you will soon come to the 24 acre Thompson Park, It was opened in 1930, the gift of James Whitham Thompson, the Burnley mill owner. The land upon which the park is constructed was originally known as Bank Hall Meadows and it was used as training facilities for the 5th Lancashire Militia whose colonel was Sir John Thursby. He was the owner of nearby Bank Hall though he preferred to live at Ormerod House in Cliviger.
Bank Hall, which stood between the park and Thursby Gardens, was originally an ancient timber house, the home of the Woodruffes, though it was rebuilt in 1780 for the Hargreaves family, who preceded the Thursbys as owners of the local coal mines. General Scarlett, who fought with distinction in the Crimean War, lived at Bank Hall, which, in its later years, became a military and maternity hospital.
Thompson Park is now famous for its boating lake and its miniature railway but there was a time when people in Burnley talked about little more than the bomb which exploded in the Ormerod Road area of the park on October 27th, 1940. No one was killed but the bomb did considerable damage to property in Ormerod Road and at Burnley College, the former buildings of which are adjacent to the park.
The park also has an Italian Garden and there are attractive rose gardens which surround the memorial to Sir James Mackenzie (1853-1925). He is known as “the beloved physician”, a pioneering cardiologist who practiced in Burnley before he went to Harley Street.
The mineral railway brings you to the Sandholme Aqueduct, which is also known as the Brun Aqueduct. The Brun is close to this site but Sand Hall is the name of a small ancient estate which stood here until the building of the canal. The aqueduct carries the canal over the former railway. Notice the flood markings and dates carved into the stones of the bridge.
You are now nearing the site of Bank Hall Colliery which was sunk in 1867. The mine itself, Burnley’s largest, opened in 1870 and remained in use until 1967. Close to the site of the mine buildings you can see a short branch of the canal. This was once known as Birley’s Dock, after John Birley, another boat builder, who carried on his business there before the mine was sunk. The branch is now used as a boat yard again and you can get some idea of what the Burnley’s boat yards looked like in the past. Near where you are is the large Karlen Antiques Centre which is well worth a visit.
You are now in Bank Hall Park, which takes its name, not from the Hall, but from the coal mine. A little of another former ginny track railway, connected with the mining of this area, can be seen here. Notice the brick pillar, right, with the remains of a rail on the top. This is all that remains of a track which led through Queen’s Park, to a point above Turf Moor where it joined a third ginny track from Rowley Colliery.
Walk along the broad path beside the Brun and follow it to the right where the route passes under Queen Victoria Road. This bridge appears on the accompanying photograph of the Bank Hall Colliery when, as a NCB mine, it was still in production, c1960. The bridge is the site of one of Burnley’s earliest textile mills which was built in the 1790s.
We will come to the mill pond for this mill in a moment, but part of its mill race for can still be found behind Heasandford House. However, opposite the road bridge, there is the Heasandford entrance to Queens Park, Burnley’s oldest public park which opened in 1893. The site was another gift of the Thursby family to the people of Burnley.
In the foreground, on the photograph, you can see the site of the massive Heasandford Quarry which supplied clay to the Heasandford Brick and Lime Co. which had brick kilns near Bank Hall and at Reedley. The quarry is now filled in and is the site of the Burnley Youth Theatre, but in the past it was famous among geologists for its easily extracted fossils of early plant life.
Follow the route, around the allotments, with the river to your right, until you come to Netherwood Road. The red brick factory is the Heasandford Mill of 1905, Burnley’s first electric-powered cotton weaving shed. To the left, the road bends towards the Villas, two large brick built semis, rare in stone-built Burnley and beyond them is Heasandford House which can be traced to the 13th Century. Though originally in Briercliffe it was the manor house for Worsthorne.
At the red brick mill, we walk to the right and, after a couple of hundred yards, what appears to be a fishing pond comes into view, left. It is, in fact the mill pond to the first Heasandford textile mill which was situated near the bridge which carries Queen Victoria Road over the Brun.
Beyond it is a small car park but we carry on until we get to the river where the Brun, on the right, is joined by the Don, the shortest river in England and the oldest river name in the district. Historically, the Swinden Water, a third river in the area, joined the Don at this confluence and then the Don joined the larger Brun, but the route of the latter has been altered so that pollution from the nearby Rowley Colliery does not get into the river system.
As you walk over the bridge near the confluence you will be able to hear a cascade of water. This is the new man-made route of the Brun as it dashes down its new water course from Rowley. Take the path to the right and you will come to a wooden bridge which takes you across Swinden Water, the boundary between Extwistle and Thursden, and leads you in the direction of Rowley.
Swinden Water was an important river in the past because its waters sustained two ancient water mills, one in monastic hands the other, initially an illegal mill, but later owned by the Parkers of Extwistle Hall for the use of their tenants.
We are in the Brun Valley Forest Park, as we have been for some time. The path heads towards Rowley, a very pleasant walk which brings us to Rowley Hall, the home of the Halsteads of Rowley. Incidentally, Rowley is pronounced “Rooley”, from the ancient spelling “Rhulie”. Nearby is the site of the Rowley Colliery and, a little beyond, is the jewel in this particular crown, Rowley Lake, a lovely place for a picnic on a sunny day.
All that remains to do, is follow the path that takes you past the lake to the Thornton Arms at Pike Hill. Otherwise, you could take Rowley Lane up a slight hill, to Brunshaw Road which shortens your walk back to Central Station or to Burnley centre.
I will give you my route back to the station very soon.