Tockholes ~ 12-11-2017 ~ Leader Derek

Tockholes ~ 12-11-2017 ~ Leader Derek

A select group of ten RRs met up at Roddlesworth Visitor Centre, Tockholes for the Sunday walk. Our numbers were supplemented by Alison, from Blackburn Ramblers ~ hope you enjoyed the day. The weather was stunning with bright blue skies, but it was a tad chilly. After the traditional group photograph we walked down to the higher of the two Roddlesworth Reservoirs. Despite four attempts, it was not possible to get a photo with everybody paying attention ~ no further comment necessary!

Roddlesworth valley is approximately 4 miles long, wooded throughout and is the largest area of mainly deciduous woodland in Lancashire. Its name originated from a Saxon called Hrodwulf, with the ‘worth’ bit [meaning property] added. Higher Roddlesworth reservoir was constructed by Liverpool Corporation around 1850; it is the last in the chain of three picturesque reservoirs stretching down the valley as far as Abbey Village. They cover a total area of just over 56 acres and hold in excess of 350 million gallons of water, which is fed into Anglezarke reservoir, Rivington by a canal 3.5 miles long and 21 feet wide.

As we climbed out of the valley, we reached Higher Hill Farm., which is a Grade 2 listed farmhouse that was built in the 17th century. The principal external feature of interest is a complete garderobe, which is a historic term for a room in a medieval castle. The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first meaning a store-room for valuables, but also acknowledges “by extension, a private room, a bed-chamber; also a privy”. It’s most common use now is as a term for a castle toilet ~ a simple hole discharging to the outside into a cesspit or the moat. Given the position of Higher Hill Farm overlooking the open moors, using the garderobe must have been a draughty experience! Following the short history lesson given by ‘Big Mac’, we journeyed on to Tockholes, and St Stephen’s Church. The word ‘Tockholes’ is either Saxon [Old English] or Viking [Old Norse]. The ‘Tock’ part is a personal name, either Tocca or Toki. The ‘holes’ part comes from ‘hol’, which means a hole, or hollow. The first church in this parish is thought to date from 640AD. There have been three known churches on the present site with the current church having been built in 1965. Although the present church is modern, it retains the porch from the original building and also the lych gate which is of similar design. The lych gate features the date 1906, and on its reverse side is carved the name of the vicar A.T Corfield. On the lane just outside the churchyard, is a roadside well. The well is unusual in that it has a Norman archway over it, taken from a local manor house. The plaque on the well reads ‘The Norman arch above this well was removed from Gerstane Hall Tockholes, and placed here in 1910 by the Revd. A.T. Corfield Vicar’. Gerstane is another name for Garstang Hall, now demolished. It used to stand in the Ryal Fold area of Tockholes near the Royal Arms Hotel.

Elevenses were taken just before we dropped down to Sheep Bridge, near Higher Whitehalgh ~ see photo. Before we partook of any refreshments we held two minutes silence.

Following our short break in the weak wintry sunshine, we headed off to Cherry Tree, and the Leeds to Liverpool Canal ~ ‘Big Mac’ could hardly contain himself! A primary feature of this walk was the disused Cherry Tree Railway Line, and within half a mile we came across the first evidence of it, the remains of a bridge. In 1863 a Railway company calling itself the ‘Lancashire Union Railway’ was formed due to the needs of Colliery owners in the Wigan area wanting to reduce the price of coal in the East Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Accrington and beyond. It was thought that the line would reduce the price of coal by a shilling a ton, saving the mills of Blackburn £20,000 a year. This was at least the ‘spin’ used to get approval from Parliament ~ in actual fact they were rather miffed at us Yorkshire lads exporting our coal to Lancashire via the pre-existing transport links. Although it was built for goods transportation, between the existing stations at Chorley and Cherry Tree, four stations were erected at Heapey, Brinscall, Withnell and Feniscowles. On 4 January 1960 the line was closed to passengers. Goods continued to use the line though with less frequency, and it finally closed to through traffic on 3 January 1966. A small section remained between Cherry Tree and Feniscowles until 1968 and at the Chorley end a section remained as a ‘long siding’ as late as 1982.

Lunch was taken just as we left the canal, on the path up to Stanworth Farm. By the side of the canal was a tower which was adorned by some bats costing, so I was informed, £20,000 to erect ~ apparently the tower is home to some rare bats, and is the last remaining feature of a local paper mill.

It is perhaps best that I remain silent about the rest of the walk and let the photos tell the story ~ suffice to say that it was rather muddy!

On returning to our cars, our intended visit to ‘Vaughn’s Country Café’ did not work out, and we were forced to take refuge in the Royal Arms Hotel, which was originally built around 1860 as mill workers’ houses, hence the small rooms that we struggled to fit into. The detached pair was converted into a pub by 1871. The pub sign shows a coat of arms featuring three hearts and a hand holding a laurel wreath, underneath which is an inscription ‘Serva Fidem’, which means ‘keep the faith’. Perhaps appropriate under the circumstances!

For those interested in the statistics, then according to me we walked at total of 10.8 ‘Garmin’ miles, with 322 metres of ascent.

(Report and photographs by Derek)

 Slideshow below, but if you wish to see a static view of the pics all in one go, then click here.


  1. Thank you Derek for a varied walk. It was lovely to be out in the sunshine. It took some time to clean my boots after the muddy section! Good write up & photos.

  2. Nice pictures, Derek – I can see what you mean about the mud. Fulsome write up also.

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