Sunday, 16 June 2013

A little bit of history, it makes your spine tingle!

A very comfortable stay was had in Blackburn last night, The Fernhurst Hotel/Hungry Horse. Very good room, decent food, real ale, excellent service - all at a good price, you can't knock it really, though it's a double edged coin as small bnb's can't begin to compete with that. But it was good for us, and the only accommodation in the area anyway!

          Old Speckled Hen was on the pump in The Fernhurst, so that was damn fine, and the evening meal + breakfast were both very good. Great service from 'Scouse' at the bar, full of jokes and typical Liverpudlian humour, and the lovely young lady who did reception, bar, breakfast - AND a flask of tea for old milko!! Thank you, more service with a lovely smile!

So, we left Blackburn around 9.15, lovely Ruth having slipped over again to shift our bags down to Wigan - thank you so much Ruth, you are a diamond, and also for the generous sponsorship!

Climbing the moderate hill southwards out of Blackburn, it soon got a bit steeper as we approached that world renowned village they call Tockholes, passing The Three B's Brewery, formerly The Black Bull pub
the road levels out for a while through the Northern end of the village, then a little more 'up n down', until you begin to sense that you are somewhere quite special. You start to feel a tingle as the hairs on the back of your neck bring a shudder. A distinct aroma hits you. This is it, this is the place.
As you pass the beautiful bluebell woods at the edge of Tockholes and Roddlesworth, the feeling grows ever stronger. You know without any doubt that you are somewhere very special, you don't know what it is, but the feeling is so powerful.
And then, a full and unobstructed view. Your nostrils fill with the aroma, and your gaze is drawn to the hill over yonder. Beyond the little copse is Treacle Hill.
They once said over in America a long time ago that "there's gold in them there hills!". Well, in the hills around Tockholes and Roddlesworth on Darwen Moor there is a very precious natural resource. One that is only found in one other place, The Arctic Circle.
In fact, nearby Rivington with it's wide open treacle moors up high, and the low level reservoirs, is actually twinned with a tiny place in The North Pole. The translation of the town name on the sign above is literally 'Treacle Town'.
It is said that  Albert Roddlesworth and James Tockoller used to walk the lonely fells and moors some two hundred odd years back. Keen horsemen, they always wore their riding boots as they walked around the moorland of The West Pennines on Rivington Moor and Darwen Moor. It was around 1810 that they began to find traces of something rather odd as they cleaned their boots after walking one day. It was quite black, but not wet coal, it was quite pungent but not peat. This was something new, and it was awful to try and get it off their boots. It was quite sticky.
They went out on the moors to retrace their steps as closely as they could, and they found it again, the black sticky stuff. It was on Rivington Moor, and it was in Rivington itself. It was also in Belmont, but the largest traces they found were on Darwen Moor. They started digging, and lo! they found the deeper they went, the more they found. It was very black, very sticky, and with a sweet smell.
They had found their own 'gold in them there hills', black gold, Lancashire gold.
They enlisted the help of several strong, fit men from nearby Blackburn, and dug deep into the moor. They dug down into the hills. Albert's dog Treacle was always on hand as they dug, and as the tunnels became deeper they panelled them with wood to keep the black gold from sticking to them, to their boots, and to the dog. Treacle was forever emerging into the open air, after a few hours digging, with his coat and paws covered in the stuff. Treacle was a lively little rascal, and he loved the stuff, often spending twice as long licking the black stuff off his paws as he had spent collecting it . They both agreed, this black gold should be named after the dog, and the area where it was found grew into a little village. The village was named after James Tockoller, and so started one of Lancashire's little known treasures; Tockholes Treacle.
A pub was built for the workers in the treacle mines, and in 1846 Prince Albert, the Consort to our Queen Victoria travelled North by carriage to give The Queen's seal of approval to the village and the treacle mines. The picture above shows The Royal Arms as it is today.
As we walked through this electrifying atmosphere of history and the wonerful aroma of Lancashire Black Gold it was impossible to not feel honoured, privelaged. We were surrounded by a precious resource found only here and in one other place, The North Pole.
Tockholes and it's Treacle, magnificent.

The moorland road to Belmont is lovely, the wide open spaces of The West Pennine Moors stretch before you, leading to Belmont reservoir, used mainly these days for sailing, but traces of Tockholes Treacle can still be found on the shore. Note also the dark, stickiness of the water.

Belmont village is charming, and leads to another cracking good route - over the towering Winter Hill to Rivington. Standing at over 1200 feet, the climb is steady up to the top, with Rivington Moor unfolding before you. The descent into Rivington is equally good, leading to another charming little village, also home to another reservoir. This one has far less trace of the black stuff left these days.

Two sides of the reservoir at Rivington.

Walking through Rivington and on to Grimeford, urbania is now getting closer, with the little river at Grimeford Bridge the last bit of rural I saw, before hitting the towns again.
On through Blackrod, Aspull, and into Wigan.
A very pleasant 20 mile plod, through living history.
553 miles now in total, or thereabouts.
Tomorrow I will seek the road to Wigan Pier...
Alec Hawkes, on the plod near Byeckaslike. 16.06.13

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