GLW2006 : Our Heversham Trail

Tuesday 30th June 2020

A recent attempt at a Great Little Walk from Heversham failed.  I had wanted to follow the old railway track towards Arnside, something I was sure I had done before. However the route down to the track was blocked with no evidence that there were public access rights.

In frustration we gave up.  Later, sat at the comfort of my desk, I could see that I was both right and wrong.  I had walked it back on BB1237 but when BOOTboys tried again on BB1515 we had found it blocked.  

I was also right that there exists the Hincaster Trailway Group, local people dedicated to opening up sections of the old track for the community.  Slightly confusing, they have produced a leaflet called The Heversham Trail that provides details of a walk around the area but it doesn't follow the Trailway other than crossing it twice.  Today we would use that as the basis for this Great Little Walk, Our Heversham Trail.

As the Dallam School is in Corvid-19 lockdown, its Heversham car park was empty so we took advantage of it then started walking south out of the village.  Shortly after joining the A6 we turned into a meadow that led to a bridge over the railway and to the drive of a mighty fine building, Horncop House.  

This had been the home of J F Curwen who in 1930 published "The Ancient Parish of Heversham with Milnthorpe including the hamlets of Leasgill, Ackenthwaite and Rowell."  This is described as "very much a seminal work on the history of Heversham and the surrounding area. Subsequent publications on Heversham often draw heavily from this source."  That explains something which will become clearer later.

Across the fields we could see St Anthony's Tower, built by Henry Smithies to commemorate the passing of the 1832 Reform Bill.  Apparently it was used by Dad's Army as an observation post in the Second World Way.  Sadly there is no public access, so we followed Haverflatts Lane round to Woodhouse then Greenside.

Our target was Heversham Head which we approached from the east, via a path on the edge of the woods then across fields.  

At the summit is a trig point but a little lower down is the Diarama, the interesting structure built to commemorate the Millenium.  

Three of the four sides of its pyramidic top artistically depict the local views whilst round its circular plinth the outline of the distant landmarks are engraved.

Close by was a welcome seat to enjoy a coffee and the vista, provided of course that bare hands did not touch the woodwork nor boots touch the large pile of cow plop unkindly positioned.

Lower down, we passed the Old Grammar School, which I was looking forward to seeing.   I remembered it from years ago as a derelict building but had heard that it had been purchased and converted to a dwelling.

Unfortunately it has also been surrounded by high walls and dense vegetation so there is nothing to be seen legitimately of what has been done.  

My attempts on the internet to find recent information about the building proved almost fruitless, merely the above photo taken many years ago.  

However, I did find Roger Bingham's extensive account of the History of Heversham, some of which bears a strong resemblance to the Curwen publication mentioned earlier so I presume that was his primary source.  Given the village in which we live, there was one item in particular that caught my eye.  

1380: William de Chamber of Milnthorpe in Heversham sues William Hodggeson of Nateland and others for 100 shillings of debt

We emerged onto the lane that drops down to St Peter's rather fine church.  

The Trail guide claims this 12th Century building to be one of the oldest churches in Westmorland whilst the Heversham website goes one further and reckons it to be THE oldest recorded church in Westmorland.  The Church History page makes interesting reading.  

Unfortunately, in the present C-19 lockdown, the Church is not open to visitors so we turned south back along the old A6 back to the school and the car.

This time we had succeeded in creating a Great Little Walk, one that I can see us repeating one day, perhaps to watch from the Diarama the sunset on a late summer evening before retiring to a local hostelry to celebrate its re-opening. That would be nice.

Don, Tuesday 30th June 2020



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