Weekend walk: Woodplumpton

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with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com

As witches go, Meg Shelton seems to have earned quite a reputation both alive and dead. Born Margery Hilton sometime in the 17th century, her encounters with the local populace were such that she became known as the Fylde Witch.

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Legend has it she possessed a broomstick and this featured in many of her exploits.

She died in 1705 and since she was baptised she was begrudgingly accorded a Christian burial in St Anne’s churchyard, Woodplumpton.

It proved to be an unquiet grave and twice she was said to have clawed her way to the surface. Finally it was decided to bury her head downwards with a boulder placed on top to ensure no further escape.

This curiosity can be seen at the start of the walk described below.

Lancashire and witches seem to go together but the stories hide an altogether darker story concerning the place of women in society before the age of reason.

Widowhood, spinsterhood and especially unmarried motherhood could be a short cut to poverty and destitution especially in rural areas where work was seasonal.

It was not uncommon for women in straitened circumstances to supplement their meagre income by developing a reputation for curing sick livestock or improving crop yields with charms and spells.

Of course it was a high risk strategy in a superstitious age and could backfire with tragic results as with the so called Pendle Witches.

It is sobering to think that in many parts of the world women lead lives little better than what was the case when Meg Shelton was alive.

WALK FACTS

Start: Woodplumpton Village Centre near The Wheatsheaf pub PR4 0NE

Distance: 5 miles circular clockwise

Time: 2 – 3 hours.

Grade: Easy, metalled and graded paths, with muddy patches on the canal towpath

Map: OS Explorer 286 Blackpool & Preston

DIRECTIONS

1.To start with cross to St Anne’s Church and locate the burial spot of Meg Shelton which is just to the left of the central path leading away from the left side of the building.

Once viewed continue down the path and turn right crossing to a squeeze stile and steps.

Follow the hedge to the right to the next stile by a gate and then still with the hedge on the right traverse the next field to a metal gate giving out onto a farm drive.

Turn left and after passing Whinney Cottage (which seems slightly more than a cottage) the drive comes to the wide yard of Whinnyfield Farm.

Through the yard turn left onto a broad track taking you out to fields. Where the track divides turn right and keep on it as it brings you to the Lancaster Canal and Whinnyfield Bridge (No.35: Note this is where you’ll return to later in the walk).

Continue on the track and then where it turns right cross a stile to enter a huge field. There is little to help you by way of feature here except to say aim for the far side on a converging course with Woodplumpton Brook to your left.

If your convergence works out well you will arrive at a footbridge across the brook.

Over this go right to reach School Lane near Catforth Hall farm. Turn right. There now follows a 1000yd stretch of road walking.

In half a mile School Lane comes to the junction with the B5269 LewthLane. Turn left.

After passing a large farm complex turn right into Eaves Lane.

2.This nook of the Fylde marked Black Pole on the OS map is home to an insulation firm. Follow Eaves Lane to the first bend and then cross a stile next to a metal gate to the right.

Keep ahead through a gateway and cross the next field to a stile in the hedge though it may be easier to go through a metal gate to its left.

In the next long field keep ahead to arrive at a stile and plank bridge combination.

After passing below pylons aim for the right hand corner to a stile next to a concrete trough.

After circumventing a huge pile of builders’ rubble continue to a stile on the right. Over this, in effect turning right, follow the hedgerow on your left to a stile overlooking a brook.

Pass through a scattered wood and follow an avenue of trees right.

As this finishes keep ahead to reach a metal gate leading onto a road. Turn right.

After 200 yards bear right to follow a grassy ramp onto the towpath of the Lancaster Canal.

Keep on the towpath until you return to Whinnyfield Bridge about a mile away.

On reaching it exit the canal crossing it towards Whinnyfield Farm retracing your outward route.

Keep on the farm drive until you reach the village.

- Walk devised and described byDotcom Walkers Steve Glover and Mike O’Callaghan.

- Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and App (see iFootpath.com).