Cuerden ramblers worried ancient woodland walk will become a dead-end

Concerns have been raised over the future of a popular walk around Cuerden Valley Park, after it was revealed a historic path could be closed off over safety concerns.

By Catherine Musgrove
Friday, 16th April 2021, 3:45 pm

Park officials have been told that Cinder Path, which runs south from the A49 entrance of the park to Cuerden Hall Drive, could be closed off because a "dangerously weak" bridge has been identified on the drive to the hall, by surveyors of new hall owner Colin Shenton.

For decades, walkers have exited from Cinder Path onto the drive, and had the option of turning left to walk through Hall grounds, or right, down the drive onto Shady Lane.

Recently, Mr Shenton has erected metal barriers preventing people from walking through the private hall grounds, meaning the only exit is along the drive - which he also owns - and onto Shady Lane.

John Tracey and Molly walking on the cinder path

Simon Thorpe, general manager of Cuerden Valley Park said: "We have met with Mr Shenton and we understand that closure of the Cuerden Hall drive is needed because of a dangerously weak bridge.

"This may mean closure of the Cinder Path as a result, at least while repairs to the bridge are carried out."

Local rumours that they path could be re-routed through woodland to Shady Lane, avoiding the privately-owned drive have been denied by Mr Thorpe.

But locals and ramblers say are worried that any closed access on to Cuerden Hall drive - temporary or permanent - would make Cinder Path a dead-end and remove the Northern Loop walk around Cuerden Valley Park.

Part of the dangerous tunnel has been boarded up, possibly for roosting bats

Marian Owen of Chorley Ramblers said she is "horrified" by the threat of the loss of access to all paths crossing Cuerden Hall land.

She said: "We will no longer have a northern loop around Cuerden Park which was much loved and well used by the walking public and Rambling Groups.

"The closure of the three paths in the vicinity of the Hall earlier this year and the threatened closure of the Cuerden Hall access road to Shady Lane will mean that walkers have lost all their options to walk the northern loop."

The Cinder Path is an ancient track, possibly dating back to Roman times, with the walled section constructed in the 19th century by the landowner Robert Townley Parker, apparently to prevent path users looking into the estate.

The cinder path in Cuerden Valley Park

By 1978 the wider estate had been developed into Cuerden Valley Trust, n 1985 Cuerden Hall and a parcel of land around the Hall was sold to Sue Ryder for £1, and recently, Mr Shenton bought the hall to renovate into a private home. The issue of public rights of way was not addressed and so the Cinder Path has no protection.

>>>Click here to read more about the plans for Cuerden Hall

To remedy the matter, local ramblers are keen to include Cinder Path as a 'lost way' under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 Definative Map, but this must be done by 2026.

To prove a 'lost way', either historical mapping evidence, or evidence of use for more than 20 years must be established.

Ms Owen said: "We should be able to successfully prove evidence of use by walkers for more than 20 years of these paths around the northern end of Cuerden Valley including use of

the Cinder path and the Cuerden Hall access road but having historical mapping evidence would be very useful."

The Shenton Group has been contacted for a comment.