From soap to Sunlight and the lost treasure of a Lord's global empire

Your weekend walk with Bob Clare of

Friday, 13th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Whenever Lady Lever wanted some peace and quiet she would retire to the Pigeon Tower on the edge of the moors and take out her sewing bag. The Pigeon Tower was just one feature of the terraced gardens designed by Thomas Mawson for Lady Lever’s husband William Lever (Later Lord Leverhume). At the start of the 20th century he had built a commercial global empire based on soap that still trades today as the multinational company Unilever.

Leverhulme’s passion for design and architecture brought him into contact with many of the leading architects of his day who he employed on his projects - most notably at Port Sunlight the industrial village on the banks of the Mersey built to house his workers and their families.

Given his prominence in public life, his enduring commercial legacy and the fact that when he died in 1925 he was one of the wealthiest men in the world it seems odd that his property at Rivington should have fallen into disrepair.

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By the end of World War 2 nature had taken over and the site was completely overgrown. In the 1970s the landowners United Utilities with the help of conservation groups began work to restore Rivington Terrace Gardens and these efforts quickly revealed what a lost treasure it was. Now the work is being carried forward with renewed impetus by the Rivington Heritage Trust. This year visitors have the opportunity to see the interior of the Pigeon Tower on special open days (see for details). The walk below is an easy circuit with an option to detour into the terraced gardens. To my mind they are one of the best attractions in Great Britain.

Walk Facts

Start: Rivington Great House Barn BL6 7SB.

Confusingly there are two Rivington Barns - Rivington Hall Barn which is set well away from the road to the east of Rivington Lane and the Great House Barn which is on Rivington Lane. I mention this to alert walking group leaders arranging a meeting point.

Distance: 5.5miles

Time: 2 ½ -3 ½ hours

Grade: Mainly easy – with two short climbs

Maps: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors


From the car park behind the barn, tea room and information centre take a track into woodland passing the Go Ape office/hut and soon after branching right on a course parallel to Rivington Lower Reservoir. This will take you to Horrobin Lane close to the primary school. Turn left and cross the causeway separating the Lower and Upper Reservoirs. But for this feature - necessary to ensure there was convenient access from Chorley to the village - there would be just one reservoir. At the far end in front of Horrobin Cottage turn right onto a service road (Horrobin Cottage was built as a waterman’s residence - note the symbol of the Liver Bird on the chimney breast).

Keep on the road as it passes a drive to a house on the left and crosses an overflow channel to bring you in another half mile to Knowles Lane. Turn right onto the causeway dividing Anglezarke Reservoir from Upper Rivington Reservoir. At the end keep ahead on a footpath to climb alongside the giant’s staircase that is an overflow from the Yarrow Reservoir. The path climbs up to the embankment below the reservoir. Here turn right on a broad path that gently descends a junction of tracks in 600yds. Turn left and soon after turn right on a footpath through a kissing gate that initially runs alongside a small stream. Follow this to a flight of steps and ascend to cross a pasture to reach Rivington village.

Pass the green complete with stocks to join Rivington Lane and then branch left onto a broad avenue leading to Rivington Hall Barn (a right turn here will take you back to the House Barn if time is running short). As you reach the car park pass to the left of the barn and then keep ahead to a wooden gate.

Now in woodland go through the gate continue to the next junction of tracks. A left will take you to the Terraced Gardens and is a way up to the Pigeon Tower. For the main route keep ahead for a little over 600yds on a well-made track. At a junction keep ahead for a direct route to Liverpool Castle or go left to extend. On the extended route continue to a metal gate, turn right and descend to Rivington Lane. Cross (close to a car park) and turn right at a junction of tracks. This will bring you to the replica ruin of Liverpool Castle, commissioned by Lord Leverhulme in the early part of the 20th century. Delays in its construction meant it was not finished at the time of his death.

From the castle follow the shore line path with the reservoir on your left for a little under ½ mile until you arrive at the Go Ape amenity leading you back to the start.

- Walk devised by Gill Ellard walks organiser for Preston Cecilian Choral Society