Burnley, Lancashire – Towneley Hall and Woodland Park

by David Murray on 7 January 2010

in East Lancashire, Lancashire, Northern England, Walking

When looking through the December 2009 issue of Country Walking Magazine I was rather surprised to find Burnley, Lancashire, listed among the month’s twenty-six recommended walking routes.  Now before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this is a southerner talking out of the top of his hat about the industrial north and “dark satanic mills”, let me point out that I grew up in Burnley, went to school there, and only left on getting married and moving fifteen miles down the road to Darwen.

Towneley Hall Burnley 1909

The photograph above is copied from the 1909 official guide to Towneley Hall which, along with other publications, has been in my Burnley local history collection for many years – actually I have a 1911 reprint, not the 1909 first printing.

Having grown up in Burnley I think I can claim the right to be balanced and fair about it, without indulging in dishonest flattery.  There are some grotty parts.  I recently went back to the Burnley Wood part of the town and was seriously unimpressed with the condition of the area.  On the other hand there are some wonderful places, and Towneley Hall with its open fields and woodland park stands out among them.  So I should not really have been surprised; it’s just that it’s relatively unusual for the message to have got home to people outside the area.

I had the enormous privilege between the ages of twelve and twenty-one of living on Woodgrove Road  overlooking Towneley Holmes.  It was from this base that in my teens I learned the joy of walking in the countryside, across the valley, up and over the hill to Worsthorne and Hurstwood; along the valley to Walk Mill, Holme and  Cliviger Gorge.  Earlier this year, due to the illness and death of a close relative, I had to spend considerable time in the area and was reintroduced to exploring this wonderful landscape – wonderful, and yet so close to the legacy of 19th century industrialisation and 20th century urban sprawl.

The Country Walking route starts in front of Towneley Hall, takes you high above the town on the moors at Crown Point (where as a 10-year-old in the early 50s I was often to be found with the family Alsatian), down past Dyneley to Walk Mill and back along the valley close to the Calder to the Towneley Hall car park – or more likely the Stables Cafe.

This really is a inspired example of how people living in so many of Lancashire’s industrial towns have always been able to get out quickly into splendid countryside.  Towneley Hall itself warrants a future article of its own.

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