I'm told that Tolkein was so inspired by the misty landscape of the Ribble Valley that it formed the basis of Middle-earth in the Lord of the Rings. We've been planning to walk the Tolkein Trail, which takes in Hurst Green, the banks of the Ribble and Hodder, and the impressive Stoneyhurst College, since Ciara posted a comment on the blog recommending a trip. Yesterday afternoon seemed like a good time to pay a vist.
Our walk began in Hurst Green and, following the path past the Shireburn Arms, we made our way through the muddy fields to the banks of the Ribble. The route from there was simple enough, following the river for a few miles next to open farmland and passing a few isolated farms and barns. As the river was high, and crops were growing in the fields, the dog was on the lead throughout, but he didn't seem to care.
Eventually we hit the road, near to Mitton and Cromwell's Bridge, and continued alongside the banks of the Hodder, getting a little soggy in the passing showers. After a mile or so we reached a small footbridge crossing a stream, at which point our trusty guidebook helpfully told us to take the long flight of wooden steps leading up through the woods. This we did, with the dog leaping two steps at a time, before the path became narrower and narrower, with overgrown vegetation making our path increasingly difficult. Undeterred, and trusting our guide, we continued onwards until the dog agreed that we could go no further. Looking around, we spotted several other wooden flights of steps, heading in different directions, and equally overgrown. The dog selected one at random and I was happy to follow, hoping to find our way to civilisation. The dog was clearly enjoying this game of snakes and ladders, but I was ecstatic to finally reach the footbridge where we'd begun our aimless wanderings a good half our beforehand. Disappointingly, we didn't spot any hobbits en-route.
Following a different path, we soon reached another flight of steps which fortunately led us back to civilisation and onwards to Stoneyhurst College and to our start. Hot, moddy, wet and tired (for once, me not the dog) just about summed it up.
Overall, perhaps not the best walk for large dogs, given the 10+ stiles we crossed, but a good walk all the same and one we'll repeat. Thanks Ciara and I hope your new addition has settled in well!
If you want a slightly shorter version of our walk, which misses out the woods of Middle-earth, have a look at the BBC Lancashire site
Doggy rating 7/10