Having just watched The Hobbit and with Tolkien already a bit hit in our house, we decided to spend a Sunday afternoon hiking the Tolkien Trail in Lancashire. Apparently he used to regularly stay in the Ribble Valley and the beautiful surroundings here inspired him to write Lord of the Rings.
Our starting point was a little village called Hurst Green. Son zoned in on the ice-cream shop and was not prepared to risk it still being open when we got back. One chocolate scoop later and we were ready to set off, just a climb over a stile and we were in the countryside proper. Mud was in plentiful supply on this hike – staying clean was not an option.
It was peaceful, quiet and so lovely – sheep and lambs everywhere and not another human in sight.
The landscape of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is taken from this corner of the Ribble Valley. We found murky ponds, atmospheric nooks and crannies and lots of misty, green Lancashire countryside. This could so easily have been Middle Earth with Son masquerading as a Hobbit.
We hiked through a couple of fields and an area of woodland then came upon the impressive Stonyhurst College. It has spires, turrets and is a breath-taking real-life Hogwarts. Oliver Cromwell spent the night here in 1648 and called it “the best house he had ever seen.” It was given to Jesuit priests in 1794, became a boarding school for Roman Catholic boys and by the end of the 1800’s was one of the foremost public schools in the country.
Tolkien was a regular visitor here in the 1940’s when he came to visit his son John, studying to be a priest at the Jesuit seminary. He spent much of his time here walking and writing.
At the end of Hacking Wood we climbed down to the River Hodder, crossed a wooden bridge and skimmed stones in the water.
Our hike took us along the banks of the wide, rippling and very fast flowing River Ribble. When we came to Devil’s Bridge we stopped and had an alfresco lunch. The bridge is intriguing, apparently Cromwell removed the sides but left the 3 arches, no idea why!
Lots of sheep, lots of mud and three hours later we arrived back at our starting point.
Son was muddy beyond belief, but we loved this area. A quiet, brooding landscape with babbling brooks, rolling hills, green countryside and mysterious woodland – not hard to see why Tolkien found it so inspirational.