Last Sunday I was returning from a trip to York and stopped for a picnic on a cul-de-sac turn off to the village of Nun Monkton off the A59 road.
It took me only an hour to get home to East Lancashire. What an unspoiled place this is and I enjoyed a lovely winters stroll.
I started from the Alice Hawthorn pub. Until 1900 the pub was called the Blue Bell. The name was then changed to celebrate the feats of a local racehorse of the 1840s.
The mare won her first race in 1841 and went on to win 50.5 races from 69 starts. The 0.5 relates to a deal heat. The horse went on to stud and produced Thornaby which won the Derby in 1860.
From the pub turn left through the village and keep the Maypole on the left and the pond on the right. Continue along the road through the village.
Look out for a sharp right turn along a wide track. Pass the school and there is a pond and houses to the left and the playing fields to the right.
Turn right across the playing fields and follow the wide track between houses and a large pond.
Continue passing the village green to reach a cattle grid and a metal stile and a gate.
Pass through the gate close to the Priory Lodge.
Continue along a pretty avenue of trees and then reach the parish church of St Mary’s which was formerly the religious focus of a Benedictine nunnery.
This was built in 1153 and is hailed by experts as one of the best examples of Norman architecture to be found anywhere in England.
It seems that the ladies led a quiet life except when Prioress Margaret Fairfax was in charge from 1394 to 1404.
At that time the nuns wore jewellery, dipped their fingers into the coffers and were “fond” of the young lads in the village!
In 1536 Henry VIII dissolved the priory and all of the buildings except one was demolished. The exception was the church which became the parish church. Return to the priory church and pass the complex of the privately owned Priory Hall complex built from the remnants of the abbey masonry.
There is Nun Monkton hall which dates to around 1690 and has a lovely porchway supported by Tuscan columns.
Look for a clearly marked footpath to the left. Follow the permissive path along a grassy track to reach the cofluence of the River Nidd away to the left with the Ouse straight ahead.
There are still a few little boats here and there and a reminder of the days when there was a rowboat ferry.
At the time of the Nunnery the tolls paid to cross the river went into the coffers of the Priory.
From the river “crossings” retrace your steps, pass the Priory Hall Complex and the Priory Lodge. Pass through the metal gate and “gallop” back to the Alice Hawthorn.
Suggestions East Lancs ‘strollers’ We have several pubs named after racehorses.
There is the Fanny Grey, near Barnoldswick, and the Kettledrum at Cliviger.
This horse won the Derby in 1861 and betting proceeds built the church at Dunsop Bridge.
There are plenty of old ferry crossings locally. The Aspinall Arms at Mitton was once a ferryman’s cottage and we have Hacking Boat near Whalley and the Dinckly Ferry was also important.