'It is written on a wall in Rome that Ribchester was as rich as any town in Christendom', goes the saying, but on which wall and by whom, we will never know. Ribchester was established as a cavalry fort in AD72 and presided over converging roads from Chester, York and Carlisle beside the River Ribble. Originally of turf and timber, it was shortly rebuilt in stone and a lively civilian settlement developed alongside to support it.
St Wilfrid's Church
Although the fort was abandoned after the end of Roman rule, it appears that the settlement continued, since St Wilfrid's Church stands close to the principia or main administrative and religious centre of the fort. Although the present building dates only from the 13th century, the church is thought to have been founded 600 years earlier under St Wilfrid on what was then already a Christian site. Inside is a remnant of medieval wall painting depicting St Christopher, while beneath the floor are buried victims of the Black Death, which ravaged the village in 1348.
Modern Ribchester extends over the fort, but excavated parts of the granaries and bath house survive near the church and behind The White Bull. Indeed, the four columns supporting the pub's porch are said to be from the fort and many of the cottages no doubt incorporate its stone. The most significant artefacts were discovered in 1796; a hoard of military regalia thought to have been stored in a box beneath a barrack room. The most prized piece was a bronze helmet worn for ceremonial displays.
During the 17th and 18th centuries many families were engaged in hand-loom weaving and period cottages have wide windows to admit light to the ground-floor loom rooms. Initially producing linen, they moved on to cotton before the home industry died when two mills were established in the village.
Tiny hamlet of Stydd
The walk returns through the tiny hamlet of Stydd, where St Saviour's Church survives from a 13th-century hospice run by the Knights Hospitaller. Nearby is the Roman Catholic church of St Peter and St Paul, a 'barn church' built in 1789 at a time when public Catholic churches were still illegal. Originally smaller, it was constructed as part of a farm complex to look like a barn and thus disguise its true purpose.
Turn left from the car park and then right along Church Street past The White Bull. At the river, the Roman bath house is signed left if you want to visit it. Otherwise, bend right then turn left past the museum to the church. Through a gate at the far side of the churchyard, go right to a junction and turn left (not sharp left) along a lane.
Reaching a left bend, leave right over a stile. Follow the left perimeter, continuing beyond the corner towards trees. There, bear right down to a stile and footbridge. Climb by the right boundary, slipping into the adjacent field at the top to walk on by the left hedge. Exit through a farmyard to a lane.
Follow the drive opposite. Reaching a junction at the top, go ahead through a couple of gates before swinging left at the field edge. Over a footbridge behind Ashmoor House, bear half right to the far corner. Keep ahead in the next field, passing left of an oak to a dilapidated gate halfway along the opposite boundary. Walk across to another gate and continue by the left fence. Go through another gate, ignore the track right and instead bear half right, descending to a footbridge. Climb right and carry on towards a house. Leave to its right and follow a track away.
Approaching Kellets Farm, turn right onto a farm track. Beyond a redundant stile, bear right to a stile in the top boundary. Strike across the next field and continue by the left hedge. Through a gap in the corner, swing right and keep ahead across a final field to emerge opposite cottages.
Walk right past Cox Farm, then abandon the lane to climb over a stile on the left. Head out, dipping across a stream and over a second rise to cross Stydd Brook. Bear left up the bank, passing a pair of oaks to a distant stile. Carry on across two more fields to a track and go right towards Duddel Hill Farm.
Keep ahead past cottages to a gate and walk on, staying right of barns. Continue over the hill, dropping to a gate at the end of a short wall. Walk on to a footbridge at the far-right corner. Carry on by the right hedge, later crossing onto its other flank. Reaching Stydd Manor Farm, leave the field by a gate to the right of barns.
Walk through the yard and away on a track. Meeting the main road, turn right past the Ribchester Arms. Bear left along Greenside, going left again at the end to The White Bull. Turn sharp right and then left back to the car park.
Field paths and some lanes, 25 stiles
Rolling river valley, pastures and woodland
Dogs on leads near livestock
OS Explorer OL41 Map of Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale or 287 Map of West Pennine Moors
Pope Croft car park off Church Street in village (pay and display)
Beside Pope Croft car park
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Lancashire was at the centre of the British cotton industry in the 19th century, which lead to the urbanization of great tracts of the area. The cotton boom came and went, but the industrial profile remains. Lancashire’s resorts, Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe Bay, were originally developed to meet the leisure needs of the cotton mill town workers. Blackpool is the biggest and brashest, celebrated for it tower, miles of promenade, and the coloured light ‘illuminations’. Amusements are taken very seriously here, day and night, and visitors can be entertained in a thousand different ways.
The former county town, Lancaster, boasts one of the younger English universities, dating from 1964. Other towns built up to accommodate the mill-workers with back-to-back terraced houses, are Burnley, Blackburn, Rochdale and Accrington. To get out of town, you can head for the Pennines, the ‘backbone of England’, a series of hills stretching from the Peak District National Park to the Scottish borders. To the north of the country is the Forest of Bowland, which despite its name is fairly open country, high up, with great views.