Nestling on a limestone rise above the River Ribble, the tiny hamlet of Mitton was described by Victorian travel writer,William Howitt, as "one of the most perfect nooks of the world. One of the places that stand as they stood ages ago". To this day, the appearance of the picturesque village of Mitton has hardly changed. At its heart is All Hallows, one of England’s finest medieval churches. This 13th century place of worship features the Shireburn Chapel, with its family effigies sculpted by William Stanton. Recently renovated, its rustic charms have now been beautifully restored and can be seen at their best on one of the church tours which include a climb to the roof via the tower! From this magnificent viewpoint, the River Ribble’s plains stretch out to Pendle Hill and Kemple End... a view guaranteed to make every Lancastrian’s heart swell with pride.
The stunning landscape around Stonyhurst is even more of an attraction since the discovery that it may have provided the inspiration for “Middle Earth” in Lord of the Rings, the epic trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien who regularly stayed with his wife and children at a guest house in the grounds belonging to Stonyhurst College. This Jesuit college, one of England’s finest boarding and day schools, was transferred from St Omer 200 years ago to avoid persecution in France. As well as its Tolkien ‘connection’, famous former pupils include Arthur Conan Doyle. Oliver Cromwell is also known to have stayed there. www.stonyhurst.ac.uk
For touring drivers, every twist and turn in the local roads and lanes, every peak climbed, reveals a new and spectacular view. But the real treats are reserved for walkers and cyclists for whom the Ribble Valley remains unspoilt, its network of footpaths and bridalways criss-crossing the countryside to link villages, amazing scenery and an ever-changing habitat for many of Britain’s rare species of birds and wildlife. A recent addition to the more established list of footpaths is the 9km “Tolkien Trail” taking in the village of Hurst Green and passing through landscapes believed to have inspired the “Middle Earth” map.
The Lancashire Cycleway consists of north and south circular routes which meet at the historic town of Whalley. Designed to use minor roads, they’re well signposted and accessible from several rail stations. For further information about listed walks, guide books, survey maps and other outdoor pursuits, contact T.I.C. on 01200 425566 or alternatively, take a look at www.visitlancashire.com.