Tarleton To Much Hoole Lancashire
Sunday, February 9, 2020
It's Sunday 9th February 2020 and overnight Storm Ciara, an extra-tropical cyclone, has brought havoc and disruption across the British Isles. At the hotel, overnight, I have been watching the weather during my disturbed sleep to gauge whether we should abandon today's walk. However a lull in the rain at first light means myself, Dave Evans and Dave Beech are going to try to do some walking, but we are fully aware the weather is going to get worse. My thought pattern was, if we could make the Ribble River by 1300 hrs the wind would be behind us and push us up into Preston and towards the end of today's walk. Having ordered a taxi to take us to the start of our walk in Tarleton, we decide to go for it and see how we go. However within minutes our taxi is having to drive around or through huge floods across the roads and we pass several abandoned vehicles or cars in trouble beside the road. Luckily for us our taxi driver seems to be enjoying himself and is laughing hysterically as he crashes through the water like one of those mad pilots in the Vietnam film Apocalypse Now! He's certainly up for the challenge and we soon arrive in Tarleton.
The Vikings are believed to have camped on the banks of the River Douglas here and Tarleton's name is derived from the Old Norse word Tharldr and the Old English word (tun) meaning a farmstead or enclosure.
At the Bank bridge, which crosses the Douglas, the rain has started in earnest and the wind is buffeting us, but it's easy walking along the road.
At Mill Hill we turn off the road and now it's time to get dirty on the muddy riverside path. We have little shelter and the wind is getting stronger by the minute. Burying my head into my waterproof jacket hood, which has started to become less waterproof these days, we all put our heads down and head directly into the full force of the wind. I am keeping an eye on Dave Evans as I can see he's being blown all over the riverbank and at times I shout to him to see if he is OK, but he rarely hears me. Dave's a trooper but I know already this is not for him and I am mindful of that fact. The river has now started to reach it's full height and near flooding levels, but I am sure on this high bank we are safe from it's waters.
The next feature we see is a bridge parapet which was once part of the West Lancashire Railway which ran from Southport to Preston. Construction was started by the Mayor of Southport Samuel Swire on 19th April 1873. It opened on 15th September 1882, but sadly closed as a result of the Beeching Axe in 1964.
Now, at this point the heavens open up and a wall of water hits us, I couldn't see 100ft in front of me. The path went from being slippery and wet, to a deep quagmire. The rain being that heavy that it was bouncing back up a foot off the surface and we had nowhere to shelter. Visibility was that bad I had problems seeing both Dave Evans struggling behind or Dave Beech who had now gone ahead. Neither of them could hear me calling to them to see if they were OK and there was water everywhere. My boots were sinking into the surface and my feet were now wet through. It did start to ease and as I neared a turn in the riverbank I could see further ahead and what looked like the River had burst it's bank, but I soon realised it was fields completely flooded and everywhere looked silver from the amount of water that had fallen. I managed to get Dave Beech's attention and I think to his relief I called him back to my spot and said it was time to call it a day. I know when Dave Evans showed up to our location he was really relieved as he had been struggling through it all. I did contemplate carrying on on my own, but it was just too wet underfoot, with no grip and with an awful wind it wasn't safe to be out there. Not knowing the terrain or how bad storm Ciara was going to get it was time to admit defeat.
After a short walk up to the main road we found ourselves at Much Hoole. Here we discovered there was a good bus service on a Sunday to Preston (one an hour) and one was due in 10 minutes. However whilst waiting, the very bus we wanted passed us by on the main Liverpool road, despite it stating it runs from our location via the old Liverpool Road. This was not the first time this has happened to us in the past and I just wish that alterations to any bus route would be clearly defined at the bus stop now not being used. Frustratingly when you do try to get the bus drivers attention waving like a loony, they seem to make every effort not to see you. It must have been obvious that we wanted that bus, looking like drowned rats, waving from a bus stop, in a quiet village, thanks Stagecoach!
Anyway it wasn't all bad, missing that bus meant we could cross over the road and enjoy the Embleys Nurseries, Arches Restaurant, which was superb. The girls working there were really nice and despite us being wet through, leaking everywhere, it was not a problem for them. A table by the open fire, with some great food and a drink was just what we needed. 2.86 miles (the shortest walking day so far).
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