Blackburn and Burnley are home to some of the most stimulating and intriguing walking spots, given over to local access and popularity. Routes here cater to the traditional, with acres of rural land available to scour, roam and forage through, but they also fulfil that need for something more, sometimes offering edge and eminence to otherwise typical and unexceptional participation afoot.
Pendle Hill is perhaps the most unconventional and rare experience in the area. The site is famed for its notorious witch trials, traceable as far back as 1612. Pendle Witches were executed here, for their practice, and the land, from it, has taken on new connotation. The landscape here speaks a language, and that language is one of mystery, intrigue and slightly sinister significance. It’s something the environment itself seems to pick up on, creating, overall, a space to walk in which is full of wonder and subtle allurement, credibly verifying what an environment can come to mean to us, personally, and to society, as a collective.
Bringing the community together is a value inherent to much of the local conditions here, both rural and urban alike. It’s a sentiment that’s built into the town’s cultural spaces, in particular, with many of their foundations originating out of a desire to connect and unify the local people. Walkers not wanting to stray too far can explore Blackburn Open Walls and Prism Contemporary. Both are arts venues centrally located, and suitably curated for a leisurely intake of exhibitions, where an array of artists, represented by the firm, are on display, be it contemporary or historical. For a complete update on the latter, The Weavers’ Triangle is the place to head, offering an outside space to hike through, along the canal, as well as an informative selection of building relics, leftover from the cotton trade, along the way.
For those craving a great escape, though, Gawthorpe Hall and the Stubbins Wall or Burnley’s Singing Ringing Tree each proffer an exclusive escape, with ample grounds for a sufficient walk or a slow stroll, depending on what takes your fancy. They’re both designed beautifully, with cultivated plants, gardens, wild foliage and forestry to brag of, providing an instant retreat. It’s Rowley Lake, though, that offers the truest and simplest getaway into nature. Naive in comparison, the site brags nothing more than a lake, rows of trees and a circular pathway, but the result is nothing short of elaborate. It’s a sight, and the views are well worth taking the traipse out of town to witness.
The key to walking this area is to be open-minded. There’s much on offer, which means there’s much to take in, too, and the walker who gets the most out of the ground here is the walker who is not opposed to remaining adjustable, willing to be formed and impressed upon by the lithe and pliant outside. Walking here is a communal act, too, but with enough space for the solitary saunterer, with the focus, again, being on being closed-off, but never fully, always aware and awake to how the landscape has changed, and is, still, changing.
Here are our picks
Pendle Hill, Pendle Hill, Nelson, Lancashire, BB9 6LG - Visit now
Pendle Hill carries a rich, inherent heritage that imbues its namesake with overtones of mystery, thrill and a sense of the occult. A now-ancient hunting ground, the site is famed for its notorious witch trials, traceable as far back as 1612. Pendle Witches were executed here, for their practice, and the land, from it, has taken on new connotation. The hill itself rises over Pendle; said, say some, to be casting a spell above all that sits below. It’s a riddle of sentiment and suspicion. It’s hard to imagine the wolves and wild boar that would once have roamed this landsite, complete with tiny hamlets and farms, but the need to envision what once was is what makes this a unique space for walking and traversing about in. With so much to say inside its own past, the landscape encourages walkers to see the view anew, considering it as it is, now, and as it was, in other times of so much conspiracy and misunderstanding.
For all its strange and unknown history, the site welcomes walkers and countryside enthusiasts. Long distance walks are easy to get-at here, including the popular 43-mile Pendle Way hike, which takes in parts of the Bronte Way and other cultural significance. Visitors flock to see the much-renowned wild and ferocious territory where storytelling and narrative has swept the expanse itself into a tale of yet more scope, vision and speculation. The ultimate end-result is one of grand statement and unusual circumstance, enabling an experience, for a contemporary visit, to capture enrapture, sentiment, curiosity and intrigue, creating, overall, a space to walk in which is full of wonder and subtle allurement at what an environment can come to mean to us, personally, and to society, as a collective.
Blackburn Open Walls is founded on street art. Using this graphic, visual medium as a catalyst, the project seeks to gather the local community together, with conversation, creative output and aesthetic improvement as their main pull. It’s a hit. Since it first started, in 2016, the event has seen she streets of the area lift, filled with colourful, quirky and striking pieces that add new zest and interest to the town. The joy, now that these artworks have built in numbers, is in zig-zagging through the interlinked pavements and spotting as many of them as you can. Full lists of included artists and pieces are available online, but there’s nothing like uncovering the unexpected, and, with these designs, loose and ambivalent as they are, the surprise factor is real. Images include goblin workers at a wheel, drawn in black and white onto a large, no-longer-in-use factory building, as well as splodges of pale paint on pavements with the hashtag ‘Make Blackburn Beautiful’ inked on top.
It’s a route that has you seeing the area anew. It makes you look up, down, and everywhere in-between, as, with art in so many distinct, hidden and discreet places, you really have to take in your surroundings to see some of them. It encourages, in short, what the true urban walk is all about; discovering your local talent, be it man-made or natural, and relishing in having it right there, for you to explore.
Burnley’s Singing Ringing Tree, Crown Point, Burnley, Lancashire, BB11 3RT - Visit now
Burnley’s Singing Ringing Tree is a one-of-a-kind musical sculpture situated high-up, on Crown Point. It’s a statement. The design is unusual, forming a strange, spiralling curve that gradually widens as it grows in height, mirroring something akin to the cartoon-shape we usually draw when depicting a tornado. It does have something to do with wind, too. The structure is so-made as to pick up the wind energy at any given time and produce a low, tuneful song. It’s intriguing, and in spite of the cold conditions that usually prevail here, it’s beautiful. Constructed from pieces of galvanised steel stacked in layers, the form has also been said to take the form of a tree, bending into the wind in order to accept it and have it ruffle its ‘branches’. Either way, the statue gets to the crux of what nature, at least in these parts, is about. It’s about embracing the wildness, and using what is there to embellish your experience of the outside scope, and to come, in many ways, closer to it.
It’s ideally placed for a walk to see it, with miles of open land spreading out in unwinding routes and hikes around. It’s close to Dunnockshaw Millennium Wood, part of the Forest of Burnley restoration programme, where many native tree and bird species can be observed. The statue itself offers a breathtaking panorama above the conundrum of ongoing daily life. High-up, and with that tinkling, tiny tune chirruping away, arriving here is like arriving at a moment of calm, interlinked with the interruptions the true natural world here inputs, be it the raging wind, the rustling trees or the wildlife, giving off sound of their own.
The Weavers Triangle, The Weavers' Triangle Visitors Centre, 85 Manchester Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB11 1JZ - Visit now
The Weavers’ Triangle is just as the name says. On the banks of the canal, a so-shaped area of land, easy to ‘weave’ through, picked up its name in the 1970’s, and the space is now known for the way it joins up different points of land, well-suited to walks and local strolls. Visually, the site shows how the town has evolved, with many buildings visible only as relics or partly-there construction. Much of them stem from usage when the town led the world in the production of cotton cloth, and this ancestry, of much grandeur and amplitude, lends the sights and natural picture here much amplitude and weight. Also on site is The Weavers’ Triangle Trust. Founded in 1977, the organisation originally began as the Burnley Industrial Museum Action Committee, ordered to preserve the town’s heritage. This is a legacy that has never left. Today, it’s evident that what is now an open and collective museum prides itself on showcasing the story of time, proudly dedicating itself to spreading the word about how the borough itself was formed and elected.
So centrally located, too, it’s ideal for combining with other local flocking points to create a longer, dynamic walk that takes in as much of the town as it does its art and crafts. It would be worth looking into the idea of a gallery tour, and walking from point to point to see some of the most prized resident artwork on display, or syncing a visit here with a long, rural hike before winding up at one of the many inhabitant cosy cafes. The choice is yours, and what’s nice about keeping this quirkily-shaped venue on your radar is that it can be incorporated in a myriad of ways, with enough to offer to spend an afternoon navigating through, here, solely, or accessible enough to link to any and every nearby walking course.
Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Road, Padiham,, near Burnley,, Lancashire,, BB12 8UA - Visit now
Gawthorpe Hall is a splendour of gardens, landscaped lawn and open space, cemented and pulled together by the central building, which sits grandly in the middle of the estate. It’s picturesque in the way any National Trust property is expected to be. What’s unique about this one is it’s steely structure. With three front columns and a sort-of turret peering from out the back on-top, the site sets-up a tone of majesty which the surrounding natural retreats and cropped grasses pick up on all too well.
For walkers who like choice, it’s a paradise of options. The grounds are replete with routes, alive and jammed with potential trails to gorge on. The acreage is ideal for long walks, taking you via the formal gardens, with views of the river, out to the woodland, where wildlife and plant species can be spotted aplenty. The property itself can also be explored from the inside, with many interior features boasting as much prowess for the premises as its natural exterior. There’s also the Gawthorpe Textile Collection, which is full of intricate lace, costume and needlework amassed by the house, on full public display. The Stubbins Wall lines the hall, and offers a circular walk around the estate. Coming in at just under two miles, it covers a portion of some 436 acres of farmland given over for public enjoyment, offering strong vantage points looking out across the surrounding countryside. It’s a true rural walk; one that reminds you of the feeling of freedom that comes from steeping outside of your usual boundaries, but one that showcases the freedom of staying within certain parameters of beauty, too.
Prism Contemporary, 14-16 Lord Street West, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB2 1JX - Visit now
Prism Contemporary is, primarily, a gallery space. Ran independently, it plays host to numerous contemporary exhibitions across the year, showcasing a collection of national and international artists. As well as supporting existing communities, cultural events and festivals, the brand seek to also impose new partnerships, establishing commissions and events with local practitioners to freshen up the arts scene on offer locally and revitalise the festival programme.
It’s centrally located, making it ideal for dropping into for a one-off event, or linking up with on a small, self-curated tour of the town. It’s constantly changing exhibitions and wall space means there’s likely to be something new to see with each visit, while the space itself offers constants, continually providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which visitors are free to explore. It’s a contemporary space, and one with lots of potential and future development. For the walker seeing a quiet wander, with some artistic appeal to boot, it’s perfect, and with so many other local spots and routes nearby, a longer trip is easily had, with nothing, so to speak, to stop you in your tracks.
For cultural recreation, there’s nothing like a good wander around a local arts spot, and this one offers the chance to take in new knowledge of the area’s local history as you go. It’s a well-organised, structured experience that also allows the flexibility to wander around as you choose, taking your time over the expertly curated shows, galleries and visuals.