England’s Lancashire county is reputed to be the place where Queen Elizabeth would like to retire. Walking through its emerald green countryside neatly divided by grey stone walls, it’s easy to see why. In many ways this is quintessential England at it’s very best.
The Ribble Way, stretching 70 miles from the Irish Sea to its source in the Yorkshire Dales, provides the perfect way for the walker to visit Lancashire. The river is ever present and provides a serene and gentle companion. Baby lambs, black and white cows grazing on the green riverbank and the sight of English blue bells flourishing along the path all add to the bucolic countryside.
The path itself is easy to moderate in difficulty and displays a love for twisting and turning: a patch of field here, a lane over there, a footpath straight ahead. Getting lost or deciding to make a detour is never a problem as the route is never far from a local farm, small village or country lane.
There is much here for the history lover as well such as the old town of Ribchester dating from 79 AD. As the name “chester” suggests, the town was once the site of a Roman encampment. Ribchester, as it stands today, was built in the late 1800s and exhibits one of the things I love most about England. Instead of building new buildings, the town remains much as it did 200 years ago. Residents have remodeled and modernized the interiors of the old town. Outside, the old grey stone is adorned with new windows and beautifully painted doors, a perfect blend of the old and new.
Heading north, the lush river valley takes on a subtle change as it widens and adds an element of starkness while approaching the Yorkshire Dales. Only the walker who travels step by step can so appreciate the difference.
The economy in the rural areas of England has suffered in the last several years. First came mad cow disease, then came foot and mouth which caused the destruction of entire herds and closed the walking trails, taking the B&B and local tourists businesses down as well. Unlike the US, the English, as well as many other European farming communities, have a direct link to tourism and to their cultural past. People do not come to America to gaze out a the cornfields of Indiana or to watch the harvesting of sugar beets in eastern Colorado. But to separate the rolling green farmland dotted with sheep from the English countryside and you’ve taken away the very heart and essence of what we love about traveling here. Like when I asked someone why the farmers continued to raise sheep when they weren’t worth anything. He responded with passion, “It’s tradition!”
How It Stacks Up
This is not a popular trail so if you go early in the summer you might have it to yourself. I liked the river walking and the fact that we could hook in with the Pennine Way.