From Brookhouse to Halton and back via five bridges, Lawson’s Meadow and Gray’s Seat makes a pleasant nine mile outing with plenty of interest. From the Black Bull head to the Lune down Holme Lane, across the main road and by track and path to the Waterworks bridge. This, Bridge 1 for you, carries four large pipes with water from Thirlmere to Prestwich, Manchester, entirely gravity-fed, at 20 inches per mile downhill for its 96 miles. Construction started in the 1890’s. Cross it (in the 1990’s it was blocked off, climbing round spiky iron was the only, but oft taken, option), and turn right. In Lawson’s Wood carry on; at the time of writing an early display of bluebells for Easter greets us. When you start seeing small leaved Limes, indicating ancient woodland supposedly, watch for a concessionary path left, which leads up and back to Lawson’s Meadow. A bench is hidden by gorse a bit further on, enabling a rest to scan the lower Lune valley. This meadow was bought by the local community in 2002. A path leads diagonally down and back to the Lune and the Bridge,
Carry on by the river to Bridge 2, the old railway bridge of the “Little” North Western Railway line from Wennington to Lancaster, which Dr Beeching closed in 1966 in preparation for the World Cup! Now a busy dog walking and cycling route. On the way note the cataract outflow from Low Mill pond over on the left. This is fed by a constructed leat from the Artle Beck, but from about a mile south of Low Mill near Gresgarth Hall. It crosses over the Beck at Gresgarth and about half its length is underground, being visible alongside Broadacre and by the fish stones and ancient Oak on the main road.
At the Bridge, through the gate steps lead upto a picnic area at the “Crook” where “Woodies” would serve you refreshments out of plague time, carry on from the picnic area due north on a path which leads to the road from the Crook. Cross this and a short while further right a path off left leads delightfully through a wood then on to the Halton Hydro, another community project (backed by banks and the EU). The Lune and its north bank from here to Bridge 3 was home to various mills and forges, with weirs to help. Water power for them only stopped in 1960. The Hydro only started in late 2015, so must have taken a hit soon after with Desmond, which is not mentioned on the net, although the recent December flood is. It has, in fact, only just re-opened. At the Hydro,descend the steps and continue, always looking for a lower path, which there is just past the start of the co-housing. (Don’t ask). At Bridge 3, which was for the rail connection for the Foundry to start with, go up and cross it. we stood on this when Desmond was just passed its peak, with debris on the carriageway : frightening.
Returning east, there is more walking down by the Lune on paths than on the busy cycle path, although there is a short distance where steps lead upto it unless you want to swim. We had never walked the curved bit round to the Crook before! It passes under Bridge 4, another old railway one. Beyond, the path used to follow the river closely, but now rises on steps to the road before descending again steeply. At the top, however, a deviation to Gray’s Seat is worthwhile. Gain the road and head right. Just before the wood on the left ends, an undulating path through the rhododendron girt wood leads to the seat, with a view of the Lune valley. The poet Thomas Gray wrote some words about perfect views, which are inscribed on the wood boards by the path here. Although the spot was popular as a view point in the 18thC, JMW Turner’s painting from here of 1816 is what is remembered. Retrace your steps to the crook path and descend and curve round to Bridge 5, the finest, carrying the Caton to Halton road. Gain the road before the bridge, cross it and take the path which descends to its far side and passes under Bridge 2, to go east back to number 1, via meadows and an elegant bridge over the Artle beck. Return via Holme Lane, or follow the Lune round till you meet Bull Beck, follow this to the cycle path again, turn briefly right then soon left to the road. A 100 yds on a field path leads up the hill to Kirkbeck Close (no social distancing possible on the terminal path so blow your horn). Back to Brookhouse Road and the plague stone. (See Caton Moor Circular).