The footpaths around Darwen, particularly across the moors were fought for around 1877 at a time when the land owners employed keepers to stop folk from ‘trespassing’. The first to strike a blow for the common man was William Thomas Ashton, but he was only really interested in keeping the bridleways open and would ride his horse across the moors taking down barriers as he went.
In 1878 five men went onto the moor to walk the footpaths and were accosted by two keepers who tried to put them off the moor. Unfortunately, Richard Ainsworth, John Oldman, James Fish, Ellis Gibson and Joseph Kay ended up with writs after a scuffle with the keepers.
The Town Clerk, Mr Costeker witnessed the Affidavits of the five men plus another from William Thomas Ashton (which proved decisive) before John Oldman walked to Bolton to catch the last train to London in order to present the response at the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice.
After a meeting between Mr Costeker and the Mayor of Darwen with the Lord of the Manor it was decided to grant access to the footpaths on the moor to the people of Darwen provided that they did not go after the game birds.
Now we face another challenge – if the footpaths fall into disuse between now and 2026 then they can disappear from the Ordnance Survey maps. They could be lost to the people of Darwen and its visitors if we do not walk them. Already we have seen some paths under threat as people buy up land and construct buildings which encroach across pathways, or block paths deliberately to stop the public from walking where they have a perfect right to do so. It is imperative that we remain aware of the Public Rights of Way and make sure that we are kept informed of any planning applications which may affect the rights of the individual to walk the footpaths around Darwen.
The walks in this section aim to show the reader where they can walk and hopefully show through the use of the photographs what a beautiful place we live in and currently have access to. Let’s keep it that way.
Please click on the link to view the walks
Walk 1 Sunnyhurst to Bold Venture Park via Knowl Heights Plantation
Walk 2 Bold Venture Park to Whitehall Park