Walking Day tradition cut

Rev Duncan Clarke of St Ambrose Church, Moss Lane, Leyland, who says the church has held its last Walking Day after new legislation on closing roads
Rev Duncan Clarke of St Ambrose Church, Moss Lane, Leyland, who says the church has held its last Walking Day after new legislation on closing roads

A family tradition dating back 150 years has come to an abrupt end in Farington – because of funding cuts to the police.

The annual Walking Day led by the St Ambrose Church took place for the last time this month.

And the Rev Duncan Clarke says the congregation has been forced to stop the much-loved tradition as the church is no longer able to rely on the police to close the roads as the 200-strong group of walkers stage a procession through the village.

Rev Clarke said: “The police force is no longer responsible for traffic management, so while the Leyland Neighbourhood Policing Team helped out for this final time, they can’t do it for us in future.

“If we want to walk on the road, it means employing a traffic management company, which we just can’t afford.

“It’s affecting all sorts of things across the country, but particularly things like traditional walking days, and people are quite upset about it.”

He said that some form of walking day has taken place in Farington for the past 150 years, and centres around the prosperity of the cotton mill trade, although the route has changed over the years.

“It’s usually attended by between 150 and 200 people,” he said.

“I think about 180 came out for the last one on June 9, and the Lostock Hall band plays for us.

“We can’t do anything about the changes, it’s all because of the police funding cuts and about allowing outside bodies to take the burden off the police where a job doesn’t help in the prevention or detection of crime, which has to be the force’s priority.

“But you can’t blame the police – their hands are tied, and they’ve always been very good to us in Leyland.

“It’s very sad, but at the end of the day, everything has its time. Some people like to keep traditions, but times are changing.”

A police spokesman said the force will assist wherever it can with events like walking days, but said they are starting to struggle to help out due to funding restraints.

Leyland resident Hilary Sangster, who attends the walking days in Farington, said: “Members of the congregation are very upset as the historical element of the walk is of great importance.

“St Ambrose Church has kept the walking days going for so long because of that history, and I just feel really mortified this is happening.

“I remember the mill when it was still working and I remember it closing and being demolished.

“People still talk about it.”

Farington historian Joan Langford said: “It seems to have started as a thanksgiving for the cotton coming in the 1860s. Hundreds of people were employed at the cotton mill, and the village very much revolved around church life then as well.

“It used to be on the last Saturday of August, but that changed in 1973 to June, to coincide with the local church walking day.

“I know it was a very important day back in the 1800s and early 1900s, and people really looked forward to it.

“It was a tradition for families and men would carry big banners, which was an honour, and ladies and children would get dressed up.

“It was a very big occasion, and it has remained important for St Ambrose Church, but I don’t think it’s something that the whole Farington community has kept up.

“It’s unfortunate, but you can’t keep everything going.”

-Do you have any memories or photographs of past walking days in Farington? Email guardian.newsdesk@lep.co.uk.