J.R.R.Tolkien was not the first visitor to have been inspired by the beautiful Ribble Valley countryside that surrounds Stonyhurst. Many who have studied or worked there have been captivated by its story – endurance and heroism in the face of seemingly impossible odds; the endless search for what truly matters, rather than the ephemeral or trivial; and the discovery of “the little way” as the path to maturity and character.
Professor Tolkien spent time at Stonyhurst. In his writing he reflected these themes and incorporated names and descriptions of landscapes which bear great similarity to places around Stonyhurst.
The author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – one of the world’s top ten best-selling books – was a regular visitor to this beautiful part of Lancashire, the Sacred County, when one of his sons, Michael, was a teacher at the college, and another, John, trained there for the priesthood (while the English College in Rome was closed during the Second World War). Tolkiens name appears in the college visitors book many times, along with those of his wife, daughter and sons.
This walk, produced by the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst and based on the route created in conjunction with Ribble Valley Borough Council, focuses on Tolkien’s Catholic faith and touches both on the places that would have been familiar to him and on those that may resonate with people who know his books.
The trail enables walkers to experience some of the stunning local landscape that, during Tolkien’s visits, would have inspired him in his stories of hobbits – the people of the Shire – and their great battles.
Appropriately enough, the village of Hurst Green boasts its own Shire Lane while Ribblesdale and Rivensdale seem, at times, interchangeable. The verdant countryside is dominated by the dark shape of Pendle Hill which bears a striking resemblance to Mordor.
Mark Thompson, Editor of the New York Times, said of the area around Stonyhurst, “you have a feeling that this is a special, unspoilt place. It’s amazing”.