The War Horse Route
Thanks to the Michael Morpugo novel for young people “War Horse” adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg a different perspective has been given on the First World War. As much as it was a conflict involving people it was a war in which the horse played a major role. While it was quickly realised that cavalry troops were not much cop against barbed wire and heavy shelling horses performed a vital service transporting provisions and materiel up to the front lines. So horses were needed in vast numbers and were conscripted from all over the country as well as imported from overseas. 
Owing to its proximity to the port of Liverpool Lord Lathom of Latham House near Ormskirk gave over Lathom Park as a remount depot. Horses and mules arriving from Canada at the start of the war and later from the USA were transported by train to Ormskirk station and from there led the final 2 ½ miles of their long journey to Lathom Park where their suitability for war service was assessed. Of the 215,000 horses and mules that arrived at Lathom Park all but 5,000 ended up supporting the military effort.
To commemorate the work of the remount depot a century ago West Lancashire Borough Council and Sefton Council have produced an excellent leaflet featuring a route which in part follows in the steps of the War Horses. (Go to https://visitseftonandwestlancs.co.uk/walking/walking-routes/war-horse-route.aspx to download a copy.) For my five readers without access to a computer I have described the walk below.

Fact file:
 

Start/finish: Ormskirk Railway Station L39 2BS

Distance: 8 ½ miles
 

Time: 3½ - 4½ hours

Grade: Easy.

Map: OS Explorer 285 Southport & Chorley

 

 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press

Directions:

1. From the station entrance go through the car park to the end.

 

Here pick up a cycle path that follows the course of a disused railway. When this meets a junction cross to a footpath in the direction of Dark Lane. Keep on this as it leads through trees to reach a flight of steps

 

taking you onto Dark Lane. Turn left. Soon you leave the residential edge of Ormskirk to pass into the broad prairies of West Lancashire. A little under ½ mile after joining Dark Lane it swings left. Here keep ahead into Lathom Lane.

 

(300yds along note the footpath that crosses the lane as this will be on your return leg. ) At the crossroads with Sandy Lane and Castle Lane keep ahead soon after passing Ormskirk Golf Club on your right.

 

Soon after the lane becomes a broad track

 

where it's easy to imagine squadrons of horses passing along. The track leads onto Cranes Lane and arrives at the busy B5240 Hall Lane. Cross to the entrance of Lathom Park marked by octagonal lodges.

 

Follow the drive until you reach the Chapel of St John the Divine.

 

2. Pass the church and very handsome almshouses and keep ahead to path leading to a metal gate. Through this keep ahead to join a drive leading back to Hall Lane. Cross to the pavement opposite and turn right. After 300 yards turn on a footpath just before Watkinson's Farm. Follow signs on a path that skirts farm and barn

 

bringing to a footbridge. Over this follow the path right to meet a track. Turn left. Keep on the track and then a footpath to arrive at the interestingly named Needless Inn Farm.

 

Keep right at the farm and turn right just beyond to follow a track that leads to Jumps Farm. Follow the drive to Blythe Lane.

 

Cross Bythe Lane to the drive of Warm Row Farm. As you reach the yard bear left through a wooden gate to take a narrow path to a footbridge.

 

Across this turn immediately left and follow the meandering Abbey Brook through trees. After the path swings right to climb a rise look for a stile on the left.

 

Cross this into a field and continue to a kissing gate leading onto a farm drive. Turn left and after the first building turn right through a yard

 

on a path that follows Abbey Brook to a footbridge. Cross a keep on the path as it skirts a large field to the far right corner. Pass through the gate and soon after keep ahead through Abbey Farm and an adjoining caravan site to return to Blythe Lane.

  

3. Turn right and then turn left into Sandy Lane. In 300yds turn right onto an unsigned footpath (opposite Append Cottage) which leads to Lathom Lane (on your outward route) and goes across it onto Lady's Walk

 

at first a farm drive but then continues on a path straight across wide fields to Cross Hall Farm.

 

Here keep ahead to reach the A577 Wigan Road. Cross at a slight angle right to a footpath leading to Ruff Wood.

 

Once inside turn right onto a path that skirts the old quarry and brings you to Ruff Lane on the far side. Once on Ruff Lane turn right for the town centre. At the end of Ruff Lane go into the small park on the left to view a war memorial

 

that lists Sergeant Major Nunnery one of the survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade - an interesting reminder of war horses of a different generation.