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Musbury Tor is a flat-topped hill, located in south-east Lancashire, England. It overlooks the village of Helmshore and separates Alden Valley to its south and Musbury Valley to its north. Mainly consisting of farmland and pastures, its summit is roughly 338 metres (1109 ft) above sea level. The hill can be seen from much of Helmshore and is often colloquially referred to as ‘the Tor’ by the local population.
The underlying solid geology of the Rossendale fells is largely formed by the Lower Coal Measure comprising bedded sandstones, shales and mudstones. Rocks of the Millstone Grit series outcrop above the valley of the River Irwell and cap the hills. Musbury Tor is a perfect example of peneplanation leaving an almost isolated flat-topped hill where the harder Millstone Grit protects the softer underlying shales, leaving the distinctive sharp topography of edges and ledges characteristic of the uplands above the Irwell Valley.
The other small scale topographic variations such as the undulating hummocky landforms are generally due to the former workings and stone quarries.
Musbury was a township in the hundred of Blackburn. It was divided into three portions - Musbury Park; Musden Head (to the south), and the Trippet of Ogden (in the north). It was once the centre of the Earl of Lincoln's deer park, which was fenced by 1304, and stretches of the ditch enclosures still remain in the Alden and Musbury valleys.
World War II and after
"...to scan the skies for paratroops, four Home Guardsmen armed with one old rifle and six rounds of ammunition climbed each evening to the top of the Tor", says Chris Aspin in his memoirs. The guards apparently sheltered in a tiny hut, but they often "stumbled into bogs and old quarry workings". Chris Aspin also mentions American GIs practicing paratroop drops, and field exercises with live ammunition, before D-Day, setting up tents and a cookhouse by Great House on the Tor.
In 1949 the Great House Experimental Farm in Helmshore was established by the Ministry of Agriculture on the flat top and southern slopes of Musbury Tor. Important experiments, including many on high-level grain planting and animal husbandry, and the effects of acidity in rain, were carried out. Great House Experimental Farm was closed in 1982, broken up and sold off to private farmers and others.
- A.E. Trueman, Geology and Scenery in England and Wales. Pelican Books, 1971.
- A History of the County of Lancashire: Vol. 5; Farrer & Brownbill; 1911; Victoria County History.
- Just a Few Words; Chris Aspin 2003; Helmshore Local History Society; ISBN 0-906881-12-9