Preston was at the forefront of providing Municipal Parks in the 19th century with forward-thinking from its Elders, Several of the developments were enhanced by using local unemployed cotton workers during the Cotton Famine due to the American Civil War in the 1860s. In Haslam Park last year I remember noticing a forlorn blaze mark denoting a Preston Seven Parks Walk and I made a mental note for a future winter walk. The forecast was good for Saturday, most of my walking activities are governed by the forecast these days, so Friday night I did some Internet research with little success. The seven parks were mentioned but nowhere was there any detailed route information so out came the 1:25,000. The first thing I noted was that there were nine obvious parks in Preston, although one, Farringdon Park, was, in fact, a cemetery, so my objective changed and I wanted to also include Fishwick Bottoms, a green area, arguably a tenth.
A clockwise route was devised with hopefully as little street walking as possible taking me to parts of the city I had never explored. Some areas have a bad reputation, rightly or wrongly and I wanted to complete those in the morning rather than potentially in the dusk.
Deepdale Sainsbury’s was a good parking spot and after a heavy shower I set off at about 10am down the delivery bay of the supermarket – it was going to be one of those walks. Gates took me into Brookfield Linear Park and a path followed a little stream, Eaves Brook, through a narrow green strip in Holme Slack. As a result of being so close to housing the amount of rubbish and burnt out debris was disappointing.
Familiar roads, Cromwell and Ribbleton, were crossed and a bit of scrambling took me into Grange Park. This was much more extensive and at the far end next to the motorway were remains of formal gardens which were better maintained. The park was developed in the grounds of Ribbleton Hall whose foundations have been restored.
From the motorway bridge, I could have followed tracks to Brockholes nature reserve and then the Guild Wheel to the central parks but I wanted to visit the next three hereabouts. So turning away from the noisy motorway a stroll down the estate took me to Farringdon Park which is the city’s cemetery. Paths weaved between the gravestones, these paths apparently being laid out as a butterfly only visible from above. Rows and rows of sombre ornate Victorian headstones lined the path, more arresting was an area given over to children’s graves. These were colourful with mementoes of the lost childhoods but very distressing to witness. There are other areas of this park I would like to explore including a Muslim and Jewish burial areas. I emerged onto the road adjacent to Ribbleton Park which is mainly recreational with football pitches, bowls and children playgrounds. Crossing over to the Fishwick estate I found a path dropping to a large open recreational field in Fishwick Bottoms and then skirting the notorious Callon estate following a lane down again to join the Guild Wheel to Walton Bridge. A better way would have been to enter the Fishwick Nature Reserve linking to the same place, but I was unaware of its existence – next time.
The familiar riverside track led into Avenham Park with its open aspect and popular café …
then Miller Park, more ornate with terracing, statue, bandstand and fountain. The large brick building towering over Miller Park was formerly the Midland Hotel serving Preston railway station and now used as council offices. Both these parks have had a lot of money spent on them in the last few years to bring them back to their former glory and in today’s sunshine were extremely popular.
To reach my next objective I continued on The Guild Wheel along the river into Preston docks, now a marina, stopping off at the welcome café. A short section of road walking, and I was in Ashton Park again a more open space surrounding the old hall. The playground seemed to have an entertaining variety of equipment for young and old. Crossing the busy Blackpool Road a short street gave access under the railway and Tom Benson Way [the ultramarathon walker] into Haslam Park. The pasture land for Haslam Park was the gift of Mary, daughter of John Haslam, a local cotton mill owner, the park opened in 1910. As I entered from the south there were acres of parkland with Tulketh Mill in the background, a reminder of the cotton trade which brought so much prosperity to the city and helped establish the parks I’m visiting. The Savick Brook runs through the park which also has a lake and large recreational spaces. The water for the lake cascades down an artificial grotto from the Lancaster Canal above.
The towpath of the canal helped me cross Preston towards my last park. Chatting to a man tending his canal side garden he alerted me to the presence of a Kingfisher which I later luckily saw rapidly disappearing under Blackpool Road. A few back to back streets, and I was entering through the prominent gates into Moor Park which has a long and interesting history detailed here and here. [The observatory has recently been upgraded by the university] Today the sunshine had brought lots of people into the park. I walked around the lake and past Deepdale Stadium, Preston were playing away today, down Tom Finney Way and into Flintoff Way and my car. The latter two along with Tom Benson complete the trio of Preston’s sporting heroes.
This 12-mile circuit of these parks shows to varying degrees how green spaces enhance the city providing recreational facilities for all as well as suitable animal and plant habitats. My only fear is what will be their condition in a few more years of our cash-starved council? I am sure they will not be developing this circuit as a Preston Ten Parks Walk.