I’ve had enough of splodging through waterlogged fields so today for my short walk I was happy to keep mainly to tracks and roads. Why not walk around the reservoirs in Longridge? There are basically seven, Dilworth Upper and Lower, Spade Mill 1 and 2, and Alston 1, 2, 3.

Preston originally had water from springs in the Alston area and a reservoir was built in Grimsargh in 1835. The first Upper Dilworth reservoir was built about the same time for water from Longridge Fell. As demand increased water was collected from the Bowland Fells and conducted to Longridge and its Alston [now no3] reservoir completed in 1842. Demand from Preston increased and the next to be constructed was Spade Mill [no 1], along with The Black Bull inn, see later as Corporation Arms. Some years of drought, remember them? lead to the purchase of Alston College on the edge of the village. Demolition of the college allowed a second Alston Reservoir [no 2] to be constructed in 1899. A second smaller Dilworth [lower] was opened in 1906. In the 1930s the aqueducts from Bowland were improved with the drilling of two tunnels, one out at Whitewell and the other through Longridge Fell from Jenkinson’s Farm in Thornley to Spade Mill Reservoir. A third large Alston [now no 1] was constructed about the same time.   The last of the Longridge Reservoirs to be built was Spade Mill [no 2] coming into use in the late 1950s.

That’s a lot of water.

Dilworth Upper.    1835.     24 million gallons.

Alston No 3.           1842.     86 million gallons.

Spade Mill No 1.   1862.    198 million gallons.

Alston No 2.           1899.    183 million gallons.

Dilworth Lower.     1906.        7 million gallons.

Alston No 1.            1931.    259 million gallons.

Spade Mill No 2.     1956.    212 million gallons.

The reservoirs have been under several different authorities, Preston Corporation, North West Water and now United Utilities.

Right, back to my walk, I parked up in upper Longridge and set off around the small Dilworth Reservoirs. immediately the strong Victorian stone architecture was visible …

Just above is the upper reservoir which is often a haven for waterbirds, Great Crested Grebes nested last year.  The lower reservoir has been decommissioned and I was under the impression that the upper was polluted from nitrate wash-off from the fell. Despite this, it is a popular angling spot.

Upper Dilworth with Beacon Fell in the background.

A footpath goes from here through an old quarry, Greenbank, now a housing estate. At the lower side of the quarry is a lake once a fishing spot for local youths. Above the houses is the well-known climbing venue Craig Y Longridge. From up here, there are views across the two Spade Mill Reservoirs and on to Alston. The lane I take goes past the WrittenStone which I’ve previously detailed here.

Walking along the main road I was outside the walls of the Spade Mill no 1 as I arrived at The Corporation Arms, the only inn uniquely owned by a waterboard.

Just past here I detoured up a bridleway to get a better view of Spade Mill No 2 the most modern of the reservoirs. Next, I was walking down to the Alston Reservoirs, both officially off track. The lane continues below the reservoirs and what was No 3 but now is managed as a nature reserve. There are hides to view the water and margins. With my naked eye today I saw very little, it was cold and windy.

Apart from the conversion of No 3 to a wildlife site, the reservoirs have a very sterile environment. There is some restricted fishing but one wonders why they couldn’t be opened up for some watersports. An interesting walk of about 6 miles on a breezy but dry afternoon.

Next up is storm Dennis – the menace.


  1. Chester Martin

    Really appreciate the info on the reservoirs. I’m particularly interested in where they tunnelled under Longridge fell as I noticed there’s 3 pipes crossing the Hodder at the Wild boar park and only 1 makes it to a crossing near Hesketh lane. Any more info on the location of Jenkinson’s farm?

    1. bowlandclimber

      To be honest I don’t know, but will look into it. There are ‘waterboard’ type works at Jenkinson’s before disappearing into the fell to emerge at the Upper Dilworth Reservoir.


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