Wednesday 2nd December. 6.5 miles. Great Eccleston.
Great Eccleston is a village in the Fylde, that often gloomy and flat area of Lancashire not known for its walking. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book so has ancestry. It is known locally for its traditional shops, good pubs, a weekly market and its annual agricultural show which incorporates tractor pulling competitions, a niche motor sport. I parked up at noon on a sunny day, one needs the bright sun on these featureless landscapes. There was a bit of a market in the main street. I noticed one of the pubs has closed. There is an old pinfold down the street.
I left by Leckonby House, named after a wealthy local who bankrupted himself and ended up In Lancaster Prison. There was a C18th dovecote strangely isolated in the next field.
The St. Annes church at Copp was a prominent landmark up the road. It was established here in 1723 halfway between Gt. Eccleston and Elswick as a chapel of ease for St. Michaels. Nearby is a local primary school and opposite the old schoolhouse. It seems odd that the school is so isolated but I suppose it followed the church originally.
Elswick down the road is another small village on the road to Blackpool famous for its ice cream parlour. Also tucked next to the United Reformed church is an old chapel with a date stone of 1671 when this area was a centre for Nonconformity. The chapel is rather plain and has a house built onto it, it is now used as a hall for the adjacent church.
It was time to take to the boggy fields just as a hail storm blew through giving rainbows over the distant Bowland Fells.
Another stretch of lanes led towards drainage and flood defences. Here I got tangled up in barbed wire fences obstructing the right of way, later contacting the local authority they already knew of the problem. Surely the fencing contractors should be made aware of the need for stiles in the appropriate places. At last, I was on the embankment and following the Wyre downstream, a popular route for dog walkers. Walking around the loop was fast and easy which was needed as the sun was beginning to set. I had time to look at the Cartford toll bridge and the adjacent pub which has been modernised since I used to drink here 40 years ago. More rainbows appeared with the passing showers.
Being back here reminded me of a rather disastrous day walking the start of the Wyre Way.
The lights were on when I arrived back in Great Eccleston’s marketplace.
Monday, November 16th. 9miles. Scorton/Dolphinholme.
The river Wyre takes a sinuous route between Scorton and Dolphinholme and you can see from the map many fishing lakes along the way. Years ago it would have been a different scene with leats, millraces, serving the numerous mills in the valley. My ‘guides’ for today live in the area and know an awful lot of relevant history. The last walk with Peter and Denise was a couple of winters ago when we followed and traced the Lancaster Canal from Preston to Kendal.
After driving 14 miles, within my 15mile limit, I meet up as the one other socially distanced person. We are all following the rules now, even Boris has to. Off we go along lanes close to the motorway passing the farm of a close friend, sadly departed 5 years ago, where my family of cats originated from. It is eerily deserted today.
My cats’ homeland.
We pick up the Wyre Way which seems to have changed since I walked it a few years ago. The footbridge over the motorway has been dismantled, apparently the path goes under now. The caravan site we walk through has expanded dramatically but of course nobody is allowed to stay at present. The big attraction is the fishing lakes established from old gravel pits, stocked with carp, pike, bream, tench, roach and perch. They don’t have a sympathetic feel for a path. A better stretch alongside the Wyre brought us to a bridge that used to lead to Wyreside Hall. Further along is the old Coreless water mill with its restored wheel.
We come out into Lower Dolphinholme. Peter points out the old mill warehouse, now apartments. The road down to the bridge used to come to a ford and when it was built up the doors to the cottages became smaller and smaller. The mill manager’s and mill owner’s houses are prominent and there is a redundant gaslight on the corner. The large mill here was originally for worsted manufacture and was one of the first mills to have its own gas works to light the mill and village. Apparently behind the private walls is evidence of the gas containers. Peter knew all about this but for you a good history is really worth consulting – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1466557
Mill owner’s House.
As we leave the village I’m taken on a slight detour to visit the flue and chimney up the hill. It was built as a dual structure one for the gas and one for the steam from the updated mill.
We were going up Waggoners Lane an obvious reference to the mill’s transport and then into Tinkers Lane, another reference to the past. This led past Belvidere House with its unusual hexagonal attached tower. Up here we were on the edge of the Bowland Hills and sheep were the only animals in the fields, subsistence farming. We came to a crossroads at Street where the Roman Road from Ribchester to Galgate was supposed to have run.
Now back onto paths alongside becks and fishing lakes. We saw a roe deer pirouette across a stream and vanish into the woods. It was muddy going. We skirted the grounds of Wyreside Hall, a large C18 pile which seems to be undergoing renovations/extensions – maybe a hotel or wedding venue? The local couple we met leading a thoroughbred racing horse didn’t know what was afoot.
The grounds of a farm and barn complex felt unwelcoming – high walls and vicious barking dogs. Coming out onto a road we parted company with Denise who took the direct route home to hopefully put the kettle on., I wanted to go through the grounds of Wyresdale Park which I had noted on my recent visit to Nicky Nook and Peter was all too ready to give me some more history. The hall was the work of Lancaster architect Paley in the mid C19, better known for his churches, in a Gothic Revival design and over the years has been adapted to its present state as a recreational facility. Cafés, craft centres, camping pods, weddings, playgrounds and fishing are all on offer or at least they normally would be. I couldn’t see the hall but know where to drive through in future for a peep.
Wyresdale Park’s photo.
We strolled through Scorton with its iconic motorway spire. There once was a large cotton mill here, and we could see the line of the millrace now in a modern development. It was easier to walk along the road for a while rather than the soggy fields. I was then shown the lodges for the mill at Cleveley Bridge. We then followed the line of another mill race coming from the Wyre some distance away. Apparently in the early years of the C20 there used to be a series of commercial fisheries along here with water siphoned off the mill race. I had no idea where I was but soon we were climbing up to Shireshead, past the little chapel, now a recording studio, and along the lane for that cup of tea.
I was kicking myself by lunchtime today. The forecast was for rain but there was hardly any and now the sun was shining. Could easily have had a meet up with friends for a day’s walk. My new boots haven’t arrived yet, tomorrow?, so walking in trainers I need to stay on dry ground which is difficult around here at the moment. A cursory look at the map and I had inspiration for a quick afternoon’s outing on lanes around Barnacre, a rural area to the south and east of Garstang.
In less than half an hour’s drive I’m parked by another deserted looking pub, the Kenlis Arms. originally an 1856 hunting lodge,
The walk itself is on quiet lanes on the edge of the Bowland Hills passing a few farms and lots of sheep.
White sheep of the family.
My first real objective is the Church of All Saints, yet another designed by Austin and Paley of Lancaster, 1905. Set in a peaceful woodland area its red roof stands out across the fields and its tower is castle-like. A lane takes me down to cross the motorway and main railway line.
Forge Lane passes the old forge where the family are splitting logs with a hired machine, looks great fun.
The lane continues down to a ford on the swollen Wyre but fortunately there is a nearby footbridge. This whole low-lying area is part of the local flood defences when water can be diverted into the fields to reduce the flow downstream. I walk through the Millennium Green past the hydraulic weirs for controlling the flow of the Wyre. It must be quite a sight to see the floodplain filling up. I’ve been this way before on The Wyre Way.
Millennium Green with a misty Nicky Nook in the background.
A diversion into Garstang’s High Street highlights several interesting buildings.
The old grammar school, C18th.
The old Town Hall. 1760.
I walk over the twin arched bridge on the Wyre and a little later drop down to the Lancaster Canal for about a mile of quiet towpath back to my car.
A walk snatched from nothing and dry feet at the end of it.
The green area on the above map is the County of Lancashire which as you may well know has, as of this last weekend, gone into the highest Covid-19 restrictions – Tier 3. So my wanderings in the foreseeable future will be solely in the Red Rose County. There are far worse places to be. As it happens I was already planning to visit Abbeystead today for a walk plucked out of Jack Keighley’s Cicerone ‘Walks in the Forest of Bowland’ guide which seemed to have several points of interest. I’ve been following quite a few from this guide in the last weeks and have been impressed by their quality. The forecast is for cloud so a low level walk suits.
I arrived at the carpark at 12noon to find it full, I’d half expected that. Fortunately a couple of early birds were just finishing their walk so I grabbed their spot. The River Wyre has two initial tributaries, The Marshaw and The Tarnbrook. I started my walk alongside the latter and soon came to the former. My curiosity had me bashing through the undergrowth to find the confluence of the two – a Dr. Livingstone experience. The two small streams meet and soon the River Wyre takes on a more majestic flow. Satisfied I go back to where I had started, it’s going to one of those days.
Marshaw Wyre bridge.
Meeting of the Waters
The Wyre flows on.
I took some photos of these large plants growing profusely along the banks – I don’t know their name? I thought the leaves were too large for Japanese Knot weed but I’m not so sure now.
My path left the Wyre Way and shot up some steep stone steps which kept on going. Eventually fields followed to come out onto the road at Hawthornthwaite with the fell road heading across to the Trough of Bowland just above me. All around were the Bowland Fells looking a bit dismal today.
The mole catcher has been working overtime.
A farm track took me past Marl House and then into open fields with no obvious track. For this walk the guide states “A somewhat complex route requiring careful reference to map and directions” Well I was soon searching for the next stile and essential footbridge across a formidable little gorge, Cam Brook. Walking up and down my GPS didn’t seem to be helping. I persisted with my search and finally found a new looking bridge across but not where shown on my map. Anyhow, I was across and climbing fairly new steps but at the top where I should have gone right to an old mill a new pheasant fencing blocked my way and shepherding me upwards. I tried an open space in a hollow but at its end a high gate. I could see no path continuing, so I decided to head for a barn shown on the map and follow the track from there. As I walked on I spotted three walkers coming the other way towards where I should have been. After pleasantries with them, I set forth or was that back, determined to find the mill ruins. After a couple of stiles I came across them in the woods, sad reminders of a bygone time. It had been a water driven cotton spinning mill until destroyed by fire in 1848. Associated workers’ cottages were disappearing nearby. That hollow I had been walking in half an hour ago was in fact the old empty mill pond.
Satisfied I returned to pass again the cheerful three sat on a log having lunch.
Last of the summer wine.
Now I knew where I was going – Little Catshaw 1763 and Catshaw Hall 1678. I passed through here before with Sir Hugh on our straight line walk from Longridge to Arnside in November 2018.
The steep track led down over a sparkling side stream and to the Wyre in its heavily wooded valley. A sturdy bridge was crossed before stone steps went straight up the opposite hill to Lentworth Hall. These tracks must be centuries old linking farms and maybe going to the church where I was heading.
More stone steps.
A gate at the top of a field, suitably full of sheep, admitted me into the churchyard of Christ Church, The Shepherds’ Church. [The gate has its own story which I thought was a joke at first] The church dates back to the C14th but was rebuilt in 1733 and a spire added to its tower later. Its stained-glass windows depict Biblical shepherd scenes, these would have been better appreciated from the interior but it was locked. In the porch are rows of hooks supposedly for visiting shepherds to hang their crooks. Above the door is an old inscription – ‘O ye shepherds hear the word of the Lord‘
I found a bench to sit on for lunch, it was 2.30 after all. Next to me was a war memorial with a thought-provoking inscription perhaps aimed at the agricultural soldier.
My next objective was a Friends Meeting House and Quaker burial ground up the hill at Brook House. As well as the meeting house there had been a school and schoolmasters house in this little complex of buildings, now residential conversions. The graveyard with its simple uniform headstones was accessible and was a very calming place. Apparently the Friends Meeting House In Lancaster has use of it but there didn’t appear to be many recent burials.
I was now quite high on the northern flanks of the Wyre Valley but views were limited by the weather. More fields took me past Chapel House Farm with its barking dogs and over a rickety stile to the road at Summers House.
Then a walk across rough country in worsening light to Grizedale Bridge over the Tarnbrook Wyre. A cart track was followed back to Stoops Bridge.
Before I got my car I had a wander into Abbeystead itself. All the C19th buildings are now part of the Duke of Westminster’s vast estate and built in an Elizabethan style. The big house is hidden from view. The hamlet is named after an Abbey founded here in the C12th by Cistercian monks from Furness. It didn’t last long and was soon abandoned.
All I needed was a bit of sunshine to bring out the Autumn colours.
My last trip to Nicky Nook was in February just before Storm Ciara and, without realising it, before the more devasting storm Covid.
I grew up with Enid Blyton – The Famous Five and the even better Secret Seven. Maybe my sense of adventure was instilled into my developing psyche from these innocent tales. I’ll not spoil this post with any historical racial or sexual criticism of her works.
Anyhow today there were six of us – the safe six of these Covid times.
From http://www.gov.uk When meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors. This is against the law and the police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.
We met up at a secluded carpark down single track lanes. The other five had travelled from South Manchester and Cheshire and had invited me along for no particular reason, the only link being blog posts we mutually follow.
Introductions completed we set off suitably distanced.
Everyone took photos of this unusual School Bus Stop. I don’t know which school or which bus but there can’t be many pupils.I didn’t pay much attention as to which way we went but we passed through several typical Lancashire farms and I have to admit the waymarking was on the whole excellent. With our intrepid leader, follow the orange cap – phreerunner in another guise, striding out confidently we were soon onto the fell road skirting the wild Bowland Fells. We then dropped back into farming country and a lane where we came across a Wyresdale shooting party, ‘ducks and partridges’ season apparently. I met up with an acquaintance from Longridge who takes his dogs along for retreaving. they were heading off for lunch at the hall. No invites for us but there was a bench for a coffee break. My new friends excelled at this point by bringing out some homemade delicacies, Paul’s Fridge Cake was my favourite but Martin’s Chocolate Thingy was a close second. [My regular walking partners please take note – I expect better in future.]
Coffee bench. In memory of a beekeeper.
A steady climb past a false summit and we were at the trig point, repainted since I was last here but sadly graffitied by the ‘was here’ brigade. Despite the biting wind we enjoyed views in all directions. Someone spotted the Isle of Man, someone else Blackpool tower and even North Wales. My pictures fail to show them well.
Leaving the crowds and doubling back on ourselves we took the steepish, but not the steepest, path through invasive rhododendrons into the delightful Grize Dale valley. Everyone was impressed by the path alongside first the reservoir and then the bubbling stream.
Another rememberance bench on cue signalled the lunch stop. I had to pass on the offered goodies.Fields took us into Scorton passing by the parish church whose spire is a well known M6 landmark. Before long we were back at the carpark. An enjoyable stroll in Lancashire’s finest. I didn’t take as many photos as usual as I was too busy chatting but you can see more in Martin’s post and also read the true story.
First a moan… The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 ( the CROW Act, not the crow we are following ) gives a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’ known as open access land. A large area of the Bowland Fells are so designated which should give some degree of freedom to roam on the moorlands. However not all is as it seems. The 1:25,000 OS maps highlight open access land with orange shading but the areas do not always link up with the public rights of way, creating a problem of reaching the access area in the first place. There are actually some ‘islands’ of access land with no access! This morning we are faced with one of these dilemmas, the lane back to Arbour is private for the first kilometre [red dots] so the logical way into the access area is denied legally. Who came up with these walker unfriendly ideas? I’m afraid those powerful landowners had too much influence when the plans were being drawn .Anyhow here we are back at the Arbour shooting lodge in its remote setting, ready for another ‘up and over’. Today we have to climb over Stake House and Grizedale Fells. There is still no sign of the rhino. We take the opportunity of some shelter by the lodge to divest of some clothing before the sweaty climb. A vague track is lost and then found as we puff up the steep slope alongside a series of very posh shooting butts. This track in fact takes us to the unmarked summit of Stake House, 402m, where we can admire views of Morecambe Bay, the Clougha Pike, Grit Fell, Ward’s Stone and Wolfhole Fell group with the Trough Of Bowland spread out below. We take a compass bearing to a pond which should be near the start of the track at Grizesdale Head. We are in the middle of a wilderness here though the going is better than we’d anticipated, short heather and not too much bog. The weather is changeable!
A hazy Morecambe Bay with another storm coming in.
Wilderness – on a compass bearing.
Out of nowhere a gate in the boundary fence appears and this gives us easy access to the landrover track we are relying on to take us off the moors. We do so in swoops down the hillside as the weather takes a turn for the worse, wind and hail. At the road we are glad to hide behind a wall for lunch and watch the lazy antics of some contractors trying to offload fence posts. I do not envy their work outside in these conditions.
Opposite is a private lane to Catshaw Farms which is right on our route line, we wave enthusiastically at farm workers who pass us but nobody seems bothered by our presence. Once at the large farm complex we are back on public rights of way. Catshaw Hall Farm dates from the 17C, grade II listed with mullioned windows. There was work going on today.Muddy fields drop down towards the River Wyre where many trees are down from recent storms. At a side stream the path has been washed away leading to some undignified bum sliding to reach the newly reconstructed footbridge. The bridge over The Wyre is made of sturdier timbers. I realise have been here before.
Steep slippy steps bring us into fields belonging to Lentwoth Hall, now divided into apartments.
The final lane with ‘walking’ trees.
This whole area of Abbeystead is part of the Grosvenor estate owned by the Dukes Of Westminster. It holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day. On 12 August 1915, 2,929 birds were shot by eight shooters. We have survived the day through their estate and will carry on no doubt to trespass further estates on our straight line. I’m glad we finished when we did as the weather became atrocious, it’s the first day of winter tomorrow.
A beautiful sunrise and minus 5° temperatures dragged me out of bed. After yesterday’s experimental stroll I was still able to put one foot in front of the other. Time to get going.
Almost to the year Sir Hugh and I were walking around the Fylde on The Wyre Way. Having walked from Fleetwood to Rossall we cut across country to the River Wyre itself to complete the route on a dismal December day. Today, a not to be missed sunny one, with temperatures struggling to reach zero I was back: parked possibly illegally in Rossall School with the intention of walking 10 miles to South Shore terminus and catching the tram back. As a get out I could catch the tram at virtually any point if I was struggling. Once on the promenade I realised the possible foolishness of this venture, the path was an ice rink even the dogs, which were outnumbering people, were skating about. Out came the walking poles to give me some security, I was here for some easy flat walking to test my hip not to fall and break something.
The sea played little part in today’s walk: the tide was out, the waves flat and the sombre December weather blurred the horizon. So I could concentrate on the immediate surroundings of the promenade. Inland to start was dreary housing and apartments, retirement ‘I do like to be by the sea’ places. All very forgettable. But the new Clevelys promenade is all curves and a pleasure to explore.
The lighting installations reflect a Gaudi appearance.A striking memorial installation to all the ships lost on this coast …
Clevelys, Bispham and Norbreck passed by, the clock tower and the hotel notable landmarks. The sea front hotels in this area reflect back to a golden age with names redolent of fashionable London – The Savoy. Grosvenor, Imperial etc, all dated and out of sync in the modern era.
Out of interest, but maybe of importance, all the old toilets on the promenade have been closed down and replaced with infrequent pay to enter booths. Why spend all this money on refurbishing the front to a high standard and then charge 20p to pee. The answer is privatisation of what should be a public service. I didn’t have 20p so peed on the beach. Sorry but it was very cold.
Along this stretch they were dismantling the famous illuminations. I had a behind the scenes view and could only guess at some of the displays. One of my son’s birthday is October so it was a simple matter at the time to fill the car with his mates, drive them through the lights, fish and chip supper and home.
The sands stretched on and on regardless of the hinterland.
Now Blackpool Tower and the North Pier were approaching fast. Commercialism is mainly closed down in winter but there were still some venues screaming out at the punters with promises of untold entertainment. But mainly all was drab and shuttered. The golden mile closed down! I even had to go inland a block to find somewhere to eat, yes you have to have fish and chips when in Blackpool.
Central and South piers were closed for winter as was the Pleasure Beach and just about everything else.Walking on the beach looked attractive but turned out to be too strenuous. The day was getting colder and the prom stretched on for miles. It was with some relief that I arrived at South Shore tram terminus and negotiated a trip back to Rossall.
“Do you think we should abort?” was Sir Hugh’s opening gambit when we met to walk the remaining section of The Wyre Way. I must admit the morning was foul with mist and rain. Fleetwood looked bleak. No-one was patronising the promenade snack kiosks. Somehow the sight of the familiar statues greeting the imaginary returning fishermen, they would have endured far worse than us, galvanised me into action. “Lets just set off and see” was my usual optimistic response. Within 100 yds the rain had stopped and there was a glimpse of brightness, the rest of the day was warm and almost sunny.
When I was walking The Wyre Way a couple of years ago I deemed I had completed the length of the river without this curious add on loop in the Fylde but when Sir Hugh suggested it I couldn’t miss out and risk shame. So here we were striding along the prom.What did we see? We saw the sea. But not at close quarters as the tide was out revealing vast mysterious sand banks. The famous distant views to the Lakeland Hills was denied us today. Leaving the Victorian esplanade area, with its two lighthouses and prominent North Euston Hotel, we wandered past run down beach huts, a yachting pond and on to a leaning coastwatch station. This latter was completed in 2012 and is of startling construction. The promenade/sea wall was closed further on for major works so we used a higher path adjacent to the golf course. In the distance Blackpool Tower.Turning inland we passed Rossall School and followed a few streets to meet up with the Wyre again. Good paths took us between the muddy river and the ICI [now AkzoNobel] plant, still functioning but greatly diminished. A car park appeared along with a multitude of dogwalkers. A fascinating area of boat jetties came next and led into Skipool Creek a centre for sailing but today with the tide still low everywhere looked distinctly muddy. There was a fascinating dereliction to the place, a mixture of allotment and scrap metal.
Echoes of ICI.
A final section across low lying muddy fields, which would be flooded at high tide in an hour or so, brought Shard Bridge into view. I remember the old metal toll bridge from my time working in Blackpool when an evening’s drive for a pint in the pub seemed to be crossing into another world. Today the pub is unrecognisable in its reincarnation as a Hotel/Restaurant. I peeped over the terrace to view the ‘path’ I had tried to follow at high tide a couple of years ago. Even today it looked uninviting.The thin winters light was upon us as we reflected on a day well spent.
Again I have a late start, parking up in Dolphinholme. This was an important mill village at one time with many interesting buildings. Today I’m more interested in the vegetable gardens near the bridge. A man is erecting a new greenhouse to complement his vegetable beds – all very neat. I’m quickly away up into the fields of freshly cut grass, a smell so evocative of childhood summers. The Bowland Fells remain as a backdrop all day. Through woods I come down to cross the River Wyre ………..and follow it’s north bank to a pumping station and a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the explosion of May 1984. There is little water today on the dramatic overspill of Abbeystead Reservoir, opening photo. Abbeystead Village is its usual sleepy self. There are two Wyres from here on, the Tarnbrook Wyre coming from the Ward’s Stone / Brennand Fells and the Marshaw Wyre coming out of the Trough of Bowland. The WW does a loop around them. In this upper part of the walk there are frequent WW markers expertly carved from stone and depicting local interests, I wonder who was responsible for them?
Fields, with abundant lapwings calling, are crossed to reach the hamlet of Tarnbrook and a reuniting with the Tarnbrook Wyre. Chatted to an elderly man in one of the 18th-century cottages, he had lived here all his life and is now the only permanent resident. I crossed the Tarnbrook Wyre for the last time at Gilberton Farm.The afternoon was very hot and sticky but I had clear wide open Bowland vistas as I crossed the watershed, Hind Hill, between the two tributaries. The Trough of Bowland road can be seen. I found the track down to Tower Lodge, originally the gatehouse to the abandoned and now derelict Wyresdale Tower. The walk back down the Trough road next to the Marshaw Wyre passed pleasantly until I was back in riverside fields again. The thought crossed my mind that I should do the classic cycle ride through The Trough again, will have to get a bit fitter on the bike first. Further down the valley one gets glimpses of the grand Abbeystead House and gardens, Lancashire home for the Duke Of Westminster. The two Wyres have united at the reservoir and it’s alongside here in the trees that the path becomes boggier and awkward, crocodile country. From the weir I left the previously walked WW section and followed indistinct field paths back to near Dolphinholme. I had been out for six hot hours, and so arranged to meet a friend living close by for a pint at The Fleece Inn. We met to find it closed Mondays/Tuesdays! The Plough in Galgate provided suitable alternative refreshments within its sunny beer garden.
Today’s walk has been a very satisfying conclusion to The Wyre Way, brilliant scenery and interesting locations. My rather scathing criticism of the first leg of the walk may need to be tempered, would probably be great if you follow the correct way, at the right tides and when the vegetation is low! So I would highly recommend THE WYRE WAY for a few days varied walking.
Dull and misty this morning, so I was in no rush to get out. Enjoyed a lazy breakfast with one of my sons who is staying over. He intended a cycle ride over Longridge Fell and round the local lanes, I didn’t feel I could keep up with him so I set off for more of the Wyre Way.
This time I had a decent scaled map showing the route and I was determined not to proceed without a WW sign. Things went well out of St. Michael’s on a good path by the River, well-used by dog walkers. For some reason the signs soon had me back on the main road for a noisy stretch, motorbikes ++, before rejoining the river bank. Surely a better way could be negotiated nearer the river. Himalayan Balsam has taken over on the river banks on this stretch. I was glad I hadn’t stripped down to shorts yet as the path vegetation was quite aggressive, though at one point near Land House farm someone had done a good stretch of strimming, thank you. The village of Churchtown provided a pleasant diversion with its church and old houses. Between here and Garstang I felt I was in ‘no man’s land’, quiet country lanes and field paths either side of the A6. Glad to see one farmer clearing up the usual junk into at least one pile. Nothing much moved, not even the gigantic wind turbine at the cheese factory which is a prominent sight whilst driving the A6 north of Preston. The way creeps up on Garstang and you suddenly find yourself on the Lancaster Canal by a small basin. Here there is a tempting pub, on this hot day, unfortunately on the wrong side of the water. The Wyre is rejoined by climbing down steps from the canal at an interesting Aqueduct. Soon, one is in Garstang’s [advertised as the World’s first free trade town??] main street. A small diversion would take you round the interesting parts of this attractive market town, but as I have done precisely that many times I took the early turn off to the riverside path again. This path is a favourite of the residents and visitors alike, and today was busy with families enjoying the weather. Ice creams were being consumed, a cricket match was in progress, kids were in the shallow waters and lots of dogs were being exercised.As one leaves the town a newish flood barrier has been developed. To prevent flooding further downstream in Churchtown and St. Michael’s, this can be closed and the excess water fills the flood plain above. On a day like today this area is open fields with pedestrian access providing good leisure facilities and a sculpture trail. The Wyre is by now reduced to stream size. The railway and M6 are crossed quickly ….….and then leaving the river, an old cobbled path leads through woods to the outskirts of Forton with its prominent Church Steeple. I was last here a few weeks ago whilst climbing Nicky Nook to Dolphinholme and returning by the WW – http://bowlandclimber.com/2014/05/31/nicky-nook-and-wyre-way/
This turned out to be a bad day for myself, whom I took to be an experienced walker. No one else has that assumption. Having become interested in the Wyre Way, which I had encountered further up near its source I ‘planned’ a few days walking its 41 miles. Today I intended to explore upstream from the river mouth at Knott End/Fleetwood. Buses were taken from St. Michaels via Poulton to deliver me at Knott End on a beautiful sunny day. What better relaxing way to start the day than with tea and toasted teacakes in Knott End Cafe. This building was originally part of the station at the end of the Garstang-Knott End Line and has many interesting old related photos on the walls. Eventually I set off as the ferry was coming across the Wyre from Fleetwood with the Lakeland Hills in the background.
Knott End Ferry.
I had hit upon low tide and as this exposes lots of mudbanks the river did not look at it’s best. Flocks of waders were feeding at the edges, mainly Dunlins and Oyster Catchers I thought. Crossing a golf course I arrived in seaside bungalow suburbia which I found difficult to navigate out of. No signs for the WW which I thought would be in abundance, I only had with me the old 1:50000 map and I had not marked on it the line of the route. Big mistake no.1. Soon I was out into the fields on a good path which eventually deposited me off route in Preesall on the main road I had just travelled. No problem I connected via paths back to the coast and onto the sea ‘wall’ A minor Burrows Lane, never met a car, was followed to the yacht mooring’s at Wardley’s Pool.
Mud births at Wardley’s.
From here I had a run-in with another holiday park which I felt lucky to escape from to the river again. The path now seemed to follow the marshy waters edge towards the new Shard Bridge. Sea-lavender was very profuse and colourful on this stretch. After all my delays the day was passing and the tide was coming in once more – had never given that a thought. Big mistake no. 2. Reached the Shard Bridge pub with dry feet just! The last time I was here there was still the old toll bridge and it always seemed a bit of an adventure to visit this pub. Was glad to find they were serving Bowland Brewery ‘Hen Harrier’ on draught so I relaxed over a pint in the sunshine on their patio overlooking the river. The route was signed straight from the pub along the water’s edge and I stepped straight onto the, by now waterlogged, path. Big mistake no. 3.
Things became quickly worse as the tide rose further and I was fighting my way through sea grasses in a foot of water. By now there was no sign of a path and survival became uppermost on my mind [but strangely not to turn back]. When my floundering in the water became dangerous/comical I managed with difficulty to scale the brier and nettle covered embankment and threw myself across the barbed wire fence into the sanctuary of the higher field. Trespassing along the first field boundary was no problem but having yet again climbed over barbed wire I now found myself in a head high maize crop – jungle warfare. This repeated itself for many a field with only crop rotation providing easy or difficult progress. Nothing fit on my map [without field boundaries] and the afternoon became hot and sticky. Salvation seemed to be close as I reached a recognisable farm on the marsh edge. Stopping to ask for advice I was immediately attacked by two overgrown ‘pit bulls’, a mastiff and the usual terrier. The farmer came to my rescue, of course saying they wouldn’t bite me. We ended up having a pleasant chat about the area, the river and the fact that the tides had been at their highest. He reassured me that as now the tide was retreating there would be no problem following the path through the marshes. So on I went, now with the occasional WW waymark there had been none before as I was mostly off route. Stopping to check my position I realised I had lost my fairly useless map but I thought I could manage without it now the going was easier with occasional way markings. Big mistake no. 4. The walking across the marsh was indeed easier for awhile. Jellyfish were a common sight either high and dry or isolated in saltwater pools. Before long the path became overgrown and I was once again fighting through reeds, tripping over and generally lacerating my legs and pride. The occasional tantalising waymark drew me into worse territory. It was with relief that I staggered onto a road. By now my sodden boots and socks seemed to have dried out! The lack of a map meant I couldn’t pick up any WW footpaths and none were signed so I trudged along the riverside lanes. The last mile I was able to take to the river defences for a pleasant walk into St. Michael’s, the river now contained between the fields.
I finished battered and bruised at the bridge over the Wyre next to the church and close to the Grapes Inn where I enjoyed a Timothy Taylor ‘Landlord’ as payment for my parking all day in their carpark.
Cottages and pub St. Michaels.
I’m sure I made even more mistakes than highlighted above but the day has turned out to be quite an adventure and once I’ve bought another better map I will continue on the Wyre Way. One bonus of today I have not mentioned were excellent views of the Bowland Hills across the Fylde. It is in these hills River Wyre originates and where I will be heading towards next.
As a postscript, I do have to comment that the route is not well waymarked and apparently little walked.
As you drive up the M6 north of Preston, a well-known landmark is a church spire poking out of the trees to the left of the motorway. This is St. Peter’s Church, Scorton, and it is here that I started my walk today.
It must be 20 years since I’ve walked up Grize Dale and climbed Nicky Nook 215 m! It was a popular walk for us when the kids were young. The fell seemed to be cloaked in colourful escapee rhododendrons, giving it a strangely Nepalese look. The view over Morecambe Bay was as extensive as ever, but a little dull for photos.
A direct route off the hill down pastures alive with lapwings and curlews took me onto quiet lanes heading north with lots of reminders of the past local history.
Old cheese press.
One sign brought back memories of when I was cycling the byways to get fit for a trip to the Pyrenees, I ignored the sign, skidded on the cobbles and ended up in the river with 20 miles to cycle home feeling rather cold and stupid,
Lower Dolphinholme was reached and the converted worsted mill, which once employed over 1000 people, passed to arrive at last on the River Wyre.
Picked up the Wyre Way signs here and was immediately taken away from the river and down the valley, passing further abandoned mills.
The walking was not as good as the map suggested, entering several busy caravan and camping sites, with the noise of the motorway ever present and the river a poor companion. The best bits were when passing by the numerous popular fishing lakes, presumably old gravel pits. There was a good view back up to Nicky Nook from the frenetic motorway bridge!
Bits more of the River Wyre led me back to Scorton with cafés and ice cream. A pleasant 10miles, but the highlight was Nicky Nook rather than the Wyre Way. Will explore more of the latter in the coming weeks to see if it has more to offer as a short LDW.
Another day out walking with the lads from Bolton was planned with a 9am, we enjoy a lie in these days, rendezvous just off the M6 junction. To ring the changes I had planned a round of the fells from Tarnbrook and was in sole charge of navigating and the map.
To my horror, as I drove to the motorway, I realised the said map was still on my kitchen table — necessitating a rapid turn around and subsequently a ribbing for the delayed start. The twisting lanes leading from the next motorway junction north seemed to go on forever, more than my memory of them. The hamlet of Tarnbrook thankfully hadn’t changed at all, though. (PS, Parking here has recently become a problem.)
We were greeted with a warm sun and clear skies, which promised well for views on the fell tops. . Most of the land around here is now open access from the CRoW act of 2000. Prior to that we were evicted several times whilst climbing on the rocks up at Thorn Crag, lying high above Tarnbrook. This is grouse shooting land previously strictly restricted. A sad observation is that the estate has now built several ugly ‘roads’ through these remote hills. The other observation is that one doesn’t see the Hen Harriers or Peregrines any more.
Getting back to the walk we headed off in an Easterly direction on what is marked as The Wyre Way past a few old farms and onto rougher, virtually, trackless ground leading up onto Brennand Hill. Slow progress necessitated a coffee break in a clough on the way.
Sign of the times.
Eventually we reached the stoney outcrop marked on the map as Millers House. Here we found the odd abandoned millstone hewn from the gritstone — what a life it must have been up here chipping away.
Noticeably there were far fewer gulls in the area than before, I think culling by the NWWB has reduced the upland breeding population.
Onwards brought us to the fence on the broad ridge and a diversion for a lunch stop at Wolfhole Crag. This must be one of the most remote bouldering venue in England, but there was some chalky evidence of recent ascents of the harder problems. http://www.lakesbloc.com/guides/wolfhole-crag-guide.pdf
Our own clumsy ascents would be better not recorded.
The day had changed and was now dull and cold, so views to the Three Peaks and the Lakes were poor. The never ending plod westwards along the boggy ridge didn’t have much merit in these conditions. Crossing one of the aforementioned, incongruous estate ‘roads’ we came across several areas of heather reseeding and stabilisation of the peat bogs. Respite came at the first trig point on Ward’s Stone, 561m. We realised that we had been walking steadily uphill for the best part of 4 hours to reach this point! A welcome flat area led to the next trig point, 560m. The views to Morecambe Bay were sadly limited but the Wyre estuary was clear, that’s where all the water from up here goes.
An unusual benchmark.
Our planned route continuing westwards to the more interesting Grit Fell and Clougha Pike was curtailed to another day as we dropped off the fell and down the endless lane into Tarnbrook.
Descent into Tarnbrook.
12miles over this rough territory was enough for us today. We saw only two other walkers all day and that on a Bank Holiday weekend! We will be back for Grit Fell and Clougha Pike.