As I lay in the mud at the bottom of the bank, mopping the blood dripping down my forehead and checking my limbs for breakages, my thoughts drifted to casualty departments in the middle of the Covid crisis. Earlier in the day I’d been chatting to friends who were telling me that senior staff at Preston Hospital have stopped cycling whilst casualty is under pressure, they don’t want any broken bones. For the last week I’ve been looking up at Fairsnape Fell wondering about an ascent and then imagining a helicopter rescue and all the recriminations, so I’ve kept to the lanes for relative safety. Yet here I was lucky to get away with grazing and a blow to my ego. The brambles that had ensnared me were still wrapped around my legs. Being covered from head to foot in mud I drew surprised glances as I shuffled back to my car.
The rest of the gentle stroll in the sunshine had gone well. Brockholes is a nature reserve based on flooded gravel pits easily seen from the M6 coming south at J31. The Preston Guild Wheel cycling route goes through the middle of it so I’ve visited it many times but not in any depth. The only time I’ve called at the café/visitor centre was many years ago with Mel on one of his visits up north. My plan for today was to walk around the boundary of the reserve.
I had parked up near the crematorium in Grimsargh after one of those guilt laden 4 mile drives ‘staying local’. The guild wheel route soon brought me down that steep bank into the reserve, here I turned left to reach the River Ribble thus avoiding the busy central areas. A good track followed the river all the way to the motorway bridge. Apart from the friends I unexpectedly met there were a couple of fishermen and only the occasional birdwatcher – you can tell them by the size of their telescopes. I wonder if there is some unwritten competition for the largest. I saw two Egrets by the river.
At the motorway I transferred to the gravel track bordering the west side of the lakes and was surprised as to how quickly I became almost immune to the traffic noise. There was one hide along here from where I saw ducks, grebes and swans – must get one of those big scopes, my equipment isn’t big enough. It was shortly afterwards I dived into the mud.
Just before going back up the steep hill I took a few minutes sat on a log, partly to clean my wounds and partly to watch the wild life feeding on crumbs left by a previous passer-by. Tits, a nuthatch and grey squirrels were my final tally for the day.
I drive a couple of miles to Grimsargh and park close to my last walk to save repeating the same roads. Walking through Cow Hill and down to the cattery, then along by Savick Brook to the private drive of Haighton House is a walk I’m very familiar with. I climb up the bridleway to Ladyewell House and follow Fernyhalgh Lane past St.Mary’s Church and school to Haighton Top.
I was starting to think this was a mistake as It brought back too many memories of bringing my friend with Alzheimer’s this way to keep her as active as possible. She loved this area and always brightened up on recognising familiar places.
A soggy Cow Hill.
Haighton House hidden in the trees.
Today’s hill – bridleway to Ladyewell.
Ornate grave at St. Mary’s Church.
The old Fernyhalgh School. My children started their education here, it is now a nursery.
I moved on across the motorway and was soon using the route of Preston Guild Wheel as it passes through the industrial estate behind the warehouses. I’m normally on my bike along here, so I had a different perspective today. A lot of the people using it are walking between areas of Preston as part of their daily routine rather than rushing round the whole circuit.
The lone glove phenomenon.
Coming off the Wheel at the service station next to motorway Junction 31A I was surprised to walk past a farm in the close vicinity. My efforts to come out by a housing estate were thwarted by a deep flood across the path. So I continued along the old railway line, Preston to Longridge, even though it wasn’t a public footpath. It became more and more overgrown and, I only managed to escape by crawling under barbed wire fences at Grimsargh Church.
Little Rough Hay Farm.
The back of Spar’s distribution centre.
The old railway line.
From the bridge I rejoined the railway, now a made up track through Grimsargh to where the station had been. What a shame the ‘powers that be’ couldn’t connect it to the stretch from the motorway.
Originally a farm, then a coaching inn. It served rail tickets before the station was completed.
Another successful local walk although not quite from my front door.
Last year I had a chance meeting with an old acquaintance from many years ago. He has always been a keen amateur naturalist. I have on a wall in my study a collection of Mountain Butterflies he gave me 40 years ago, when it was still acceptable to stick pins through insects. When I met him last he told me about work he had been doing on some redundant reservoirs in neighbouring Grimsargh. They were being converted into nature wetlands, and he encouraged me to visit. So that was my plan today. I was halfway out of Longridge when I realised, too late, I’d forgotten my pocket binoculars!
There used to be a railway from Longridge to Preston calling at Grimsargh. It served the stone quarries in Longridge from1840 but also provided a passenger service [closed 1930] and a goods service for the cotton mills until 1967. I should write a post one day on what remains of the line in the area. From Stone Bridge I followed close to the line of the railway down into the Shay Lane Industrial Estate, a fine way to start a country walk. There is a surprising variety of businesses along here hidden away from the rest of the village. Cheeses, timbers, metal shelving, builders’ merchant, fruit and veg supplier, JCB, as well as many smaller units.
There’s more than one way to decorate a tree.
At the end is Shay Lane Farm, always neat and tidy. From there I took to the fields alongside Savick Brook, they were sufficiently frozen to avoid wet feet. The contrast from Industrial to rural was sudden.
I came into Grimsargh at Dixon’s Farm where a branch railway line heading to Whittingham Hospital could be clearly identified. In 1889, a private branch line was opened northwards from Grimsargh to Whittingham Asylum two miles away. As well as supplies, hospital staff and visitors were carried free of charge in converted goods brake vans. The line continued in use until 1957 connecting with bus services after the main line was closed to passengers.
The Whittingham Hospital branch line.
J D 1736
The map below shows the railway lines as well as the Reservoirs.
1930map. National Library of Scotland.
While I was at Grimsargh Green I visited the large garden of a friend to wish her a distant Happy New Year, strange times. I then took a footpath following the line of the railway towards the reservoirs, but they were securely surrounded by metal fencing and I ended up going a long way round to gain the path through them.
Line to Longridge.
There was no public access to the wetlands themselves and of course today there was no wet – just ice. The smallest reservoir has been developed as a reed bed. I now realise there is a viewing point over the two lakes from a different access point, next time. Not a bird insight except for a curious robin.
I was soon out onto the main road and Elston Lane. My footpath onwards was blocked by new development with a closure notice lasting until Feb 2021, but it looks as though this situation will continue for much longer, I hope the locals insist on the footpath being reinstated once the building work is completed.
Looking at the map I found other paths to circumvent the problem and was soon walking back to Alston and fields over to Longridge.
I need to return to spend more time at the wetlands if we are allowed out. I’m hoping Boris will swiftly follow the sensible proactive steps of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies to keep on top of this Covid-19 crisis, and we must all do our part and act responsibly.
I throw the bike in the back of the car, wondering when I last rode it, and drive down to Red Scar. There is some parking just off the route of The Guild Wheel, that 21mile circuit of Preston. I’ve written about it many times but have not ridden it this year. This is what I had to say in March 2014…
In 1179, King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild and awarded the town its first royal charter. The Guild was an organisation of traders, craftsmen and merchants, who had a monopoly of trade in the town. Gatherings for renewing membership were infrequent, but from 1542 Preston Guild took place every 20 years. In 1790 there was freedom of trade in the town, which abolished the need for a Guild. But people continued to celebrate the Guild, as its festivities had developed into prestigious social occasions, which continues to this day.
The Guild Wheel cycle route has been created as a lasting legacy of the 2012 Preston Guild. The 21-mile route makes the most of the different landscapes that surround the city, creating a rich and varied environment for people to enjoy on foot and cycle.
After I had the greasy chain back on its awkward sprockets I choose to go around anticlockwise though there are a couple of steep hills whichever way you go. The sun is low and I’m often in the shade making it cold on my hands. Also, the staccato sunlight through gaps in the trees and hedges is disturbing to my vision and brain. New housing developments start before I have gone very far and continue along most of the Northern stretch. Where there were building sites last year suburban living has moved in. Greenfields are disappearing at an alarming rate and I don’t know how some narrow roads will cope with the increased traffic. We will look back with regret at the speed of development and minimal sensible planning just to get those few thousand more houses.
Last week I discovered the pinfold in Great Eccleston and today I stop to take photos of the one on the old A6 in Broughton which people drove past without realising it was there. So much more peaceful now with the bypass, there are some advantages to new road schemes.
My usual café in the University playing fields is closed today, query due to Covid-19 restrictions. Further on past the Ribble Link canal a new road is being constructed coming off the M55 into north-west Preston. It looks to be a major engineering scheme not due for completion until 2024, watch this space.
The tide is out as I pass through the dockland area with lots of mud showing in the Ribble. On the edge of the docks are the Sea Cadets wooden cabins which originated as the WW2 prisoner of war camp on Moor Park, which I mentioned the other day. It becomes busier with pedestrians as I come into Miller and Avenham parks. Time for a sit down and snack on the promenade near the starting/finishing mileage post. Then it’s alongside the river to the Motorway before entering Brockholes Nature Reserve. People are wandering about with binoculars and massive lenses but I see very little.
The last pull up that steep hill in the woods, pushing the bike, and I’m through the crematorium and back at the car. Definitely feeling stiff from the unaccustomed cycling exercise.
The map below needs updating soon with all the new development but the route remains basically the same.
To start with I was anxious, Chris my son had arranged [24hours previously] to come up to Longridge at 12noon for a socially distanced walk up on the Fell. He never arrived. Phoning his house brought no reply, I know when he is on ‘nights’ he switches the phone to silent in the day. More phoning was to no avail and his mobile was switched off. At one o’clock I felt I had to investigate and drove down to Preston. His car was in the street and all his curtains drawn. No answer to my knocking on his door.
How quickly can someone die from Covid-19? Images of police breaking down that door. I already had experienced a similar traumatic episode involving the emergency services at a friend’s house in Liverpool last year. Passers-by start looking at me suspiciously especially when I start throwing objects at his bedroom window. It took several objects clattering against the glass before a weary face appeared.
Anxiety over, I suppressed annoyance; he had slept in and was very apologetic. I thought of mentioning alarm clocks but didn’t. I marched off round the corner to get some spare keys cut whilst he surfaced and drank tea.
‘Sorry we are not cutting keys due to the pandemic‘
On my return to save the day, or was it just his face, he helpfully suggested a walk around the local park – ‘whilst I was here‘ So that is how I came to walk around Moor Park and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The last time I walked through Moor Park was when I connected most of the open spaces In Preston into one continuous trail – A Preston Ten Parks Walk [At the time I was hoping to spark the curiosity of local walkers to follow in my footsteps, although lots have viewed the post no one has admitted to completing what I thought was an excellent outing.]
Back to this afternoon we arrived into the park at its Southern gate and walked clockwise, along with many of Preston’s residents enjoying the open space and welcome sunshine. Moor Park is Preston’s largest and oldest park, originally common land it became, in 1833, the first municipal park in the emerging Northern Industrial towns. In the mid-1860s the park enclosed some 100 acres of the moorland, landscaped by Edward Milner. It was part of a scheme to provide work for those unemployed because of the Lancashire cotton famine. A series of walks and ‘drives’ for horses and carriages were created, including an avenue of lime trees which was known for many years as ‘the Ladies Walk’. This formed the southern boundary of the park where we came in.
On the south road are large houses now used for rooms for solicitors and doctors. Also, here is the old Park School, Preston’s grammar school for girls, opened in 1906 closed in 1969. I think it is part of the campus for Preston College now.
Passing the children’s playground there was a little café open and doing a good trade in takeaway coffees.
At the edge of the park was a granite stone [?erratic] commemorating Tom Benson’s world record In 1997 of walking the perimeter of the park, covering a total of 314 miles!
The path we took ran through sunken gardens with an ornamental grotto and rocky tunnel.
The Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory was built in time for the 1927 total eclipse of the sun. [Horrocks was a 17th century astronomer from Hoole]. The university now own it but light pollution and vibration from the busy Blackpool Road prevent it being used for serious scientific research.
In the C18/19th the park was host to horse races and there is a starting stone still present recalling those days.
The Serpentine lake is now looking rather unloved, The supports and gates of a demolished bridge were constructed from Longridge stone.
On this far side there used to be open air baths, they were filled in during the early seventies. There is no sign of them now.
During WW1 a hospital for the wounded was built. After the hospital was closed in 1919 the buildings were used as an open-air school and then a prisoner of war camp in the second world war. When it closed some of the wooden buildings were moved to the docks for the Sea Cadets Headquarters. Only the interpretation board gives a clue to its position.
On the East side of the park is the Preston North End football ground; they were a founder member of the English Football League in 1888. Today there was a league game being played, but due to Covid-19 rules no supporters are allowed so you wouldn’t know it.
That was an hour well spent with my lovely son.
Preston Council’s amateur map is reproduced below, by all means click on it to enlarge
The bus drops me off at the Preston Crematorium and I stroll down the remembrance avenue. The land to the right is industrial units on the site of the former Courtaulds Mill which produced Rayon. This was a large operation on the edge of Preston with its own power plant and railway, a branch of the Preston -Longridge line. Over 2000 jobs were lost when it closed in 1979. Its prominent chimneys and cooling towers dominated the landscape until demolition in 1983 when lots of the population of Longridge went to view the explosive event.
Lancashire Evening Post.
I was now on the top of Red Scar, a steep escarpment dropping to a horseshoe bend of the Ribble. I’ve joined the Ribble Way which goes eastwards high above the river which is glimpsed through the trees. Worryingly I start to notice ‘Footpath Closed’ signs but continue to see what the problem is and not wanting an unnecessary detour. I climb over barriers. The path drops to cross Tun Brook and there have been landslides damaging the footbridge and its abutments. I can’t drop into the stream bed as the mud is too steep and unstable but can I cross the bridge? The stepped way to it is impossible but with a little sidetracking I reach the edge of the bridge which has been further damaged by a falling tree. Tentatively I make my way onto the creaking structure thinking if it fails nobody will find me here. I’m relieved once across the other side. Satisfying but foolish.
Moving on after I’d climbed out of the ravine I was on country lanes and in wet fields well above the Ribble. Distant views were rather dull. Coming the other way you wouldn’t have been too pleased by this sign…
Hereabouts was a Roman road marked on the map but not much evidence on the ground. I passed close to Alston Hall and the Observatory previously attached to it. There was plenty of evidence of horses ruining the fields.
A succession of ups and downs finally brought me out onto Hothersall Lane which drops dramatically down to the River Ribble near the outdoor centre.
A curiosity along here I know about is the ‘Hothersall Boggart’. A buried stone head was found on the land and placed in the fork of the tree leading to tales of fairies and boggarts, Heads are found in this area and were often placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. [see more in Roman Museum to follow]
Along the lane is Hothersall Hall rebuilt in 1856 in the gothic style and looking resplendent today. I sat on a stone nearby to eat a sandwich which set off a dog barking in the garden, a few crusts seemed to please him.
Across the river was Osbaldeston Hall, another place with a long ancestry.
I was alongside the river now which today was meandering slowly but this area is prone to flooding and Ribchester often makes the headlines on those occasions.
Ribchester is famous for Bremetennacum the Roman fort strategically situated on the banks of the river at a crossroads of several important routes. Not only was there a cavalry fort but also a vicus, a village community surrounding it. It was time to visit the Roman Museum…
The phrase ‘good things come in small packages’ applies to this excellent little museum. The Roman history of the area is comprehensively explained and artefacts displayed and interpreted well. One of the first findings  of Roman occupation was by a schoolboy in a ditch – The Townley Hoard – now displayed in the British Museum. As part of this hoard is a well-preserved helmet and there is a replica on display here. Of great interest are the more mundane items on display – combs, leather shoes, brooches, glassware, slingshot balls etc. Oh, and there are some more stone heads.
Replica Roman Helmet.
Tombstone of Asturian Cavalryman.
Well worth a visit.
Behind the museum are the excavations of a Roman granary and nearer the river a Roman Bath House [heading photo]. How much more must be lying beneath the present-day Ribchester?
Built on a site close to the Roman Fort is the C13 St. Wilfrid’s church, stones from the fort most likely being used in its construction.
Inside, the Dutton Chapel contains a small C14 wall painting of St. Christopher and some medieval coloured glass pieces in one of the windows. There is recorded a mass burial from the Black Death in C14 where the chapel was added. Black Death wiped out a large percentage of the population and following it there were not enough peasants to work the land, the feudal system fell apart and it became more economical in Lancashire to graze the fields with sheep. Hence the wool trade giving way to the cotton trade where spinning and weaving skills existed, leading in turn to mills and urban industrialisation.
In the porch is a beautifully carved tombstone of obvious antiquity from a grave of a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, an order once based at St. Saviour, Stydd – but that’s for tomorrow’s walk.
One of the gravestones in the churchyard has the following inscription…
Here lieth the body of
Thos. Greenwod who
died May 24 1776
In ye 52 year of his age
seeming still content
Nor did repine(?) at what
His transient life was
with hard labour fill’d
And working in a
makle(?)pit was kill’d.
The nature of Thomas’ death seems clear – he died in an accident, probably a marle pit of which there are many in the area. They were dug to obtain lime-rich mud which was used to improve the land, most are now small ponds.
Nearby is a C17 sandstone sundial…
Church Street is lined with weavers’ cottages many of them listed but spoilt with all the parked cars. The White Bull, an iconic inn with its porch supported by columns possibly from a temple to Minerva, a place of worship in Roman times. The attached sandstone mounting block is cut into three steps.
Further on is the Black Bull inn and nearby my bus stop where I was preparing for half an hour wait when up pulled one of my neighbours with the offer of a lift home, a good end to a satisfying day.
I was back in Preston bus station and a short walk, including Winkley Square, had me in Avenham Park. It wasn’t supposed to rain but I was donning waterproofs under the old railway bridge before setting off along what was mainly the Preston Guild Wheel shared with The Ribble Way. The weather remained dull and damp all day.
The 21-mile, Guild Wheel cycle and walking path [National Cycle Route 622] was opened in 2012 as one of the projects of that year’s Preston Guild. Established by royal charter in 1179, the Preston Guild of traders was initially held every few years on an irregular basis but has taken place every 20 years since 1542, other than 1942 when it was cancelled due to World War II, resuming in 1952. It circles the city of Preston on mainly off-road trails and is very popular with cyclists.
In the park, a group of Cromwell’s soldiers were preparing to re-enact the Battle of Preston.
I normally cycle this route so it was a different experience on foot but I was able to make fast progress. I was soon on the banks of the river opposite Cuerdale Hall, the site of the Cuerdale Hoard discovery in 1840. The hoard was a vast collection of Viking silver coins and jewellery now displayed in the British Museum.
The trail became busier once in the Brockholes Nature Reserve, a large wetlands area. I didn’t have binoculars with me so there was no lingering. The steep track up into Red Scar Woods was easier without having to push a bike. Leaving the Ribble Way the Guild Wheel goes through the grounds of Preston Crematorium. The diversion to LadyewellShrine involved roads and tracks very close to the motorway so the traffic noise was everpresent. The lane leading up to the shrine is thought to have been a pilgrim route for centuries and continues to be so. The present Ladyewell House incorporates a chapel from 1685 which was used until St. Mary’s Church was built up the road in 1793. [I have photos of my children in a nativity play in the present-day church when they attended the neighbouring Fernyhalgh infant school, now closed.] Our Lady’s Well is the object of pilgrimages to this day, pressing a button serves you with water from the well. There is also an ancient cross base here amongst the modern Catholic shrines and religious tat.I’m not sure why The Ladyewell Shrine has become so popular as a pilgrimage destination.
I’m late setting off today and my bus gets me into Longton just before 12am but I only have to walk back to Preston on The Ribble Way. As I arrive on the route, having walked down Marsh Lane, another walker appears and asks as to the whereabouts of the RW. I know where he went wrong as the signage was very poor. We walk down the lane to join the riverside way, it turns out he is in training for a long Camino route next year. To be honest there is not a lot of interest on this flat featureless stretch so we fall into step and conversation. Having cycled the Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay in France to Santiago de Compostela I took great interest in his plans and pledged to support his chosen charity. Today he was planning to pick up the Guild Wheel at the docks but hadn’t realised there was no bridge across the Ribble until Penwortham – thus giving him some extra training. Along the way I pointed out on the far bank the dug out Ribble Link enabling a link-up from the Lancaster Canal to Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the rest of the system. I’m not sure how often it is used as you need a pilot boat to take you down the Ribble to enter the Douglas. The entrance to Preston Docks was passed without a bridge. The tide was out and the river did not look its best.
The Ribble Link.
Preston docks entrance.
Past Penwortham Golf Club we entered a parklike space which was the former Penwortham Power Plant, demolished in the 80s. I realised I needed to leave the river to seek out the monastic sites above, Penwortham Priory, so we went our separate ways and I wished him the best with his efforts. I climbed out into Castle Walk, there was a Norman ‘motte and bailey castle’ hereabouts until 1232. The castle was built to control a ford across this important waterway. I marched around Castle Walk until directly below the present church but the developers had defended it well there was no way through. Backtracking I encountered several ‘Priory’ road names all related to a Benedictine prioryand subsequent mansion situated here until demolition in 1920. All is now new housing. [one of my climbing friends lived in Priory Crescent until recently, he has made a good choice by moving to France.]
No way through.
Round the corner was St. Marys Church which I approached down an avenue of trees. Nearby was the base of a stone cross for which I can find no information. The prominent Lych Gate was surprisingly locked, not a very welcome sight, nonetheless, I worked my way around into the extensive graveyard. Somewhere is the tomb of John Horrocks the noted C18 Preston cotton manufacturer. The church itself dates from the C15. To the north of the church is the mound the Castle was probably built on.
The river was just below but the defences, present-day wire fences, were impregnable until I found a chink in the armour and escaped onto the river embankment thus saving a long walk out on the busy road. Now back on the Ribble Way, I was aiming to cross the river on the ‘old Penwortham bridge’, there are new and newer bridges downstream. A cobbled way took me over to the north bank. Alongside the old bridge are the remains of a dismantled railway bridge, this was the former West Lancashire Railway from Southport leading to its terminus at the bottom of Fishergate Hill. Nearby one of the cottages is named Ferry House suggesting the presence of a ferry before the bridges were constructed. Ahead was the present mainline rail bridge and seen beyond it the redundant East Lancashire Railway bridge previously bringing trains from Blackburn into platforms alongside Butler Street goods yard which is now The Fishergate Shopping Centre. So that is three rail bridges entering Preston from the south.
The two C19 parks, Miller and Avenham, provide a wonderful recreational facility on the edge of central Preston and have been smartened up in recent years. I managed to get lost in road works in East Cliff and reappeared in the rail depot alongside the station. I’d only been walking for 3 hours
Within Preston Convey mentions three other religious sites which are not visited saving me some leg work.
Preston Friary, in what is now Marsh Lane, established in 1260. Friars were different from monastic orders in that they spent their time in the local community preaching and doing missionary work.
Tulketh Priory, a Cistercian abbey established in 1124 but moved to Furness soon after. Tulketh Hall was built on the site and demolished in 1960 for housing.
St. Mary Magdalen’s hospital for lepers,1177, run by monks. Its chapel became a site of pilgrimage until the Dissolution. St. Walburge’s church was built on the site. this church is famous for its 309ft steeple seen from all the surrounding areas. The notorious Fred Dibnah’s last job was working on this steeple back in 2004.
I first rode around the wheel rather disastrously in 2014. and have repeated it several times since. It has rained solidly for over 24hrs meaning the fields will be sodden and unpleasant for walking. Having used my bike to assist with a few walks recently I thought it time to revisit the well-surfaced route.
A toss of the coin determined which way I went, heads sent me anticlockwise. The beginning is not inspiring, through an industrial estate including a metal recycling plant where my last car ended its days. The roundabout on Bluebell Way I always find confusing, there is a choice of a level route on pavements or a steeper way directly into the countryside, I found myself on the latter. Pleasant parkland is encountered but the noise of the adjacent motorway is offputting. I walk up the first steep hill. I’m enjoying the riding and soon cover a few miles, it is 21miles for the full circuit as posts every mile remind you. Most cyclists seem to be coming the other way, clockwise. I watch as most seem to steer straight through the awkward wooden barriers designed to slow one. They certainly slow me I come to a standstill and walk through, my bike manoeuvrability is not what it was or maybe I’m just broad-shouldered.
D’Urton Lane is soon reached and appears to have been opened to traffic after several years or building Broughton Bypass. Housing estates are being built with access onto this previously quiet lane. At its far end all is changed with signalled crossings over the Broughton Bypass, here called James Towers Way named after a WW1 VC decorated soldier from Broughton.Safely over the busy roads and round the corner the old A6 is very quiet without much traffic and changed lanes……and my once favourite curry house has been demolished for development of the site.
There are major housing developments around Preston Grasshoppers rugby ground and further on the housing is closing in on the wheel, there will be a lot more traffic to contend with in future.
I had my usual coffee stop sat outside The Final Whistle Cafe in UCLAN’s sports ground. Climbing over Blackpool Road dark clouds were massing over Preston as I headed back. Along past, the docks was a memorial stone, erected 2018, in memory of Ben Ashworth a local marathon/charity runner. Apparently, there is a plaque entering Miller Park as well but I missed it.
The old tram bridge over the Ribble at Avenham Park has been closed due to structural defects, I wonder if it will ever open again.
At the end of Brockholes Nature Reserve is a new sign erected by The Peak and Northern FootpathsSociety, I don’t remember seeing it before though it’s dated 2013.
All that was left was to push my bike up that last steep bit [have stone sets been laid recently?] and cycle through the crematorium to complete the circuit. Very enjoyable and it didn’t rain.*****
“Your car will be ready about 4pm, we’ll phone you”
I’m in one of the outlets on the vast ‘motor village’ out by the docks in Preston where one can buy just about any make of vehicle. It was just after 9am in the garage reception area, more like a lawyers office than a garage but the mechanics must be hiding somewhere. Last year I took the opportunity to cycle round the Preston Guild Wheel but I’m limited to easy walking at the moment. The day was perfect, blue skies and winter sun. I had to make the most of it so I planned on walking a 7 mile stretch of the Guild Wheel, its NW segment. But first a free coffee and a read of the paper – I had a lot of time to fill.
I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t enjoy the first noisy mile alongside the main road but as soon as this was crossed and left behind peace and tranquility returned. One’s mind becomes clearer and the rural calm helps with those nagging problems. The sun always helps.
I found myself on the Ribble Link which gives access at long last from the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network once across The River Ribble. On a whim I decided to follow it towards the river but after a short distance and a couple of locks the the ‘path’ was too boggy for my trainers. As it is a new structure, 2002, there was no need for a traditional towpath. This link is basically Savick Brook which has been widened and equipped with locks to make it navigable. At a nearby bridge I watched some regular dredging going on and was able to chat about the Link with the Canal Trust workers. I have never seen a boat on this length before and wondered about its usefulness but they assured me 300 boats passed through last year.
Through the UCLAN sports grounds and alongside housing at Cottam on maturing paths, dog walkers, pram-pushers, runners and cyclists all sharing and happy in the sunshine.
Soon one wanders into new developments appearing everywhere in north Preston like the pox. Their names are fanciful. They never come up with Muddy Meadows, Crowded Copse, Restricted View, Non-environmental Nook, Flooding Fields, Ruined Manor…
Broughton village however has recovered its relative tranquility since the long awaited by-pass has opened. The road is barely recognisable. Where’s the traffic queue? Probably somewhere else but they deserve a bit of peace for awhile.In a slower mode I noticed for the first time a stone ‘pinfold’ [where stray animals were held until collected] by the path and also a war memorial.
I walked on crossing the new road, named in honour of a local man awarded the Victoria Cross in the WW1. I was eager to see what has become of the cycle route along Durton Lane since the road works, again it is a changed world. There is no longer any through traffic but engulfing housing will eventually destroy its character.
A couple of snippets from this area …
The sign says No fly tipping.
Wouldn’t like to learn to swim here,
I let my phone guide me through the residential streets near the hospital and then on familiar ground down Plungington Road to enjoy a late lunch in my favourite south Indian cafe, RK Sweets. Vegetable thali for £5.
Rather than catch a bus just yet I wanted to put more miles into the lovely day so on I walked through the University area and past the international cafes of Friargate. What an opportunity to look at the newly refurbished market hall which though not yet fully running could give some life back into Preston city centre. I don’t come into town very often and I ended up in Wilkinson’s Camera shop spending money on an impulsive purchase of a replacement compact. Nearby was the bus station which is also being refurbished as part of Preston’s improvements. The crowded bus dropped me a mile short of the garage so in the end I’d walked about 13 miles by the allotted 4pm
“Everything is OK and you’ve passed the MOT” So all’s well.
As the crow flies this section would only be about three and a half miles but the canal does a large loop towards the Fylde, an extension to Fleetwood was originally planned. My plan was for an easy level walk on the towpath and this worked well until out in the country where the boggy terrain was extremely troublesome, why didn’t I anticipate that. I was trod in lightweight trainers which quickly became sodden as I slithered around in the mud cursing my stupidity. But the sun shone and it was a glorious day to be out so the benefits outweighed the negatives.
Dismissing the Ribble Link and the Tramway across the Ribble the canal now starts in Aqueduct Street, that’s a clue to its former route through Preston Town centre. Some inauspicious steps lead to a grubby basin with no room to swing a cat never mind turn a boat. I guess no one comes this far on the water. A finger post gives distances, there is only one way.
The towpath is on the left bank and I think remains so for the length. On the far side are waterside houses. In the background is the iconic St. Walburge church spire, the third tallest in England. Housing lines the cutting and above is another iconic Preston site Tulketh Mill with its towering brick chimney – cotton was king.
The first bridge is numbered 11 so a lot have been lost. I creep under Blackpool Rd. reputedly a good place to see kingfishers and on to the edge of Haslam Park. Bridge 13 is the first aqueduct, here above a diminutive Savick Brook which remarkably hosts the Ribble Link further on whose basin and locks are soon encountered. I’ve been this way before.
More pleasant housing on the right bank is passed, I could well imagine canal side living with a canoe to take me shopping. Bridge 17 gives access to a lovely cafe and the busy UCLAN sports grounds. Massive housing developments are taking place on the far side, Cottam. At last open countryside is reached. a former farm swing bridge has been removed with little trace. Salwick Hall is seen across the fields to the right, what must they have thought of the construction of Springfields BNFL plant nearby. One of my climbing partners spent most of his working life there producing Nuclear Fuels. ‘Reassuringly’ signs by the canal tell you what to do when there is a nuclear catastrophe.
A cutting takes me safely past and at bridge 26 is The Hand and Dagger Inn, not yet open this morning and I suspect with a change of name no longer a canalside pub but an eating ‘place’. The mud kicked in by now as I ducked under the busy M55 with distant views of the Bowland Fells.
The milestones are not all intact but those that are prove useful.
Further on there is a marina hiring out and selling boats, a friendly worker is busy cleaning his stock. Further on a dog walker and I agree grumpily about the devastation all the excessive house building, often on flood plains, is having on the local area. I dare not mention fracking. Crossing Woodplumton Aqueduct I drop down to examine Rennie’s design, apparently no two aqueducts on the canal are alike. At one point I’m listening to a tuneful bird call I don’t recognise, eventually I spot high in the branches a tree-creeper. I then struggle in the mud to complete the section to bridge 35 near Woodplumpton and a bus. Enough for today, if my hip is OK I’ll be back tomorrow.
I like a challenge and an objective. Since the beginning of November I’ve shelved trips abroad because of painful musculature around my left hip – brought on by excessive stress on the Cornish coastal path and in La Palma mountains last year. My physio appointment today was positive and I’m armed with exercises to re-balance my muscles. So fingers crossed.
The Lancaster Canal is a good project in the circumstances. Flat walking and easily accessed from public transport. Walking on the flat seems to be no problem so over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this canal system in easy sections.. I’ve never walked the full length so why not complete now.
The Lancaster Canal was a project from the 18th century to connect Kendal and Lancaster to Preston and ambitiously to the rest of England’s canal system. At the time Preston was a major port and the link north would provide coal and supplies to booming industries and limestone in the opposite direction, hence its nickname The Black and White. By 1797 a lock-less 42-mile section of the canal was constructed from Preston to Tewitfield. John Rennie was the engineer. The extension to Kendal was completed in 1810 and a spur to Glasson Dock added in 1826. Passenger traffic on this section was much quicker than stage coach. The southern link was complicated by the River Ribble, a tramway was built across it to gain access to the Leeds – Liverpool system and thus an aqueduct was never built. As trade declined the last cargo was transported in 1947. The canal at its southern end now terminates in Ashton basin with a section lost in Preston’s housing. At the northern end the canal terminates effectively at Tewitfield locks as the M6 has disrupted further progress, a short-sighted but economical decision. The line of the canal can be followed northwards to Kendal. This whole isolated canal was finally connected to the rest of the English canal network in 2002 by the opening of the Ribble Link.
The garage where I bought my car from last year lies on The Guild Wheel circuit. When I phoned to arrange the yearly service I was surprised the appointment, they have become very clinical in garages, was on Easter Monday, so rather than waste the day in went the bike. The receptionist, very clinical, was taken aback by my Lycra and helmet and doubted I would be back within the 2 hours the service would take. I set off on the Wheel in an anticlockwise direction and after a couple of miles I was investigating the lock gates from the Ribble into Preston docks when a familiar voice caught my ear and there was one of my sons and his partner cycling the opposite way. They were visiting from Manchester and doing a quick circuit before dining with family. I was invited to join them and soon was retracing my ride past the garage I had left a short while ago. I meant to mention that this garage is part of a multi motor showroom complex – there are cars and salesmen everywhere.
The day was cool and dry, we made good progress around the northern half of the Wheel. I managed to keep up with their youthful pace but was glad of a coffee stop in, say it quietly, Starbucks.That reminded me of a picture I took in Bethlehem a couple of years ago.
Onwards and down through the woods at Redscar where the bluebells were just colouring up. Now the fact it was Easter Monday hit home as all the way through Brockholes the path was thronged with families enjoying the sunshine. Slow progress. The pace quickened on the stretch by the river and after that my companions took a different route up into Preston. From here the crowds thickened again and I realised it was the famousegg rolling day in Avenham Park so it was simpler and safer to dismount and walk with the crowds. There was a great party atmosphere – egg-rollers, fair goers, music and dance entertainment and general family happiness. I tarried to absorb it all.
Even after leaving the park the route through the docks was thronged with people, the steam train was running. I arrived back at the garage after three hours to collect my car, complete with its clinical diagnostic sheet. I complemented the receptionist on their efficiency and enthused how easily I fitted the cycle into the boot.
Everyone seemed happy on this sunny Easter Monday.
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 Walkand 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.
Fishwick fields – not a drug runner in sight.
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.
Miller Park – ignore the ugly council block top left.
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.
Haslam Park with the iconic Tulketh Cotton Mill in the background.
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 ParksWalk.
In my last post I mentioned there were a few issues with the ‘Wheel’ but as we were in the Xmas season of goodwill I left them till now. Today has been bright, sunny and freezing with no wind – perfect for another circuit to keep the momentum going. Well wrapped up I cycled from Longridge thus adding an extra ten miles to my clockwise route. Brockholes nature reserve was busy with family parties strolling around and serious telescope wielding birders. There did seem to be a lot of wildlife on the lakes. Onwards again in the parks families were enjoying the good holiday weather. This brings me to the first issue, that of sharing the ‘path’, there are a multitude of users – cyclists, strollers, pram pushers, dog walkers, joggers. On social media there have been unfavourable comments directed at cyclists for their selfish and at times dangerous behaviour. The main issue being speed. I must admit on my visits the majority of cyclists proceed in an orderly manner with due respect to pedestrians. There are only a few head down speedsters. Being old fashioned I have a bell on the bike and use it when approaching walkers as a warning, this seems to work well and we all pass happily. My grumble here is that a significant number of walkers are plugged in to some sound system, don’t hear and tend to stumble into your track becoming a danger to all. Touché.
The Guild Wheel has been a great success as a recreational route since its inauguration in 2012
For walkers and cyclists it is mainly traffic free but recent developments are threatening its viability. There are several new housing developments in the northern section which will, apart from the inevitable loss of open countryside, increase traffic on the presently quiet lanes. Local residents are as much up in arms as the Guild Wheel users. I believe that sections of ‘cycle to school’ lanes are also affected. In another area the construction of The Broughton By-pass cuts right across the Wheel and endangers users. I have not seen the proposals for pedestrians and cyclists on its completion. It is interesting to read correspondence between Guild Wheel campaigners and our political representatives on the County Council. I will leave it to your interpretation as to whom to believe, time will tell. There is a petition to sign if you have strong views.
Back home warming up in the bath I’ve a warm glow of satisfaction from today’s ride – physical and mental – long may it remain possible.
The Roman Soldiers on Preston Guild Wheel have dressed for the festive occasion.
The most clicked page on my posts in the last few years has happened to be the Preston Guild Wheel map –
– it seems to be a popular ride.
This is no blow by blow account of today’s festive ride, I’ve done that before here and there.
Better to look at one of the many YouTube videos of a speeded up trip around the circuit, they remind me of the London to Brighton film shown on the BBC as an interlude back in the days, along with the potter’s wheel.
Anyhow to get back to today’s ride, anticlockwise from Red Scar on a sunny but cold afternoon. I didn’t have time to call in at all the refreshment stops but made a mental note for a future caffeine indulgence. Other beverages are available. [These are the establishments directly on the Wheel, there are several more within a hundred metres for a grand slam circuit.]
Starbucks. Bluebell Way.
The Guild Merchant. Tag Lane.
Ancient Oak. Cottam.
Final Whistle Cafe. UCLAN Sports Centre.
The Beach Club Coffee Shop. Preston Marina.
The Continental. Riverside.
The Pavilion Cafe. Avenham Park.
Floating Cafe. Brockholes.There are some ongoing issues with the Guild Wheel but I’ll leave them to a later date.
One can’t always be in exotic areas, Lancashire is enough. Mel was up for a few days, my planning had been delayed by other arrangements, so on the hoof we enjoyed the following days.
Thursday. 11.30 Pick up at Preston station . 12.00 lunch at the five star RK Sweet Centre – masala dhosa £2.50.
14.00 a walk around the reservoirs in Longridge visiting the shops to purchase delicacies and drink for tonight’s home cooked Italian meal.
A Longridge reservoir.
Friday. A late start saw us in a compulsory Chinese buffet in Southport.
After the Egyptian Room in the Atkinson Gallery we spent time looking at the eclectic historical exhibits relating to the Sefton coast – lifeboats, Bootle Docks, shrimping, Dan Dare, Meccano.
On the spur of the moment we drove down the coast to Crosby to view Antony Gormley’s ‘Time and Space’. It was mid tide so the figures ranged from full bodies to heads barely visible in the sea.
Saturday. Another late start, shan’t tell you why, and we were following the Ribble Link canal towards the Ribble. We didn’t go all the way but cut across a golf course to the Lancaster Canal which we followed back towards Preston, stopping off at a cafe in the UCLAN sports ground. We skirted Haslam Park and continued along the surprisingly green route into the centre of Preston where goods from the canal were transferred to trams to cross the river and join up with the Leeds/Liverpool canal. The modern Ribble Link strives to do the same but I wonder how many boats use this facility. A glorious sunny day.
Lancaster Canal in Preston.
End of the canal in Preston.
The excellent Egyptian cafe in Preston provided food as good as Cairo in the evening.
Sunday. The weather remained good. Another ‘watery’ walk, taking in Cockersand Abbey, coastal walking, Glasson Dock, another canal and Thurnham Hall, was enjoyed in the sunshine.
Glasson estuary with the damaged Plover Scar light.
Link canal with Bowland Fells in the distance.
Back home it was time for an ‘Indian’.
Monday. Take Mel back to the station until we meet again next Spring on the Thames Way for some more ‘watery’ walking.
I’ve lived in the Preston area for over 40 years but never been into Haslam Park. That was rectified this weekend, my friend Mike was researching a short walk for his walking group and thought the park and adjoining canals would be suitable.
The Preston City Council website says –
Formerly open pastureland, Haslam Park was donated to the Borough by Mary Haslam in 1910. She commissioned the parks design and construction in memory of her father, John Haslam, who was the owner of a cotton mill on Parker Street, Preston. Miss Haslam’s main ambition for the park was to ensure that ample space was made for the children, and to this end she donated additional money for the development of the park. From this generous donation landscape designer (or garden architect as he preferred) Thomas H Mawson was contacted. From his designs the park was finished and opened in 1912.
The historic features from this design include wrought iron entrance gates (these were restored in 1999 with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund), an avenue of lime trees, cast iron drinking fountain (this no longer works) and the lake and cascade from the Lancaster canal, still a popular part of the park. Also included in the original design was an arboretum and grass lands to encourage wildlife and flowers.
In 1915, Mawson amended his plans to include swimming baths, but due to the lack of funds and the First World War the plans were shelved. The baths were constructed in 1932 when Mr J Ward donated money for the baths and an aviary. Sadly both of these features no longer exist with the baths closing in 1987 and subsequently demolished.
We set off down that lime tree avenue past the drinking fountain and onto the Lancaster Canal. This was a quiet stretch with not much boat activity, in fact none at all. Walking past the ‘new’ town of Cottam we realised development was still proceeding at a pace, pity the local roads.
Canal towpath, quiet lanes and a golf course saw us onto the Ribble Link, a new navigation linking the Lancaster Canal to the River Ribble and hence into the national network. It was opened in July 2002 but has had several closures due to flood damage and the need for dredging. I wonder how much use it gets.
At the basin connecting to the Lancaster Canal there are steep locks and a strange statue.
We completed a 4 mile or so circuit just as the rain started again. A short walk a short post.
On the spur of the moment decided to cycle the Preston Guild Wheel again after my last rather troublesome trip. [ see post http://bowlandclimber.com/2014/03/18/preston-guild-wheel-practice-circuit/ ], Having replaced all my brake and gear cables as a precaution and having a few more miles under my wheels I set off with confidence. To ring the changes I cycled anti clockwise this time which gave a different perspective to the scenery and of course different hills to climb.
The weather was forecast to be bright and breezy, that’s always good for walking but on a bike I’ve re-realised you have to take account of the wind strength and direction. Today it was from the west so got that out of the way early on as I rode out through Cottam and towards Blackpool before following the River Ribble back through Preston.
The route was very busy with cyclists, of all shapes and sizes, coming past me in the more popular clockwise direction. Cheery greetings to all. For a while I made a mental number, into the hundreds, of those passing until I realised I was encountering people from earlier in the day for the second time. I don’t know how much Preston spent on this project but judging from it’s popularity it must be one of the more successful endeavors with our council tax.
The dockland railway was in operation and I was able to have a ‘race’ alongside the steam train as it cruised into Preston. The parks were all looking spic and span in the Spring sunshine.
The cherry trees were still blooming and in the woods there was the first flush of bluebell blue.
By the end of my trip I was flushed with the exercise as I climbed the last steep hill in the hinterland of Fulwood. Must have a closer look at the map to see exactly where I’ve been. Some interesting place names were encountered – Lightfoot Green, Nog Tow, Frenchwood, Midgery Lane. Will look into their derivations.
Have a walking trip planned for the end of the month so will keep cycling to get fit and hope my foot copes with the actual walking then.
Preston Guild Week takes place every 20 years – I’ve witnessed three. It is an ancient tradition celebrating the Merchants Guilds who traded in the town, now city.
In 1179, King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant and awarded the town its first royal charter. The Guild was an organisation of traders, craftsmen and merchants, who had a monopoly of trade in the town. Gatherings for renewing membership were infrequent, from 1542 Preston Guild took place every 20 years. In 1790 there was freedom of trade in the town, which abolished the need for a Guild. But people continued to celebrate the Guild, as its festivities had developed into prestigious social occasions, which continues to this day.
The Guild Wheel has been created as a lasting legacy of the 2012 Preston Guild. The 21 mile route makes the most of the different landscapes that surround the city, creating a rich and varied environment for people to enjoy on foot and cycle. For more information and downloadable maps visit https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/cycling/guild-wheel/