• Start: Brockholes Nature Reserve
  • End: Brockholes Nature Reserve
  • Country: England
  • County: Lancashire
  • Type: Country
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Beside the roaring M6 at Preston lies a new nature reserve which offers wonderful walks, as Keith Carter knows only too well

A southbound motorist on the M6 approaching the bridge over the Ribble at the Tickled Trout used to notice an expanse of water on the left, the remains of a sand and gravel quarry slowly being returned to nature.

I used to muse on the area being transformed into a Safari Park on the lines of Knowsley Park with a wildebeest herd roaming over this open land and zebra coming down to the river to drink. This fanciful idea never came about but plans were being laid to turn it into a Nature Reserve.

Slowly the Lancashire Wildlife Trust began to build the necessary funds, fighting off other would be developers wanting to turn it into a race-track for trail bikes. At last the various donors, principally the North West Development Agency, had come up with sufficient funds for the work on converting the area to begin and a competition was launched for the design of a visitor centre that came to be known as The Village.

The winning entry was from the Adam Khan architectural practice who located it on a floating raft built on hollow chambers that allow it to rise and fall with the level of the water. The buildings meet all the best environmental principles and have won architectural awards. The high, pitched roofs clad in oak tiles or ‘shakes’ allow for good air circulation and insulation and give the buildings the appearance of the kind of encampment you imagine early man inhabiting set among the rushes of a lake.

Beside the roaring M6 at Preston lies a new nature reserve which offers wonderful walks, as Keith Carter knows only too well There is no entry fee to the 261 acre Reserve but they charge for the car park where our walk begins. Take the path towards the Village and keep left on meeting the lake to ascend a flight of steps up onto a bank at the top of which we turn left past some picnic tables.

The fenced area to the right is a natural sewage treatment bed, the waste liquids pumped up and allowed to trickle through reeds to emerge clean at the bottom for discharge into the river, another example of the environmentally friendly processes in use on the site. Continue on a descending path to a kissing gate and arrive at the edge of the Ribble, a river that rises in the area of Ribblehead and flows into the sea at Lytham.

Turn left and walk alongside the river where you may see some interesting wild life. Kingfishers nest on the opposite bank and sand martins in holes on our side and should be visible skimming the water for insects. On reaching the weir, we turn away from the river and follow the tree line along a fence that has put old motorway crash barriers to use. We meet a surfaced path and turn right to enter Red Scar Woods, one of the oldest stretches of woodland in Lancashire.

To our left is an area of wetland which is being grazed by Longhorn cattle on loan from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, their job to graze the tussocky grass and create a habitat suitable for ground-nesting birds. The metal squeeze barriers are designed to prevent motorbikes getting through. In spring the wooded bank to our right is a mass of bluebells and sometimes roe deer are seen here as you make your way along the path.

Coming out of the trees we find the first of three lakes, the largest designated by the modest name of Number One Pit, with low lying sandbanks where large numbers of birds congregate, the commonest being cormorants, black-headed gulls and lapwings with many other species depending on the time of year. A stop can be made at the hide from where a broad view of the birdlife can be observed.

Nobody could miss the roar of the M6 that borders the western edge of the reserve, an intrusion which the birds seem to have accepted in spite of the traffic noise that continues day and night. Our path alongside No.1 Pit reaches a T-junction where we meet the Ribble Way, the 70-mile long-distance trail that follows the course of the river and ends on the marshes near Longton.

Turn left and follow this clear path where in two places side paths have been made for further views of the pit, one of them from another hide. When you see the parking area to the right, take the right turn past the children’s play area and make your way back to the starting point. Time to have a look at the floating village itself with a visitor centre and the restaurant where a cup of tea and their own Brockholes Slice should not be missed.

There is an active programme of events throughout the year, many aimed at inspiring children’s interest in the natural world and regular guided walks led by ‘expert’ guides. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m one of them.

Brockholes is a living work-in-progress and part of its appeal is to see it develop and become a natural environment attracting different species of flowers, birds and insects. In places it may seem a little rough around the edges but this is all part of the way it is developing.

Access for wheelchairs and buggies has been thought about and a trail designated on a leaflet available from the visitor centre. Brockholes is organic with something new each time you visit. There aren’t any ‘attractions’ or man-made entertainments. You have to go with an open mind and with your eyes open to get the best out of it. Full marks to the Wildlife Trust for bringing their vision to completion.

Visitor numbers are growing as more and more people get to hear about it and people are coming from further afield to see what it’s all about. For walkers who need a fuller day, they can include a visit to Brockholes in a longer walk from places like Walton-le-dale and Grimsargh, following the Ribble Way and the Guild Wheel Cycle Route. Brockholes is certainly a feather in Preston’s cap.


Compass points

Area of walk: Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Distance: About three miles

Time to allow: Two hours

Map: Plan of site available from the visitor centre

Refreshments: Restaurant at The Village

Wheelchair and Pushchair accessible.



Lancashire One visited Brockholes Nature Reserveon it's grand opening in Easter 2011.

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