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Lancashire Walk - Burrs Country Park, Tottington

PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 May 2014

BTK5RF Tornado steam loco at Burrs Park viaduct on the ELR East Lancs Railway steam week October 2010. Lancashire

BTK5RF Tornado steam loco at Burrs Park viaduct on the ELR East Lancs Railway steam week October 2010. Lancashire

© BestPix / Alamy

Keith Carter treads new ground on a visit to Tottington near Bury where he finds part of a unique art trail

I relied on my Satnav to guide me to Burrs Country Park which it did without a single false move. This is not an area with which I am familiar but there is walking to be had as I found out. The Irwell Sculpture Trail runs through it and I have certainly come across this in my travels. It is a unique concept, to commission artworks hopefully inspired by the local area, and site them on a linear trail of some 33 miles, leaving the casual visitor to bag them over a series of visits or possibly in the course of one long walk between Salford Quays and Bacup.

The first we see of it is a work entitled Waterwheel by David Kemp, inspired by the industrial machinery that once powered the mills here. Higher Woodhill Mill was built as a cotton mill but with the decline of the industry was converted to paper making. Originally, water power from the Irwell drove the machinery before the coming of steam engines. Burrs Mill a few hundred yards downstream was an equally successful business in its heyday but both mills were closed in 1933 thanks to the Depression.

The mill chimney and various stone foundations are all that is left to remind us that this was once a place of work and people lived out their lives where others now walk their dogs. You cannot get much of an idea of the industrial activity that made the area so distinctive. Looking at the few traces left behind, one can scarcely conjure up any impression what went on here.

I parked at the site of Higher Woodhill Mill where the stone flags that were the mill floor have been left in place. Descend on a cobbled path to the riverside and follow a path under two railway bridges as far as the site of Burrs Mill where an Activity Centre now occupies what were millworkers’ cottages.

The café here is open at weekends and during school holidays and also nearby is the Brown Cow pub, once a farm, now supplying the needs of the large caravan site. In the paved area under the chimney is another sculpture, a giant metal mousetrap by David Fryer, a witty construct on the term ‘tourist trap’. It’s a bit of a laugh. The mill chimney has been saved from the attentions of Fred Dibnah and his followers. One can imagine his ghost looking on and thinking “that’s one I missed!”

Our walk follows the route of the Irwell Sculpture Trail northwards keeping pace with the river on our left, at first on well-made paths suitable for wheel chairs and push chairs at least as far as the weir. Beyond it the path has not been surfaced and at least when I was there was muddy and slippery until we come to a railway bridge carrying the East Lancashire Railway. Go under the line and keep left on an enclosed path diverted round a converted property on the right.

Emerge onto a tarmac drive, turn left and continue past an ornamental pond, a sculpture park in miniature. Just past the pond take the footpath signposted to the left that takes us through a kissing-gate to the top of a bank then continues along the line of a dense hedge. I was once taken to task for not mentioning that a path was muddy so be aware: this path is muddy when wet. Got it?

When we notice the railway line to the left, go through a kissing-gate and down steps to a road with a bridge in front of us. Cross it and remain on the road through the cluster of buildings known as Wood Road. And, if all clear, sprint across the road to the far pavement. Once past the last farm the road runs out, continuing as a rough track. Ignore the first stile and footpath sign on the left but take the second one you come to indicating the way to Brandlesholme Road in 850 yards.

Be careful through this field not to drop away to the left but keep up on a direction roughly at ten o’clock and hold the same line. The field is a series of bumps like grassed-over workings. Your aim is to find a stile in a holly hedge ahead. Cross it and keep beside a left hand boundary which passes to the right of a pond before heading for the road reached through a gap in the hedge about 25 yards to the right of the field corner. This stile ejects you onto the road with scarcely an inch to spare so don’t leap through it with gay abandon otherwise you’ll go under the wheels of a speeding car. Peep out from the gap with extreme caution.

Go left to an opening 50 yards down leading to Milney Moss Farm. Keep to the right of the buildings, turn right at a T-junction and follow a cinder track to the point where it bends to the right and here go forward through a gateway. Walk on the field margin and when you meet a pond, steer to the left of it then enter a field by a stile. I heard the familiar call of lapwings here and looking up, saw two which brought to mind Shakespeare’s line “Far from her nest the lapwing cries away”.

The field path brings us down a bank to a post with an orange top and a way mark pointing half left towards a mobile phone mast within a fenced enclosure. By heading across the intervening field towards the right hand end of the enclosure you meet a newly laid road serving new housing. Turn left and walk through the built-up area until it joins the main road at Brandlesholme where there are some shops and a chippie to the right. Cross the road and go into Burrs Close where on the right you will see a footpath signposted to Burrs Country Park. This path runs along behind housing, the land falling away steeply to the left down to the river.

On reaching a flight of steps, go down them to the bottom and cross a footbridge to the surfaced path leading to the Activity Centre, café and pub. If you don’t want to visit either, there is a shorter path back to Higher Woodhill Mill which passes the former mill lodge, now used for fishing. Within a few hundred yards we come back to our starting point.

Compass points

Area of walk: Burrs Country Park near Tottington

Distance: About five miles

Time to allow: 2½-3 hours

Map: OS Explorer 277 Manchester and Salford

Refreshments: Brown Cow pub, Burrs Café in the Activity Centre.

Part of the walk is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

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