Lancashire Walks - Skippool and the River Wyre

PUBLISHED: 10:25 14 September 2011 | UPDATED: 11:47 09 October 2012

Skippool Creek

Skippool Creek

Keith Carter manages to stay dry when he returns to Skippool to explore footpaths by the Wyre

The River Wyre ends its journey from its source in the Trough of Bowland in the sea at Fleetwood after flowing past the fields and pastures of North West Lancashire until it begins to widen after passing Shard Bridge, where a toll was charged up until 1993, its course nearly run.

The estuary is bounded on one side by marsh land and on the other by agriculture and caravans but then the industrial sprawl of the Hillhouse Chemical Works, formerly owned by ICI, dominates a sizeable chunk of the western bank, an unwelcome intrusion that rather spoils the view.

The tributary known as Skippool Creek has spawned an encampment of rickety jetties and boats that seem to have taken root, some rotting away due to neglect and others looking seaworthy enough. The Yacht Club is the only substantial building, standing its ground as if to declare that whatever else intrudes, the members come first.

You reach the start of this months walk, more of a stroll really although good for stretching the legs after a period of inactivity, by turning into Wyre Road by the Thornton Lodge pub.

Follow the tarmac to a car park with a sign saying this is Skippool Country Park, more in hope than execution, but theres plenty of room for cars who can park here free. Leave the car park on the creek road, turning left and following it as far as the Yacht Club. Pass in front of the building on the slipway and join a well made path along the creek, signposts directing the way to Ramper Pot.

Skippool was once quite an important port until larger vessels needed deeper water and found Fleetwood more practicable. Today it is merely a backwater but is popular locally for a range of activities from bird-watching to cycling and dog walking. You cant really go wrong and the path is suitable for wheelchairs all the way to Stanah. My earliest recollections with Skippool involve the annual Raft Race which used to be held on this stretch of the Wyre.

The place where I worked entered for several years running, our efforts never ending well. One year our raft broke up, leaving the crew floundering; another time we began to sink and as captain I had to give the order to abandon ship, a sombre decision for the captain of any ship.

In fact it was a command that had been anticipated since my crew was already gamely swimming for the shore. Buoyed up by my life vest I drifted serenely to the slipway at Stanah to find my crew had already opened the cans of beer, sensibly brought along to celebrate our imagined first place. Im not sure if they still run this event but suspect that health and safety considerations have stopped it, justifiably since it was neither healthy nor safe but it was good fun and quite hilarious.

Our walk continues on the path keeping along the edge of the marshes on which some people choose to walk. We come to a picnic area known as Cockle Hall which was the site of the ferrymans house. A ferry plied between here and Wardleys Creek on the other side of the river.

Wardleys had a busy ship building and repair yard and records show that vessels came to unload cargoes of tallow from Russia. In the 1830s Wardleys was the starting point for many emigrants looking to start a new life in the USA and Canada. It is said that the cost of a passage was 2 but passengers had to provide their own food which they cooked on deck around a shared fire.

As we approach Stanah the path becomes busier with strolling folk and the occasional Tramper, a four-wheeled buggy designed for the use of people with differing disabilities. Theres a Tramper Trail to allow full enjoyment for anyone not confident of walking.

The Wyre Estuary Country Park at Stanah has been greatly enhanced since the days when we would drag our collapsed rafts out of the water. There are excellent facilities including a visitor ukcentre and caf, recently re-opened, picnic tables and a childrens adventure park, there are toilets and even a bus service to and from Poulton. Well done to Wyre Borough for their efforts in bringing the site up to a high standard.

I suggest you dont try to proceed further along the path past the chemical works unless you intend following the Wyre Way which leads to Fleetwood, the end, or beginning, of that 41 mile trail. Others should retrace their steps, the view now probably quite different depending on the tide. One thing though; take some insect repellent on sunny days. I was eaten alive by horse flies, the dreaded clegs, whose appetite for blood knows no limits.

Compass points

Area of walk: Wyre Estuary from Skippool to Stanah.

Map: OS Explorer 296 Lancaster, Morecambe and Fleetwood.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Time to allow: 2-3 hours

Refreshments: Thornton Lodge pub, Skippool, caf at Wyre Estuary Country Park, Stanah where there are also toilets.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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