Keep safe!

Keep safe!
You are responsible for your own safety and that of your dog. The walks listed in this blog are not detailed guides. Plan your route! Click the landrover image for safety advice from Bowland Pennine MRT.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Astley Park, Chorley

Astley Park is close to the Centre of Chorley and consists of 43 hectares (that's quite big!) of woodland paths and open fields. The park is easy to find, with a large car park situated next to the well signposted "Astley Hall".

I've driven past Astley Park hundreds of times but never ventured inside. There must be something about miserable wet saturday mornings that inspires me to seek out new places, so with today hailed as one of the wettest of the year to date, I thought we'd have a short drive out to Chorley to take a look.

The main car park was east to find, follow the signs to Astley Hall and you'll find ample parking. I have to say it was a little desolate at 7.00am on a Saturday morning but we soon found a signpost pointing down a little footpath which led into the park and some formal gardens next to bowling greens. We later found that this formal part of the park is a "dogs on leads" zone but happily, as with all our new places, the dog was on the lead anyway until we were sure of our surroundings.

We followed a tarmac path past the bowling greens and over a small stream into the woods. The trees provided some decent shelter from the rain so we followed this park until it reached Southport Road. There was no obvious place to go but to retrace our tracks until we reached a wide freshly laid path leading through the woods on our right. This lovely path took us round the edge of the park, beside fields, pools and a stream, until we came out of the woods near to Park Road. Here, we joined the main tarmac path that rund through the centre of the park and turned left until we reached the main open fields. The Hall was clearly in view on the other side of the fields so we slowly worked our way there, with a little help from our ball, passing by a small lake until reaching the Hall and returning to the car park.

It's clear that Astley Park and Hall have fallen on hard times in the past but signs at the entrance to the park told of Chorley Council's efforts to rejuvinate the park and Hall with the help of a £2m lottery bid. The lovely woodland path we took looked as if it was evidence of this recent investment. It was also clear that a lot of work has been undertaken (and is ongoing) to clear up the stream that runs through the park. There was also a lot of evidence of earthworks near to the Hall. The Hall itslef looks as if it has yet to benefit from a major facelift but it looks as if its time will come.

All in all, Astley Park is a gem. It seems to receive very little publicity but has the potential to be just a nice as the popular Worden park in Leyland. For now though , I suggest that, like us, you enjoy it whilst it's quiet on a wet Saturday morning!

Click here for a Google map / image. The main paths through the park are clear to see. The new woodland path is not visible but skirts through the trees on the South side of the park. The main car park and Hall lie off Hall Gate Lane, in Astley Village.

Doggy rating 7/10

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Millennium Ribble Link

The four mile Millennium Ribble Link opened in 2002 and is Britain's newest inland waterway. The Link joins the Lancaster Canal with the Ribble Ribble, providing a tidal link to the Rufford branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. A footpath follows much of the length of the Ribble Link, providing an interesting walk with a real mix of urban and rural settings.

Our walk was around 6 miles, taking about 2 hours but you could shorten it to suit. Most of the route is easy access and suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs (but quite narrow in places). Any stiles and easily be avoided. The path crosses several roads en route so be ready to put your dog on its lead. As this is a fairly urban walk, there may be other dogs around who see it as their territory so again, just take a little care if your dog is itself aggressive or over friendly.

On this mornings walk we was a young lad with a lovely looking Staffie some way off. The lad put down his bag of shopping, put several additional twists of his lead round his wrist, stood astride of the dog, clamping it in place with his legs and holding its head whilst we passed. The Staffie seemed completely bemused and wandered off happily, after seeming not to notice us as we passed. I was glad our dog was on the lead at the time though! We did pass several other Staffie's who were perfectly friendly so please please don't stress if you see one!

Our route started at the main car park in Preston's Haslam Park, off Blackpool Road. We followed the main path through the park, crossing the brook, and through the grassland of the nature reserve to the Lancaster Canal. All of this stretch can happily be done off-lead and there are plenty of ball throwing opportunities!

On reaching the canal, turn left, and follow the towpath, crossing under a bridge, until you reach the junction of the Lancaster Canal and the locks leading to the Millennium link. It's a good idea to put your dog on the lead here. There locks are deep and with gates either side, there's no way out of the water other than up the ladders! The main road (Tom Benson way) also runs close by.

Follow the path beside the locks where you'll see an imposing 15 foot high sculpture of a naked man. The sculpture is entitled "Water". It has to be seen to appreciate it! There are apparently three other sculptures en route, fire, air and earth, although we only spotted "Air".

Take care crossing Tom Benson Way and follow the path under the rail bridge using the metal walkway. This is quite narrow and could be slippery but very short in length. Unfortunately, it's a hot spot for graffiti but don't let that put you off, the route soon opens up again.

The path widens and winds its way beside the link, crossing Savick Way and Lea Road. After Lea you, you can either follow the path beside the Link or take the footpath across the field, directly in front of you as you cross the road. As we walked today, the grass had been recently cut so we were able to walk through the field and have another good game of fetch before crossing over a stile to the access road to Ashton and Lea Golf Club. We continued to follow the path beside the link, which runs alongside Preston North End's training ground before opening up once more beside open fields. There is a footbridge along this stretch which allows you to join a footpath through the golf course, but we didn't take that route today.

Eventually, you reach another bridge and a sign warning that the footpath ends at "lock 8". At this point we turned back and retraced our steps following largely the same route back to the car.

All in all a good walk with lots of off-lead opportunities. A bit of a Jekyll and Hyde walk in terms of the surroundings. One minute you're in lovely surroundings and the next faced with the fortified perimeter of PNE's training ground or some recent Graffiti on one side and the lovely greenery of the gold course on the other. Overall, worth a trip. You can always find something nice to look at.

One day, we'll return to make a nice circular walk.

Click here for a Google map / image

Click here for the British Waterways website

Doggy rating 6/10

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Preston Junction Nature Reserve

This is great dog walking territory, close to the heart of Preston, taking in a short stretch of footpath along the banks of the River Ribble opposite Avenham Park. The Preston Junction Local Nature Reserve is based on former railway lines, rich in diverse wildlife. It is a fantastic area, showing some of the natural environment of the Ribble at its best. This natural tidal stretch of the Ribble, and the open Countyside feel, would probably be lost forever if the Ribble Barrage and Riverworks project goes ahead. Anyone living in the Preston area should take the time to enjoy this walk and see what could be lost.

We've highlighted part of this route a few times before (Around the Gas Works and A long walk aroud the Gas works)but this walk is based almost exclusively on the area covered by the nature reserve. It's easy walking and provides some good off-lead opportunities when off the main cycle routes.

Our walk started as usual from near Bee Lane on Leyland Road, Preston. We walked down Leyland Road to Skew Bridge, where the road crosses the railway tracks, and took the footpath leading off to the right to the old Vernon Carras factory. Crossing Factory Lane we took the path opposite the farm, leading past the sports changing facilities. Passing through a gate, ignoring the first footpath up the railway embankment, we took the tarmac path leading left up to join the main embankment leading towards Preston. This tends to be relatively quiet and provides a good off-lead stretch.

The embankment reaches the banks of the Ribble, by the old (now closed) railway bridge. Here, turn right, and walk along the well made path along the banks of the Ribble. This stretch is tidal and it's amazing how the walk takes on a different nature dependant on tides and the volume of flood water.

When you reach the old Tram Road bridge leading over to Avenham Park, turn right up the tree lined old Tram Road. Rather than stay on the main tarmac path you can drop down to a narrow path on the left, below the embankment, which provides a better opportunity for off-lead walking, avoid any passing cycles. The lower path isn't recommended for anyone with mobility problems.

The lower path ultimately becomes impassable and a steep walk up the embankment is needed to rejoin the main path, but it's worth it.

The Tram Road ultimately leads back to the factory where we retraced our steps back to Leyland Road.

The circular route takes about an hour. You can extend it by carrying on up the Tram Road and up Wateringpool Lane before cutting back across to Leyland Road near Lostock Hall.

More information on the nature reserve can be found on the Lancashire County Council website

Doggy rating 7/10

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Ribble Riverworks and Barrage Debate

No walk listed today but visitors to the blog may be interested in contributing to a Lancashire Evening Post Survey about the proposed Ribble Barage. There's a link to the survey from the LEP home page

Even if you don't complete the survey, have a look at the proposals anyway!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A holiday in Cornwall

The blog has been quiet for a while. This has been in part because we've been revisiting our favourite walks but also because we took the dog on holiday to Cornwall. This entry shares some of our experiences and gives our view on whether taking your dog on holiday is a good idea.


Obviously the location is important. We stayed in a very pet friendly log cabin deep in the woods of South East Cornwall. We were able to almost literally fall out of bed straight onto a wonderful off lead walk in the mornings and enjoy an atmospheric woodland walk before bed.

We made sure we had everything the dog needed before we left. Food was weighed out and bagged in daily portions. Bowls, dishes, toys, towls, leads and bedding were all packed. We invested in some cheap sun shades from Pets at Home to keep the sun's glare off the dog whilst in the car as well as a really useful utility belt with a water bottle and fold up water bowl.

The Journey

It's a long way from Preston to Cornwall. The dog had all home comforts on the back seat of the car, suitably harnessed of course. We stopped every couple of hours (Strensham and near Exeter) for a bit of a walk, a wee and of course a big drink. Remember that if it's a hot day you'll not be able to leave your dog in the car whilst you use the services, you'll have to take shifts!


We didn't venture too far immediately after we reached our cabin. The dog was a little on edge but seemed happy enough with the sights and sounds of the woods.

Whilst there

So, was Cornwall dog friendly? We thought so. There was very little that we weren't able to do because of the dog. We enjoyed visits to many sea-side villages, pubs, cafes and beaches. You have to do a little homework to find the dog friendly beaches (the Cornwall County Council website is a good start) but they were never far away. We found some excellent pubs (using the Good Pub Guide) which provided great food (the Ship in Lerryn and the Blue Peter in Polperro are highly recommended)and allowed the dog to sit quietly in the bar area (enjoying the fuss of course). What was really surprising were the number of shops that were happy to allow the dog in - we didn't always take up the offer but it was a nice touch. Many many shops had water bowls outside. Walks were never a problem and if it's hot on the beach or the cliff tops there are loads of shaded woodland walks to choose from.

In summary, we had a great time which was enhanced by taking the dog. Maybe it's not for everyone, if you have an elderly dog which wouldn't take to the change of surroundings or the journey for example, but don't be worried about whether you'll find a dog friendly county when you get there. No, you can't take the dog on Fistral beach in Newquay or many many other hugely popular and crowded beaches, but would you really want to visit them anyway? There are plenty more to choose from!

Happy holidays.