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