Today's walk has been on our list of things to do for well over a year, and it was well worth the wait. Starting at Rufford and taking in the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, returning alongside the River Douglas, the walk of has a little under five miles of almost entirely off lead walking.
Our route began at the park and ride station car park at Rufford, and you could of course get the train out to this rural station for a car free day out. Crossing the tracks at the level crossing led us to the canal, where we crossed the road and took the towpath north, through lovely wooded banks and with glimpses of Rufford Old Hall opposite. The towpath is well fenced from adjoining fields so other than the occasional spell on the lead whilst passing the numerous anglers en-route the dog was able to run free.
After Rufford Old Hall the views opened up to reveal the flat expanse of fields towards Croston, and pleasant towpath walking passed several swingbridges and scenic moorings.
After a couple of miles we reached the small car park at Sollom and turned right, with the dog back on the lead, along the quiet lane and track leading to Red Bridge (which was actually green. Here, we turned right and crossed the easy stile to join the levy running alongside the River Douglas. The dog was in his element by the river, running through the long grass and expressing his pleasure with the occasional bark. There are two choices of path, along the foot of the levy, or along the top. I chose the higher route whilst the dog decided to run below. Bear in mind though that the levys are designed to control floodwaters, and the banks are steep, so walking here when the river is in flood is not recommended!
Passing through the gate at Sollom pumping station led us quickly to Croston Road, where after negotiating another easy stile and crossing the busy road with care, we continued along the top of the levy towards Rufford. The choice of top or bottom route is important here. Stay on top or you'll find yourself having to climb a bed of nettles after half a mile or so, to reach another easy stile en-route.
The riverside walk ends with a pleasant wide path before reaching the railway bridge where our route led us down to the right of the levy and through a small silver gate to return to the canalside moorings at Rufford.
All in all a great walk, but quite rough in places alongside the River Douglas. It is worth the effort though, evidenced by the tired and contented dog lying alongside me on the sofa!
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Doggy rating 8/10