I am slightly concerned that I am developing a fascination of disused railway lines! I can't help gazing at the route of the old Chorley to Cherry Tree railway line when I look at my 1:25000 maps of Lancashire, the route marked out by evidence of cuttings and occasional footpaths which give me a longing to be able to walk its entire length. Driving through Abbey Village this morning an uncontrollable urge took over and we found ourselves parked on the bridge which crosses the unmistakable route of the line at the north end of the village.
We followed the footpath sign marked "Brinscall" and "Nature Trail" and immediately found ourselves in the deep railway cutting which is Withnell Local Nature Reserve. It seemed rather odd to be entering the reserve from Abbey Village but, ignoring that, we read some of the interesting local history on the entrance sign.
The line ran from Chorley to Cherry Tree near Blackburn, serving the villages of Heapey, Brinscall and Withnell before closing to passengers in 1960. The line was finally severed in 1968 with the demolition of the Botany Bay viaduct, making way for the M61 motorway. In keeping with our new found fascination with railways, we've tracked down some local history on the Chorley Local History Society website.
The walk led us for a mile or so, mainly through a deep cutting with tree lined embankments and natural grass and wetlands at its base, before leaving the reserve and entering in to more open meadows, including a few small fishing pits, at Brinscall. The whole route was spotlessly tidy and well maintained. Looking at the map afterwards it was clear we'd walked almost right through the middle of Withnell without even realising.
As far as dog walks go, the route was ok. As with most nature reserves its dogs on leads all the way, but the grasslands near Brinscall give a chance for a short off-lead run. An interesting way to spend a hour though.
Perhaps we'll now try to walk the whole route.
Click here for Google map
Doggy rating 5/10