Dennis Kelsall finds that wildlife has taken over where industry once thrived in Longton Brickcroft
Longton's brickworks were begun in the 19th century and were founded on good quality clay dug from the ground. It was just one of many small enterprises established on the fringe of the Lancashire Moss, which relied on the West Lancashire Railway, begun in 1873.
The railway, however, never realised its expected profits and was later taken over by the rival Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
The line was finally closed under the Beeching cuts of 1964, about the same time that the brickworks ceased production. Woodland sprang up around the flooding claypits and in 1998, its importance as a refuge for local wildlife was recognised in its designation as a local nature reserve.
This undemanding walk takes a turn around the lakes before setting off across the fields to the edge of the marsh that flanks the mouth of the River Douglas.
1 From the parking area by the picnic tables, leave through a kissing-gate at the back from which a good path sets off around the southern lake. Eventually, having almost completed the circle, it arrives at a junction where the Visitor Centre is signed to the left.
You should however keep ahead towards North Pond, leaving through a kissing-gate onto a narrow lane.
2 Go right and then left through a gate into a wood. Keep ahead, another lake shortly appearing on your right.
Leave the park through a kissing-gate onto a street and turn left. At the end, cross to The Coppice opposite, where a footpath runs away to the left into another park, The Grove.
Emerging from the trees, join a tarmac path across an open space, leaving the far end of the park onto the main road.
3 Go right to a junction by the Golden Ball. Ahead, across the side road, a narrow track marked as a bridleway, leaves between the houses and leads through to a street.
Go left and continue beyond its end along a hedged track, Back Lane. It winds between fields for nearly three quarters of a mile, later becoming metalled and then swinging sharply left.
Just around the bend, look for a footpath marked off right (at the end of a high wall), which leads through to a small paddock.
Cross diagonally right to a stile into the next field and head out across a couple more fields, leaving by a gate onto a narrow lane.
4 To the right it leads past a farm to end at Pilot's Cottage, just before which a footpath leaves on the left.
Walk away by the boundary into the corner (ignoring a stile just before it), negotiating a couple of stiles to reach the next field. A grass track runs on atop a raised embankment beside a drain.
Watch for it later swinging left along a bank overlooking the flat expanse of Longton Marsh.
Keep going beyond a gate and stile, but where the bank then turns abruptly right, go forward over a stile and on along a lower embankment.
Cross a footbridge but then very soon, bear left to follow a fence line towards a farm in the middle distance.
Keep an eye open for a waymarked stile beside a gate, over which, bear right across a final field to leave onto a lane opposite the buildings to which you were heading.
5 Follow Hall Carr Lane right, later passing between bridge abutments that once carried the West Lancashire Railway.
A little way beyond, turn off left beside a waymark immediately after a pair of houses. Walk away along a narrow meadow.
Successive stiles at the far end mark the line of the old railway, the path running ahead along more fields to emerge on Hall Lane.
To the right, after crossing the course of the railway for a final time, it takes you to the main road in the village. The entrance to the car park is opposite to the right.
Start/finish: Longton Nature Reserve, Longton Grid SD 478250
Public transport: Bus service to Longton Traveline 0871 200 22 33
Distance: 5 miles
Height gain: negligible
Walking time: 1.5 hours
Terrain: Tracks and field paths
Maps: OS Explorer 286 – Blackpool and Preston
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