Fairy Glen, near Appley Bridge, had seen a surge in visitor numbers since the coronavirus pandemic began, with thousands of people travelling from far and wide to enjoy the green space.
It has now been ranked as the third prettiest walk in the UK in a new study by Parkdean Resorts, which looked for the best walking locations and places where 10,000 steps can be guaranteed.
Using review data from TripAdvisor and AllTrails, the study ranked the locations based on six factors - the number of reviews/review scores, key word mentions, level of walking difficulty, child friendliness, wheelchair and pushchair accessibility, and whether it was pet friendly.
The prettiest place was judged to be Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, followed by Dovedale in the Peak District and Fairy Glen was in third place.
The study said: “Landing third place in our study is Fairy Glen, a serene forest area in Wigan featuring hiking trails and a picturesque stream. Receiving 1,254 TripAdvisor reviews with 251 mentions of its beautiful settings and 207 reviews complimenting the views, it will take you an average of two hours to reach the end of this walk - where you’ll have covered 10km of woodland ground, totalling just over 13,000 steps.”
While recognition of the beauty of Fairy Glen may be welcomed, there will be some locals who fear this could lead to even more visitors heading there.
It proved to be so popular in 2020, when people were limited to how far they could travel due to pandemic restrictions, that the site had to be shut because there was not enough space to maintain social distancing.
Another problem has been the absence of a car park at the attraction - off the A5209 Sparrow Hill - which resulted in drivers leaving their vehicles in dangerous positions at the side of the road.
This led to a number of complaints, including concerns for the safety of people as they got in and out of vehicles on the busy road.
The route - which runs from the M6 through to the A59 at Burscough - was changed from a 60mph to 40mph zone along the section close to Fairy Glen in November.
Lancashire County Council now plans to introduce a “red route clearway” which will outlaw parking across the entire width of the highway, including verges.
It will use a camera car to enforce the clearway, with fixed penalty notices issued for drivers who continue to park there.
The Parkdean Resorts study also looked for the flattest walks and the hardest walks in the country, along with family-friendly routes.
The Bridgewater Way, running from Boothstown to Abram, was ranked as the third best flat walk, behind Cosper Green circular in Lancashire and the Bolton Abbey and The Strid circular in North Yorkshire.