with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com
Of all the rivers that flow out from the Yorkshire Dales the Ribble is a maverick – it is the only one that empties into the Irish Sea – all the others flow east into the North Sea. This accident of geography has influenced history.
During the Roman era it became a significant staging post during Agricola’s northward expansion into North West England. Galleys would have been able to use the river to supply his legions somewhere close to Preston while further upstream a permanent fort was established at Ribchester. In the Viking era of the 9th and 10th centuries it was the equivalent of a super highway linking the Norse centres of Dublin and York allowing boats to travel upstream in striking distance of the lowest pass through the Pennines. One of the largest ever treasure hoards was discovered at Cuerdale in South Ribble in 1840. The river starts its journey to the sea on the lonely moors above Ribblehead. From here it heads south between Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent through Horton and down to Settle and then on through a pastoral landscape to Gisburn. At this point it changes direction swinging west becoming increasingly wider as it meanders past Sawley and Clitheroe. Beyond Preston the Ribble takes on a rather artificial appearance owing to the fact it was channelled to allow shipping to access the Port of Preston near the end of the 19th century. Journey’s end is at a wide estuary between Southport and the Fylde coast. Given the attractive countryside the Ribble flows through it is not surprising there is a long distance path that follows it – the Ribble Way. This was established in 1985 and although not as well-known as other trails it offers the walker a 70 mile tramp through a valley rich in natural and human history. The walk described below covers the first section of the trail and since there is no requirement to do the entire 70 miles makes for an excellent day walk.
Start: Longton, The Golden Ball PR4 5AU
Finish: Preston centre - Avenham Park
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 4-5 hours not counting journey times.
Grade: Distance apart very easy.
Maps: OS Explorer 286 Blackpool & Preston
As with all linear walks there is the consideration of how to get to the start or return to the start. Here the Bus routes 2 Preston to Southport or 2A Preston to Ormskirk will be of help. Both run regular services through Longton.
The official start of the route is the Dolphin pub (PR4 5JY) but assuming readers are following the suggestion of using public transport these directions will start from the Golden Ball. Turn into Marsh Lane. Walk down it for the best part of a mile. At the junction with Carr Hall lane keep ahead. Pass the Flying Fish (alternative name for the Dolphin - you’ll really impress the locals if you call it this!)and continue to the lane end. After a gate climb the embankment and turn right.
Basically follow the Ribble Way to Preston. Although it is straightforward and becomes progressively easier the nearer you get to the city for novice walkers the start might confuse mainly because you are a good mile and a half from the Ribble at this point. It is on the far side of Longton March - that expanse of … well marsh to your left. Once on the embankment follow it right (away from the river!) when it bends in half a mile. Soon after cross Longton Brook turn right and then cross a short ladder stile. Keep ahead with the brook on the right and a fence on the left to a post with a waymark pointing left. Over a stile and follow a field boundary across a long field to a pair of stiles either side of a farm track.
Follow the obvious path to a stile where it re-joins the embankment. From this point all your way finding problems are over. The embankment unites you with the river at last! After crossing a stile at a redundant utility and much grafittied building follow a broad, grassy and straight elevated path to Penwortham. Feature on the way - 1¼ miles from the utility building note the entrance of Savick Brook on the opposite side of the river. This is the entrance of the Ribble Link - a waterway enabling boaters to connect between the Lancaster Canal and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. After passing below an impressive quartet of pylons the path reaches a palisade fence and after negotiating a brambly path continues with a newly built utility building on the right and Preston Dock on the left on the opposite bank. The utility building as anonymous as it looks plays a vital role in Preston’s flood defences. On a narrower path pass the golf course and soon after arrive in Riverside Park. Keep ahead passing below the modern road bridge to Liverpool Road. The official route goes left across Penwortham Bridge and turns right onto Broadgate but by crossing the road and following a track down past Penwortham Holme playing fields keeps you on the south side of the river a little longer. Turn left onto Leyland Road and then left again over Penwortham Old Bridge. On the far side turn right and soon after enter Miller Park which leads to Avenham Park and the city centre.
- Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the AllTrails website and App