Being a Lancashire lad, I have always been proud of how hard working the county’s folk have been over the years.
At one time there were coal mines everywhere and at times they made a ‘reet mess’. How pleasing it is to see how old mine workings have been landscaped. There is now a fine walk around Rowley Pit and another around the huge Bank Hall Complex. One of the finest country parks in Britain has been developed at Pennington Flash.
There is so much birdlife to see from the car park that the temptation is to stay put, especially in the autumn migration is in full swing. There are seats overlooking the Flash and here I watched male swan, heron, tufted duck, pochard and hundreds of hungry mallards and Canada geese. With the bacon butty wagon so close I had to force myself onto the trail.
Approach the children’s playground on the right and the picnic area on both sides of the path. Continue along the obvious track and approach the information board. Here the path diverges. Take the left fork and continue along the winding track.
Approach the Horrocks Bird Hide, with its entrance guarded by a wooden statue of an ugly man, and enjoy a quiet period watching birds in an area called the Scrape. On no account should this place be rushed and especially in autumn or winter and a wildfowl watch will reveal many species. From the hide follow the tree-lined path which was once the old railway track leading up to the canal. Look out for a water level marker on the left of the path. The levels would certainly been on high in the summer of 2012.
From the canal bridge look out over the water in the cut. This stretch was constructed to link the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Bridgewater Canal in order to be sure that coal could be delivered by barge to every cotton town in Lancashire, which was desperate for fuel as the mill businesses expanded. Look out for the few remaining remnants of the huge Bridgewater Colliery, which operated until the early 1950s. Cross the bridge and turn right along the towpaths.
Continue until a second canal bridge is reached. Cross this and turn right. Pass through first a marshy area and then an even wetter space which is a little nature reserve in its own right and is a joyful splash of colour in the spring and summer. This is a place to watch out for heron and snipe in the winter. Continue between belts of trees. Keep birdwatching and return to the starting point.
- Mining for coal began in 1820 and for many years railway lines ran around the side to make the colliery one of the largest and most profitable in Lancashire.
The country park was opened in 1981 following a period of careful planning. It consists of 170 acres of open water created as a result of subsidence. The Flash is now surrounded by 100 acres of varied habitat, including a municipal golf course. The footpaths have been landscaped on the colliery spoil heaps. There are now angling and ornithologists’ clubs.