Walking on the West Lancashire Plain is something akin to walking along the lines of a gigantic chessboard – there are few twists and turns and like a chessboard the landscape is perfectly flat. This walk crosses the plain from Croston to Rufford and then returns by way of Mawdesley Moss.
Start/finish. Croston village centre.
Distance: 10k 6 miles
Time: 2½ - 3 ½ hours
Summary: Easy flat walking.
Maps: OS Explorer 285 Southport and Chorley.
Map by kind permission of the Blackpool Gazette
Directions. The walk starts at the lovely church of St Michaels and All Angels.
In June this year the area around the church suffered severe flooding when the Yarrow broke its banks. Pass beneath the archway of the old school and crosses the river by way of a footbridge. Turn right at you reach the cemetery and then at the junction keep ahead into Turflands.
This leads onto Drinkhouse Road.
Turn left. Drinkhouse Road leads onto Drinkhouse Lane whereupon the last houses of the village are left behind as the lane swings left out onto the moss. Not surprisingly you are now on Moss Lane.
Some walkers avoid flat landscapes imagining them to be dull and without interest. This area ought to quickly dispel that notion - beyond the confines of the village there is a tremendous sense of space. Keep on Moss Lane for 800m to reach Sumner's Lane close to Moss House Farm.
Here turn right onto a farm track. Keep ahead at the level crossing
and then 600m from the railway turn left onto a track (Stephenson's Lane). This follows a drainage channel to your right for another 600 metres to the point where it bends to the right.
The idea now is to take a footpath across to the banks of the River Douglas the embankment of which rises a metre or two above the plain to your right. Crossing a plank bridge
your route to the Douglas will depend on the season - in growing season it will be best to stick to the field perimeter.
When you reach the Douglas turn left. What is immediately obvious about the River Douglas is that it follows a perfectly straight line. It looks artificial because it is artificial. In the early part of the 18th century the river was channelled to create a navigable waterway between Wigan and the Ribble. Follow the channel for 700m beneath the rail bridge
and then onto Meadow Lane B5246 close to White Bridge.
(For those requiring refreshment there are numerous hostelries in Rufford across the bridge. A Dotcom favourite is the Hesketh Arms on Liverpool Road)
Keep ahead at Meadow Lane and after turn left onto a footpath leading alongside a hedge to the right.
This section of the walk will require a little more attention to the map. At the far end of the field follow the path as it edges along hedgerow to the right
and then aim towards electricity pylons
This section of the walk will require a little more attention to the map. At the far end of the field follow the path as it edges along hedgerow to the right to cross a plank bridge
joining a track crossing the broad expanse of arable fields. A little under 400m after passing under the pylons turn right onto another track
then join a footpath on the left on an embankment above New Reed Brook.
Keep on this for over 700 m to reach Gales Lane. (Beyond a strip of woodland to the right of the brook).
Turn left. Put the map away. By keeping straight on the track
as it crosses Mawdsley Moss you will find your way back to Croston.
There is some variation - a kink to the right
close to the drive leading left to Moss House. While out on the Moss you might admire or fume at the imposition of three huge wind turbines on the landscape.
At Sumner's Farm join the metalled surface of Carr Lane
which will take you to Croston.
Note: At the time of writing construction work close to Gales Lane created a footpath diversion (along the line of New Reed Brook.) Our information is that this should be re-opened by the time this route is published. If you are in any doubt contact the planning department of Chorley Borough Council Tel: 01257 515151)