We are all guilty sometimes of jumping to conclusions and making assumptions that turn out to be wide of the mark.

That’s what happened when I arrived at the Capitol Centre retail park on the outskirts of Preston. The car park was busy, the many shops were doing a brisk trade and I assumed I would be spending all afternoon traipsing from store to store.

I was wrong.

Between shops, I found out that beneath the site lie the remains of a Roman supply depot, a retail park of the times.

I also read of a major battle of the English Civil War that took place here in 1648 as Walton Bridge was a strategic crossing point of the river Ribble.

And I discovered a walking route that follows the river and takes in some of the glorious green spaces close to the heart of Preston.

Although the walk starts at a busy shopping park and passes close to the bustling city centre, it is a quiet and very green route. I had never thought that a lovely walk could be had from such a busy place but again I was wrong, and it was lovely.

Great British Life: Walking by the Corn Fields. PHOTO: John LenehanWalking by the Corn Fields. PHOTO: John Lenehan

1. Leave the Capitol Centre by following Capitol Way between Waitrose and Dunelm to reach Winery Lane, then turn left and follow the lane and cross the bridge over the River Darwen.

Note: The River Darwen rises above the town of Darwen and flows through Blackburn and the magnificent Orr Gorge behind Hoghton Tower. It was once heavily industrialised with many cotton mills along its banks and the water used to be so polluted nothing could live in it. Now it is clean and is abundant in fish and wildlife. Many of its old weirs have been altered to allow fish to travel upstream. It flows into the Ribble a short distance north of the bridge.

Great British Life: Love Locks on the Old Railway Viaduct. PHOTO: John LenehanLove Locks on the Old Railway Viaduct. PHOTO: John Lenehan

2. Reach a four way track junction and turn right and follow the track down to the banks of the Ribble. Turn left and, with the river on your right, follow the track. Come to where the track opens to the left but keep on through a metal gate stile and the track becomes a path.

The old tram bridge is now closed to the public so follow the diversion over what was once the tram track and drop back to the river bank and keep on the path with the river on the right.

Reach the old railway viaduct and turn left through a stile and follow the track uphill to reach the route of the old railway line.

Note: The five mile long tram track and tram bridge were built as a temporary measure to link the Preston-Kendal Canal that terminated at a wharf where the University of Central Lancashire now stands near Maudland Road, to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Johnsons Hillock at Wheelton near Chorley. The intention was to build a canal between the two but low finances and the coming railways put an end to the plans. Goods were transported between the two canals on horse drawn wagons on tram lines. A group called The Friends of Tram Bridge are petitioning for it to be repaired and reopened to the public.

Great British Life: Avenham Park in Preston. PHOTO: John LenehanAvenham Park in Preston. PHOTO: John Lenehan

3. Turn right and cross the viaduct then turn right and follow the track down into Avenham Park. Keep right, passing the café to reach the river and turn left and with the river on the right follow the track to reach the other side of the tram bridge.

Pass the end of the tram bridge and at the track junctions keep on the track going right following the river bank. Keep on the track to reach Walton Bridge on the main road and turn right and cross the bridge, then keep on to reach and turn right into Winery Lane then turn left onto Capitol Way to the car park.

Note: At the city end of the tram bridge is a steep incline and when the tram line was operating a steam engine at the top of the incline towed the wagons up to reach the same level as the Preston-Kendal Canal.


START AND FINISH: Capitol Centre, Walton-le-Dale

DISTANCE: 3 miles/5 km TIME: 1.5 hours

TERRAIN: Extremely easy walking on tracks, footpaths and pavements

MAP: OS Map 286 Preston and Blackpool

FACILITIES: Plenty of toilets at the Capitol Centre, PR5 4AW C