Lancashire Walks - Orrell and Beacon Country Park

Keith Carter leads a walk near Orrell which gives stunning countryside viewsbehind

The urban sprawls of Skelmersdale to the west and Orrell to the east are separated by a ridge generally known as Beacon Park, rising at its highest point to Ashurst Beacon at 570ft (170m) which was erected to give warning of invasion by the French in the Napoleonic Wars. It is probable that the location of a beacon for signalling was sited here much earlier. It is said the approach of the Spanish Armada was signalled by a chain of beacons stretching throughout England and this was surely one.

It is certainly a fine viewpoint in all directions, west towards Liverpool, south to the Cheshire Plain with a clear sight of the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, an incongruous landmark. Beacon Country Park has three car parks, the one we are using for this month’s walk being that at Carr Lane which I prefer to the main one shared with the golf club. There is plenty of scope for walking and is a favourite for families out for a picnic.

To start our walk turn left from the car park and walk along the road as far as the first house on the right where a signpost indicates a footpath running behind some gardens before departing through rough grass with a plantation of young willows to the right. In the distance, Winter Hill can be seen, dominating the skyline. We head downhill and enter a wood, then emerge into a clearing, bearing right on a path that is clearly used by horse riders judging by the hoof prints everywhere.

The path curves to the right then crosses a low-lying area by a kind of causeway then crosses a stile to reach the back of some houses. A path follows behind them and emerges at the car park used for the cemetery at Roby Mill village.

Turn right then left at the Fox Inn onto School Lane, walking down past the residential care home of the Don Orione organisation. Don Orione was an Italian philanthropist who dedicated his life to helping the poor and destitute during the first half of the last century. Don’t take the turning on the right but continue through Walthew Green and on reaching Walthew House keep ahead where the lane bears away to the left.

A rising path leads to a field under cultivation and we keep right keeping to the field edge heavily indented by tractor tyres. There are posts with yellow arrows indicating the footpath bringing us to a wooded valley into which we descend, right to the bottom to the stream, Dean Brook. Keep left along the stream as far as quite a robust tubular steel footbridge painted green, which we cross.

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Suddenly, there is the M6 Motorway high above, crossing the Douglas Valley on a flyover. Turn right and follow the river, the path passing under the obtrusive supports to the viaduct. A good track brings us to Gathurst coming out opposite the station and we turn left, go under the railway, cross the road bridge and join the canal by the Baby Elephant Restaurant, formerly the Navigation Inn.

Turn left onto the towpath and stay on it for the next one and a half miles. The canal should be on your right. We come to Dean Lock where there was once a connection with the Douglas which used to be navigable by boats coming from the Ribble.

Moored narrow boats give notice of the approaching Appley Bridge where we depart from the canal and turn left along the road, passing Sam’s Country Inn and continuing on the pavement uphill to a road junction known as Holland Lees. Take the right turn here on a quiet lane up over a brow then down into a dell before looking for an opening on the left by Dingle Bungalow.

This former access road to a quarry climbs then, as it bends right we look for a footpath departing on the left hand side and entering woodland. We climb steadily, the solid nature of the path evidence that this must have been an old way, possibly used by farm and quarry workers.

This ancient path remains along a depression to our right, begins to curve left then finds itself approaching a substantial farmstead, Stone Hall.

Pass the hall and keep right to a fork, right again then meet a lane at a bend. Turn right and in 150 yards take a path on the left, a gate across it which can be by-passed. This leads to a ruin now quite overgrown by gorse bushes and we pass to the right of it continuing along the left hand boundary of two fields to come to the road.

Turn left and walk along the road for 400 yards and the Carr Lane car park is on the right. If you want to pay a visit to Ashurst’s Beacon, get in the car, turn left out of the car park and drive as far as the Prince William pub from where a steep path leads up to it.

Compass points

Area of walk: Beacon Country Park, South Lancashire

Map: OS Explorer 285 Southport and Chorley

Distance: 7 miles

Time to allow: 3 �-4 hours

Refreshments: Fox Inn, Roby Mill, Sam’s Country Inn, Appley Bridge.

Wheelchair/pushchair accessible? Not suitable.