266 pm Freckleton to Warton

I’ve reached the beginning of the Lancashire Coastal Way and, after checking my map, I’m anticipating an easy stroll along a river bank following a proper waymarked footpath.

Unfortunately, the Way gets off to a bad start as I end up in a ramshackle marina, where I see plenty of ‘Private’, ‘NO ENTRY’, ‘Please Keep to the Path’, and ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs. But where’s the footpath gone?

20 the creek, Freckleton, Ruth hiking to Blackpool

After wandering about, including making a circuit of somebody’s private garden(!) I manage to find the path again. Somewhat unexpectedly it goes up a slope, and takes me around the back of houses, so I end up walking high above the water, which is now hidden from view.

If this morning’s walk was dominated by a busy road, this afternoon’s walk is going to be dominated by signs.

Below me is woodland. Above me is a fence. Attached to the fence are a number of notices, but the one that takes me by surprise says ‘NO BICYCLES, NO ALCOHOL, NO GUNS’. No guns!? Crikey. What sort of place is this?

21 no bike, alcohol or guns, Ruth Livingstone being ordered

At the bottom of this notice it says ‘BY ORDER’. But who gave the order? (Humph. I hate these type of notices that pretend to be official, but clearly aren’t.)

This section of the walk is actually very pleasant. The trees provide some welcome shade from the sun, while a series of rickety bridges carry me safely over streams and muddy ditches.

22 footpath above water, Ruth hiking the Lancashire Coastal Way

Somebody decided they needed to attach this sign to a convenient wall. ‘PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR WOOD WASTE ALONG THIS PATHWAY.’ Wood waste? That’s unusual. Who would want to dump wood waste here?

23 do not dump wood waste, Ruth's coastal walk, Lancashire

Later, as I continue puzzling over this strange instruction, I realise it was probably aimed at the landowner, whose woodland covers the slope below the path. Who else would carry wood all the way here and then dump it?

Onwards. Through gaps in the vegetation I catch the occasional glimpse of the low lying fields on either side of the river. Is that Preston in the distance?

24 looking over to Hesketh and Southport, Ruth walking the Lancashire Coast Path

Although the path is properly signed from here onwards, it looks in need of a bit of TLC. Some of the bridges are decidedly wonky.

25 rickety bridge, RUth's coastal walk, Lancashire

And occasionally the route is tortuous, weaving around to avoid private gardens and driveways, with every neighbouring landowner feeling they have to issue instructions. In some case the unofficial signs are misleading.

For example, a ‘PRIVATE – NO PUBLIC ACCESS OR RIGHT OF WAY’ sign dominates this fence (below), and it’s all too easy to miss the little public footpath arrow.

26 private signs, Ruth's coastal walk, Lancashire

After winding around the perimeter of somebody’s private garden, I emerge onto a piece of open land with a trig point. Finally. I’m back on the River Ribble. At last! Why couldn’t we just have a little footpath along the bank from Preston to here, instead of miles of road walking and difficult navigation through ‘private’ land?

27 trig point, Lancashire coastal path, Freckleton, Ruth Livinstone

I stop for a rest and to enjoy the view. I can see where the River Asland (or the River Douglas, if you prefer) joins the Ribble. And over there is the bank I walked along yesterday – no, hang on – the day before yesterday! It’s taken me nearly 2 days to travel 1 mile.

28 Hesketh marshes, Ruth walking to Blackpool

Now I can walk down by the river, where I find some official Lancashire Coastal Way signs. Rather nice – a seagull flying above a wave.

29 Lancashire Coastal Footpath sign, Ruth Livingstone

This land is well-grazed and very low-lying. Boggy in places. And I come across several items of discarded footwear, implying that several people have been unlucky enough to lose their shoes/boots while trying to navigate this section in the past.

Luckily the sun has baked the surface dry, and I hardly need the wooden walkways to keep me off the ground. No mud today.

30 path along edge of marsh, Ruth hiking towards Warton Aerodrome

Uh-oh. Cattle. A whole gang of them. I take a photo from a safe distance. Luckily, there is plenty of driftwood lying around, because I haven’t brought my poles today. So I pick up a stick from the ground. Two sticks.

31 marsh cows, Ruth walking to Blackpool on the Lancashire Coastal Way

I would like to walk around the cows, but I can see the ground nearer the river is too marshy. Cautiously, I keep going. A group of them decide to come closer and begin to circle me.

Suddenly I hear a thud of hooves behind, and I whip around. One of the cows is running towards me. I raise the sticks in both arms and shout. It’s a nasty moment, but it seems to work. The whole herd startles, and then the cows begin to stampede away from me, heading back the way I’ve just come.

I manage to take a blurry photo of their disappearing rumps.

32 stampeding cows, Ruth walking the marshes, Ribble Estuary

A minute later they’ve charged off the bank, up a slope, and into a field somewhere. I have the marsh to myself.

Good! I feel triumphant. I held my nerve, I held the ground, I showed those cows who’s boss. Veni, vidi, vici, vaccas.

Onwards. There’s an airfield ahead. Warton Aerodrome.

33 Warton Aerodrome, Ruth on the Lancashire Coastal Way

The path continues and skirts the aerodrome. Several planes come and go. More notices on the tall fencing remind me that it is a criminal offence to trespass on a licensed aerodrome.

34 perimeter of Warton Aerodrome, Ruth walking the English coast

The ground is rough underfoot, the path is often overgrown with brambles and nettles, and I guess few people walk here. I’m beginning to worry I will meet an impassable barrier, or that the path will just disappear altogether. Onwards. Although the fences are a little off-putting, the view over the marshes is lovely.

35 marshes, Ribble Estuary, Ruth Livingstone

I’m approaching a place where the path narrows, as it winds through a thicket of trees, and I’m startled by voices ahead. Four young teenagers are walking through the trees towards me. The lead boy turns back to his companions, who struggle some way behind him.

‘Watch out,’ he shouts. ‘There’s a person coming through.’

It amuses me to be called ‘a person’. The three stragglers catch up with the leading boy. They ask how much longer their walk will take them, a question which is hard to answer because it depends where they’re going. I notice the girls are wearing shorts, with bare legs, and sandals. I think of the thistles and nettles I’ve just passed through, but I don’t dampen their good spirits by warning them of the prickles ahead.

‘I don’t see many walkers here,’ the lead boy says, implying he’s been here before.
‘I’m pleased to see you,’ I tell him, ‘because I guess that means I can get through to the other side of the airport?’
‘Oh yes. It’s not far.’

They carry on, and I walk through the grove of trees, enjoying the shade.

36 woodland, Warton Aerodrome, Ruth on the Lancashire Coastal Way

After a while, I reach the corner of the aerodrome fencing, and eventually emerge into an open space. Short grass. And some reedy ponds. I check my map. This area is called Warton Brows.

37 Warton Brows, Ruth's coastal walk, Ribble Estuary

The path is clearer now, and obviously better used. That must mean I’m approaching Warton Bank where there must be a car park – except the parking area has big black boards with crudely-drawn, white lettering: ‘NO PUBLIC PARKING, LDWA’. I wonder who LDWA are.

Beyond the private car park is a track…

38 Warton Bank, Ruth hiking the Lancashire Coastal Way

… which also carries stern warning signs. These are more sophisticated but the message is the same. NO PARKING. Crikey. They really don’t like visitors in this part of the world.

39 signs everywhere, Ruth walking the Lancashire Coastal Path

I carry on down the track, which becomes a road, and a short while later is a dead-end. The track and road are littered with private signs similar to the one above, some threatening legal action, but the worst is yet to come…

40 end of Warton Bank, Ruth's walking the Ribble Estuary

… because the gate at the far end is a being used as a notice board – with at least 13 different signs on this side of the gate alone! There are more on the verges, and on the far side of the gate too.

41 signs on the gate, Warton Bank, Ruth Livingstone trying to walk the coast

I have a strong urge to create my own signs, on stickers, which I could carry with me. What would my signs say? ‘Please stop telling me what to do.’ Or, ‘No more signs, by order.’

Onwards. The path, finally, looks exactly how I expected it be at the beginning of the afternoon: an easy stroll along a river bank. The sun is bright in my eyes, so I take a photograph looking back the way I’ve come. The yellow poles (in the photo below) carry the warning lights for the nearby aerodrome.

42 path along the marsh bank, Ruth hiking along the Ribble Estuary

Again, as so often in this part of the country, I get the impression of a retreating sea – or, in this case, retreating estuary waters. The low-lying land on either side of the bank is reclaimed marsh and grazing ground. Luckily I don’t have any more close encounters with cattle.

43 marsh bank, Ruth walking the Lancashire Coastal Way

I reach a fence that bars the way forward. Two more signs. ‘Wrea Brook, Tidal Outfall’ and ‘FOOTPATH RIGHT ->’ Time to turn inland…

44 Wrea Brook Tidal Outfall, Ruth walking the Ribble Estuary

… along a private drive. The house (near the bank) seems to be in the process of renovation.

45 up a private driveway, Ruth walking to Blackpool

At the end of the drive is the dreadful A584, now jammed up by an endless stream of slow-moving cars. The footpath, mercifully doesn’t follow the road for any distance, but simply crosses over Wrea Brook and heads down the bank on the other side.

But I’m hot, and thirsty, and tired, and a nearby bus stop is just too tempting… I decide it’s time to return to Preston and find my car.

46 Birchwood bus stop, Ruth walking near Preston

It’s been a disappointing start to the Lancashire Coastal Way. The footpath seems unloved and uncared for, there is too much visual litter (why all the signs, people of Lancashire?) and, as Jon Combe has confirmed, parts of it become a mud bath if the weather is wet.

Ah, well, perhaps things can only get better.

The bus arrives 20 minutes late, held up by the traffic jam, which continues almost all the way to Preston. Takes me nearly 2 hours to get there. Good job I’m not in a hurry.

This walk = 12 miles
Total distance = 2,687 miles

Route: morning in red, afternoon in blue.

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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36 Responses to 266 pm Freckleton to Warton

  1. LDWA is the Long Distance Walking Association. They are a good organisation with a programme of long walks with regional membership arrangements. They have a good website with loads of information about every walk in the country and the availability of downloading gpx files of routes for your computer/tablet/smartphone or whatever. Worth a look.

  2. I was going to suggest that the only LDWA I know is the Long Distance walkers Association, as Conrad suggests, of which I have been a member on and off over the years, but cannot recall ever seeing a sign on a footpath erected by them, but you seem to have come across one! The gpx service for members is very helpful – not so much for off piste coastal access though…

    We share the same frustration, that an otherwise logical routing of coastal footpaths is in places thwarted by a combination of lack of signage, danger areas (ranges MOD etc), a lack of will/money to erect some simple bridges and landowner selfishness/greed thwarting access, and some misdirection shenanigans…

    I am sure that you will enjoy the section from Lytham to Fleetwood – I have only walked a small section of that, but surveyed the going from the luxury of a tram ride on the Blackpool section a few years back – all a bit ‘bucket and spade’ but quintessentially English!

  3. lizziwake says:

    LDWA usually stands for Long Distance Walkers Association. I assume some members might want to walk the Lancashire coast path in a day. Perhaps there have been complaints. They host lots of long distance walking events from 20 miles to 100 miles. I used to be a member.
    Sad that areas less walked are so badly signed. Farmers often create self-fulfilling prophesies by not signing properly for walkers then complaining about walkers wandering their fields. Hope it improves for you.

    • I was thinking it was something to do with angling – Lancashire something something Anglers. Or, because it was next to another sign about a wildfowl reserve, Lancashire District Wildfowling Association, but I guess it probably was the walking organisation. Perhaps it was left over from an organised walk, as you suggest.
      And I totally agree about the importance of proper signing, and how it prevents inadvertent trespassing. Some landowners get it superbly right. We usually, of course, remember those who don’t!

  4. tonyhunt2016 says:

    ‘No more signs, by order’; marvellous. I’d definitely go with that!

    And congratulations on your victory over the cows. Sticks certainly seem to be a good idea. Maybe I need to start carrying my poles on other occasions than on rocky Lakeland descents.

  5. Rita Bower says:

    I’m very impressed by how brave you were with the cows! My talking sternly to them never seems to work, though they did end up licking my hands a few weeks back…while I was cowering behind some barbed wire! Maybe I’ll try waving sticks next time!

  6. gillianrance says:

    I shall always take my sticks in future and be brave about scaring the cows away….well done you!

  7. This thing about cows. I jmst have walked through literally hundreds (maybe even a thousand) fields with cows and have never experienced any aggression directed at me. The most memorable event was me frightening them on my Severn Way Walk – here is the extract from my journal:

    Gloucester to Upper Framilode – Tuesday 6th August 2013
    “Entering a large field a herd of about ten young bullocks were already looking frisky. When they saw me they immediately registered their terror by running amok. They all scattered, desperate to escape, some leaping and breaking a fence into the next field, and one that just burst it’s way through a barbed wire fence, who needs wire cutters, just get yourself a well trained young bullock.

    In the next field was a large herd of cows, perhaps forty. Terrorised by the young bullocks it was Way out West stuff with a full stampede all heading off into the distance of the very large field. Whether anybody headed them off at the pass I will never know.

    Next I saw the pretty young farmer’s wife emerging from the farm, and I reckoned I was due for a telling off, but it turned out they were her neighbour’s bullocks and she is fed up of them breaking bounds and upsetting her peaceful herd. She said I had done everything right as she watched me trying to be as unintimidating as possible by diverting my route and taking a wide berth, but all to no avail.”

    • I found an interesting debate on a forum somewhere, where people were suggesting that cattle are more aggressive than they used to be. Maybe because the farming industry is moving away from physical handling and onto large scale machinery, cattle aren’t so used to people? Or maybe it’s the hormones they pump them with (dairy cattle in particular)? I agree that the worse experiences I’ve had were with cows unused to humans. (I’ve written an extensive section on cattle and how to deal with them in my book, but I don’t think there are any magic answers.)

  8. toekneep says:

    Sorry it’s nothing to do with the Long Distance Walking Association. It stands for Lytham and District Wildfowlers Association. http://www.lythamwildfowlers.co.uk/ That’s why it isn’t very friendly. They do a lot of shooting on the marshes there so I don’t suppose they are keen to encourage lots of walkers. I have walked that section a few times (I live in Warton) and it isn’t very pleasant I agree. Lots of washed up litter and really hard work at any time other than high summer. (What’s that?) The next stretch to Lytham is nice and then you have Blackpool to look forward too! Good luck with the rest of the trip.

    • Thank you Tony! That solves the mystery. 😀
      It’s a shame the path isn’t better looked after – because the area is lovely (apart from that road!) You are lucky to live there. I’m looking forward to writing up the next stretch, and Blackpool will be quite a contrast!
      Just been reading your lovely blog, and admire your plans to buy a narrow boat when you retire. Sounds wonderful.

  9. owdjockey says:

    My advice re: cattle is to extend your walking stick to its maximum length. Look for any cattle that is interested in you and it approached you face it and point your stick at. Never let the cattle get up a head of steam by standing your ground. Make a noise and advance a couple of steps towards them to see if they back off. try and have a means of escape. NEVER run away. Give cattle with young calves a wide birth, equally if you spot a bull amongst the herd.
    While recently walking around The Rhins of Galloway and sticking to the actual coastline I don’t think I have seen so many fields of cattle. At least half of those fields I passed through with cattle in them, showed an interest in me. Maybe its the fact that they see very few walkers?

    • Good advice Alan. There is usually one beast that seems to be a ring-leader, isn’t there? Thinking about it, I realise all my really scary encounters with cattle have involved a single animal behaving oddly. But then the rest of the herd seem to catch the craziness 😦

  10. pedalboats says:

    Walking the Calderdale Way with a friend plus my 2 dogs, we just made it to the stile ahead of too-lively cattle and I was sighing with relief. Then, ahead in the next field I saw a huge bull, equipment dangling, standing looking at us. Dogs and cattle really don’t mix: both people and dogs get killed every year in England. I didn’t know the area- this was a once-only walk. The fields were properly fenced and we were stuck, can’t go back, and a bull ahead. Breathing deeply to keep myself calm, slow movements, dogs quiet (under threat of certain death)and on short leads I led the way as we crept past, my heart thumping, my only ‘plan B’ was to loose the dogs and run like H—. I didn’t need ‘B’, we walked unmolested to the next stile and out into the safety of a lane. The bull watched but never moved. His ladies were peaceful. Gaining the safety, my heart still racing, I said “phew did you see the size of him?” My friend said, what? She’s short sighted and hadn’t seen the bull, thought we were just in with cows.

    • Ha ha, that story made me chuckle. I remember sitting on a stile once, confronting a cow blocking the footpath ahead. ‘I’m not afraid of you,’ I said, and waved my stick. The cow moved away – only to expose the bull that was standing behind her!

  11. Sorry about your introduction to Lancashire’s coastal way, I fell ashamed.
    I don’t walk that area despite it being on my doorstep and I now have no inclination to.
    Hope things improve after Blackpool. Are you planning to use the ferry from Fleetwood to Knott End or walk up to Shard Bridge? If the latter watch the tides on the Wyre riverbank. I’ve had a few nasty experiences on that stretch which Ive previously described on my blog.
    All the best and hope the weather holds into Autumn.

    • For Bowlandclimber – Apologies for hijacking your blog Ruth – BC, Phew! I was worried you may be selecting this for a winter walking project for us.

    • For Bowlandclimber – Apologies for hijacking your blog Ruth. BC – Phew! I thought you may be selecting this for a winter walking project for us.

      • Hijack whenever you want to, Conrad, you’re always welcome! 😀
        Just to let you know that the Lancashire Coastal Way does indeed get better, but I came across serious obstructions in one place, and multiple instances of missing signage. It’s the sort of annoyance you expect with a little-used public footpath, but not on a proper long-distance trail. The route definitely needs sprucing up.

  12. distancewide says:

    I like this article and your post are inspiring. The UK is on our list for 2017 🙂

    • Thank you. And the UK is certainly worth a visit. Just make sure you visit some of the countryside, and don’t just stick to London and the usual tourist trails.

      • distancewide says:

        we certainly will visit the countryside. I have been doing some travels in Wales, the London, Manchester and Leads area but there is much much more to see. we are planning 🙂

  13. David L says:

    My experience with cows and bullocks is – if they start to come at you – turn and run straight at them, before they’ve had time to catch a decent pace. Wave a stick. Once you’re within 15-20 feet, they’ll break and run, usually to the far end of the field. This advice doesn’t extend to large bulls or going between cows and their calves, which is always unwise.

    More importantly – what are your plans round Morecambe Bay and Cumbria? Are you going round the heads of the estuaries, or hoping to ford them? I went up last summer, walking from Chirk to Bowness on Solway, and found guides to take me oversands across the Kent, Leven, Duddon. The last of these is magical. Let me know if you want contacts. Needless to say, you’re going to be later in the season and the channels colder. The Peel to Walney and the Ravenglass Esk crossing were easy without guides, though the latter – mid-October- was a bit foot-numbing.

  14. Thank you. Some more useful advice on dealing with cattle.
    Estuaries? Oh crikey! I hadn’t thought that far ahead, David. I’m such a coward I tend to go the long way round rather than wade. Yes, the contact numbers for guides might be helpful as would give me some other options to consider. Thank you.

    • David L says:

      Apologies for the slow reply but, here, in order, are the details the ‘Sands Road’ round Cumbria. Crossings are usually done one hour either side of low water, but note that low water in the estuary may be later than at the coast proper. Upper Solway tides are peculiar, falling for 10 hours, then rising for 2. Hazards are tides, excessive flow in the channels if it has rained upstream, quicksand, and mist. Guides are most wary of mist; every other hazard can be planned for. I saw only little bits of quicksand, despite Morecambe Bay’s notoriety for it.

      The Queen’s Guides across Morecambe Bay are:

      Cedric Robinson, who is regularly interviewed by the media, guides across the Kent Estuary ‘Lancaster Sands’, usually from Arnside to Kents Bank: Tel: (015395) 32165. There’s also a long crossing — the old stagecoach route — from Hest Bank, a little north of Morecambe, to Kent’s Bank, but I’m not sure if you’ll get anyone to take you over.

      Ray Porter, guides across the Leven ‘Ulverston Sands’ from Sand Gate Farm to Canal Foot: Tel: (01229) 580935

      Since both these good men have official status, I’m sure it’s okay to post their phone numbers en claire.

      To cross to Walney Island, avoiding a slog round Barrow docks, you catch the ferry to Peel Island, then wait at the pub till 2 hours before low water,then look for locals driving 4×4 oversands from Walney. Then follow their tracks. I then cut back into Barrow on the road bridge, but there is a causeway north of this, which looked passable, if in tatty condition.

      I don’t want to put up contacts for the Duddon up here, but if you contact me at the e-mail I’ve used to ‘register’ which I assume you can see, I’ll forward them.

      The Cumberland Esk, south of Ravenglass has a ‘hard ford’ just below the railway bridge. The mud you have to cross to reach this is nasty and sticky but not really sinky. Just go barefoot and wash your feet once you reach the river itself.

      You can cross the Mite on the Railway Bridge.

      I went upstream to cross the Irt on a bridge, but have since been told i could easily have paddled it to Drigg

      I wasted a stupendous amount of time trying to find someone who’d take me over Moricambe Bay, from Grune Pt, above Skinburness, to Cardurnock Flats / Long Dyke Scar, and failed. I found old accounts of crossings and two people who’d been across, but no one who’d guide me, nor anyone who’d take me from Newton Arlosh to Anthorn, another old crossing further up the Bay, marked on a 100-yo 6-inch ordnance map. If you do better here, let me know. Going round the Bay, as i ultimately did, you have to content with a iffy stretch of saltmarsh path and a lot road, so going straight across would be preferable if you can find someone to take you. And, if you do, let me know please; failure there still bugs me!

      Mark Messenger, who is landlord of the Highland Laddie at Glasson took me across the Solway and has taken others, including the local MP. My account is here https://solwayshorewalker.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/crossing-the-sulewath-a-guest-post-by-david-livermore/. i went over the Eden and the Esk at the head of the estuary, as i wanted to hug the English coast; others have gone over the Bowness Wath from Bowness or Glasson on Solway to Annan

      Good luck; these are magical places, seeped in history – http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-2055-1/dissemination/pdf/Article_Level_Pdf/tcwaas/002/1947/vol47/tcwaas_002_1947_vol47_0009.pdf and http://www.bodian.co.uk/road-across-the-sands.html

      • Wow. Thank you for this incredibly helpful information and for taking the time to assemble it. (Sending you an email for the Duddon information.) And the links are fascinating and make great reading, thank you. I’m sure I won’t manage to do all the crossings, but will certainly aim for some – the Walney Island one, for example. I am a great coward when it comes to getting my feet wet, so perhaps in the end I’ll take John Westley’s advice: “I can advise no stranger to go this way”!

  15. Marie Keates says:

    You were very brave with the cows. I’m not sure I would have been. Those signs are a menace, especially the ones that they to fool you into thinking you’re not on a footpath at all. Commando worked at the airfield there for a while when CJ was a baby, putting bits of plane together. He told me there are lots of women and not many men in that part of the country.

  16. Karen White says:

    The idea of your signs made me chuckle, especially ‘No more signs, by order’.

  17. Chris Turner says:

    Thanks for the information. I just this afternoon completed St. Anne’s to freckelton with a well deserved finishing pint at the ship Inn. I experienced pretty much the same as you but happy that I completed this section. It’s pretty unloved around Warton to freckelton section which is such a shame. The jetsom of tyres, plastic barrels and trees at the high watermark is a familiar sight. The cows today were calm and on the path too.. one had just given birth to a calf and was giving it a clean. I think the ldwa is Lancashire duck and wildfowel association.. hence the no guns sign etc…

  18. Hi Chris. Yes, it’s a shame the path is so unloved and unfriendly. It was a bad introduction to Lancashire, which I know is really a lovely place full of friendly people.

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