River Douglas, Haigh
Graham Workman, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s wildlife and countryside manager, says: “Away from the hall’s grounds, there’s a true riverside delight. You can have a peaceful stroll and perhaps see one of the birdlife treats – a kingfisher or even a dipper.” Start at Plantation Gates, go down the hill for 200m and turn left after the bridge – for a lovely bankside walk. Graham is developing a habitat for otters there to expand their River Douglas territory.
Keith Bergman of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust says: “The Douglas Valley is always a treat, but I especially recommend the walk through Dean Lock. It’s nice and flat along the canal of course, which makes it accessible, and with plenty of wildlife and passing boats, there’s always a lot to see. By road, it’s off Gathurst Lane B5206, and Gathurst railway station is close by for easy access. Porter’s Wood, just behind Heinz, is a real hidden gem. It’s a brisk walk down from the station over the railway bridge.”
Astley Green Colliery
Geoff Jones, chair of the Red Rose Steam Society, says: “It dominated our area for generations, but there are some youngsters today who don’t know what coal is.
“The volunteers here work hard to maintain the borough’s last pit head and we are open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons for visits to see the machinery and museum. We’re just off the East Lancs Road, with an exhibition and classroom facilities and host all sorts of rallies and events. Astley itself has lots to offer, with a nature trail and easily manageable country walks. One starts at Ellesmere Street and crosses the canal at Whitehead Hall Bridge and then back into the village.”
Martin Purcell, the council’s Greenheart Manager, says: “Recent consultation with local residents and schools has shown that many local people, even those living close to the site, rarely get out to enjoy it.
“Amberswood Common is 160 hectares of former opencast mine and landfill site. Today there are small lakes, woodlands and wetlands, and it is easily accessible from the surrounding communities of Platt Bridge, Hindley, Spring View and Ince.”
On the other side of Liverpool Road A58 is Low Hall Nature Reserve, with its peaceful lake, with well surfaced pathways and lots of wildlife to discover. Low Hall is a stronghold for willow tits. There’s an active Friends of Low Hall Park group. Type ‘FLOW nature reserve’ into a search engine.
Lilford Woods, Leigh
Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust Parks Officer Peter Alker says: “We believe that this woodland walk is one Leigh’s real hidden gems. It is an extremely significant site in terms of both the history and natural history of Leigh. We believe that part of the wooded area is ancient woodland – which means that there have been trees here for at least 400 years. It is by far the best site in the borough for seeing the elusive Green Woodpecker or at least hearing it ‘yaffle’.
“Together with ward members and the Environment Agency, we’ve invested more than £50,000 on improving access, with 2km of new paths within the woods. And Lilford Park itself, at the end of The Avenue, has a great play area for the children too.”
Ashton Town Green
Ruth Green and Anne Rampling of the Ashton Town Green Residents’ Association say: “We’re really proud of the garden. The community have created a local landmark and a place for people to sit and relax. Please come and enjoy it.”
The group works with schools and has created a wild meadow area and space for events – they even grow plums and figs. The green is situated on the A58 Bolton Road just a brisk couple of minute’s stroll north out of Ashton’s busy town centre.
And it’s not the only oasis in the area: the tranquil Stubshaw Cross Memorial Garden, also created by the efforts of residents, is a few strides further up the hill.