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6 Winter Wonderland walks around Wigan Borough

6 Winter Wonderland walks around Wigan Borough

One of the simple joys of Christmas is wrapping up warm and going for a walk. 

Luckily for us, Wigan just happens to be one of the greenest urban boroughs in the country and there are plenty of places to go for a seasonal stroll. 

Nobody knows that better than our fabulous, friendly walk leader Bev. Here are her six favourite spots to go walking in a winter wonderland... 

Bev Baldwin

Our Be Well walking activator Bev

1. Borsdane Wood, Hindley 

My go-to walk after work. You emerge from the entrance tunnel into a glorious scene of true nature as an ancient woodland rolls out before you.  

At this time of year the path is a golden carpet of fallen leaves and if you’re lucky enough you’ll witness them dropping from the trees like rain. When it’s been snowing it’s even reminiscent of Narnia… you almost expect Mr Tumnus to appear!

Paths are wide and well-tended, as is the wood, by the wonderful Friends of Borsdane. The walk from tunnel to the troll bridge/fairy house and back is about four miles of arboreal splendour… a continual stimulus for all the senses. 

Busy little squirrels traverse the path foraging for their winter sleep and often dropping their fodder on unsuspected walkers… so watch out! The resident nuthatches also make regular appearances sporting their blue and peach feathers. 

It’s impossible not to be drawn to the brook which is sometimes a trickle but at this time of year becomes a raging torrent, gushing majestically on its way, while the rich umami of the soil fills the air and raises the sprits. 

Boresdane Wood

Hindley's charming Boresdane Wood

2. Mesnes Park 

A gem at the heart of Wigan’s busy town centre, this popular park also manages to be serene with enough room for all.  

It’s usually possible find a quiet bench to eat your lunch or just sit and reflect. My personal favourite spot is the Rose Garden opened by none other than Gandalf himself... Sir Ian McKellen! 

The landscape is varied with beautifully designed garden areas, a pond with a waterfall feature, and excellent paths. The Pavillion Café, meanwhile, is a super place to relax and grab a hot chocolate and a cake before walking it off again. 

As is the age-old local tradition, don't forget to rub Sir Francis Sharp Powell's foot and make a wish! 

Mesnes Park

Statue of Sir Francis Sharp Powell, Mesnes Park

3. Pennington Flash 

Wigan Borough is lucky enough to be home to Greater Manchester’s first and only National Nature Reserve, the ‘Flashes of Wigan and Leigh’ - and perhaps the best known and most popular of this chain of wonderful urban wetlands is Leigh’s Pennington Flash, which is a super spot for walking. 

There are plenty of well-maintained paths that lead you there, and the first thing you’ll encounter on arrival is the breathtaking view over the water – the perfect place to stop for a picnic. Either bring your own or pop into the fab new café, The Hide Coffee House. 

There are several walks I like to do here. One is just past the amazing new adventure playground and up to the canal (around a mile). Climb the steps up to the bank for another of my favourite views. Turn left along the canal and you’ll reach the marina on Slag Lane where you can then take the path back to the Flash.  

Paths can get a little muddy depending on the weather so I’d definitely recommend good walking shoes in the winter months. 

Pennington Flash

A winter's sunset at Pennington Flash

4. Standish Mineral Line 

Once an artery of the coal industry, ‘The Line’ (as locals call it) has been transformed from a well-trodden muddy path into a well-lit accessible route as part of Greater Manchester’s new Bee Network. 

There are several entry and exit points that take you from Pepper Lane to the heart of the village, or across to Almond Brook Road. 

Whenever I walk here I’m impressed by the sense of openness and the scenery of Standish, and a cold, crisp day is only enhanced by a lovely breakfast or lunch at one of the local cafes.

5. Wigan Canal Towpath 

The five-mile walk from Wigan town centre to Appley Bridge along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal is now even more of a pleasure thanks to recent improvements to the canal towpath. 

Head down from Wigan Wallgate along the Bee Network’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ before joining the canal down towards Robin Park. As you progress from there, the industrial landscape of Wigan opens up into the countryside. 

This really is a lovely walk, with lots of wildlife, colourful canal barges and other sites to admire – and the going is easy and flat. Passing Crook Hall Marina you can stop for a break at Crook Hall Inn before rejoining the towpath. Further on you’ll see Gathurst Weir - sometimes a torrent, sometimes a trickle, but either way a good place to take a minute to stand, listen and reflect. 

Exiting the canal at the next bridge after the break at Crook Hall, continue left up Heron’s Wharf towards The Boathouse - another suitable stop for a break and/or refreshments. 

Then, depending on the weather and the light, you can either retrace your steps and walk back to Wigan or carry on to Appley Bridge Train Station to catch a return train.

6. Haigh Woodland Park

There are several ways into Haigh Woodland Park but my favourite is from Balneil Walk off Balcarres Avenue. This route takes you past the entrance for the Whelley Loop Line and on past the portal to the Great Haigh Sough (as you may have guessed by now, I love the sound of water in nature!) 

The path is well-tended and, although it can flood a bit after a downpour, is usually passable. It’s well signposted too as you head towards Haigh Hall up my favourite hill, which I like to call ‘The Thigh Buster’! The incline makes for a super lower body workout and gets your heart pumping. You’ll eventually reach the drive where you can either continue towards the Hall or take the woodland route past the small playground and head towards the walled gardens. Whichever way you decide you’ll eventually reach the Kitchen Courtyard where you can sit and have a treat! 

There are lots of other, lesser-tread paths at Haigh and, if you’d like to explore them, I’d recommend joining one of our group walks.

Haigh Woodland Park

Haigh Woodland Park in the snow

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Posted on Wednesday 20th December 2023

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