Pennington Flash

Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human went for another short and flat walk yesterday. Short and flat because of his iffy knee. He said that it was improving but, not ready for anything strenuous. I think that he is just getting lazy. We had completed our target mileage of 2020 in 2020 a few days ago so the big feller was happy. He loves his targets and numbers. Personally, I simply love hiking in the outdoors. I am not worried about how far or where we walk, I just expect enough walkies to tire me out every day. If I don’t get enough exercise, I am a pain in the butt, according to my dad.

It was a sunny day, with the odd black cloud, scudding across the sky in the strong wind, so my dad said that we should drive to Pennington Flash near Leigh. He had seen the brown sign pointing to the area every day when he was on his way to work, and he had heard from his colleagues that it was a nice area. So, now that he doesn’t work for a living, he plays out every day, like he did when he was a sprog, and we could go there on a weekday, to avoid the crowds. Apparently, it is very popular at the weekend and the large car park fills up early in the day. When we arrived the car park was only about a quarter full but there is room for over 200 cars. The ‘pay and display’ ticket machines were not working so, he had to ‘mask up’ and pay ‘contactless’ in the golf hut, a £1.50 parking fee.

The slipway

Pennington Flash Local Nature Reserve is part of a large country park just outside of Leigh, in Greater Manchester. The term ‘flash’ refers to lakes that were formed in the area. due to subsidence, caused by the coal mining industry. The lake covers an area of approximately 170 acres and was opened as a recreational area in 1981. Over 230 species of wild birds have been recorded on the site along with a large number of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Wildflowers and reeds dominate the shores of the lake with sections of broadleaf woodland.

Across the lake

We decided to simply walk around the perimeter of the lake from our parking spot, by slipway and the duck and swan feeding area. After we had passed the small takeaway café, we followed the wide and well-trodden footpath into the woodland. My dad was surprised to see a lack of footpath signposts, considering the large number of visitors who flock to the lake. He decided to check his phone to get an idea of our route. He found a suggested route called the Jubilee Legacy Walk produced by Wigan Council. It was fairly straightforward but, a few signposts on the route would be advantageous for people wanting to walk a circuit of the lake without using any navigational skills.

The disused railway

The first section of the route took us along the bed of the disused railway line that served Bickershaw Colliery. The colliery was opened in 1830 and produced coal until its closure in 1992. It was the site of a disaster in 1932 when a mineshaft elevator fell, causing the death of 19 of its 20 occupants. The whole area is on reclaimed colliery land.

I was given my freedom for a short while as my dad unclipped my lead. There wasn’t a soul around considering that there were quite a few cars in the car park. I spotted a few grey squirrels dashing across the footpath but, Mr. Killjoy wouldn’t let me chase them. Instead, I ran through every muddy puddle that I could find. A dog’s got to do what a dog’s got to do!

Part of the flash

The footpath led through wetland areas with a number of small ponds where birdwatchers can usually enter hides to view the many species of waterfowl that inhabit the area. Sadly, due to Covid restrictions, all the hides are closed at the moment. We caught glimpses of grebes, moorhen and plenty of ducks and geese, swimming on the ponds.

The wetland area

We came to a sharp left turn where we turned to follow the shore of the lake. We couldn’t resist a very short detour up an incline that took us to the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. There is a footbridge over the canal leading into the Plank Lane area which was the site of the colliery. This is a part of the Greenheart Country Park nowadays. The canal was constructed in the 1820’s at the same level as the surrounding area. Nowadays, it is at a considerably higher level due to subsidence caused by the coal mining activity.

Leeds Liverpool Canal
The canal from the flash

The northern edge of the flash had a number of choices of footpath for us to follow so, we chose to walk as close to the water as we could. I wasn’t allowed to go for a dip as the warning signs stated that blue-green toxic algae is present in the water. The area is popular with mountain bikers and some of the paths are a bit churned up by their tyres in the muddier sections. Tree roots criss-cross the smaller and narrower paths which make them slippery in places. We passed by a hilly area known as Ramsdale’s Ruck, which is a reclaimed spoil heap from the coal mines. Nowadays, it is a grassy hill with young trees planted where nature is repopulating the once heavily polluted site.

Ramsdale Ruck
Across the lake
Northern side of the lake

At the northwest tip of the lake we came to Slag Lane, where we turned left, along the pavement. A short length of this noisy A road took us to a left turn, onto a footpath heading south. We walked over a wooden footbridge and then along a track and passing Mossely Hall Farm. The track led us to Byrom Lane where we turned left and passed a row of terraced cottages. At the end of the lane we walked along a short length of Sandy Lane before we turned into Green Lane, a rough track that took us back to the shore of Pennington Flash.

From the south
The farm field

Just here is the Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, with its many sailing boats, waiting to be taken onto the lake. At the end of Green Lane, we entered a track leading through Sorrowcow Farm with its horses, sheep and geese sharing a field. A horse walked toward us as we walked along the path. There was a wire fence between us where he stopped to say hello. He poked his nose through the fence and we both had a good sniff of each other. I didn’t bark and he didn’t whinny, or what ever noise horses make, so we both made friends. My dad let us investigate each other until he dragged me away. I think that he was jealous!

Sailing Club

Shortly, we came to a gate leading into, what felt like more open countryside. Meadows were interspersed with areas of broadleaf woodland as we walked closely to the banks of the lake. This was a peaceful area, when the wind wasn’t gusting across the lake. The area to our right is known as Aspull Common is an undulating section of grassy farmland and is the most peaceful part of the Pennington Flash circuit walk. Some of this area was created by a landfill site that was used to prevent flooding in the area.

The flash
Lovely viewpoint
The flash was looking choppy

We left the woodland as we crossed Hey Brook that feeds the lake, just before the main car park. Hey Brook tends to flood every few years causing damage to the area. Ducks were sheltering in the brook from the wind that was churning up the surface of the lake. After crossing a footbridge, we were back at the car.

Hey Brook
Hey Brook by the car park

It was a pleasant walk and the big feller was happy that his dicky knee had been OK. I was a bit muddy but that is how I like to be. The area is scenic, and it was quiet while we were there, so I had a good run off-lead when there was nobody around. Till next time!

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