Lancashire’s secret river explored

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Our part of North-East Lancashire is intersected by the Calder and its tributaries. Beginning on the slopes of Cliviger, the river Calder flows through Towneley Park and then through Burnley town centre.

It then meets the waters of the River Brun, which having formed above Hurstwood, flows through Heasandford, where it joins the Don, before flowing past St Peter’s to merge with the waters of the Calder near the railway viaduct roundabout.

It is, you might think, a wholly Lancashire river system, especially when you consider these combined rivers, then merge with Pendle Water beyond Crow Wood. Much of that water flows off dear old Pendle Hill, makes its way through Roughlee and Barrowford, before the combining with Calder to flow through Padiham , joined by the Hyndburn Brook at Martholme, and on to Whalley. So far so good. Lancashire through and through.

But, beyond Whalley, the Calder ends at its confluence with the mighty Ribble, to continue its journey to the sea at Preston. But much of the Ribble’s water flows from the Yorkshire Dales, and so this river system does not start and end its life wholly in Lancashire. In fact, of the major rivers of Lancashire, only one, the river Wyre, flows wholly within the county from source to sea. The Lune rises in Cumbria, the Ribble in Yorkshire, and much of the Mersey touches Cheshire.

Yet, despite this distinction, the Wyre often goes unnoticed. We see the babbling waters of the Marshaw Wyre as it passes under the Trough of Bowland road.

It joins the Tarnbrook Wyre at Abbeystead to start its journey to the sea. But there is no clear valley or Dale for it to follow. The Wyre seems to flow past unnoticed, sneaking past Garstang until it pops up as a surprising broad estuary near Poulton Le Fyle.

Looking at the map, however, I have always been struck by the presence of the series of lakes and flooded gravel pits that mark the course of the Wyre north of Scorton and which now form a fishery. Everywhere there is water, formed by the contained waters of the river, so that even here the course of the river is hard to follow. You know it is near but you rarely see it.

We parked at the picnic site a mile a half North of Scorton and followed the Wyre Way footpath North, crossed the very noisy M6 (by footbridge) then alongside the Wyre lakes, before briefly spotting and crossing the Wyre at Street Bridge. Our association with the river was but brief as our route took us South with the fishing lakes and river near but out of site along poorly defined and often muddy paths to Wyresdale Lake and Park.

Suddenly, the world and his wife appeared from nowhere as we enjoyed a lovely tea and cake break at the Old Apple Store cafe. Content, we moved on to Scorton itself. Despite the noise from the nearby M6 this too was busy, especially at the Tithe Barn, but we did not linger, keen as we were to re-acquaint ourselves with the river.

We took a beeline across fields along often muddy paths back to our start point, but again the river remained modestly concealed behind an embankment.

We had enjoyed a lovely walk in this key section of the Wyre but apart from Street Bridge and at Gubberford Lane had rarely seen the actual river.

This may be Lancashire’s only wholly Lancastrian river, but for the most part it is a discreet water course, shyly avoiding prying eyes even at Garstang where it slips by behind a screen of sheltering trees.

It is for me Lancashire’s secret river.