The source of the River Douglas is in the springs rising up in the peaty tussocks high on the slopes of Winter Hill. But where does it end up?

This walk explores the marshes where the sluggish River Douglas, having flowed through Wigan, merges with the estuary of the Ribble Ribble in West Lancashire, close to the residential village of Longton. The walk also joins the start of the Ribble Way, the official start point being the little Dolphin Inn, locally known as the ‘Flying Fish’.

This is a great walk for birdwatchers, so why not take your binoculars to explore the lonely marshes and also the diverse ponds of the former village brick works, now the Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve.

Your walk

START: Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve car park, in Longton village, signed off the A59 bypass, south-west of Preston.

DISTANCE: 5 miles (allow 2-3 hours)

MAP: OS Explorer 286 Blackpool & Preston

1. Go out through the main entrance of the reserve by the visitor centre and cross the road with care to join Hall Lane almost opposite.

Follow the lane straight ahead for the next three-quarters of a mile, it passes houses and becomes a hedged track (often boggy) reaching a gate into a farmyard. Go straight ahead through the yard of Marsh Farm and join a lane.

2. Turn left along the lane (Hall Carr Lane) and when it soon bends left at pylons leave it at a field gate on the right signed as a footpath. Bear right and join the raised bank to cross the field.

The path soon leaves the raised bank but continues straight ahead keeping a fence line on the immediate right. It then joins the floodbank again and crosses a stile and footbridge. Continue straight ahead along the high floodbank with the drain on your right. After about a quarter of a mile a track on the right leads to the Dolphin Inn, the start of the Ribble Way.

3. Continue the walk, now following the RIbble Way, by simply keeping to the flood bank straight ahead. The path overlooks the muddy creeks of Longton Marsh close to where the River Douglas meets the estuary of the River Ribble.

When the flood bank forks into two turn right towards stiles. Cross the stile and footbridge to the right of a gate and follow a field edge to join a farm access road. Turn right and follow this down to meet the adjoining Marsh Lane. Turn left and follow this for a short distance until Back Lane is reached on the left.

4. Turn up Back Lane which becomes a rough country track enclosed by hedges. Follow it until a new residential estate is reached. By greenhouses on the left turn right along a public bridleway enclosed by gardens.

This leads back to the main road through the village. Cross this with care to the hardware shop opposite. Turn right and follow the pavement of the main road.

5. After a short distance bear left through a kissing gate and follow a tarmac footpath through a small park. Follow the path through the trees on the far side of the park and cross the estate road to a kissing gate which leads back into the Longton Brickcroft nature reserve.

Follow the path with the lake on the left and cross a minor lane via gates to turn right along the path alongside the next lake. This path leads back to the car park and visitor centre.

Don’t miss the New Year’s Day ramble around Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve. The four mile ramble sets off from the nature reserve at 10.30am, cost £2 payable on the day