A walk through the Plantations

Friday was a pleasant Autumn day and after a heavy three weeks at work I managed to finish early afternoon so took the opportunity to go for a walk through the Plantations across the Douglas Valley over to my favourite independent coffee shop.

We’re quite lucky in that while we live close to the town centre, due to the “green corridor” along the River Douglas to the north of the town up to the Plantations and Haigh Hall Country Park we can feel like we’re out in the country in just a few minutes after shutting the front door.

Setting out on the path along the Dougie. Unfortunately, up to this point as the path is a well used thoroughfare from the town centre it’s covered with litter – crisp and sweet packets, fast food wrappers and empty drink containers. I despair at times about how people selfish and without any social conscience dumping their waste rather than put it in a bin or take it home.

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The valley has an industrial past. There used to be a mill and “Bottling Wood Village”, a collection of houses and a pub, by the river, but all traces are long gone. Sadly the valley has been spoiled to some extent by the recent construction of a dam as a flood protection measure for areas further downstream. Fortunately it hasn’t turned out as bad as I feared but it does spoil the view along the valley to some extent (particularly looking south) and its construction required the destruction of a number of mature trees.

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After only a short while you’re into the beginning of the Plantations, which are part of Haigh Hall Country Park.

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The plantations were created in the 19th century on the estate of the local “lord of the manor” the Earl of Crawford and Balcares who lived at Haigh Hall. Today they are an extensive area of mature woodland, primarily of beech trees, but also with oak,  horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime. It’s the largest area of woodland in Greater Manchester and it’s right on my doorstep.

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Following the heavy rain over the past few weeks, including Thursday, so many of the paths through the woods were muddy underfoot, so I mainly stuck to the hard-core tarmac paths leading up towards the Leeds Liverpool canal. I did take one of the paths through the woods that wasn’t too muddy and at one point saw a fox crossing the path a short way in front of me. It was gone before I could snap a photo with the camera on my phone.

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Just before the canal I left the plantations and walked down the lane leading to Leyland Mill Lane. Just before climbing the hill up to Wigan Lane I crossed the bridge over the valley where the historic Haigh Foundry used to be located. The foundry specialist in railway locomotives but also used to cast pumping engines and  parts for bridges (including swing bridges at the Albert Dock in Liverpool and also Hull docks). Some people believe that the Isle of Man’s Laxey wheel was cast here, although this is disputed. Today most of the old buildings are deserted but some are still used by a number of companies including a small iron foundry.

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At the top of Leyland Mill Lane, reaching Wigan Lane, I crossed over the road and headed over to the Orchid Room Cafe.

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After enjoying a cafe latte I headed back home over the valley


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