Until the late 16th century Rufford in West Lancashire stood on the shores of the largest expanse of fresh water in England - a huge lake formed by a shallow glacial depression the remnants of which can be seen today at Martin Mere. Legend has it that King Arthur came here to receive his magic sword Excalibur and returned at the end of his life to give it back to the Lady of the Lake.

More prosaically the Hesketh family of Rufford Hall realised the potential of a drained lake to create a vast prairie of arable land blessed by a rich soil to create was has become Lancashire's larder. Today the area is criss crossed with ditches and channels much in the same way as East Anglia and Holland. Indeed Dutch know how was imported in the 17th century to kick start the drainage process. By the mid 19th century great strides were made with the use of steam powered pumping stations.


The walk described takes you through this artificial landscape to the east of Rufford across Mawdesley Moss to Croston and back along the channelled River Douglas.

Start. Station Road Rufford L40 1TD

Distance: 7 Miles 11k

Time: 3 - 4 hours

Grade: Easy

Map: OS Explorer 285 Southport & Chorley


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press


1. From the church keep on Station Road


crossing the canal passing St Mary's Marina and Fettlers Wharf on your right. Continue over the level crossing and then the River Douglas on Meadow Lane. Keep on the lane as it bends to the right. In a little under 200 yards turn left


onto a footpath that edges along a field with a watercourse to the right. Bear slightly right at the end of the field


to enter open prairie with a watercourse to the right. Keep ahead below pylons and then after ¼ mile turn right


briefly onto a farm track and then just before a bridge turn left on a footpath next to New Reed Brook. Keep on this for ½ mile


passing a stretch of woodland on the right until you arrive at a substantial farm track that is Gales Lane.


Turn left.

2. For the next two miles head north until you reach Croston. For those who require a little more detail after ¼ mile keep ahead on a sandy track


as the lane swings left towards Moss House. Ahead is Mawdesley Moss


with three impressive wind turbines.


I have mixed feelings about wind turbines. Although a vital tool in helping to control carbon emissions they do have a detrimental affect on birdlife. Also the way government planners feel that northern hills are at their disposal for rolling out this technology is irksome - windfarms in large numbers are blots on the landscape. Having said all that I find this trio of turbines rather aesthetically pleasing. They enhance the unvaried flatness of the moss with their majesty. The track now prone to puddles and mud passes these to the left. After wooden gate posts


maintain the line of travel on a rutted track until you arrive on lane close to Sumner's Farm.


Turn right and almost immediately follow the lane left into Carr Lane. This will take you into Croston.

3. There are aspects of Croston that had adorned many a calendar - especially the configuration of the church, the River Yarrow and the pack-horse bridge.


The way back to Rufford starts at the pack-horse bridge. Assuming you have spent some while exploring the delights of Croston cross the bridge and turn right into the Hilloocks


following the road road past a large barn onto Turflands. Turn right to reach Drinkhouse Road.


Turn left following the road as it bends to the right where Drinkhouse Road becomes Drinkhouse Lane. At its end turn left onto a farm track that is Moss lane. After ¼ mile turn into Finney Lane on the right.


Keep on this as it crosses the railway line


and continues to a junction


at the start of Shepherd's Lane. Bear right cross a bridge


to reach the A581 Southport Road. Turn left to cross the River Douglas over Great hanging Bridge and then turn immediately left onto the embankment of said river.


Follow the footpath and river back to Croston. The only complication being when you pass below the rail bridge in order to access the road.


Once on the road turn right for your starting point.