Friday, 25 May 2007

Early Spring Walk from Freckleton to St. Annes

Early this Spring, before the Ribble banks erupted in all their Spring glory, we walked from Freckleton to St. Annes, along the North West Coastal Path at Freckleton Naze, on a cool but beautifully-sunny March morning...

Before we set off, the Ribble from Penwortham Old Bridge in the early morning sunshine: the tide is going out so the marshes and mudflats out at Freckleton and St. Anne's should be exposed, showing off the Ribble's intertidal landscape at its best, and therefore hopefully we should get good views of the wading birds too...

We park at The Ship at Freckleton (we WOULD have considered walking all the way from Penwortham if we'd had the time but needed to be back to pick up the children from school) then we walk through to the path which runs alongside Freckleton Pool.
This path is part of the new North West Coastal Path, which itself will form a part of the huge network of interconnecting paths and cycleways which will eventually form a fantastic way to experience the newly-launched Ribble Estuary Regional Park: the Ribble Coast & Wetlands.

The North West Coastal Path around Freckleton Pool is a fabulous place to walk, even when the hedgerows are still in their Winter aspect. It's actually quite useful coming along here in the Winter months as you can see through the hedges across the landscape, and through to Freckleton Pool itself.

Catkins wave gently in the early Spring breeze...

Spring blossom is out in the hedgerows...

Freckleton Pool at low tide, glimpsed through the hedgerows as we pass - and shielding us from the birds there so we get to see quite a few, feeding on the Freckleton mudflats.

Boats at Freckleton Pool. This is one of the busiest boating areas on the Ribble.

Farming and nature conservation go hand in hand along the Ribble...

As we get out to Freckleton Naze, it's well worth spending a few minutes making good use of the higher vantage point at the end of the Freckleton Pool section of the path before walking down to river level.

The views across the Ribble to the Douglas (or Asland) from the top of Freckleton Naze are fantastic. The sun is incredibly bright, and glints on the water flowing down the Douglas in the distance. There is a seat here too - but we'll save that for the walk back - we've barely started and it's quite a walk to St. Annes...

We walk down the gentle slope to the riverside marsh beneath. It's very boggy going at times, and walking out onto the riverside mudflats themselves is not recommended - especially so soon after the tide has receded! We stick to the marsh grasses, and set off...

Muddy is raring to go. The riverside marshes and grasses along the Ribble at Freckleton are beautiful. The sun reflects in the standing water on the marsh right to the River's edge, marking a still-mirror contrast with the sparkling of the moving river water flowing down to the sea.

The Ribble mudflats at the confluence with the Douglas are teeming with all kinds of bird life, and their beautiful calls echo out across the landscape as they feed on the Ribble mudflats of low tide.

The Douglas (Asland) joins the Ribble, and they travel the rest of the way to the Irish Sea together.

The receding tide leaves silt-rich pools on the marsh.

Unconcerned Shelduck watch us pass...

A Peacock Butterfly and a Ladybird sunning themselves on the flotsam on Freckleton Naze.

Reigh Belisama is an ancient name for the Ribble - it means the Goddess of Shining Waters, and it is clear why! Our eyes are streaming against the glare - who would have remembered to pack sunglasses in March?

A Ribble shipping legacy: the remains of old boats are evident alongside the long canalised section of the river.

This can be an eerie landscape, huge tree corpses are left delicately balanced on the marsh where the Ribble's spate waters and tidal range have left them.

Eventually we get to St. Annes, and walk alongside the vast intertidal saltmarshes, mudflats, and sandflats here...

Ribble intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh and inhabitants...

So many wading birds are everywhere you look.

A Turnstone is right by the path... totally unconcerned about our presence.

The sun shining on the vast expanse of wet mudflats and sandflats creates an incredible glare, and it is difficult to look towards the mouth of the Estuary.
Apart from the difficulty of walking towards the sun, we decide to turn back anyway as it's a good walk back, and the poor old dog is already dragging her back legs a bit (she is getting on a bit and has had 2 strokes recently, and these days her back toenails occasionally drag on the ground when she's tired, letting us know she's had enough!)

The walk back involves much less glare...

The Ribble's intertidal wetland is great for wildlife - and great for people.

Back at Freckleton Naze, the Ribble's waters have fully receded, so the birds have been busy feeding on the vast numbers of invertebrates which inhabit this rich intertidal ooze.

Speaking of lunch, we are feeling a bit peckish and this speeds our steps homewards...

Hurry up, an old dog has had enough!

Muddy indeed!

A welcome sight after a long and enjoyable walk! A late lunch at The Ship in Freckleton.

... and still back in time for school!

For more lazy days by the Ribble, see Spring Days on the Riverbank and Two Spring Evenings at Marshside.

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