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Breezy Brine Fields of Knott End

An easy walk exploring an unexpected and curiously salty corner of Lancashire's coastal plain.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 115ft (35m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Quiet streets and lanes, farm tracks and sea wall, 3 stiles

Landscape Short built-up section, seashore, farmland and golf course

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 296 Lancaster, Morecambe & Fleetwood

Start/finish SD 347485

Dog friendliness Can run free on sea wall, under close control elsewhere

Parking Free car park by end of B5270 at Knott End

Public toilets At side of coastguard building adjacent to car park

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1 Go out to the sea wall, turn right past the ferry, along the road past the Bourne Arms and then along the Esplanade. Where the main road swings away, keep on along the seafront, down a private road then a short stretch of footpath. Where this ends, before a grassy stretch of seafront, go right down a short side-street then straight across the main road into Hackensall Road. Go down this almost to its end.

2 Just before the last house on the left there's a footpath (sign high up on lamppost) which wriggles round and then becomes a clear straight track. Follow this through a narrow belt of woodland, across open fields and then alongside a wooded slope. Where the wood ends go through an iron kissing gate on the right then up the edge of the wood and over a stile into a farmyard. Go straight through this and down a stony track, which swings left between pools. It then becomes a surfaced lane past some cottages.

3 Join a wider road (Back Lane) and go right. It becomes narrow again. Follow this lane for about a mile (1.6km), over a slight rise and down again, to Corcas Farm.

4 Turn right on Corcas Lane, signed 'Private Road Bridle Path Only'. Follow the lane through the brine fields. After ½ mile (800m) it swings left by a caravan site.

5 Go right, past a Wyre Way sign and over a stile on to the embankment. Follow its winding course for about a mile (1.6km) to a stile with a signpost just beyond.

6 Go straight ahead on a tractor track, signed 'Public Footpath to Hackensall Hall 1m'. When it meets the golf course, the track first follows its left side then angles across - heed the danger signs! Follow the track to the right of Hackensall Hall. Just past its main gates go left on a track with a Wyre Way sign. This skirts round behind the outlying buildings.

7 The path swings to the right and then crosses the golf course again. Aim for a green shelter on the skyline then bear right along the edge of the course. Skirt round some white cottages, then go left to the sea wall. Turn right along it, and it's just a drive and a chip back to the car park.

The salt industry in this part of Lancashire is not of the same antiquity as that in Cheshire and has not had the same profound impact on the landscape, but it still played a significant part in shaping the present scene.

Extensive deposits of rock salt lie below the surface around Knott End and Preesall. In the early days of the industry, natural brine was found but more commonly it is extracted by pumping fresh water down bore holes to dissolve the rock salt. The first such wells in this area were drilled in the 1890s and many of the well-heads can still be seen, often standing incongruously in the middle of green fields surrounded by contentedly grazing Friesians.

The brine fields provided the raw material on which the ICI Hillhouse chemical plant, just across the Wyre, was founded, producing chlorine as well as salt. This has developed subsequently to produce a much wider range of chemical products.

There's no feel of an industrial town about Knott End today, which is a mixture of modest resort and commuter village. At low tide the sands are exposed for miles, far out into Morecambe Bay, and when it's clear the Lakeland skyline makes a wonderful backdrop.

As you leave the built-up area, you meet the trackbed of the railway line that once linked Knott End to the main line at Garstang. The line was affectionately known as 'The Pilling Pig', a name derived from the note of the whistle of an early engine. The section to Pilling was opened in 1870 but the extension to Knott End had to wait until 1908. It closed in 1963.

When you leave the old trackbed you climb a small rise - almost the only one you'll encounter on the whole walk - and from the far side, beyond New Heys Farm, you get your first sighting of the brine fields. To begin with they may look like nothing more than ordinary farmland, but then you will notice several pools - the walk soon passes close by one - left by subsidence.

As the walk continues, you'll see more and more reminders of the salt industry, especially along the track from the lane out to the sea wall. You follow this northward, with extensive creeks and salt marsh off to the left, and views across the Wyre to the chemical works and to Fleetwood.

Flying golf balls add spice to the next part of the walk. There's an interlude as you pass Hackensall Hall. The present building was erected in 1656 by the Fleetwood family, but later passed into the hands of the Bournes and was extensively renovated in the 19th century. There's more golf course to cross before returning to the sea wall for the last short stretch.

Where to eat and drink

There's a café adjacent to the car park and a couple of others in the village. The Bourne Arms is close by; a large pub with a conservatory at the back, and generous portions of pub food to enjoy.

While you're there

For most of the year, a small passenger ferry regularly makes the short crossing to Fleetwood. The town was planned as an integrated whole in the 1830s and 40s by the architect Decimus Burton, at the instigation of Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood from nearby Rossall Estate. The Fleetwood Museum tells much more about the salt industry. Britain's oldest surviving tram system links Fleetwood with Blackpool.

What to look for

The well-heads, pools, and one small extraction plant all bear witness to the salt industry. The fields provide good grazing for dairy cattle and also for a large number of brown hares. They are larger than rabbits, with longer legs and ears. They don't burrow but rear their young in shallow scrapes in the ground.

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