Walk: Preston Docks

Preston Docks.
Preston Docks.

The walk itself could not be easier to follow and to undertake. Facing the dock turn left and proceed along the walkway with the basin on the right.

Ahead the skyline of Preston comes into focus with a particularly fine view of St Walburge’s church with its tall spire.

As you reach the end of the dock turn right in front of Harbour House and Tustin Court and then right again to reach a zone of offices and residents opposite from where you started, 250yds along look for a signpost pointing left.

Follow it through a residential area to reach Navigational Way. Opposite a footpath leads across the railway.

Take extreme care but note when safely behind the fence this is a good place to spot the steam locomotives when the service is on the far side of the railway join the wide tarmac cycle track which is part of the Preston Guild Wheel. Turn right. All times of the year this is a popular cyclists route especially at weekends.

After 600yds where the track bears right keep ahead on a narrow path with the River Ribble to the left.

So this reaches the more open space of “the Bullnose” which marks the entrance to the Dock.

Taking into account that this situation is 10 miles from the open sea the dock operates locks to maintain water levels in the basin.

The route now crosses the lock gate joins the Guild Wheel and turns right to return to the basin crossing Navigation Way to reach the marina. Return to the starting point is obvious from here.

The Ribble Steam Railway is fast establishing itself as an important Lancashire tourist attraction having recently been awarded a certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

With an extensive network of standard gauge track Preston Docks became an ideal site to house the collection of locomotives built up by a preservation centre in Southport.

When that closed in 1999 Preston took on the mantel with the aim of workshops, platforms and a museum.

The museum was opened in2004 and houses one of the largest collections of locomotives and rolling stock in the UK. There are 45 exhibits on display.

In conjunction with this a one and a half mile length of rail track runs from the station on Chain Caul Road to Strand Road.

Remarkably commercial traffic has returned to this line. Bitumen transported from the Lindsay Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire is brought by freight trains up to three times a week delivering to the Lanfina.

It has to be said that the railway is not as well-known as it deserves to be. This is due to its out of the way location in the warehouse hinterland to the west of the Docks. In the near future the group hopes to build platforms at the Strand Road end of the line thus providing access in a busier area.

Preservation groups like Ribble Steam Railway rely heavily on volunteer effort to maintain the museum and the train services at weekends.

Consider the specialised knowledge required just to be an engine driver or a locomotive engineer. Add to this the support needed to run a shop and manage ticket sales. For anyone interested in giving their time go to www.ribblesteam.org.uk

Preston Dock. At the time of its completion and for some considerable time after Preston Dock was the largest single man made basin in the world.

Opened in 1892 the dock soon became a flourishing port pioneering roll-on roll-off ferries. However as shipping became larger and the costs of constantly dredging the Ribble increased the economic viability of the dock led to its closure in 1981.

For a while the future of the area looked bleak until imaginative redevelopment led to its regeneration.