It is so easy to forget about some of your favourite places when choosing a day out. Pictures on Instagram and Pinterest drawing your focus further afield. Lockdown rules easing making longer day trips more of a reality. Despite all of this, sometimes when things don’t go to plan, you end up revisiting an old favourite and having the best of times. This is what happened when our trip to Blackpool turned into us doing a circular walk with nature at Brockholes.
Lockdown easing days out
With the welcome news of lockdown easing meaning that we can now visit places further afield, it has been fun planning days out. Thinking of places we have missed. Deciding on day trips which will feel like a one day holiday. Packing the car and heading out on the open road. Well, probably the M56/M60 or other Manchester tributary. After a wonderful day out in Lytham St Anne’s we thought that a day in Blackpool with our new (to us) bikes would be like an excellent choice. Car loaded, picnic and bikes in the boot, we made or merry way to the Lancashire coast.
What we hadn’t anticipated was that the entire North West would see the report of warm breezes and also head to the beach. Miles and miles of cars backed up along the coast road. People parking on pavements, in front of houses and completely obscuring the cycle lanes. Turns out that the easing of lockdown doesn’t mean an easing in getting out and about. Something that in hindsight, we should have realised.
As tensions bubbled, I thought about alternatives. Somewhere we could enjoy a picnic and walk. Blackburn was just going into a special localised lockdown, so that was out. After a bit of a frantic google search (Jit, while I manoeuvred my way out of the traffic) we opted for Brockholes in Preston. A thirty minute drive which would take us into a very welcome natural paradise.
A welcome dose of nature
It is funny how things go sometimes. Our plan to cycle up and down the prom from Lytham to Blackpool fell to the wayside and revealed something which was more suited to what we needed. A welcome dose of nature. Brockholes is a nature reserve tucked beneath the M6 motorway. It is managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and home to the first floating visitor centre outside of Europe. As you can tell, I find it to be quite a special place. And somewhere I feel ashamed to say that I don’t visit as often as I should.
There are a number of things I particularly love about Brockholes, the main being that I can easily take a circular walk with nature. In fact, there are three main Brockholes walking routes, which also link to the Ribble Valley Way. That being said, you don’t need to go far to enjoy some natural beauty at this lovely place, including the grassy areas in the car park. Which we discovered while a man with a rather impressive nature lens was wading through on the hunt for something interesting.
While I understand why lots of people enjoy picking a posy of wild flowers, I personally enjoy collecting them in my camera. I think it gives me more pleasure as I see them spread and change through the seasons. And keep the natural space beautiful for the wildlife rather than wilting in a vase on my fireplace. It turns out that July is a wonderful time of year for wild flowers too. Our local walk in Clayton Vale is awash with swathes of colourful flowers at the moment and Brockholes was certainly giving a good show too. Within moments of stepping onto the path, I was kneeling down and snapping away at the beautiful flowers providing a welcome nectar buffet to the busy bees.
Getting to know the names
I am the first to admit that my wild flower knowledge is a bit on the slim side. I am pretty good with garden flowers and plants, but the wild kind I have a way to go. This is why taking photos is also a good opportunity for me to learn and appreciate the different kinds of flowers in our surroundings. Be it in a nature reserve, along the canal or some urban nature growing between bricks in a tiny slice of mortar. It all counts as nature and is all a chance for me to grow my skills.
I have been experimenting with a new to me app called iNaturalist, which another of my nature loving friends recommended to me. It is a great way to help create a natural database for science while connecting with people who can help you identify the plants, fungi, insects and bird life you see on your travels. If you’re not really into the learning side though, I highly recommend the new Nature Notes feature on GoJauntly too. A fun way to collect photos, thoughts, observations and ideas in a nice little digital journal.
Not all about the shots
Despite being one to snap away, I also love to pop my phone or camera in my bag so that I can just enjoy being in nature. Walking through along the paths, listening to the birds and generally enjoying the experience. I do the same when I am in the city, as I love the immersive feeling of truly experiencing somewhere with every inch of my senses. I am always fascinated by the vast natural habitat which develops in the enveloped between main roads (or motorways), industrial buildings and other man made infrastructure. No matter where you are, nature always finds a way to reclaim some space and to adapt.
Enjoying the space
One of the benefits of somewhere out in the open with plenty of options for walking routes, you can feel almost as though you are there alone. We bumped into the odd couple, a family or two and that was about it. To have what feels like a private nature reserve is quite special. We have visited towards closing on a couple of occasions and found that it is the best time to be there. The car park is quiet and the majority of people there are on the hunt for a special bird so are busy with their own things.
A couple of hours on a circular walk with nature
Depending on the route, the detours and obvious beautiful distractions along the way, you can spend a good couple of hours walking through the trees and along the lakes. I really do recommend taking your time as there is plenty to see, hear and smell. With the number of birds singing, I am definitely going to be packing my binoculars next time and taking along my mini bird book. Another skill, I will be brushing up on in the coming months now that more reserves are opening.
It takes about 45 minutes to drive to Brockholes from Manchester, which I think is pretty good for a walk in nature. You are also part way to Blackpool or Lytham, if you happen to go on a less visited day.
Having had the nudge to revisit Brockholes, I will certainly be making it a regular pilgrimage with a picnic and curiosity. As a day trip goes, it is one worth making for a day in nature away from the city.
Have you been to Brockholes? Are you a fan of walking in nature too?
Let me know about your favourite places below.
Oh and if you know the names of any of the plants I have posted too, pop them in the comments.