Completion of Penwortham By-pass

A couple of weeks ago I found out about the plans to build a new stretch of by-pass between Broad Oak Roundabout and the A59 in my home town of Penwortham (1). In The Central Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan this is referred to as ‘Completion of Penwortham By-pass’ (2). Since then I have walked the accessible parts of the route on the map in order to see first hand where it will go and visualise its impact.

Beginning at Broak Oak Roundabout

Beginning at Broad Oak Roundabout, courtesy of South Ribble Borough Council

The new stretch of by-pass will begin to the south west of Broak Oak Roundabout.

Broad Oak RoundaboutIt looks like the entrance road may be hereEntrance Road?and the exit road here.

Exit Road?It willl then head across this scrubby field of oak saplings, thistle and dock, over which I saw a buzzard circling today.

Scrubby FieldThen it will bear west and straight to the A59.

New Stretch of Penwortham By-pass, courtesy of South Ribble Borough Council

New Stretch of Penwortham By-pass, courtesy of South Ribble Borough Council

The beginning of the route will cut through a wooded footpath that begins as a track at Nutter’s Platt and runs alongside Mill Brook (pictured south of the by-pass). One part bears left to join Lindle Lane, the other right to join Howick Moor Lane. The trees include oak, beech and hawthorn. The plentiful brambles are covered in blackberries. This path is a frequent throughfare for long tailed tits.

Penwortham By-pass, Freshers Fayre 017The by-pass will then run across a series of fields, which are divided by trees and hedegrows (important wildlife corridors) and currently used for pasture.

PasturePenwortham By-pass, Freshers Fayre 018Penwortham By-pass, Freshers Fayre 020It will finally run through the playing fields of All Hallows Catholic High School. They have been offered compensatory land closer to the school.

All Hallows Playing Fields

All Hallows Playing Fields

It will end with the Proposed Roundabout, between Blackhurst cottages and Howick CE Primary School.

Proposed Roundabout, courtesy of South Ribble Borough Council

Proposed Roundabout, courtesy of South Ribble Borough Council


Admittedly, this route is preferable to the rescinded route, which would have brought about the destruction of much more land and five houses.

However I can’t help feeling angry about the way the value of the economic growth and development of human society has come to win out against the value of the living landscape and its inhabitants. That whilst the human community has been consulted nobody has thought to consider that the birds and wildlife may not wish to leave their homes even if they are provided with others, that the planting of more trees is no real compensation to the trees cut down, that the land itself might not want to be dug up and subjected to the turbulence of another road.

What’s more, a later part of the plan is to link this stretch of by-pass to a new bridge over the river Ribble and a valuable piece of salt marsh. The issues surrounding this will be explored in a later post.


Greencroft Valley

Greencroft ValleyGreencroft Valley is located in Penwortham, and is split down its centre between Kingsfold Ward on the east and Middleforth Green to the west. From (at least) medieval times up until 1984 the valley was farmland. The 1839 Tithe map shows the fields at the south end of the valley (between Pope Lane and the old Oak) as belonging to the Mayor family, who owned Malt Kiln Farm and Cottage. The cottage was originally a water powered mill, where barley from the local fields was made into grain. Following this, grain was soaked in a stone trough, ‘chitted’, germinated, dried in a kiln and ‘riddled’ before being placed in sacks to be taken by horse and cart to the Black Bull Inn. The land was bought by the church in 1860[1].

The fields north of the Oak belonged to the Baker family, who lived in a house called Alderfield, and later became Miss Whittam’s riding school (the site is now covered by Greencroft). The old hedge line can still be seen between the old Oak, the adjacent trees and another oak tree of a similar age near the Malthouse Way entrance. Another visible hedge line divides the green from the woods close to the Maltings. This divided the fields belonging to Alderfield from Fish Pan Pasture.

The presence of the mill combined with the two fishing ponds on the Tithe Map and the large culvert adjacent to Hill Road South, all form evidence that Fish House Brook was several times larger and more forceful than it is now, showing the drastic shifts that have been brought about in the water table over the past 150 years. Another point of note is that there was a well in the valley close to the edge of the brook, to whose steps a path ran from Alderfield; this disappeared with the building of the new estates.

The large and irregular field patterns suggests they date back at least to medieval times. A 1590 map refers to the land that stretches from Pope Lane to Castle Hill as ‘all these ancient and several lands of the manor of Penwortham as well as the Queen’s as of freeholders and copyholders[2]’. The first entry for Penwortham in the Domesday book cites the existence of ‘two ploughs,’ in reference to Penwortham End and Middleforth Green. Evidence from the Dock Finds shows the area adjacent to the Ribble near Castle Hill was occupied from the Neolithic period onward. If this was the case in higher Penwortham, then judging by the population figures (the population of Britain was higher in the Iron Age than it was during the Norman period[3]) it is possible Middleforth Green and the valley have been occupied and farmed just as long.

The occupation and land use changed dramatically between 1979 and 1984 as a result of the Central Lancashire New Towns project. This was set up in 1973 and aimed to draw together Penwortham, Preston, Walton, Leyland and Chorley in a vast urban sprawl with a population of half a million, covering 55 square miles with houses[4]. During this period the estates of Greencroft, Malthouse Way, Alderfield and the Maltings were built- over 300 houses, bringing an approximate number of 600 people[5] into the area, in stark contrast to the small number who occupied Malt House Farm and Cottage and Alderfield. It was during this period that Middleforth School, which was founded in 1861 and was formerly a Chapel-School situated where Church Brook House now stands at the bottom of Marshall’s Brow, was moved to its present site[6]. It seems needless to say that the impact on the nature and wildlife of the area must have been huge.

This open green space and woodland now forms an important habitat for wildlife, a roosting place for birds, a possible swimming place for stream life and a pleasant vista for dog walkers and play area for children, and is the only place amidst the new estates where the traces of so many centuries of our rural past is preserved. Home to a plethora of living things, from those with roots and leaves, to those with legs, tails or wings, it is an eco-system that deserves care and respect, and this is the purpose of the Friends of Greencroft Valley.

[1] Elizabeth Basquill, More Hidden Histories of Penwortham Houses, (The Friends of Hurst Grange Park, 2011), p6-11, 42-44.
[2] Alan Crosby, Penwortham in the Past, (Carnegie Press, 1988), p67
[3] There were 3 million people in 700 BC compared to 2.5 million in 1086
[4] Alan Crosby, Penwortham in the Past, (Carnegie Press, 1988), p145
[5] Going by the average figure of 2.32 people per household
[6] Penwortham Magazine, Issue 3.