Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Clifton Country Park

No 30 Days Wild post today as I still wanted to tell you about a day out we had in mid-May. However, there's lots of nature in this post so it fits nicely with the 30 Days theme.

If you saw my post about visiting Rawtenstall, you'll know that Chickpea and I have started following the Irwell Sculpture Trail. Most of the sculptures are in clusters and it turned out that one of them was only a hop, skip and a jump up the motorway from us.

Clifton Country Park is the site of an old colliery dating from 1740. The Wet Earth Colliery closed in 1928 and the land was reclaimed. Some of the sculptures are part of the Wet Earth Trail which takes you around the industrial remains. The first one was this lovely steel Galloway pony. He was very tactile and we couldn't resist stroking him. A real pony would have walked round and round the circular structure all day to winch coal up from the pit.

Next to him is the wheel chamber, built in the 1750s to help solve the problem of flooding. It's pretty deep and you can see tunnels in the sides. It's all fenced off so you can't go down the spiral staircase.

The Collier and Pit Brow Lass stand next to the wheel chamber.

I think this was the remains of the fan house, used to ventilate the mine.

There are other remnants of the area's past scattered in the undergrowth.

The last of the sculptures created by Stephen Charnock is the Starvationer Boat, which gets its name from the fact that the ribs were exposed on the outside of the boat. It was used to bring coal out of the mine.

This would have been one of the canals but was drained and is now overgrown.

Fletcher's folly, built in 1805, was a chimney for the steam winding engine which replaced the pit ponies.

These are the remains of a cottage and the end of the Wet Earth Trail.

I loved the wild, overgrown feel of this part of the park. So fascinating to keep stumbling across brick and ironwork which have been colonised by plants.

Nearby is another part of the sculpture trail. Dig, by Rosie Leventon, was also inspired by the starvationer boats.

The path then takes you along the side of the lake.

And past a field where a gymkhana was taking place.

We stopped for a while to watch. It mostly seemed to consist of different competitions for best dressed pony. We heard an announcement for 'best tail'!

Further on, at the side of the lake is the last of the sculptures. This is what The Lookout looked like when it was first installed.

I much prefer it now that the wood has weathered and nature has colonised the stonework, though Chickpea preferred the pristine condition of the original.

The path now takes you around the perimeter of the lake and alongside the river Irwell.

We took the river path which winds its way alongside the river several feet below and an abandoned, dried out channel, Fletcher's canal, that was part of the colliery workings on the other side. I think this might have been my favourite part of the day. It was just magical, with the sound of the water, the scent of hawthorn blossom in the air...

...and bluebells spreading out before us. The English countryside is just breathtaking at that time of year.

There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
(Anne Bronte 'The Bluebell')

Did you know that the sap of bluebells was used as the glue to attach feathers to arrows? I read that recently, just as I read that it's said to be unlucky to walk through bluebells as fairies and goblins would be summoned by the 'ringing' of the bells! I absolutely love this kind of folklore :-)

On and on the path twined until eventually we arrived back at the gymkhana and stopped to watch more ponies before heading for home.

Another place we will definitely return to in the future. I'd love to follow the river path beyond the boundaries of the park to see where it takes us.

Hope your week is going well. I'll probably be back tomorrow with 30 days wild though random acts of wildness have been fleeting so far. x


  1. Great post Julie, looks an interesting place.

  2. What an interesting place to visit. I love the sculptures, they are amazing aren't they. I like the lookout now - and then! xx

  3. Thanks for this post, I had no idea about the sculpture trail. I've seen the one at Burrs Country Park and not realised what it was, I'll be investigating some others now!

  4. These places where there are remnants of old industrial sites and mine works half-covered in undergrowth are so atmospheric. The sculptures are interesting and fit well in the woodland setting I like the boat-shaped shallow pit called Dig. I would have wanted to give the sad-looking horse sculpture a pat. Very thought-provoking.

  5. Ah, the bluebells. I have only seen them THE ONE TIME in England, you can see me posing with them on the side of my blog. I don't think I disturbed any fairies, I stepped on the same footsteps that someone else had made (tending to small trees planted there maybe?)...anyway, I knew it was a lucky thing to see them. The beauty of them will be with me always!!

  6. Just reading about the sculpture trail around the Rawtenstall area makes me feel quite embarrassed, we have lived 4 miles away for just over a year now and havent explored any of it, must put it on our 'to do' list!

  7. What a brilliant place - it looks like a really interesting place to explore... another place for the list!!