Preston Junction

The Preston Junction local nature reserve is a former railway line, rich in wild flowers and butterflies, attractive to birds and providing habitats for mammals. In addition it is an important link interconnecting the different wildlife habitats of the area. Railways have long been recognised as a valuable wildlife refuge and have been described, at least by some, as unofficial nature reserves. Divorced from public access since construction, the cuttings and embankments of the railways soon become colonised by wildlife from adjacent woods and fields. In addition, whilst the trains transported people, the railway land became wildlife highways, corridors allowing the movement of plants and animals through Britain, connecting north and south, east and west, town and country.

Access to Preston Junction

Pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders

From the south bank of the River Ribble, Factory Lane, the Old Tram Road, Hennel/Watering Pool Lane and Todd Lane.

Pedestrians and cyclists

From the A6 roundabout near Brownedge Road, Bamber Bridge and from Leyland Road, Lower Penwortham.

Pedestrians only

From Avenham Park by way of the public footpath on the disused railway bridge over the River Ribble.

History

The Preston Junction Local Nature Reserve is a section of the former Walton Junction - Preston line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, forming part of a complex railway network radiating in and out of Preston. Opened around 1850 as the Preston extension line it provided a better connection between Blackburn and Colne. The line was closed on 1 May 1972. The Preston extension line when constructed involved a 52 arch viaduct leading to an iron bridge across the River Ribble. Around 1850, perhaps due to subsidence, the arched viaduct was infilled to create a stronger embankment. However, two arches remained visible and can still be seen on the southern end of the bridge. In 1930 the iron span of the bridge was replaced by a steel girder construction. Work to develop the former railway as a nature reserve and linear footpath, cycle and bridle route, was commenced in 1990 by Lancashire County Council with grant aid from the Department of the Environment.

Wildlife

The former railway now provides a haven for wildlife, with habitats for butterflies, birds and other creatures, as well as many plants and flowers lost from the adjacent land through agriculture improvements and housing development. The usual birds of hedgerows and scrub such as Blackbird, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Wren and both Blue and Great Tit may be encountered. In addition, like so much of Lancashire, areas of scrub are alive in spring with the song of Willow Warblers whilst in the taller trees the squawking of Jays may at times be heard. Adjacent wet fields attract Herons whilst Cormorants regularly fly up and down the Ribble. A wealth of flowers occurs including Great Burnet, Hoary Ragwort, Meadow Crane’s-bill, Yarrow, Oxeye Daisy, Yellow Rattle and Fairy Flax together with specialities such as Dyer’s Greenweed, Hoary Cinquefoil, Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids and Greater Burnet Saxifrage. Butterflies are a feature, in high summer the grasslands and areas of open scrub provide habitats for such butterflies as Meadow Brown, Wall Brown and the Gatekeeper or Hedge Brown, a species restricted to lowland districts of the County. Where the vegetation is shorter Birds-foot Trefoil attracts the Common Blue a small but spectacular butterfly on the wing in spring and again in mid-summer. Others like the Large Skipper, Small Heath, Small Copper, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Orange-tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Painted Lady may be seen.

Nature reserves