The Smithills Estate is a large country park in Bolton. Covering over 1,700 acres it is the largest site owned by the Woodland Trust. The charity purchased the estate in 2015 following a successful bid for finance from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The area has a rich industrial heritage. Throughout the Industrial Revolution, coal mines operated here and supplied fuel to power the cotton mills and bleach works at Barrow Bridge.
Burnt Edge Colliery, the largest, was operational from around 1830 to 1890. Traces of the mine shaft and structures can be seen today.
Halliwell Bleach Works were founded in the mid-18th century. They were in the area that is now Moss Bank Park. The chimney still stands and, at around 250 feet tall, is one of the most iconic sights in Bolton.
Walker Fold Woods follow the route of Dean Brook. They are home to ancient trees such as birch and oak, plus areas of conifers planted in the late 1950s.
The estate is rich in wildlife. Mammals living here include roe deer, fallow deer, several species of bats, red foxes, and stoats.
Walking here is popular. Our short walk starts at Walker Fold Car Park and goes up the hill towards Burnt Edge. It returns passing Walker Fold Woods.
Those wanting a longer walk can head to Winter Hill. It is almost 1,500 feet high and offers great views of Bolton and Manchester. It is the site of the Winter Hill TV Mast, one of the highest structures in the UK.
It is also possible to walk to Barrow Bridge, a beautiful village and conservation area. From Walker Fold Car Park, cross the road and take the path that starts between the houses. The route includes the famous ’63 Steps’.
Dog walking is permitted. The Woodland Trust ask that dogs be kept on a lead between April and September to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds.
Location and Getting There
The Walker Fold Car Park is located on Walker Fold Road (postcode BL1 7PT). Walker Fold Road is just off Chorley Old Road.
The car park has spaces for 60 vehicles. Parking is free but donations are appreciated. At the time of writing (2020), there is a van here selling coffee and cakes.
To get to Walker Fold by bus take service 125 (Bolton to Preston) and get off the stop near the Bob’s Smithy pub on Chorley Old Road. The car park and entrance to Walker Fold is approximately ½ mile away.
A second car park is located on Barrow Bridge Road in Barrow Bridge (postcode BL1 7NH).