Yarrow Valley Country Park is undoubtedly one of the main contenders for the best park in North West England. The land here was once occupied by printing, bleaching and dyeing works. In the 1980s, following successful grant applications, Chorley Council regenerated the derelict site and transformed it into a fabulous recreational area.
We visited on a sunny day and we’re very impressed indeed. Driving through the entrance on Birkacre Road took us straight to the Main Car Park. Parking was free. It was a good start.
Our first stop was the Treeface Café, also home to the Yarrow Valley Country Park Visitor Centre. We picked up a free map and guide to the park. My daughter wanted to buy an ice cream but I managed to persuade her to delay the purchase until the end of our visit.
Our first port of call was the playground, just a short walk away. Nestled in a woodland clearing beside the River Yarrow, it enjoys one of the best and most tranquil settings of all the play areas we have visited. Chorley Council have done an excellent job here and can be very proud of this facility.
It was a struggle to drag her away from the playground but, after an hour or so, I eventually managed it. We took a short walk up to the Big Lodge, a former mill lodge and the centrepiece of the park. We strolled along the western bank, admiring the spectacular views. On reaching the southern tip of the lodge, we relaxed for a while on one of the benches and watched the ducks and other waterfowl.
After our rest, we took a path south to Top Lodge nature reserve. The reed bed here offers cover for birds such as water rails, kingfishers, and reed buntings.
Heading south took us to the Birkacre Weir, one of the most popular attractions in the park. It was built to raise the water level of the River Yarrow and allow water to flow into the lodges. The guide says it is best to visit after heavy rainfall when the waters thunder. It hadn’t been particularly rainy in the days before our visit but, nevertheless, the weir was still impressive.
When the Birkacre Weir was built over one hundred years ago there wasn’t a great deal of concern for the environment. The structure made it impossible for sea trout and salmon to reach their traditional spawning grounds in the Pennine foothills. In 2003 a fish ladder was built by the side of the weir to allow the fish to pass the weir and make their way upstream.
Birkacre Weir was a viewing platform. It allows excellent views for visitors, including those in wheelchairs. To get a really good photo though, we had to climb over the fence and scramble down the bank to reach water level.
After the weir we headed south into Drybones Wood, an ancient woodland with oak and beech trees. Here we saw the remains of an old coal mine shaft, a relic from the site’s industrial past.
We could have continue further to Duxbury Woods but by now my daughter was yearning for the ice cream I had promised earlier. We decided to head back to the Treehouse Café. We retraced our steps but, on reaching the Big Lodge, took the route along the eastern bank.
After reaching the northern tip of Big Lodge, we came to Small Lodge. The guide said this was used mainly by fishermen and indeed there were a couple of guys sat waiting patiently by their rods. We took a couple of photos and left them in peace, making our way to the café just a few yards away.
At the café we bought ice creams and ate them while sat at a rather large picnic table just to the side of the building. Looking at the map of Yarrow Valley Country Park it became quite obvious that we hadn’t seen much of it at all. The park is huge and follows the path of the River Yarrow for around six miles.
I could see from the map that the park actually has four official parking areas. So rather than walk to another area of the park we decided to jump in the car and drive to another car park.
We choose to drive to Dob Brow Car Park. The guide didn’t give a postcode so I just inputted the street name (Dob Brow) into the sat nav. We didn’t find it so stopped and asked a local. He told us that the Dob Brow Car Park was more of a layby than a car park and gave us directions. We eventually came across it, but our sat nav and Google Maps said it was on Butterworth Brow, rather than Dob Brow.
From the car park we headed north to Dob Brow Pastures, an area of grassland running alongside the River Yarrow. It was a pretty area but wasn’t as interesting as those we had visited earlier. Aside from a couple of dog walkers, we were the only people there. We followed the path that ran alongside the river for a mile or so, returned to our car and then headed home.
In summary, Yarrow Valley Country Park is one of the best parks in North West England. The playground is superb and the scenery fantastic. Chorley Council deserve a lot of credit for transforming the former industrial site. It is well worth a visit.
Visitor Centre and Treeface Café
According to the official guide the Treeface Café is open daily from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. The waitress said it stays open later if the weather is nice and/or the park is busy.
There are toilets and baby changing facilities in the centre.
Car Parks and Parking
Yarrow Valley Country Park has four car parks. We visited two of them.
The Main Car Park is situated on Birkacre Road. It’s convenient for destinations such as the Visitor Centre, Treehouse Café, Play Area, Big Lodge, Small Lodge, Burgh Wood, Top Lodge, Birkacre Weir, and Drybones Wood. The official guide says the postcode is PR7 3QL. However, this is the postcode for Birkacre Garden Centre. It got us close to the park, but according to the Royal Mail, the official postcode for the Yarrow Valley Country Park Visitor Centre is PR7 3RN.
The other car park we visited was Dob Brow Car Park. As noted before we believe it is actually located on Butterworth Brow, close to the junction of Birkacre Road and Dob Brow.
The car parks we didn’t visit were Euxton Car Park and Duxbury Car Park, located at the northern and western ends of the park.
At the time of writing (2020), buses to Yarrow Valley Country Park include the 362 from Chorley Bus Station to Wigan Bus Station. The closest bus stop is on Coppull Road. From here it’s a five minute walk down Birkacre Road to the park