The Wyre Estuary Country Park


The Wyre Estuary Country Park includes the whole estuary from Fleetwood and Knott End up river as far as the Shard Bridge.

An extensive network of public paths runs throughout the park and will help you to discover the area, including Stanah, Skippool Creek, Wardleys Creek, Burrows Marsh and Barnaby's Sands.

Aerial Photo of Wyre

In particular the fine riverside path offers excellent views over the estuary. For bird watchers there is a bird hide and a slipway for those keen to be out on the water. Special attention has been made to ensure that the Country Park is welcoming for all its' visitors, including those with special needs, and we are proud to hold the "B.T. Countryside Access for All" national award. This means that wherever possible the facilities have been designed to cater for visitors of all abilities.

The Visitor Centre is accessible for wheelchair users with lowered counters and shelves and there is ample parking space and toilet facilities on site. There are level surfaced paths and picnic tables around the country park and these are ideal for people with wheelchairs or pushchairs. For blind or partially sighted visitors there is a three-quarter mile circular trail with tapping rail and an accompanying self guided tape which can be hired from the Centre.
The bird hide also has easy access with low viewing for wheelchair users.

For further details about any of these facilities contact the centre. Tel: 01253 857890.

History of the Estuary

The land surrounding the estuary was formed during the great ice age some 50,000 years ago when vast glaciers, created in the mountains of the Lake District, moved across Morecambe Bay and over the Fylde plain. As the glaciers melted they deposited debris known as boulder clay, which were then sculptured and smoothed into rounded hills called drumlins an example of which can be found at Stanah.

The River Wyre is 52km long from it's source to the sea, and is the third largest river in Lancashire after the Ribble and the Lune. It has two sources one which rises on Tarnbrook and the other on Marshaw Fell high up in the Bowland Fells. Just beyond Garstang the river is joined by the River Calder and at St. Michaels by the River Brock. St. Michaels on Wyre marks the tidal range of the River Wyre.



Skippool was once a bustling port where ships from Russia and Barbados would unload their cargoes of wine, rum, sugar and tobacco.
By the mid 1700's the volume of shipping activity at Skippool and Wardleys is believed to have exceeded the Port of Liverpool. 

A number of businesses were situated alongside the river, including Silcocks Bone Mill and Tomlinsons Animal Feeds Warehouse. There was also a small shop that sold tea and sugar to the boatmen.
During this time Skippool was a popular site for cock fighting, smuggling and press gangs, and the Ale Houses were infamous for their strong ale, contraband, spirits and drunken mariners. 

The demise of Skippool as a busy port came with the arrival of the railway to Fleetwood in 1840, and the building of new harbours which were more suitable for large ships.

Cockle Hall

Cockle Hall was once the former site of a tiny cottage which, in the late 19th century, housed a family of thirteen. One of the owners was responsible for planting the damson trees which are still visible nearby. Other residents would have collected cockles and mussels in the estuary.

Up until the 1930's this point on the river was used as a ferry crossing, and a ferryman would have been kept busy transporting locals, mariners and traders across the river.

Travellers had to summon the ferry by standing on the jetty and whistling or waving their arms wildly'. The area is now a picnic site which looks across the river to Wardleys Creek and the remains of the old ferry jetty.

View from Cockle Hall



The focal point of the Wyre Estuary Country Park is Stanah with the Wyreside Ecology Centre, car park and picnic sites. However it was only 1989 when the creation and development of the Country Park began. The site had formerly been used as a rough open car park and previous to this the once marshy ground had been exploited as a refuse tip.

Considerable work was carried out in shaping and landscaping the site, including extensive tree and shrub planting, footpath improvements and the creation of picnic areas to produce the park you see today. A regular bus service to Cleveleys runs to and from the car park.

I.C.I. & the Salt Industry

The discovery of vast deposits of rock salt below Preesall in the 19th Century led to the founding of a major salt industry on the banks of the Wyre estuary at Fleetwood, and the eventual development of I.C.I. Hillhouse International which can be seen today.

In 1890 natural brine was pumped across the river to the Fleetwood Salt Works, and by 1892 the first brine wells were drilled. Fresh water was pumped down the bore holes to dissolve the rock salt and the resulting brine w as brought up to the surface. This was pumped across the river where it was used in the production of chlorine. A number of old brine wells are still visible around the Wyre.

Mining of rock salt began in 1893 with skilled miners coming from Cheshire, and by 1906 production had reached 140,000 tonnes. The rock salt was transported by rail to a jetty by the river and loaded onto ships for export.

The village of Preesall in Over Wyre made national headlines in 1923, when 5 acres of farm land vanished into a reservoir of brine almost overnight. Serious flooding of the brine wells became a problem and the mines were eventually abandoned in 1930.

Further developments on site led to the founding of Imperial Chemical Industries, now commonly known as I.C.I. In 1941 I.C.I. became agents for the Ministry of Supply and started the manufacture of chemicals at the Hillhouse Works for materials required for the war effort.

Since the war, many changes have taken place and the Hillhouse site now produces a range of materials and products used by millions of people throughout the world.

Shard Bridge

'Shard' means the narrow part of the river and a crossing has been in existence here for approximately 2500 years. A tribe of Ancient Britons are thought to have made the first crude fording-place about 400 years BC
The ford was vastly improved by Roman engineers around the year 83 AD and this remained in use until a new one was constructed in the 14th century. In 1620 a ferry business was set up to convey passengers across the river, and ran until the first bridge was constructed in 1864.
With the pressure of modern traffic, a scheme for a new bridge was proposed in 1976. Work began on the bridge in July 1992, with the official opening twelve months later.

The Wyreside Ecology Centre

Ecology Centre This multi purpose Centre at Stanah provides a Tourist Information Centre, a Lecture Theatre/Classroom as well as a base for the Countryside Ranger Service. 

The Centre has been open since 1991 and was jointly funded by Wyre Borough Council and I.C.I. Hillhouse International. The Centre staff and Ranger Service who are also based from the building are there to give advice and information.

The Ranger Service also undertake a wide variety of activities with schools, youth groups and societies, as well as looking after the day to day management of the park.

The Centre is open every day except Christmas Day.
November - March 11.00am - 3.00pm
April - October 10.30am - 4.30pm

 Public Toilets including facilities for the less abled are open daily from 8.00am to dusk.

Where to walk

There are a number of excellent paths and walks to explore within the Country Park along the estuary between Fleetwood and Skippool. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Leave the Wyreside Ecology Centre, walk across the main car park and follow the road to the riverside path towards Cockle Hall. Return via the steps which lead up to the Drumlin and follow this back to the centre.
  2. As above, but continue on to Cockle Hall before turning right. C1imb over a stile into the field and follow the hedge over the hill past the farm buildings to another stile. C1imb over this and turn right. Follow the road (Underbank Road) to River Road and back to the Centre.
  3. As above, but stay on the riverside path past Cockle Hall until you reach Ramper Pot. Pass through the gate and follow the track to Underbank Road. Turn right and follow this road to River Road and back to the Centre.
  4. Stay on the riverside path all the way to Skippool. Return via the same route or by road.
  5. Leave the Wyreside Ecology Centre, cross over the road at the entrance to the Park and follow the riverside path northwards past the bird hide and alongside the I.C.I. works to Fleetwood Road.

Water Sports Facilities

Boat launching facilities are provided at both Stanah and Knott End into the Wyre Estuary.

Stanah has a free public slipway. There is a charge to launch boats at Knott End. Private facilities can also be found at Skippool and Wardleys.


The Wyre Estuary forms the southern boundary of Morecambe Bay, one of the most important sites for wildfowl and waders in Europe with eleven species occurring in internationally important numbers. In addition four species; Pink-footed Goose, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank have populations of national importance within the Wyre Estuary.

Wader and wildfowl populations change dramatically with the seasons, providing a year round interest for birdwatchers. In winter large flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew and Redshank feed on the mudflats between Stanah and Skippool. These are joined by flocks of wildfowl including large numbers of Pink-footed Geese and Teal with smaller numbers of Mallard, Wigeon and Shelduck. They are best seen at low water on Burrow's Marsh from the riverside footpath beside the I.C.I. works.

In spring, the last of the winter birds are joined by Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit as they migrate to their northern breeding grounds. June and July see the return of British breeding Lapwing and Curlew to the estuary.

Autumn migration begins in late July with numbers of waders increasing through August and September before many of the birds move on to the wintering areas in West Africa. This is the best time of year to see less common species such as Whimbrel, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Ruff, which can be found in the muddier parts of the estuary around Skippool. By late September the wintering species begin to arrive and numbers increase through October to November.

Wildfowl and waders are not the only birds that use the estuary. Grey Heron, Cormorant and huge numbers of Gulls are, frequently seen. Flocks of Starlings, Skylarks and Finches winter on the salt marshes, these in turn attract birds of prey such as Kestrel, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Short-eared Owl.

The hedgerows along the river provide nesting and feeding cover for a variety of commoner species, autumn berries attract flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare newly arrived from Scandinavia.

The river lies across the migration route of small song birds and on fine mornings in Spring and Autumn, the birds can be seen feeding before setting out on their journey northwards.

The Wyreside Bird Hide

The hide is ideally situated overlooking the bird rich salt marshes and mudflats of the Wyre Estuary. The fenced area around the hide has been landscaped to help create new wildlife habitats and both the hide and footpath leading to it have been specially adapted to be suitable for wheelchair users.

Keys to the hide are available from the Wyresdale Ecology Centre during opening hours, and regular visitors may wish to take advantage of a season ticket which allows access to the hide at all times. Details of the scheme are available from the Centre.

Wild Flowers

The Wyre estuary contains the largest area of ungrazed salt marsh in North West England, and is nationally important for providing food and shelter for a wide range of insects and birds.

The plants are specially adapted to tolerate immersion in salt water and have waxy outer surfaces similar to cacti. Salt marsh plants grow in distinct bands with pioneer species growing on the mud, and less salt tolerant species on the highest parts of the marsh. The finest examples of salt marsh flora are found on the Burrow's Marsh nature reserve and along the riverside path between Stanah and Skippool.

Plants to look for include Glasswort. Seablite, Sea Purslane, Sea Aster, Sea Lavender, Sea Milkwort, Scurvy-grass, Sea Plantain, Sea Arrow Grass and Frosted Orache. Some of the higher marshes are colonised by Common Reed with the thicker stands providing nest sites for Reed and Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. Visitors to the park are advised to resist the temptation to pick the Sea Lavender and Common Reed.

The riverside footpath beside the I.C.I. Works has an interesting flora with some limestone plants able to exist on the infilled sea defence. Some of the special plants seen include Bee Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid and Yellow-Wort. The short turf and patches of Birds-foot Trefoil provide suitable habitat for the Common Blue Butterfly.

The hedgerows and woodland around Cockle Hall contain some attractive plants, including Red Campion, Herb Robert, Bluebells, Ramsons and Comfrey. In late summer, look out for the large dragonfly, Aeshna grandis or Brown Hawker as it hunts along the hedgerow - it is our only dragonfly with brown wings.

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