River Darwen Parkway: history and features

A brief history

The site has in the past been used for a variety of purposes including sand extraction, quarrying and farming, which have all contributed to the site's interesting topography.

A number of cotton and paper mills once operated along the River Darwen and a weir, used as a source of energy, is still visible on the river.

As part of the Blackburn to Manchester railway sidings, a turntable and engine sheds were built on the site near Peel Close footbridge.

The shed, which later housed Italian prisoners of war, was demolished and removed in 1966 and over the next 10 years the sidings and other buildlings were dismantled.

Higher Croft Hall, the residency of the Haworth family of Rochdale was demolished in the 1966 by Duttons Brewery (now Whitbreads) and now the Centurion public house stands on the site.


Since the commercial activities ceased in the 1970s the area has developed through tree and shrub planting and a network of paths have been created. The site is now a valuable wildlife haven.

The site uniquely contains a number of diverse habitats side by side - woodland, grassland, marsh, ponds, scrub and heath.

The area is a designated Biological Heritage Site (BHS) which signifies its importance for nature conservation in the county.

The site also received a Local Nature Reserve status in 2005.


The diverse habitats are home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and insects.

Birds that can be spotted include the kestrel, sparrow hawk, long tailed tit, yellow hammer, heron and more unusual for this area the sand martin, which nests in holes in the sand and gravel banks.

The wetland areas support a range of water loving species - dragonflies, damselflies, frogs, newts and water boatman. Butterflies are also abundant throughout the summer and include painted lady, comma, peacock and many others.


There are a whole range of sculptures to be seen on the site.

Local groups and schools have been closely involved in the art projects, which have resulted in totem poles, sculpted figures, willow weaving, carved timber seating to name but a few.

The entrances are marked with a series of steel marker posts featuring images drawn by local children and reflecting their interpretation of the site.

There is also a small playground at the Aqueduct end of the park.

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