A Walk Through Darwen's Industrial Past and Present.
1. The starting point for this walk is ‘The Anchor Hotel’. Enter Anchor Road down the left side of the Hotel and walk straight ahead.
2. Just past the Anchor Hotel you will pass the Crown Paints Bowling Club on your right. The painted wall at the far side of the bowling green is part of the original Cobden Mill which was one of many cotton mills in Darwen.
3. Beyond the Bowling Club you will find part of the extensive warehousing and despatch department for Crown. On the opposite side of this building was Peel Mill, another cotton mill which no longer exists. Continue along the road to the end of this building.
4. When you reach the end of the warehouse look to your left and you will see the Anchor Ground which is home to AFC Darwen.
5. The path is not obvious at this point but keep to the Crown fence on your right and by the waste bin at the car park barrier is a gap which you pass through. There is no footpath sign at this point to direct you on the right of way.
6. A short way along the side of the car park you may come across the two footpath posts which have rotted and are lying on the ground. These indicate one path going to the left and another to the right. Keep to the fence of the car park on your left and follow the upper path which stays at the same level.
7. These are the two paths – take the left one by the side of the car park fence now and return later by the path on the right.
8. Continue along the path as it passes along the side of the car park.
9. Looking across to the right you get a sense of the industrial nature of this part of Darwen with the extensive Crown paints works beyond which is the area formerly occupied by the Hollins Paper Mill. In the distance is the silver chimney of the former Central Power Station which supplied all the mills of the Wallpaper Manufacturers with heat and power. Behind that is the hill from which was drawn the clay quarry which supplied the Hollins Brick Works (Whittakers).
10. At the end of the fence around the car park the path opens out with the new industrial units of the M65 Service Area in front of you and the farmhouse at Anchor Bank to the right. At this point there is no indication as to where the path goes next, but there is a stone wall to your right around Anchor Bank and you should follow this to where it meets the metal fence in the centre of this photo.
11. Before moving on, turn round to look behind you and you will see the red brick Queen’s Mill where they made Anaglypta, Supaglypta and Lincrusta wall coverings, and to the right of that building is another red brick building which was the former Offices of the Walpamur Paint Company, partially hidden by the tree branches.
12. Over by the metal fence, hidden in the grass and behind other posts is the footpath sign which is very faded and does not help. Go down the side of the metal fence until you meet the stone wall around Anchor Bank.
13. Where the metal fence meets the stonewall the direction of the path becomes clear. There are a couple of new trees growing in the way which may need to be trimmed at some point, but for now it is passable.
14. The path is now bordered on your left by the metal fence around the industrial units and on your right, the stone wall.
15. The path is covered in shingle and easy to walk on at this point.
16. Looking over the wall to your right at this point you will see the water treatment plant in the bottom of the valley by the side of the River Darwen. Started in 1864, the first construction was completed in 1865 and then the plant was reconstructed in 1965. Over by Lower Eccleshill Road are the latest industrial units which then stretch away into the distance towards Blackburn.
17. If you are lucky, you may also get to see some of the animals that live around here such as this grumpy looking old sheep.
18. From this point onwards the going under foot becomes a bit more challenging as the ground is uneven and the grass grows quite deep.
19. At this point the ground slopes down to the right and part of the wall has disappeared – care is needed. Ahead you can just make out the traffic on the M65.
20. As you reach the M65 there is a footpath marker on the fence, sending you to the right.
21. The footpath marker directs you to a step over at a break in the wall.
22. Once over the wall, turn right to go back on yourself, guided between two wooden fences.
23. This leads to a steep set of steps which take you down to the level of the water treatment plant.
24. The view looking back up at the steps.
25. Once at the bottom of the steps the path continues between the fences towards the River Darwen.
26. The footbridge over the River Darwen.
27. At this point the River Darwen, which looks quite clear, enters a tunnel under the M65.
28. Looking the other way, towards Darwen, the River Darwen has a straight run alongside the water treatment plant which is off to the right. In the distance is the chimney of the Central Power Station.
29. From the footbridge walk up the hill to reach the road level.
30. Eventually you will reach the bottom of Lower Eccleshill Road where the M65 passes over the road. There is a footpath sign where the gate used to be. This may well have been a footpath followed by people from Darwen who worked at Lower Darwen Paper Mill which was just the other side of the Motorway bridge.
31. Once through the gateway, turn right to go up the road towards Goosehouse. Note that approaching this gateway from the Blackburn side the footpath sign is not visible.
32. Walk up Lower Eccleshill Road until you reach the Crown Polymer Plant. On the way you will pass the entrance to the Water Treatment Plant on your right and the modern industrial units on your left.
33. Immediately after the Crown paints compound is a gap between the fences and although there is no footpath marker, this is the start of the path back to the Anchor.
34. This part of the footpath is difficult to negotiate with uneven surface and covered in brambles and deep grass.
35. Going down the hill and guided by the two metal fences, you are now passing through the site of the Central Power Station.
36. If you are lucky, you may see one of the local residents through the railings.
37. At the bottom of the hill is a set of gates which I presume are supposed to be locked to stop people from crossing the footpath. Continue straight ahead where there are the remains of a stile on the opposite side of the gates.
38. Looking through the gates you can see evidence of the remains of the access road and parts of the storage facility for the Central Power Station.
39. This is the stile on the opposite side of the gates – the left-hand side has gone and there is now a gap to walk through.
40. Continue ahead between the two sets of railings. You now have the Crown complex on your left-hand side.
41. The path snakes its way down hill before levelling off with the two sets of railings either side all the way.
42. When it does level off the path has the River Darwen on your right with the water treatment plant beyond it, and the Crown works on your left.
43. After another dogleg in the path you will notice that the River Darwen turns in towards your path.
44. As you walk along the path the River Darwen disappears underneath you as it flows through a tunnel which reaches the far side of the Hollins Paper Works. The river is quite a long way down below the path.
45. At its lowest point the path provides a glimpse into the complexity of the Crown Paints complex. Some of these buildings were most likely to have been part of the Hollins Paper Mill in the past.
46. As you start to walk up the hill from the straight, take a look through the railings where you will see a blue painted gatepost of some vintage.
47. Then you notice there is a pair of gateposts. Perhaps this was an entrance for the pedestrian workers of the Hollins Paper Mill in days gone by.
48. As you walk back up the hill you will find that there is a lot of water draining down here and the ground is soft and muddy.
49. As you reach the top of the slope you will emerge back onto the Anchor Road. Your walk through Darwen’s Industrial Past and Present is almost over.
50. Perhaps time for a game of cricket before you go? I’m sure those wickets were painted there when I used to go and watch Darwen FC as a boy. The Anchor Hotel is just at the end of Anchor Road.