Size:

684.66 ha (1,691.80 acres)

Grid reference:

SD668132

Map reference:

Explorer NULL
OS Landranger NULL

Smithills Estate is the largest site the Woodland Trust has ever acquired in England, steeped in history and shadowed by the famous Winter Hill TV mast. The site is a mix of grassland, farmland, moorland, wooded cloughs (ravines) and bog habitats, crisscrossed by dry stone walls, with panoramic views over Bolton to Manchester.

Many aspects of Smithills Estate are being restored and revitalised, making this a wonderful place to visit as its transformation comes underway.

Features

  • Parking at site
  • Grassland
  • Moorland

How to get to Smithills Estate

Smithills Estate is 4.8km (3 miles) from the centre of Bolton. It is prominent in the landscape and can be seen and easily pinpointed from miles around due to the well-known 310-metre-high Winter Hill broadcasting transmitter perched at the top of the hill, just outside our boundary.

Follow the brown signs for Smithills Country Park via the A666 or from the M61, junction 5. Continue onto Smithills Dean Road, turn left onto Colliers Row Road and then continue on that road until you see Walker Fold car park on your right.

The nearest train station is in Bolton, around 8km (5 miles) from Smithills Estate.

Visit National Rail for more information.

The nearest bus stop is Smithills Hall, at the bottom of the site.

Visit Traveline for more information.

Facilities and access

Routes within Smithills Estate are quite diverse. Footpaths mingle with restricted byways, providing a mix of both surfaced and unsurfaced paths and wider, more formal-looking tracks.

Restricted byways in particular tend to be well surfaced and free from obstructions. We are currently implementing a five-year plan upgrading and increasing the amount of access paths across the site.

ANNOUNCEMENT:
Between March and December 2021, tree felling work will be carried out at Walker Fold Wood on Smithills Estate. This is due to the presence of Phytophthora ramorum, a tree disease, in larch in the woodland.
 

During these works several areas of the wood will be inaccessible. The walking route along the tramway will be closed, along with all footpaths in Walker Fold Wood. Anyone attempting to access the wood while these works are taking place will be escorted out. We appreciate your patience during this time.

The main car park is located at the Walker Fold entrance. There are 60 spaces. A smaller car park, with space for 20 cars, is located at Barrow Bridge at the bottom of the site.

 

 

The nearest toilets are at Smithills Hall, home of the Bolton Library and Museum Services on Smithills Dean Road, BL1 7NP. They are generally open 10am-4pm, seven days a week.

Wildlife and habitats

Animals

Smithills Estate has always been rich in wildlife, but certain species have declined in recent years. Now that we have the site in our care, we're working to ensure the land is managed appropriately and creating a variety of habitats that will encourage wildlife to thrive once more.

Look out for:

Trees, plants and fungi

With weird and wonderful fungi, stunning wildflowers and towering tree species, Smithills is brimming with exciting flora.

Look out for:

Habitats

Smithills Estate has areas of valuable habitat, particularly moorland - which is part of the West Pennine Moors SSSI - along with woodland and important grassland.

Explore:

We bought two-thirds of Smithills in 2015 and the remainder in 2017. We've been restoring the site ever since.

History of Smithills Estate

Smithills Estate has a rich agricultural history. In 1620 there were six farms on the site, but by 1769 this had increased to 14, ranging from 2.6 hectares (6.5 acres) to 48.9 hectares (121 acres).

As years passed, farming gradually went into decline, exacerbated by neglect during the Second World War and the increasing costs of estate management and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Industry at Smithills

The site was used for coal mining. Because the site was remote, coal mining cottages were built to house workers. Archaeological finds from this industry have been found on site.

The site was also used for stone quarrying, an industry that has had a substantial impact on the landscape.

The moor also housed reservoirs and a tile works.

Credit: Heather Beckett / WTML

Archaeology

The earliest evidence of human activity within the estate are the scatters of flints from the Mesolithic period (the eighth to mid-fourth millennia BC). A Bronze Age stone hammer and palstave (axe) were reputedly found in 1812, and a whetstone (a stone used to sharpen cutting tools), a blue ribbed bead and a bottle neck – all said to be Romano-British - have been found, along with a bronze coin of unknown date.

Support us

Your support matters

This wood was secured for the future thanks to your response to an urgent appeal. Discover how you helped us bring another incredible place safely under our wing, and what the future holds for Smithills Estate. 

See what we've achieved

Winter Hill Fire

On 28 June 2018, a fire broke out close to the television mast on Winter Hill, and a second fire was reported at the far east of the estate the next day. By 30 June, the two fires had merged, engulfing the top of Smithills Estate in flames.

Emergency services and helicopters were drafted in to dampen the flames, and it was finally declared out on 9 August 2018. However, considerable damage had been done to the site. 31% of the site was affected in total, and the fire had a huge impact on wildlife. Nesting birds, insects, frogs, toads, lizards and rodents were all affected, many species perishing in the fire.

Moorland in particular is used to fire and so should recover well, allowing animals from surrounding areas to recolonise. The recovery will, however, take years.

People are encouraged to take great care and be extra vigilant when visiting the area. Disposable barbecues, discarded cigarettes and even rubbish can all start a fire. If anyone does spot a fire, they should call 999 immediately.

Things to do in Smithills Estate

Walking

The Smithills History Walk

This fascinating 9km (6-mile) walk takes you over Winter Hill and offers you an insight into the rich history of the area. From prehistoric times to the industrial and agricultural revolutions at the turn of the 18th and 19th century, this walk is a must for history buffs. It takes around 4-5 hours to complete - ensure you bring waterproofs and walking boots.

Barrow Bridge Trail

The Barrow Bridge trail is a short, 30-minute walk which takes you through beautiful woodland at the edge of the pretty village of Barrow Bridge. Enjoy the walk in spring and summer to take in the beauty of wildflowers or visit in autumn or winter for fantastic fungi.

Stroll along Dean Brook through tranquil High Shores Clough, and keep an eye out for the dipper, a bird often seen darting low over the water. Walk in the footsteps of the mill workers and miners of the past down the 63 steps and take in the history here. There are two steep flights of steps on this walk and the paths can get muddy, so walking boots are recommended.

Download a map of the Barrow Bridge Trail.

Early purple orchid with blurred background

A lasting legacy

This wood is just one of many to have been protected by gifts in wills, securing it for generations to come. Your legacy gift could also make a real difference to woods, trees and wildlife.

Learn what your gift could mean