THE name Croston means just that - the town of the preaching cross. The name dates to Saxon times.

At that time there was a huge lake reaching from Southport almost to Chorley and Preston.

Its name was Martin Mere.

All that remains today is the excellent bird resort run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which is well worth a visit.

Some legends suggest that Martin Mere was the lake into which King Arthur's sword Excalibur was thrown after his death.

If ever a village deserved to be designated as a conservation area it has to be Croston, set on the roads between Chorley, Preston, Southport and Liverpool.

Now surrounded by farmland following massive drainage projects around Martin Mere, Croston's history is very ancient.

Set on the river Yarrow, there was a preaching cross set up before AD651.

Then came the followers of St Aidan, who built a simple chapel at this time.

This was replaced first by a Norman structure around 1100 and, although a doorway of this period remains, there was a rebuild in the 16th century.

There was a major restoration in the year 1887 but much of the original character has been retained.

The church of St Michael is reached along Church Street, in the centre of which is an impressive cross.

The base is thought to be 17th century, built on the site of the original cross.

The top is an addition to celebrate the coronation of the present Queen in 1953.

Don't miss Church Street itself, which has rightly been described as one of the best preserved rows of 17th century cottages in Lancashire.

Also well worth exploring is Drinkhouses Lane, which has three-storey handloom weavers' cottages dating mainly to the 18th century and a reminder of Croston's industrial heritage.

Until the construction of coach roads in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Croston was set at a vital crossroads.

All traffic had to cross the now-bypassed Town Bridge.

The present structure dates to 1682 and is a single span composed of sandstone.

The cost of the bridge was, for the time, a massive £30.

Croston is a place of wonder and on either side of the church stand historic buildings.

Look at the junior school, which is on the site of one founded in 1372 by John of Gaunt, who virtually governed England on behalf of the boy King Richard II.

On the opposite side of the church is the fine old rectory, built in 1772 but which is now residential.

A look at the River Yarrow from the rear of the school and the old bridge reveals the flood plain which caused lots of problems until the draining of Martin Mere was completed in the 18th century.

Croston was a hard-working village but it did look after its poor, as sets of alms houses prove.

On Station Road is the Henry Croston Alms House, which dates to 1692, while on the opposite side of the Yarrow and reached by turning left at the modern bridge is another set of houses built for the poor.

These were funded by the Masters family who were landowners and rectors of the church.

These were completed in 1802 to commemorate the reign of King George III.

As if all this rich history was not enough, Croston has much to offer those who love good food and drink, plus some excellent shops.

Although these establishments are modern and forward-looking inside, their exteriors take us back more than a century when lives were conducted at a slower pace.

Those who miss a visit to Croston will eventually be very cross indeed.