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Most people drive along the M6 and see the Ashton Memorial above the road without realising that it can be visited.
The park is only a few minutes from either Junction 33 or 34 of the M6 and is signed from the A6.
It is well signed from all directions. Turn off Wyresdale Road to the car park.
From the car park follow the signs to the Ashton Memorial.
The wide path ascends steeply through trees, but with outcrops of rock a reminder of the days when this was a huge quarry.
During the American Civil War of the 1860s, raw cotton supplies were cut off and there was major unemployment.
To provide work paths were laid out across the hills overlooking Lancaster because of the high trees.
Suddenly the memorial looms into view and always creates a gasp of surprise because it seems even larger as it stands on a rise.
To call this building Ashton’s Folly is an insult.
Following a facelift in 2007, everything in the park looks well cared-for. Approach the memorial on the left.
A right turn leads to the cafe and the tropical butterfly house.
This is a naturalist’s paradise and a wonderful way to understand how insects function.
There are exotic species on the wing throughout the year. Like our native peacock butterfly, there are coloured rings on the wings of many species and which resemble eyes.
As the wings open and close, these eyes “flash” and scare away predators!
There are also collections of birds and mini beasts whilst the colourful gardens are attractive to native butterflies during the warmer months.
This area was once known as The Top of Hard Times, giving it quite a Dickensian flavour.
In 1877 James Williamson senior converted the area into a park with the avowed intention of creating an area for wildlife.
It is somewhat ironic that these woodlands are now home for the Grey (or American) Squirrel.
This lovely but destructive creature was introduced in the 1870s and has become a pest in some areas.
They do look beautiful, however, and contrary to what is sometimes written, squirrels do not hibernate.
Indeed their breeding season begins in February.
The only time they stay in their dreys high in the trees is during high winds which makes jumping from branch to branch hazardous.
From the butterfly house return to the viewing area and then descend the obvious path.
Enjoy the views of Morecambe Bay straight ahead.
Here is the large and very impressive adventure playground.
The obvious path twists and turns before reaching the amphitheatre on the left.
This provides a sitting place for children and some school parties watch wildlife and make notes and sketches.
The path ascends gently towards a fascinating sundial seen to the right.
This was designed in the year 2000 by Ripley St Thomas School and is on the site of the old bandstand long since demolished.
It is in the form of a clock with each hour sponsored by a Lancaster company.
Continue to follow the winding path taking the time to study native trees especially some splendid oaks.
Follow the path around keeping the pond to the left.
The lake has been refurbished and the footpath passes a waterfall, a fountain and close to a solid stone bridge.
There are sheltered spots ideal for picnics but perfect for winter bird watching when migrating wildfowl join resident birds waiting to be fed by visitors.
An obvious path winds left at the pond, passes through an arch and returns to the car park along a path parallel to the road.