This is no “Mere Wood” but was once part of the huge Martin Mere Lake which was said to be the haunt of King Arthur.

There are no Merlin magicians and no dragons these days but there is no shortage of magical wildlife including dragonflies, butterflies and red squirrels.

It has been estimated that Martin Mere was once a shallow lake which was more than 15 miles in circumference.

At one time there was a fishery when men could earn a living catching eels, roach, perch pike and bream.

These were sold in huge numbers from Anglo-Saxon times until the end of the 19th century.

All that is left today can be seen at the Wildlife and Wetland Trusts reserve at nearby Martin Mere.

This walk is very suitable for wheelchairs.

Getting there

From the M6 turn off at junction 27. Follow the A5209 through Parbold to reach the A59 Road between Preston and Liverpool. At Rufford turn right onto the B5246. Take care to drive slowly so as not to miss the left turn into Mere Sands Wood. There is an extensive car park and invites a voluntary parking fee close to the Visitors Centre.

My Walk

From the car park head towards the exit and then turn sharp right onto an obvious footpath which meanders through woodland and with fields on the left.

Look to the right to see an observation platform. Take this very short cul-de-sac and enjoy Mere End Pond. There are birds to see all the year round but at this time of the year there are lots of flowers, butterflies and dragonflies. Return to the main path and turn right. The path is easy to follow and the trees on either side are plans to keep an eye open for birds. The path bears sharply to the right.

Another short cul-de-sac diversion leads to a very large bird hide. Inside are benches and the windows will open and please shut these before you leave. The walls are decorated with colourful pictures of the birds which can be seen on site. Kingfishers are resident hereabouts. Return to the main path and follow the signs indicating Rufford village and follow the meandering footpath.

To the right are lots of trees through which to the left can be seen corn fields and views over to the village with its attractive houses and a cricket field.

Be sure to ignore the signed route into the village and follow the unsigned path to the right. Also ignore a substantial wooden footbridge on the left over a small stream. This was once part of Martin Mere and the area is still quite damp. Cross several small wooden footbridges and then a more substantial bridge. Ignore a sign which says “short cut” to visitors centre” to the right and continue straight ahead.

There is a large hide supported on substantial stilts and which overlooks the scrape which is another substantial area of water. Ascend the steps and enjoy the view from the hide. Approach a signpost to the visitors centre, cross a footbridge and be sure to turn sharp left into the flower meadow where there are seats to rest a while.

Return to the visitors centre and the car park.

Final note Be sure to study some of the scrapes which are left over from a sand quarry which closed in 1974.

The reserve is run by the Lancashire Trust for Nature Conservation and they have mapped the wildlife of the area.

Do not rush this area because red squirrels can still be seen there but sadly they are not all that common.

This walk could be linked in with a visit to nearby Martin Mere.