Turn off the M6 at Junction 31 and take the A667 for Preston city centre. Turn off along the A5065 Blackpool Road at the roundabout at the top of the hill. At the first set off traffic lights, turn right onto Miller Road, travel past a small shopping centre and continue to a residential area, where Miller Road becomes Pope Lane. Vehicles may be parked on Pope Lane before the pedestrian bridge across the M6. Walk over the bridge and then take the public footpath (unsigned, but marked on the OS map!) over the open field on the right of Pope Lane (now an unsurfaced track). Boilton Wood is visible on the far side of that field and the public footpath route leads to the entrance to the permissive footpath.
Access is also available from Preston Crematorium on Longridge Road (B6243). Parking is limited.
Boilton Wood has public access and a permissive footpath is provided through the wood. However, this is not surfaced and includes a lengthy and steep stretch of steps.
Access to the remainder of the woodland is by permit only. However, the Ribble Way, a long-distance footpath, runs along most of its north-western edge and crosses it once on a footbridge. Two other public footpaths cross the woodland closer to Grimsargh. Please bear in mind that some of the northernmost part of the woodland, near Grimsargh, is privately owned and that a permit to enter the nature reserve only applies to land owned or managed by The Wildlife Trust. Great care must be taken, particularly after heavy rainfall, as the steep banks may be dangerously slippery and liable to subsidence.
The Wildlife Trust owns a large part of Red Scar Wood. It manages the remainder of that Wood, and all of Boilton Wood, under license from Preston City Council. The Trust also owns a large part of Tun Brook Wood. The rest, along with Nab Wood, is leased from the Church of England Commissioners. Almost the entire woodland of 70 ha is designated as a SSSI under the terms of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The remainder is a Wildlife Site (known in Lancashire as a "Biological Heritage Site").
The woods run in a narrow band along a terrace above the tidal River Ribble and the valley of its tributary, the Tun Brook. They form one of the largest remaining areas of ancient, semi-natural, deciduous woodland in Lancashire, Greater Manchester & Merseyside. They support insect species unusual in Lancashire, and have a rich woodland flora.
That an accessible woodland nature reserve should lie so close to an urban centre is always a bonus, but Boilton Wood is exceptional. It has a great deal to offer both the seasoned naturalist and the beginner. The western end of the Wood contains a distinctive area of even-aged, multi-stemmed sycamore, which has regenerated following felling during the 1939-45 war. Sycamore and wych elm dominate the remaining woodland. Although it has suffered from Dutch Elm Disease, the elm is regenerating well. Ash, oak, gean (wild cherry), hazel and holly are also present, and ivy can be seen winding up the trunks of trees. Spring is the best time to visit. Then there's an attractive display of bluebells and lesser celandine, with ferns and wood avens emerging during the summer. Wild flowers that are less obvious include ground-ivy, dog-violet and cuckoo-pint. Towards the bottom of the slope, in the marshy areas crossed by boardwalks, yellow iris, marsh marigold and meadowsweet are quite common.
Boilton Wood is also a haven for birds including treecreepers, spotted flycatchers, great and lesser spotted woodpecker, and various finches and tits. You may also see grey squirrels scampering up the trees, but the red squirrel is extinct here.
Red Scar Wood, Tunbrook Wood and Nab Wood
Red Scar, Tunbrook and Nab Woods together make up a fine example of lowland ash-wych elm woodland and valley alder carr. The slumping that occurs on the steep valley-sides exposes calcareous clays that produce a base-rich, red soil - hence the name "Red Scar". The rich ground flora that develops on this soil includes patches of dog's mercury, enchanter's nightshade and giant fescue, along with herb-Robert, wood-sorrel, wood anemone, lesser celandine, early-purple orchids, and various species of violet. A patch of yellow archangel is found at its most northerly location in Great Britain at the junction of the Tun Brook and the River Ribble. It thrives on the richer soil there. Hairy St. John's-wort and sweet woodruff can also be seen in Red Scar Wood. The woodruff gives off the scent of vanilla when it's bruised.
The woods have a good, mixed structure with ash, sycamore and gean (wild cherry), and alder (in the valley) all represented. There's also some planted beech and larch. There's an area of oak in the south-west of Red Scar Wood, but the wych elm there has nearly all died back as a result of Dutch Elm Disease. Field maple is rare here, but there are a few mature examples in the woods. Hawthorn, hazel and holly make up the healthy shrub layer.
Amongst the recorded invertebrates is the white-letter hairstreak, a butterfly that prefers the margins of deciduous woods and is on the wing in July and August. It's closely associated with elm, particularly wych elm, as its caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers. The devastation wrought on elms by Dutch Elm Disease means that this butterfly species has now become very rare. An impressive list of moths is associated with the reserve: the angle shades, the snout, the mottled beauty, the silver-ground carpet, the twin spot carpet, the barred straw, the July highflier, the clouded magpie, and the mother-of-pearl are amongst those recorded. The oak bush-cricket is also found here.
The woods provide excellent breeding habitat for kestrel, woodcock, tawny owl, green woodpecker, great spotted and lesser spotted woodpecker, warblers, tits and treecreepers. You might see fieldfare, redwing, brambling and siskin if you visit in winter. Moles, common shrews, water shrews and bats have all found refuge throughout the woods; and smooth newts, common toads, and common frogs breed in nearby ponds.