A MASSIVE rave in a quiet beauty spot was broken up by police officers after it attracted hundreds of youngsters through the internet.

More than 400 people attended the illegal, open-air rave at Rivington, near Horwich, in the early hours of yesterday.

Officers were first alerted to the gathering at Liverpool Castle, at Rivington Reservoir, shortly after midnight, following complaints from residents living more than half a mile away that music could be heard.

A number of vans with industrial speakers inside were being used to pump out loud music at the castle until 7am.

More than 40 police were sent to disperse the crowds, thought to be youngsters in their late teens to early 20s, and the officers remained at the scene until about 9am.

It is believed the event had been organised by a number of people on internet social networking sites such as Facebook.

Three people were arrested — two for public disorder offences and one on a failure-to-appear warrant.

Zoe Cannon, aged 35, of Lever Park Avenue, Horwich, said: “We came home about 1am and saw loads of kids and cars coming down the road. Taxis were dropping people off outside our house, they weren’t causing any trouble. It was just really weird.

“In the morning, when I got up, there were people still hanging around singing. It’s usually so quiet.”

Insp Kevin Otter, of Lancashire Police, said it was the first event of its kind in the area that they had been called to deal with.

He said: “The music was switched off at 7am and the crowds left without too many problems, but a couple of people reported having their wallets and iPods stolen.

“At one point there were more than 400 people, but there were more on the way, so officers stopped anyone else from getting to the scene.

“This is a highly-unusual incident for the area, they happen more in the south of England. We did have one about 18 months ago, near Rawtenstall, but there were only about 50 people.”

He added: “Although this was obviously a very well organised event, it was an illegal gathering and those who attended were trespassing.”

The event was described on the Facebook site as “the first but hopefully never the last rave that was at Rivington Lower Castle”.

Last night, a member of the group posted on the internet: “Really enjoyed the music, people raving dancing, juggling fire, everybody was shaking hands even though we didn’t know each other. People came from all over Manchester, Bolton, Horwich, Lancashire and Yorkshire.”