John Lenehan takes the high road through the stunning Trough of Bowland,

Great British Life: Looking Back To Dunsop BridgeLooking Back To Dunsop Bridge (Image: not Archant)

The Forest of Bowland truly deserves its inclusion as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Who cannot be moved by the panoramic view of the high Bowland fells from the Waddington Fell road? It is stunning on a clear day whatever time of year. It is also a deceptive view though as it shows only one side of what is a huge area of land.

As an experiment, open up the West sheet of the OS OL 41 Explorer map and lay it on the floor and you will see that most of the map is taken up by the Forest of Bowland then, turn the map to the East sheet and lay that out and you will see almost half of the map is taken up with this remarkable landscape. Then look at the villages of Bowland and you will see that they are situated only on the edges leaving a central upland area as remote as the Scottish Highlands.

My circular walk takes in part of the only true main road over the fells through the Trough of Bowland and then climbs to the uplands and from there you can see how remote the tops around you are. It also gives a stunning view into the beautiful valley of the Brennand River and a pretty hairy descent into it.

Great British Life: Bowland from Waddington Fell RoadBowland from Waddington Fell Road (Image: not Archant)

The Walk

1. Leave the car park and turn right and follow the road past the houses and cross over Dunsop Bridge. Do not take the first right immediately over the bridge but follow the road as it bends left then right and goes uphill.

Great British Life: Descending Ouster RakeDescending Ouster Rake (Image: not Archant)

Note: Dunsop Bridge used to be in Yorkshire but became part of Lancashire in 1974 with local government boundary changes. I wonder what happened to cricket loyalties?

2. Turn next right down the road opposite a footpath sign and follow the road as it passes a row of houses, then to a cattle grid. There is a sign saying ‘Private Road No Access’ by the cattle grid but ignore this, as it is a public footpath. Keep following the road until it reaches a farm and some cottages.

3. Just a few yards past the cottages called Closes Barn on the map turn left. There is no footpath sign and the actual path deviates from the one shown on the OS map. Walk parallel to the back of the cottages and behind the outhouses towards an ornate metal gate in a wall straight ahead and cross the stile on the left of the gate. Once over, go straight on keeping a wall to the left then as the wall turns left bear away from it and head diagonally right over the shoulder of the hill until the road to the Trough of Bowland appears. Then head for a gate with a footpath sign next to it.

4. Join the road and turn right and follow it towards the Trough passing a car park on the left then further on a bridge appears on the left down a small lane.

Great British Life: Tony and Glenda at PuddleducksTony and Glenda at Puddleducks (Image: not Archant)

5. Cross the bridge and walk up the track towards the buildings. There is a stile on the right, cross this and then over a small bridge over a stream. Once over, turn right and go towards the river and in the left corner of the field there is a stile onto the riverbank.

Cross this and follow the river upstream with a wall on the left. At the point where the wall turns left there is a stile, cross this and carry straight on following the river but now with a wire fence separating the path from the riverbank. Follow the path and eventually it bears left towards a stile at a metal bridge crossing Langden Brook.

Cross the bridge then go straight on to a stile leading into a track, cross this and then turn right and follow the track to the main road.

Note: As you follow the river you cannot help noticing the large building high upon the opposite bank. This is Smelt Mill and is the headquarters of The Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team, a very important organisation that has saved many a walker lost or injured on the fells. It is a charity funded by donations from the public and as walkers I think we would be crass not to drop something in the collection box at Puddleducks Café in Dunsop Bridge.

6. At the road turn left and follow the road up towards the Trough passing some farmhouses and a water treatment building and weir. Pass a limekiln on the left then as the road starts to climb there is a barn on the right with a gate, stile and footpath sign next to it.

Note: There are a lot of limekilns in the Bowland and Ribblesdale area. These smaller ones would probably been for providing lime for agriculture and cement locally, however if any of the readers want to see a magnificent relic of lime production go and see the Hoffman Kiln at Langcliffe just outside Settle. It is amazing.

7. Go through the stile and follow the track as it gradually climbs uphill past a copse of trees and through a gate with a stile. Keep on the track passing through more gates until a gate and stile lead into the ruin of an old farm and yard. Cross the yard and go through the gate and stile opposite. From here the track is rougher underfoot and there is a wire fence on the left and a wall on the right. When the wire fence turns left the track gives way to a path but this splits three ways keep to the right with the wall on the right and follow this until the wall turns right.

At this point, leave the wall and go straight on following a now narrow and indistinct path that climbs over open fell side. Basically, the route goes over the coll or depression between the hills left and right so aim for that and eventually a stile is reached in a wall. Cross this and then keep on the left of the little gully and carry on straight up the now steep climb until a wire fence.

Turn left and with the fence on the right keep on until a gate and stile. Once through the stile, the path is really indistinct but follow it until it reaches the top of Ouster Rake and then follow the narrow and very steep path as it drops down the rake and eventually reaches a gate and stile. Go through this and carry straight on, again the path is indistinct but then starts to bear right and meets a wire fence on the left and through a gate. Keep the wire fence on the left and then as it turns left keep straight on and head downhill to Brennand Farm directly below. The path is hardly visible as it goes over the open fields but there is a ladder stile leading into the farmyard on the left side of the buildings so aim for that and enter the yard.

Note: If you look directly north on the OS Map from Brennand Farm you will see marked Whitendale Hanging Stones. This is the exact centre of Britain as found by satellite navigation. It used to be thought that Brennand Farm was the centre of Britain and prior to that there once was a telephone box in Dunsop Bridge. Indeed, the floor of it once had a plaque stating that. Many years ago a group of slightly mad Clayton le Moors Harriers led by the great Walt Wilkinson ran from Witton Park in Blackburn cross country to the phone box at Dunsop Bridge, and yes I was one of the maddest!

8. Cross the farmyard to where it joins a lane. There is a stone plaque set in the wall saying Brennand Farm directly opposite the junction. Turn right and follow the lane past Lower Brennand farm then uphill to where it forks, take the right fork and follow this until another fork and keep right. The lane meets a point between two bridges. The left bridge crosses Whitendale River and the right bridge crosses the Brennand River just before they join to form the River Dunsop. Cross the bridge over the Brennand then follow the lane past some waterworks buildings and on towards Dunsop Bridge. Keep on past some cottages and eventually a footbridge appears on the left.

Note: The waterworks feed, by an aqueduct, the Fishmoor Reservoir in Blackburn.

9. Cross the bridge and turn right and through a gate and a stile then keep to the right of the row of cottages and then follow the lane into Dunsop Bridge.


Walk: Trough of Bowland and Brennand Valley

Start and Finish: Car Park at Dunsop Bridge

Distance: 8.25 Miles/ 13.27 Km

Time: 5 Hrs

Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale

Terrain: Easy at first but a long climb up to the coll above Ouster Rake from the Trough road and then a very steep descent down the rake. Good walking gear and boots are a must and walking sticks if you are not happy on steep paths.

Facilities: There are public toilets in Dunsop Bridge by the car park.

Watering Hole: Puddleducks Café, Dunsop Bridge

It would a rare occasion to find yourself alone in this wonderful café. It provides excellent ice cream to welly clad children and parents feeding the ducks on the village green or. There is also great Lancashire food such as corned beef hash and my favourite, pea and ham soup. Both are part of an extensive menu provided to the many visitors to the area. It is also a stopping point for more cyclists than the Tour de France generates. As I always say, a café that attracts lots of cyclists is invariably very good. In a scale of 1 to 10 of best cafes, Puddleducks is probably number 11.