Lancashire walk - Barrowford
- Credit: John Lenehan
The route, which starts and finishes in Barrowford, takes in witches, a canal and some breathtaking views.
Barrowford was once heavily dependant on textiles and in particular cotton and there were a quite a lot of mills in the village. In recent years, the village has had a renaissance and is now a tourist attraction with upmarket shops, a beautiful park and a very interesting visitor centre with a lovely café. It is also close to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and I designed this circular walk that starts and finishes close to the canal and encompasses part of the canal towpath in it.
1. Leave the car park by walking towards the canal bridge then, as the bridge is reached, turn right and follow the canal towpath past a series of locks and keep on the towpath. Eventually, the towpath passes Wanless Bridge and in the next section of the canal this rises uphill away from the canal while a path carries on left and keeps on following the canal.
Note: There are seven locks at Barrowford. Barrowford Reservoir is on the right at this point and this and other reservoirs - Foulridge and Slipper Hill further on from Foulridge Tunnel - were built to keep water in the tunnel section or pound of the canal. The tunnel section is 487 feet/148 metres above sea level and is the highest section of the canal and cannot be kept full of water without the use of the reservoirs. The tunnel is also known as the Mile Tunnel and before the use of powered boats, the boats were legged through the tunnel; this involved lying on your back on the boat and propelling it by pushing it along with your legs against the tunnel walls. The small building on the left of the tunnel entrance is where the leggers used to wait for the boats.
2. The path reaches the entrance to Foulridge Tunnel and bears up to a track. Reach the track, turn left and follow this as it crosses the top of the tunnel entrance then turns right over a small bridge. Then cross a stile by a metal gate and carry on to a T junction at a road. Turn left and follow the road as it goes steeply uphill. Keep following the road until it reaches Barnoldswick Road then turn left and follow the road then, as the road bends left there is a small stone building on the right.
The distance signs from Leeds and Liverpool tell you the distance you have come from as you approach them and you have to look behind to see how far you have to go.
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3. At the end of the building is a stone step stile on the right. Cross the stile and pass the gable of a house on the left to a stile in a fence, cross this and bear diagonally left across a field to a stile in a wall. Cross this and turn right with the wall now on the right. Keep on until the path reaches the end of a hedgerow on the left with a wooden post. At this point turn diagonally left heading towards the buildings of Malkin Tower and a stile in a wall, cross the stile and keep a fence on your right and pass in front of the buildings to a stile in the fence, cross the stile and turn left, then keep on with a wooden shed on the right and cross the track leading up to Malkin Tower. This is said to be the home of Old Mother Demdyke and her daughter Elizabeth Devices both supposed to be part of the group known as the Pendle Witches.
Cross a small yard to a gate stile leading into a copse of trees, cross the stile and, with a hedgerow on the left, carry on to another gate stile and cross this into a field and keeping a wire fence and some trees on the right follow the path to a stile in a wall and cross this then, bear slightly left to a stile and cross this then go down some steps to reach the yard of Blacko Hillside Farm. Turn right and follow the yard in front of the buildings and then on to a track that leads out of the farm.
Where the track bends sharp left, carry on straight ahead and cross a stile in the wall. Follow the path as it bears slightly right uphill to another stile in a wall and cross this. The path goes left up to a wider path - keep left following this to the buildings of Brownley Park then at the buildings keep right and go behind them then keeping a wall on the left follow the path. At the end of the wall there is a gateway and to the right is a stone step stile crossing the wall on the right. Cross this and bear diagonally left across a field to reach a stile leading directly onto the A682. Take care at this stile as it leads onto the busy road. Cross the road and turn right.
Note: The hill on the right of the track after Blacko Hillside Farm is called Blacko Hill and on top of this stands the Stansfield Tower or Blacko Tower. Unfortunately, there is no public access to the tower but should there ever be the views from the top would be fantastic. It was built by Jonathan Stansfield a local grocer in 1890. He thought he would get views of Ribblesdale from the top, but didn’t. A 3,500 year old bronze axe was found near the tower in 1952.
4. Turn left almost immediately at a building called Blacko Laithes then follow the road downhill and cross a bridge with white railings by a sign saying ‘Roughlee Pendle Witch Country’ and carry onto Blacko Foot Farm on the left.
5. There is a public footpath sign on the right of the road pointing left and right. Turn left and go through a gate stile in front of Blacko Foot Farm then cross the drive and cross another gate stile opposite then with a wall on the left carry on to a metal gate stile by a metal gate and cross that and carry on with a wire fence and hedgerow on the left. The fence becomes a wall and leads to a stile, cross this and go across the field to another stile and cross this and then go downhill bearing slightly left to a footbridge on the left and cross this.
Turn right and keep on, with Blacko Water on the right, and pass the point where it meets Pendle Water and carry on to a stile at a bridge, cross the stile and turn right and cross the bridge and immediately turn left and follow the path with the river on the left. Go through a gate stile by a quaint white cottage and carry on following the path to another gate stile and cross this and follow the path as it goes behind some houses and exits on to a road, Barleydale Road and follow this.
6. There is a beautiful old bridge on the left before the road joins the main A682 between Higherford and Barrowford. The bridge is Higherford Old Bridge and is an old packhorse bridge built in the 1600s. In 1774 John Wesley was harassed by an angry crowd when he tried to preach from the bridge.
Cross the bridge (avoiding any angry crowds) and follow the road round until it meets the A682 then cross this and turn right and go down hill passing The Old Bridge Inn to reach the bridge over the river and turn left as you reach it onto a path and with the river on the right follow the path.
7. The path exits into a car park, cross this and join Colne Road and turn left and cross the road then follow the road until a track leads off to the right. Join the track and follow this down to the canal bridge and cross this to the car park.
Start and finish: Small car park off Colne Road opposite Barrowford Reservoir.
Terrain: Really easy walking on towpath, quiet roads, and footpaths. Light walking boots or walking shoes will be fine:
Distance: 5.4 miles/8.5km
Time: 3.5 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL21 South Pennines
Facilities: There are public toilets in Barrowford, but at the time of my visit they were closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.