Lancashire Walks - Dunsop Bridge and the Hodder Valley

Keith Carter leads a walk around the Dunsop Bridge and the Hodder Valley which can be broken with a stop at one of Lancashire's finest country pubs

Even in November, when the heather has lost its purple glow and the bracken has turned brown, the Bowland Hills provide a glorious setting for a walk. This is my favourite area and I’m in exalted company since it is well known that the Queen has expressed her wish to retire here if she ever manages to hand the crown on to Charles.

The recent TV programme The Trip saw Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visit Bowland to sample the culinary delights, including a garrulous meal at The Inn at Whitewell, which we visit on this walk, bringing this enticing area to a wider audience unaware of its beauty. Its wildness might perhaps deter the casual visitor or at least confine them to their cars leaving the less frequented places to the humble hillwalker. Our walk is longer than usual but can be split in two halves with a stop at Whitewell, a country pub par excellence, a jewel in Lancashire’s crown.

Take the Trough road just before entering the village of Dunsop Bridge, hardly a village actually, just some cottages by the riverside, and where you see a water board sign to Hareden, park in one of the lay-bys and leave the car there. Cross the bridge over Langden Brook and take the farm access road past the buildings of Hareden Farm where they used to keep hounds, their pens now home to a couple of sheep dogs.

Past the farm take a footpath on the left and climb the fell, the way ahead marked at first by posts which soon run out as you get higher. Keep to the right as a general direction and pick up a wall coming in from the right. If there are cows in the field give them a wide berth. Don’t look them in the eye is my rule. Pretend they aren’t there and they will ignore you.

We come to a gate with a stile next to it and start across the marsh grass and thistles of open fell, keeping our direction to the right of the farmhouse seen ahead. Let your eye follow the wall away to the right. See the ladder stile in it? Make for it, climb it and turn left on the far side of the wall heading for trees ahead.

The huge fell looming on our right is Totridge Fell, at 496m the highest in Bowland, only 60m lower than Pendle Hill. We join what looks like an ancient track, rocky and wet in places but clear enough to lead us through the forestry on the top of the hill, in places cleared, leaving behind a petrified forest, a scene of desolation. Once out of the plantation we go through a gate and a short way beyond come to a tarmac lane at a bend where we turn left and walk down to a T-junction.

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Here a signpost offers a choice of ways but ours is left, past a nice converted cottage called Tunstall Ing Farm and after passing it we join the road that runs down to Chipping. Turn left and in a couple of hundred yards look for a gate on the right where a footpath strikes off to the left of an old quarry. I used to bring my kids here looking for fossils which were abundant in the limestone.

Follow the path on grass round the outcrop and come to two gates, going through the one on the left into a field. Follow the boundary on the edge of the wood and come down to a gate onto a farm access lane. By turning right we find ourselves in the yard of New Laund where the owner has had boards put up to help identify the local bird life.

Go past the farmhouse and through two gates then descend the field towards the river and take a hand-gate leading to the stepping stones that take you across dry-shod. Once across the other side turn left immediately along the very edge of the river and we are soon at the door of the Inn at Whitewell, a hotel that has found great favour with the Southern media, one of the posh papers describing it as having ‘the shabby grandeur of a frayed Jermyn Street shirt’. The beer on draft was Hen Harrier from the Bowland Brewery at Bashall Eaves, an excellent pint.

If you can drag yourself away, turn left out of the main entrance and go through an opening at the corner of the building, seemingly leading to the marquee used for weddings. This allows access to a narrow path on the inside of the wall, avoiding having to walk on the road.

This so-called Permitted Path leads to a footbridge which we cross to reach a field where we can follow the hedge on the right as far as we are allowed, going through a gap in the hedge to the road where waymarked. Once on the road, continue to where it turns to cross Burholme Bridge but don’t cross it, keep ahead onto the farm lane that leads to Burholme Farm.

This was once the scene of a close encounter with a farm dog, although the present animals seem tethered well enough. You do always wonder how strong the chain is though.

Pass the front of the farm to where you cross the stream by a shallow ford next to a footbridge and climb a stile next to a large tree. Next head towards the river and keep right on a recently filled-in pipeline trench, fenced on both sides and interspersed by bright new gates at intervals.

Another year and all trace will have disappeared. Let’s hope they restore the way marking too. This is Duchy of Lancaster land so you can expect stiles and footpaths to be well maintained.

We come up to a huge footbridge built to carry the pipeline across the river and cross it, continuing with the river now to our right. The path takes a sharp left as it keeps company with the wall and then turns right past a field barn. Strike up left to a stile and go through one last field to join the road opposite the war memorial in Dunsop Bridge. The post office and Puddleducks are down the road and over the bridge to the right. If you were a duck you’d want to hang out here, being fed all the time by visitors.

You could return to the car by road but to avoid the traffic cross directly over past the war memorial taking the tarmac lane that runs up the valley. Once past Closes Barn and across a cattle grid, go left onto the rough fell past a telegraph pole with a way mark on it. The right of way goes behind the farm to a wall corner where the gateway has been churned into an unbelievable bog impossible to negotiate without muddy boots.

Keep ahead along the left hand wall and where it turns away head half right over a brow. As you come to the top the Trough Road becomes visible and to find the stile look for a stone building well to the left. About two hundred yards this side of it there is a gate with a stile and Bridleway sign and we join the road at this point, turning left along it to regain our starting point at Hareden.

Compass Points

Area of walk: Hodder Valley and Dunsop Bridge

Distance: 9 miles

Time to allow: 5 hours

Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland

Wheelchair/pushchair friendly: Tricky. number of stiles, gates and fields

Refreshments: Inn at Whitewell, also tea and ices at Puddleducks at Dunsop Bridge

Toilets: In car park at Dunsop Bridge

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