His Master’s Steps: Langden To Bleasdale

Fell walker and Ribble Valley historian Andrew Stachulski follows a famous crossing of Bowland in the footsteps of Wainwright

Alfred Wainwright’s ‘A Bowland Sketchbook’, published in 1981 when the author was into his seventies, is probably one of his least known books, but it definitely carries the old master’s stamp. He describes just three walks in what is largely an introductory text to the whole region, but how characteristic they are – a visit to the highest point, a north-south traverse through the very heart of Bowland and the watershed crossing (Ribble-Wyre) which is the subject of this article. It is indeed a splendid walk, only seven miles in length but with some steep gradients, demanding ground, especially in wet weather, and some memorable scenery. It would make an excellent two car walk, if two parties could make suitable arrangements.

Assuming a start from the north east, park on the Trough Road at Langden intake, where there is ample off-road parking and frequently a mobile snack bar. Carry on down the pleasant, tree lined avenue, pass the water bailiff’s house and keep to the clear rough track ahead, entering the impressive Langden Valley which before long, bears comparison with a Scottish glen. About two miles ahead, with all traces of road and outside world now out of sight, you meet the remarkable Langden Castle. Truly, no castle at all, but an old shooting lodge with a difference, with its Gothic arch windows. It is a most welcome refuge in bad weather.

Keep straight ahead here, the stream crossing to the left of the castle belongs to another walk, which takes you up Bleasdale Water and eventually onto the main Fair Snape Fell ridge. Instead, you cross the stream about half-a-mile further on where it is much lower, then proceed quite steeply south-south west up the fine narrow valley of Fiendsdale. The sketchy but sufficient track climbs steadily onto the plateau, a typical high Bowland panorama of sweeping moorland with more distant heights soon coming into view, and most likely the soulful cries of red grouse borne on the wind.

This is the most demanding section. Do be sensible and note that in poor weather, including mist, a good sense of direction is called for here – compass at the ready! When you approach the old county boundary fence, there is a particularly boggy patch to negotiate. Once across, the ground slowly begins to improve. To the left, going up parallel with the fence, is another path leading to Fair Snape summit, but we keep straight on and before long the ground begins to decline. Follow what is by now a good clear track, descending south west to reach the intake wall. The flat country of the Fylde is ahead now, a complete contrast to the high moorland just crossed, while the great bulk of Fair Snape dominates to the left.

When you drop to the farm road below, there is a choice. Wainwright’s original route turned left at this point, proceeding via Holme House Farm then continuing roughly south, reaching the parish church of St Eadmer (pictured) in about three-quarters of a mile near a junction. From here a private road, but public footpath, takes you easily over to emerge onto the public road by Higher Brock Mill. Alas, the café of Wainwright’s day has long since disappeared, but it still makes a natural finishing point with space for parking.

A good alternative, finishing on the road to Oakenclough, calls for turning right at the above-mentioned point, then following a good track for about half-a-mile until you reach Clough Head cottages. Turn right ahead, passing the fine Victorian edifice of Bleasdale Tower situated among pleasant trees. Continue along the lane, past Fell End Farm, and soon emerge onto the road. There is a convenient small car park a few hundred yards down the road on the left.

Photography: Courtesy of Jean E Fone of Bleasdale Heritage Group

Andrew Stachulski is co-author with Helen Shaw of ‘The Forest of Bowland’, published by Merlin Unwin @ £14.99



Tedd Walmsley

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