WALKING IN BOWLAND
BRENNAND AND WHIN FELL
Historian and keen walker Andrew Stachulski takes us on a bracing circular walk from Dunsop Bridge that features a challenging hill climb with some breathtaking views over the countryside. Photography: Mark and Anne Harrison
Recommended maps are OS1: 50,000 no. 103 (Blackburn and Burnley) or better OS 1:25,000 no. 41 (Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale)
The village of Dunsop Bridge, very much in the heart of the Forest of Bowland, also lays claim to be the nearest settlement to the geographical centre of the kingdom. A display on the old ‘phone box in the village explains this – the actual point in question is Whitendale Hanging Stones, about four miles due north. Many would also regard Dunsop as one of the kingdom’s best centres for walkers – from here, excellent walks of varying lengths spread in all directions. We have already met one of these, taking in Hareden, Mellor Knoll and the Whitemore forests. This walk introduces you to the Brennand Valley, one of Bowland’s beautiful hidden valleys, and features a steep but truly rewarding climb of Whin Fell.
From the bridge over the River Dunsop by the village shop and café, follow the fine stream to the north. There is additional parking space here, useful at busy times. Beyond the cottages upstream, cross the footbridge and turn right. Pass easily up the access road, shortly passing the interesting Bishops’ Houses on the left. The fine valley narrows, with steep fells on either side. After passing the waterworks buildings, then climbing away from the river, the way divides. Follow the track to the left, entering the lovely, secluded Brennand Valley.
After reaching the main Brennand farm, gird your loins! The ascent from Brennand to the shoulder of Whin Fell is one of the steepest of all Bowland paths and you should take account of the weather. The track is sketchy at first, but beyond a crossing wall with a gate you join a clear, steep diagonal path climbing the upper slopes. Take a welcome breather when you reach the shoulder, and enjoy a superb view taking in the valley below, White Hill, Ward’s Stone and other fells, including Pendle to the south east – truly one of Bowland’s finest.
The going ahead is usually quite heavy. When you reach a fence with a gate, you have the option of turning up the fence to the right and reaching Whin Fell summit, another splendid viewpoint. Our main route continues over rough ground, soon dipping towards a wall and gate. Pass through and negotiate more open fell, wet in places, on a sketchy path. You steadily lose height and converge to a wall on the left, with an afforested area on the right. Eventually you reach the ruins of the old Trough House by a pleasant little copse and stream.
Easier going now. A clear track guides you downhill with views of the steep, narrow section of the Trough of Bowland on your right. Soon you reach the Trough Road by an old barn, another good stopping point. Proceed downhill (left) through the delightful surrounds of Losterdale, surrounded again by steep fells. In winter this can be a remarkably quiet stretch of road. Before reaching Langden intake, you pass the attractive buildings of Sykes Farm, recorded by Wainwright in his ‘Bowland Sketchbook’.
At Langden, where an access road joins from the right through an attractive tree-lined avenue, you have a decision to make. You may simply keep to the road, with Dunsop Bridge about two miles away, but it is pleasanter to follow a permissive path running on the south side of the brook. Join this via the access road, cross a bridge and negotiate some boggy ground initially. Soon a clear, firm track develops, follow it downstream, and look out for a fine variety of bird life by the stream. Further on, go briefly right and pass through a gate onto the Hareden access road, then rejoin the Trough road ahead over a bridge and follow it to the right. Another alternative path appears after a cattle grid ahead, proceeding through fields on the left, but by now you may be glad to keep it simple.
Before you approach Dunsop Bridge, with very pleasant views into the Hodder valley opening up, you pass the local Roman Catholic church in a delightfully peaceful setting.
Note the old-fashioned spelling, St Hugh Bert (Hubert), used on the gate. Very soon the buildings of Dunsop appear, and note that the village hall, passed on your left, offers good homemade teas on Sundays between Easter and the end of August. Beyond this, turn left at the junction ahead, noting the ancient signpost adjacent to the modern road sign. In a few hundred yards you will be back in Dunsop Bridge, with that fine arched bridge, the well-fed ducks and well-patronised café. You will have plenty of memories from the walk, especially the ever-changing kaleidoscope of superb views. If you wish to linger in the heart of Bowland a little longer – and how understandable – a third alternative for refreshment is offered by the Inn at Whitewell, about two miles away, reached by a scenic drive down the Hodder Valley.