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Round the Hodder Valley

A straightforward walk around the delightful heart of the Forest of Bowland.

Distance 7 miles (11.3km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 853ft (260m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, farm tracks and quiet lane, 8 stiles

Landscape Pasture and river valley, overlooked by high bare hills

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale

Start/finish SD 658468

Dog friendliness Grazing land, keep dogs on leads

Parking Roadside parking near Inn at Whitewell or below church

Public toilets At Dunsop Bridge (PWalk 37)

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the lower parking area follow the riverbank left to the stepping stones. Climb just right of the woods and straight through the farmyard of New Laund. By an old cheese press go left on a curving track below slopes, then up a field. Bear left to a gate into a lane. Go a few paces left to a stile on the right.

2 Cross rough pasture, aiming just left of the house, then go right on the surfaced track, swinging round into another little valley. Go left to a farm, then right, through the farmyard and down to a footbridge.

3 Turn left, past chicken coops, to a stile on the right. Cross a field corner to another stile then straight on to Dinkling Green Farm. A gap to the right of the large cow shed leads into the farmyard.

4 Halfway down the yard go right, between buildings, to a ford. Keep left past a plantation, follow the next field edge then go through a gate in a dip. Follow the hedge round then cross it and go over a rise. Bear right, down to the beck, then up the lane to Lickhurst Farm.

5 Turn left into the farmyard then bear right and straight on down a track. When it swings right, go left before the next gate then straight ahead on an intermittent track.

6 Just before Knot Hill Quarry, turn left, past a limekiln, to a junction. Go right and down to a lane. Go left then left again, round a bend and down. Cross a bridge on the right and head towards Stakes farm, crossing the river on more stepping stones.

7 Turn left and climb above the river. At the next junction go left, descend steeply, then swing right, slightly above the River Hodder, to a stile. Follow the fence to another stile, then bear left to a ford. Go up a rough track and keep climbing past the right edge of a plantation. Keep straight on across an open field to a stile in the furthest corner.

8 Across the road, a few paces left, is a gate. Bear left to iron gates. Contour round the hill, just above the fence, to more gates. After 100yds (91m) go down through an aluminium gate. The track swings right. Just past Seed Hill turn left and descend steps by the graveyard. A short steep lane descends back to the start.

With two sets of stepping stones to cross, this walk could be problematic when the river is in flood - but the good thing is that you will know immediately if this is so. Should this be the case you'll then have the choice of moving elsewhere or simply drowning your sorrows at the Inn at Whitewell.

Having crossed the river, you climb around the flanks of New Laund Hill and then cross another small ridge into the valley of Dinkling Green Brook. There are several exposures of limestone, mostly the result of quarrying, on the ridge just north of the track. Limestone, which underlies most of the ground covered by the walk, tends to produce good grazing conditions, unlike the more acid soils formed on the gritstone of the higher fells.

As the 'Forest' element in 'Forest of Bowland' suggests, the area was once dominated by hunting, especially of deer. (The name 'laund', as in New Laund, means a hunting park.) 'Forest' does not automatically imply tree-cover, as it does to us today, but the valleys and lower slopes certainly were much more wooded. By the later Middle Ages, however, there was a shift towards farming and trees were cleared to be replaced by pasture for both sheep and cattle.

Knot Hill Quarry is the largest exposure of limestone on the walk, and marks the start of the descent back towards the second crossing of the Hodder. This is another grand line of stepping stones alongside an ancient ford. Stepping stones are fine for us, after all, but they are of little use to livestock. In medieval times bridging a river like the Hodder was a major undertaking and fords were therefore of great significance. It's no surprise, then, to find another substantial farm immediately beyond the crossing. Stakes is a particularly fine 17th-century farmhouse.

After Stakes the route rises away from the river, but dips back towards it before climbing in earnest. Above a plantation you cross a large open field which has been created from several smaller ones: the faint ridges and furrows of the old field boundaries can still be seen and initially the path follows one of them. Beyond this there's a little more climbing before a green path contours above the valley, giving a great view of the ground you've covered and then, as it swings around, over Whitewell towards Dunsop Bridge and the wilder country beyond.

The final descent takes you past the graveyard. Its separation from the church may strike you as odd - though in many parts of the world this is normal practice. Here it probably results from the limited space around the church and the potential danger of flooding on the level ground below it.

Where to eat and drink

Look no further than the Inn at Whitewell. It's enormously popular but there's plenty of room. The main bar is usually very busy yet relaxed, there's good beer on hand pump and the bar food is good, though not cheap.

While you're there

The Bowland Wild Boar Park actually lies within the loop of the walk and its main attraction is exactly what the name suggests. It also has deer, llamas and a variety of smaller animals. Browsholme Hall has been in the same family for 600 years, though the building 'only' dates back to 1507.

What to look for

Just below Knot Hill Quarry there's a good example of a limekiln. By heating the crushed stone carbon dioxide was driven off leaving fairly pure calcium (lime). This was used for fertiliser, mortar and whitewash. There are fossil-rich blocks in some of the walls, notably on the high path before the final descent.

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