Weekend walk: Hawthornthwaite Fell

with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 7:00 am

In ‘Walden’ that early classic of American Literature Henry David Thoreau wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. If that was true at the beginning of the 19th century how much truer does it appear now? Modern life comes at a high price to the human spirit with empty materialism buttressed by empty entertainment to create in many deep dissatisfaction. We live in an age with high rates of addictive behaviour, mental illness and stress. Perhaps what is even more worrying is that children and young people are increasingly prone to conditions such as depression, anxiety and psychological disorders.

Yet one remedy is so near at hand. ‘Fresh air and exercise’ may seem to be rather old fashioned – the sort of thing a doctor might have said in Thoreau’s day. Yet in recent years the old prescription had been found to be on of the principle ways of maintaining physical and mental well-being. Study after study has demonstrated that one of the most beneficial activities someone can do is to go for a walk especially in the countryside.

In Lancashire the diversity of countryside is striking taking in the coast, the plain, the hills and wild moorland. Hopefully some of this variety comes across in this column week after week. There is something to suit everyone no matter what age or experience. For those new to walking what better way to get started than to explore one of the many municipal parks? Stanley Park in Blackpool, Avenham Park in Preston and Towneley Park in Burnley come to mind. As you develop confidence plan walks that involve a circuit of a reservoir as featured last week with the walk from Rivington. For experienced walkers who wish to test themselves there are challenges in the hill country of the South Pennines, the West Pennine Moors or the Forest of Bowland.

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The Forest of Bowland is Lancashire’s best kept secret. I would claim it offers walking on a par with its near neighbours the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Though perhaps less scenic than both is has one undeniable aspect that gives it a special appeal – because it is less well known fewer people go there. If you are out to escape ‘the madding crowd’ walk in Bowland – you will see no one! Malcolm’s route below is a case in point. When he led the Dotcom Walkers last month aside from each other’s excellent company we didn’t see a solitary walker all day.


Start: Stoops Bridge, Abbeystead.LA2 9BQ

Distance: 8 ½ miles

Time: 4 ½ - 6 hours

Grade: Strenuous. Good skills with map and compass required especially in misty conditions.

Map: OS OL 41 The Forest of Bowland.


1.If the summit of the Hawthornthwaite Fell is a little dull now that the curious trig point is horizontal a visit to the top can be combined with a valley walk along the River Wyre which would serve as a good introduction to the contrasting landscapes that can be found in the Bowland area.Starting from Stoops Bridge at Abbeystead head away from the bridge on the Wyre Way. In 200yds after crossing the Marshaw Wyre turn right onto a footpath that takes you towards Abbeystead Lake. A short way from the lane turn left then on a faint path left that climbs steeply through Hinberry Wood reach a stile leading into pasture land. Go left to arrive at Hawthornthwaite Farm. Follow the quiet road up the hill, turn right at the junction and keep ahead as it crosses a brow to the pretty valley of the Cam Brook which drains our fell. At a second cattle grid the brook can be seen descending the fell side with a shooters track on the eastern bank. This track is followed as far as it goes which is just undera mile from the valley bottom. When it ends there is good half mile of trackless but not too difficult walking on an easterly bearing which leads to the fence along the summit ridge which is the followed to the horizontal trig point.

2. A little easy walking through a strange peaty landscape leads to a fence junction which is the key to the descent. Leave the summit fence , cross the left hand fence and head north east following a spur to pick up another shooters path above Black Clough. The way is marked by white tipped posts. Once on the track follow it down to the Trough Road enjoying the views across to Ward’s Stone and possibly to the Lakes if the day is kind.

3. Once in the valley the delightful Wyre Way path will lead youback to the start. The river walking provides a complete contrast to the moors and also gives you a view of the Duke of Westminster’s opulent country residence as you approach Abbeystead.

- Walk devised and described by Dotcom Walker Malcolm McCulloch with additional material by Bob Clare

- Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and App (see iFootpath.com)