Langden Castle Walk 30-08-19
A Super Easy Route For Any Level of Walker
It was Saturday and had some free time. I'd got in the car with my camera and drone simply to find somewhere to point and click for an hour or two. At first I passed through the countryside within a few miles of my house. Then I found myself in Ormskirk then on through Parbold and Charnock and before I knew it I was under the shadow of Pendle Hill winding through Clitherhoe. It seemed as if the car was guided by an unseen hand and luring me back to somewhere I've only really discovered in recent years: The Trough of Bowland.
I'd been map blind to this place and never picked up on it until I'd seen a post on Twitter and my first question in response to it was 'Where's that?'. Now having been there a few times and make mention of it on social media, or general conversation, I find myself answering the same question. It sits inside the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Beauty. It is surrounded on all sides by other tourist destinations - flanked by Lancaster and the Yorksire Dales National Park, it also has The Lakes and Pendle Hill to the North and South respectively. With all that going on around it, its easy to see how it can so easily be overlooked, however I think that is part of its beauty. It is also quite late to the party with it being largely off limits for many years, until around 2004 when changes to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act opened this up to walkers, so it does have some catching up to do.
I usually like getting somewhere early doors so its super quiet. That wasn't the case for this as I found myself arriving into the Trough at around 3:30pm. As I hadn't planned to walk, I hadn't prepped a route. And there's plenty to be had round here. Many start out from Dunsop Bridge that you pass through. Claiming to be the geographical centre of Great Britain (Ordnance Survey marks it as Whitendale Hanging Stones not far from Dunsop) and also home to the 100,000th payphone in Britain (unveiled by Ranulph Fiennes in 1992). It is a small village but has a great car park and amenities and also the fantastic Puddleducks Tea Room, great for a brew and cake after a few hours walking.
I decided to keep the walk simple yesterday and opted for Langden Brook further up the road . It has a small car park and little else so for the weak bladdered amongst you, make a stop in Dunsop first! Its along Trough Road, nearest postcode being BB7 3BJ which can be sketchy on SatNav, so instead the OS Grid Reference is SD632511. This should bring you to right outside.
Pre-Walk Heads Up
Before setting off on the loop, I crossed the brook and up on to Hareden Nab. From here you can take routes that lift you up and over Totridge which lies beyong Hareden Nab by taking the path off to the left. Paths off to the right look as if they're taking you onto the fells but the trail ends abruptly at a thicket of trees and everywhere is fenced off as it is conservation and farm land. I found this out the hard way. The Trough is a complete data black hole (make sure you tell someone before you go there kids). Absolutely no signal meant I couldn't bring up any potential routes, so I went old school and tried to forge a path. And failed. Left hand only paths if you cross the brook here.
I used the opportunity of a high vantage point to send the drone up to get some footage along the valley. As there were no other takers that day on this side of the brook, it seemed like the ideal spot. Aside from the angry sheep that took considerable exception to me flying the drone. Admittedly, I hadn't spotted it before I launched (I thought I was up and clear of everyone and everything), so it got a bit distressed when bringing the drone in to land. Rightfully so, and as soon as it was down I picked it up and carried it off to a safe spot to bag up to get out of the sheep's way as soon as possible. My baaaaad (sorry).
Back at the car park, I started off on the Langden Castle loop. This is a really, really easy walk suitable for all levels of ability. I knew I could do this one with what little gear I had, particularly as the weather had been quite dry in the area for the past few days. A quick disclaimer: If you have never been to or heard of Langden Castle before, do not build an image in your head of finding crumbling ruins of some majestic high walled structure with turrets and moats and drawbridges. It isn't that type of place (which I'll explain later). Understood? Okay lets start.
Away from the car park, you follow a rather grand tree lined path as if leading you up to some stately home. It isn't however, its the intake facility for United Utilities who own the land and have a small water works facility in Langden valley. Pass by the stonebrick buildings for this keeping them to your left, and keep an eye out for Miranda, the water nymph statue. Carved by George Aldersley in the 1950s who back then was an engineer for the water board and based the image on his wife. I always find it a bit eerie. It isn't publicly accessible, so you can only glimpse it if you peer through the bushes and trees, and I get a sense of something a little other worldly adapting to the modernisation of its environment.
On past the water works and the valley opens up wide. Trees line the opposite side of the brook and the brook is quite wide and craggy here making for plenty of white water breaks on the rocks. The scene wouldn't look out of place in the wilds of Nebraska or Vermont, let alone deepest darkest Lancashire! The land is quite flat and open by the side of the brook here, so where accessible you'll find plenty of folk relaxing here in summer months.
Keep following the path and you'll come to a fork. This is the only decision you've got to make on the entire walk (remember I said it was easy). Two choices: high road, low road. Choose whichever you prefer, however I'd recommend coming back the other way on the return leg for a different perspective of the valley. The high path gives some stunning views out in both directions. In winter months, the landscape can look quite raw, however in spring and summer when the heather is thriving, the valley is vibrant with greens and purples.
The path along both routes are well signposted, but there's absolutely no way of veering off. You'd either end up knee deep in the brook or scrambling through heather and fern if you did. The high path is like a Bon Jovi album if its been raining or snowing: Slippery When Wet. So I advise caution particularly on the more cobbled steeper inclines this route takes you. The low path keeps you pretty much alongside the brook all the way but does have its slippy points if the tributaries off the cloughs leading into the brook are particularly swollen from rainfall.
The two paths converge again above a viewing point of Langden Castle. Here there's a memorial for three WWII air crashes. Crew from the Royal Air Force, Polish Air Force and Canadian Air Force are remembered.
So, the barn like structure down in the valley? That's Langden Castle. I did warn you. As you make your way down, keep an eye out up to your right for Holdron Castle. This too, isn't or ever was a castle, and no one knows exactly what it was. Answers on a postcard. You'll see some bits of structure jutting out, but its safe to say there was never a King/Queen, Duke/Duchess or Earl/Lady sat surveying their fiefdom from up there.
Langden Castle. The least castle looking castle you'll ever see. It does for all intents and purposes look like a barn, and for the most part you'd be right. Its modern day uses are predominantly as a shepherd's hut and by shooting parties. The valley is rife with grouse and pheasant. However it does have its history. Back in the day, this was used as a holding cell for prisoners being taken on their way to Lancaster for trial. Depending on who you speak to or where you read up, there are claims the Pendle Witches were once occupants. It was late afternoon, the only people I'd seen on the walk were those heading back in the direction of the car park, so once I got to Langden Castle I had the place entirely to myself. Inside one of the small rooms someone had hung a string of Tibetan prayer flags which had now started to fade (for a closer look see the video at the end of the post).
With no people (or sheep!) around, I sent the drone up to capture some shots of the valley, and sat on the oddly well kept grass at the front of the building whilst it worked its magic above me. I've seen a few blog posts about people wild camping outside the castle. I'm not sure I'd pitch here personally, as the main path through the valley runs mere yards away from the castle, so its not really a well hidden spot. Then again, it was early evening and seemingly I was the only person left in the valley, so perhaps my thoughts of this corner of the country being overlooked rings true and things wind down much quicker than they would amongst the fells and mountains of the Lakes for example.
Given the casual nature of the walk to the castle, you may feel you've got plenty left in the tank, so there are options. You can cross the brook and head on up to Fiendsdale Head and turn it into a loop over the fells to Hareden taking in Totridge and looping back towards the car park. Be warned - I've reached this point in the past with the intent of doing this, only to find the brook too wide/deep even in my trusty Salamon's to get across without squelching for the next few miles and encouraging the onset of trench foot! You can also pick up paths taking you to Grizedale Head. Not to mention being able to take in the ominous Dead Man's Stake or the slightly less intimidating Johnny Pye's Clough.
For this walk though, its back the way you came. Be sure to take the opposite path when you reach the fork in the road if anything to change things up a bit. Once you start seeing the structures for the United Utilities, you'll know you're nearing the end of the valley by the car park. And that's it! Around 6km all in. It shouldn't take longer than an hour and a half at most. Whilst it doesn't take you up on to high fells, it does cut through a beautiful valley and is a good introduction to the area if you've never been before. From here you can use it as a launch pad for many of the other walks (some of which will no doubt get featured on here) in and around Bowland.
Post Walk Viewpoints
The roads in via Dunsop can be quite hairy, despite not being very busy. All it takes is one camper van coming the other way and its a reverse job to the nearest passing point for one of you. That being said, what I do to round off a trip to Bowland is carry on through to get back out and on to the M6. The road rises up and you'll soon find yourself at the Jubilee Tower just outside Quernmore. There's a car park here and you can take walks up to Clougha Pike. Also, during good weather, you can see out across vast swathes of Lancashire picking out Blackpool Tower, Lancaster, Heysham Power Station, and watch the boats and ships sailing in and out of Morecambe Bay, with the southern lakes in the distance. It is an amazing vantage point and gets an honourable mention in my 5 Favourite Viewpoints In North West England post.
From there, unless you're visiting Lancaster I'd recommend taking the Long Lane turn off which means you skip any traffic going in and out of the city, and this will instead bring you out in Galgate, not too far from Junction 33 of the M6.
By all means grab the GPX for this walk HERE and if you found the post useful, by all means give it a share using the links below.
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