Walk: Duddon Valley, Cumbria

Discover a secluded corner of the Lake District that hums with memories of Wordsworth and still offers the beauty and tranquillity he sought

Hiker in the Duddon valley in Cumbria

A 10km walk along the beautiful River Duddon and through rolling Lakeland hills.

Poet Laureate and inveterate traveller in England, William Wordsworth loved the Lake District, but within these sceptred acres he had a particular fondness for the Duddon Valley, which he explored as a child and where he later composed a series of 35 sonnets lauding the area, recalling his time spent there contemplating the passing of life and the rugged, sylvan beauty of the countryside.

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Today, it is well off the beaten track and is a richly rewarding departure beyond Lakeland’s core.

River Duddon in the Lake District National Park
River Duddon in the Lake District National Park ©Getty

Birks Bridge

The walk starts at Birks Bridge car park, nine miles north of Broughton-in-Furness beside the road to Wrynose Pass.

Pure flow the verse, pure, vigorous, free, and bright, For Duddon, long-loved Duddon, is my theme (1st Duddon Sonnet)

With these words in mind, cross the concrete bridge and trace the forestry road ahead-left, shortly passing well above Birks Farm. To your right is Harter Fell; ahead are the crinkled Dunnerdale Fells and the pyramidal Stickle Pike; in the distance is the whaleback of Black Combe. Just round a sharp right-hand bend, turn left on a gravely path to walk to the distant Grassguards Farm.

Ivelet Bridge, North Yorkshire

To Wallowbarrow

Slip through the cobbled yard on to a gated track, past ruins and moss-thatched walls. Beyond double gates this fell road threads to secluded Stonythwaite Farm. Turn left just shy of the flat bridge. The track passes beneath Wallowbarrow Crag, a favoured haunt for climbers.

At High Wallowbarrow Farm, turn left at the barn/garage. A grassy path here heads for the woods and a slate footbridge over the River Duddon. Turn right through the gate and trace the riverside path via a footbridge to a lane, then go left to Seathwaite and the welcoming Newfield Inn. Wordsworth supped here, so it would be rude not to toast his memory.

Reckless of Angry Duddon sweeping by, While the warm hearth exalts the mantling ale, Laugh with the generous household heartily, At all the merry pranks of Donnerdale!

A short way up the road is Holy Trinity Church, where Robert Walker was parson for 66 years. Wordsworth recalled the long service and selfless, caring life of the “Wonderful Walker” in The Excursion (Book 7), famously naming him “that lowly, great, good man”. A man of many trades, Walker is commemorated in a wool clipping-slab next to the church door.

Beside Duddon

Directly opposite, a path (shortly signed to the stepping stones) winds to cross Tarn Beck on a footbridge and then curves left to return to the slate footbridge. Re-cross and turn right on the path, which scurries across the steep skirts of Wallowbarrow; a route for the sure-footed with plenty of tumbled boulders and roots to snare the unwary.

It’s a challenge, rising high above the Duddon’s cataracts before regaining it to reach a footbridge at Troutal. Don’t cross this, but stick with the path that now heads uphill and becomes indistinct. Beyond an old wall, take a thin path right, but beware of the crags as you follow your nose to fall back to river level and reach Birks packhorse bridge over what Wordsworth called a “sunless cleft”. Cross and turn left to the car park.

Now you can rest and reflect on Wordsworth’s timeless lament.

“For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes, I see what was, and is, and will abide; Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide.”

Map

Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route

Duddon Valley map

Useful Information

HOW TO GET THERE
The walk starts at Birks Bridge car park, nine miles north of Broughton-in-Furness beside the road to Wrynose Pass.

FIND OUT MORE
Broughton Info Centre

Broughton-in-Furness
LA20 6JF
01229 716115
lakedistrictinformation.com

EAT
The Blacksmiths Arms

Broughton Mills LA20 6AX
01229 716824
theblacksmithsarms.com
This tiny, time-warp pub has a tremendous reputation for locally sourced foods.

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STAY
The Manor Arms

Broughton-in-Furness
LA20 6HY
01229 716286
Terrific residential village
inn at the heart of Broughton’s Georgian core.