Lancashire Walk - Foulridge, near Colne
PUBLISHED: 15:13 04 May 2011 | UPDATED: 18:58 02 February 2018
Concentration is the key to staying on track for this walk around the border country at Foulridge, as Keith Carter reports
Area of walk: Foulridge near Colne.
Map: OS Explorer OL21 South Pennines
Distance: 6 miles
Time to allow: 3 ½ hours
Refreshments: Cargo Café, Foulridge Wharf (01282 865069), Anchor Inn Salterforth
Heading north from Colne on the A56 towards Skipton the road bisects the two Foulridge Reservoirs, Upper and Lower, and then passes through the village of Foulridge. Look out for a faded brown tourist sign pointing left to Foulridge Wharf and take the lane that leads downhill past terraced housing and some scruffy factories to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
The access road leads round behind the newly refurbished Cargo Café to a parking area beside the canal. They’ve made a good job at the café which does regular teas and lunches during the day and transforms into a venue for bistro dining in the evening, cool and stylish. Good luck to them.
Just west of Foulridge Wharf, the canal enters the mile-long Foulridge tunnel, the longest on the Leeds-Liverpool which is known for the former necessity of the bargemen to get their barge through by ‘legging’ it, laying on their backs while the horse was led overground. You can guess who finished up with aching legs. This is the highest point along the canal and is also where it crosses the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire so have your passports ready.
Before the canal was dug in the 18th century, there were limekilns at Foulridge for the purpose of rendering rock limestone into a powder for fertilizing the land. Coal was brought by horse and cart from the nearest coalfield at Marsden until, with the coming of the canal, coal could be brought by barge. A restored limekiln at Foulridge and an explanatory board show how the process was carried out but this has sadly become spoiled with rubbish, ruining the effect.
Our walk this month is easily described along the first half but then requires quite detailed description as it makes its way back to the starting point via numerous stiles which tend to be gaps in walls, characteristic to the area.
Once you leave the canal it needs to be followed with some concentration to avoid straying off route and wandering about the countryside like lost sheep. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks!
So off we go then, walking on the towpath for a couple of miles as far as Bridge number 152, passing the Anchor Inn at Salterforth. Cross the bridge and take the path opposite through a wooden kissing-gate and on a field path that rises to an access lane. Turn left and walk up to the main road where we go left along the verge before crossing over to an opening next to a detached house called Ashcliffe.
Climb on a rough, sunken fell track to a brow where we see a field gate in front of us. Keep to the left of it and follow a right hand boundary hedge, a low hill or mound to our left. A faint path seems to lead over this and you can go over it if you want but there’s no need.
The hedge becomes a wall and where it turns a corner we join a track that leads towards some farm buildings. However, we need to strike diagonally left off this track to cross a wall by a stile and descend a raised field path, keeping half right to reach a group of cottages which we leave on our right and take a stile by some stables to a short stretch of path between walls to a field gate. Most of the gates on this next part of the walk are what I call hand-gates, common on the rights of way in this area.
Go through the field to a plank bridge and hand-gate with a holly tree beside it. From this point on we will encounter frequent holly bushes often planted where a stile or wall-gap is found. Holly was used for turning, as inlays and is good for carving but it doesn’t make much of a fuel. These days is mainly useful as hedging and is often pricked in with hawthorn and blackthorn to make an effective barrier to turn sheep. Those bushes with only male flowers have berries so greedily consumed by blackbirds, each berry containing three or more hard black seeds.
Keep beside a right hand wall, go through a gate and switch sides to keep the wall to our left. Don’t be distracted by an obvious stile in this wall but remain in the same direction towards a wood which a step stile in the wall lets us into. Follow a narrow path along the edge of the wood which we soon discover shields a horrible scrap yard guarded by two maddened dogs and it comes as a relief when we emerge from the trees onto a minor road at Park Close.
Turn briefly right then left at an opening with a row of cottages. The sign here indicates a footpath to County Brook, perhaps a reference to the old county boundary. Pass a large detached property with no visible way marks, cross their lawn and go through a gap stile of a kind not commonly found other than in this area. Keep forward with a wall to our left and go through a metal field gate before leaving the wall but maintaining the same line to a row of conifers bordering an access track.
Cross the track and take a step up between holly trees, passing between â two grassed over spoil heaps from the old quarry on the right. A hand gate leads into an enclosure of new trees and we next cross the concrete drive to Hollin Bank Farm, a successful conversion of old farm buildings into quite an estate. A hand gate leads us beside a post and rail fence to a gated wall gap then across a short field to a further hand gate.
Our path begins to descend a bank to a stream which is crossed by a quaint old packhorse bridge, surely only wide enough for a single horse to pass and certainly not a cart. On the other side go right on a diagonal path to meet a minor road where we go right for about 50 yards until we see a stile on the left hand side. Mount this and strike across half right to a hand gate into the next field and then a second one with a gate across the gap to reach an access track.
Cross the track and a stile into the field then reach a further wall gap with the usual holly bush beside it. We keep forward with a holly hedge on our right hand and go through a wall gap and then another of the same only gated then along a right hand wall to a hand gate. Here we cross a stream by stones and a plank followed by a dilapidated stile into the next field.
There follows a further three gap stiles before we meet a track beside a farmstead. Go left on this but leave it on the right almost immediately through a field gate to pass through mature holly bushes and come to an ornamental hand gate. From here a raised field path leads gradually downhill to a detached stone house where we join an access lane soon becoming metalled as it winds downhill to become Station Road. There’s a prominent conversion of flats to the right called The Old Sidings.
Keep on Station Road until the junction and turn left to walk along the pavement to the Wharf where the Cargo Café offers rest and refreshment after your concentrated route finding. Well done!