Lancashire Walks - Newton in Bowland
PUBLISHED: 00:16 05 June 2013 | UPDATED: 16:12 19 January 2016
Keith Carter leads a walk from Newton in Bowland, one of Lancashire’s loveliest and most unspoilt villages
Newton in Bowland prides itself on being the place where you can hear the grass grow, not meant to be taken literally I suppose but a metaphor to attract people wanting to escape from the hurly burly. Certainly you could do worse if you want to get away from it all but without a car you’d be stuck.
Once known as Newton on Hodder, the river passes through the village under Newton Bridge, rising on White Hill and supplying Stocks Reservoir before continuing down one of the loveliest valleys in Lancashire to join the Ribble near Hurst Green. The Hodder was the ancient boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire and indeed the name is said to mean ‘boundary’ in Old English.
This month’s walk starts at Newton bridge close by the 17th century Newton Hall, re-built by Paley and Austin who were responsible for many of the classic buildings in the north west including Holker Hall, Leighton Hall and Lancaster Grammar School. From the name of the pub, the Parkers Arms you would assume that Newton had a close connection with the family of that name but they came from Browsholme Hall and still do for that matter.
Parking in the village has to be at the roadside wherever you can find a space that doesn’t block anyone in. There is room for two small cars in the lay-by beside the now closed public convenience. Walk down to the bridge but don’t cross it, taking instead the opening in the wall to the left of the road where steps lead down to a riverside path.
Proceed with the river on your right hand side through a series of meadows and a number of stiles and on reaching a fenced compound for water treatment, circumvent it by following the fence round three sides to resume the walk beside the river. The large house over to the left in the trees is Dunnow Hall which once housed a school but is now a family home with apartments.
Stay with the river as far as Slaidburn which we approach through the car park beside the Village Hall, re-opened in 2007 at a cost of £1.5m, a great improvement from the former premises above a garage. Walk up the village street past the war memorial to the T-junction to find the Hark to Bounty pub, surely the only pub of that name in Britain. Nothing to do with the Mutiny on the Bounty, the name comes from a celebrated foxhound whose barking used to wake up the local parson. This is a great little pub with no frills, unspoiled by theme-ing or gastro pretensions, just an honest, plain hostelry with good ale and tasty well-cooked food. If you’re there on Fridays, try the fish and chips.
The Hark to Bounty still retains the old courtroom upstairs and they’ll let you see it if you ask nicely. Although now used for functions you can still imagine it filled with the hubbub of the court in session trying people accused of poaching the game from the nearby forest. The Silver Band plays in the pub garden on some summer evenings and the haunting lilt of their trademark tune ‘Slaidburn’ can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
Turn right out of the pub and walk away from the village past the surgery and up the hill to the top of the brow. Look for a gateway on the left and a sign indicating Pain Hill Farm. Take the access track and on reaching the farm go through a gate and keep right across the front of the farm house to a second gate then go left round the end of a barn to a less obvious track following beside a wall on the left. Here a collection of agricultural junk has been deposited, left to gradually disintegrate as
the years pass and rust returns it to the soil.
The indistinct track leads to a gate then climbs through a field towards a grove of trees on the skyline. Don’t be tempted by the stile that appears over to the left, it’s not for us. Instead keep ahead over the brow, past a wood on the left and approach a farm via two gates. These are the buildings of Crawshaw Farm. Go past the farmhouse, then a barn on the left. The access track leads from the farm to a lane much in need of re-surfacing but I imagine well down the list of priorities, the roads in the area full of potholes. It leads back to Newton, passing on the way a walled enclosure which turns out to be the Quaker Burial Ground.
The overgrown cemetery is a poignant place, the inscriptions on the few headstones hardly legible and one’s sense of order seems to demand that the site be cleared and order restored out of respect for the dead. Then again perhaps it is best left as it is, undisturbed.
At the bottom of the hill we come to a T-junction and by turning left we find ourselves back in the village. A tiny, rustling noise could just be discerned, faint as the falling of leaves. Could it be – surely not – the sound of grass growing?
Area of walk: Newton in Bowland
Map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale
Distance of walk: Five miles
Time to allow: Three hours
Refreshments on the route: Hark to Bounty, Slaidburn. The teashop by the river in Slaidburn is open in the season and there are toilets at the car park there.
Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.