THIS is a gentle, but rewarding, walk in that it includes some fascinating history and if you're lucky, some interesting birdlife.
I had done this walk a couple of times before investigating a grassy mound, that turned out to be something a great deal more entertaining. Surrounded by a tumble-down iron fence with at one time a decorative gate, the mound just off to one side of the footpath and close to the Settle Road, is actually Castle Haugh - the site of a Norman fortification and within an area of land known as Cromwell's Basin.
According to Historic England, the Castle Haugh Ringwork, in the parish of Newsholme, was scheduled as an ancient monument in 1963.
Ringworks were medieval fortresses built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area, made up of buildings which were surrounded, or partly surrounded by a timber palisade, or stone wall. They acted as strongholds for military operations, or in some cases defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
Castle Haugh, one of just 200 in the country, commands extensive views and comprises a circular mound, artificially raised between five and six metres above ground level, and is almost entirely surrounded by a deep ditch. Interestingly, some of the trees on the mound have been scored with signatures of previous visitors, dating back to the early 1900s.
The walk also passes close to a heronry, where several of the birds are to be seen on the ground, or in flight, and the imposing Gisburne Park, built in the 18th century, formerly the home of Lord Ribblesdale and now a private hospital.
Step by step
1. From the layby next to Paythorne Bridge over the River Ribble, take the signed bridlepath across field and through gate on far side to join track. Climb uphill along track with Ribble to left. Keep to bridlepath as it winds its way along with fields either side up to Moor House Farm, home of Ribble Aberdeen Angus cattle including breeding bulls.
2. You will need to pass through the metal gate at the entrance to the farm and go through the farmyard to where there is a fork of two tracks - you can take either track, the one on the left is better in wet weather, when the one on the right can get a bit boggy. Both tracks will come out onto Carter's Lane.
3. Turn left on Carter's Lane and walk for about half a mile to t-junction, turn left onto Gisburn Road and follow the road for a short way as it drops downhill and crosses a bridge over the Ribble.
4. Take the marked footpath in front of Holgate House, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Follow the track as it climbs gently uphill, and passing through Ribblesdale Park holiday homes and Gisburne Park Hospital, on the left. Continue along the path as it winds downhill, over a bridge with Gamekeeper's Cottage, now a holiday home to the right. Keep to the track as it goes off to the left and uphill to fields. Cross over to the A682 Settle Road. The path here runs alongside the road for a while and briefly goes onto the grass verge before taking a track again alongside the road. Go though a gate into a field and continue along path and through a number of gates until it goes uphill to the fenced off Castle Haugh.
5. The fascinating site of the Norman fortification is well worth a short detour, take the time to climb up to it and experience the 360 degree all round vision with the Ribble dropping off sharply to one side and far reaching views from all directions. Rejoin the path as it drops steadily downhill and into woodland, eventually back down to the road. Cross Paythorne Bridge to your left and back to where you started.
Location: Ribble Valley, Forest of Bowland.
Parking: Spacious layby next to Paythorne Bridge, or at Paythorne itself.
Distance: Three to four miles, gentle going.
Terrain: quiet roads, farm tracks, fields and woodland
Refreshments: None on route, Buck Inn at Paythorne.
Livestock: sheep, keep dogs on leads
Gates: Easy, much of route is on bridleway, so horse friendly and no tricky stiles for dogs
OS Map: Landranger 103 Blackburn and Burnley.