WILLIAM Wordsworth called the Duddon Valley "one of the most beautiful streams of his native county," and it inspired him to write 34 sonnets, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. Here is a walk in two parts that can be enjoyed as individual walks of 3.5 and four miles or joined together into a figure of eight. The first part is a wander around Wallowbarrow and the second visits Birks Bridge.

Start from the off-road parking area about 1.5 miles up the Duddon Valley from Seathwaite, just opposite a path down to Fickle Steps, map reference SD 230 974.


Distance: 7.5 miles with 2,000 feet of ascent

Time: 4 hours

Terrain: stony tracks and rocky footpaths, boggy in parts.

Map: OS Explorer OL6


1 Cross the road and follow the downhill path through bracken to Fickle Steps. Cross the stepping stones using the wire hawser as a handrail then turn left on to the riverside path. The path goes uphill beside a fence on the right and follows the fence where it turns right. After crossing a stile it becomes a pleasant riverside balcony path, then continues over tumbled boulders. Inside woodland, pass a footbridge and turn right on to the path leading away from stepping stones. Optionally, make an excursion across the footbridge to visit Seathwaite for refreshments at the Newfield Inn then return and cross the stepping stones. Follow the grassy footpath to High Wallowbarrow Farm then turn right on to the bridleway signed Grassguards. Follow the stony path up through woods then bending to the right past Low Stoneythwaite Cottage. Where the path levels off make an excursion to the right to visit the summit of Wallowbarrow Crag. The view to the east includes Walna Scar and its quarry workings, from where the beautifully marked slate floor of the Newfield Inn came from.

Further south is Caw, the Dunnerdale Fells and the Duddon Valley with Black Combe in the distance.

2 Continue along the track, going through two pairs of high gates then downhill between huge walls and ruined buildings then through a metal gate to the cottages at Grassguards. Cross a ford then turn right by a wire fence, descending beside a beck on the right, through woods to Fickle Steps. Cross the steps and turn left up the stepped path to the road where the walk began.

3 For the walk to Birks Bridge, from the two-way fingerpost take the footpath to the left, going around crags on the left. Go through a gateway and past farm buildings, across a footbridge and past a ladder stile, continuing along the course of Tarn Beck below overhead cables. Go through a gate, over a footbridge with a waterfall on the right, across a ladder stile and through a wall gate. Continue ahead following the overhead cables, through a fence gate and along the valley into woodland at Pike How. Here, the path bends up to the left then descends to a road. Cross the road on to a signed footpath down a wooden ladder. Where the path returns to the road turn right, pass Birks Bridge car park and turn right to cross Birks Bridge, where the river plunges through a gorge into a 12-feet deep pool.

4 Turn left immediately after the bridge and follow a waymarked path, bearing right and going uphill after a stile. This is an awkward undulating path over stones and through woodland. It can be difficult to follow as it goes around a gorge before descending back to the riverside and continuing to Fickle Steps. Cross the steps and turn left up the stepped path to the road where the walk began.

Next week: High Dam and Satterthwaite

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.