The Trough of Bowland isn’t in Yorkshire at all; it’s over the Lancashire border. But I make no excuses for venturing into Red Rose country to walk its hills and lanes and write about it because it’s a glorious part of the world.

And, what’s more, it’s no further from Bradford than many of the popular Yorkshire Dales spots that people from around here tend to favour for their days out.

What you find in the area are fells and forests, valleys and villages, lots of vast open spaces and footpaths galore.

One of the most popular starting points for walkers is Dunsop Bridge, a couple of miles along the road from the village of Newton, which was to be the halfway mark for this seven-mile outing on a scorching hot June Sunday morning.

We’d heard the forecast and decided to set out early to beat the heat. We left home by 7.30am and little more than an hour later were pulling into the (free) car park at Dunsop Bridge. One car had got there before us. Another followed us in. Otherwise the village was deserted as we set out on a right-of-way route which, according to the map, took us down the driveway of Thorneyholme Hall.

We were a little baffled at first to see warning signs about private land and trespassing posted on the trees, but soon worked out that they related not to the drive but to the grassy bank of the River Dunsop. Presumably they don’t want day trippers setting up their picnics there.

We crossed the bridge just past the confluence of the Dunsop and the River Hodder and turned downstream, walking first along the side of the Hodder then turning away from it to negotiate a tricky wall stile into a splendid track which, though not a right of way, is an established concessionary footpath. At the entrance to it, immediately over the stile, were the original decorated stone gateposts, one still erect, the other lying on its side.

The path climbed steadily, offering fine views across the valley to the prominent landmark of Sugar Loaf Hill - an impressive, pointed lump of limestone with a lime kiln set into the hillside just below it.

We passed through the cluster of houses known as Mossthwaite and walked on through splendid parkland dotted with magnificant old trees to pass Knowlmere Manor (pictured) with its many chimneys. The house was built in the late Victorian era in the Gothic Revival stile, and looks to be not the sort of place you’d want to spend a night alone despite its idyllic setting.

After more track and lane walking, we turned a corner into a narrow, deserted road and saw, to our right, the farmhouse called Foulscales - a late 16th century building with more recent additions - before joining a fields path which led us through pastureland to the bridge at Newton.

There’s a pub here, The Parkers Arms, which is famed for its food. However, it was still only mid-morning so we passed it by to continue our walk out of the top of the village and into the fields again.

Here was our first bovine encounter of several. At one point we were followed closely by a dozen large calves, we and they breaking into a trot until we scrambled over a stile into the road. They mustered around it, lowing after us.

Leaving the road again and heading for Gamble Hole Farm, we found the path blocked by a large cow with its calf. We planned to sneak quietly behind it to the gate stile only to find the cow startled when two dogs came yapping at us from the farmhouse.

Cows with calves can behave aggressively when there are dogs around. Fortunately this one didn’t.

We made it to the stile only to find ourselves in a vast field well populated with cows and calves, and one bull sitting in the distance in the sun surrounded by his favourite concubines.

As we studied the map to see if there was an alternative route, two other walkers arrived. We crossed the field behind them, reckoning on safety in numbers. A few of the cows glanced at us, then went back to their grazing.

The sun was growing higher and hotter as we walked down into the valley bottom then climbed again towards the landmark of Back of the Hill Barn, with insects in the long grass nipping at our bare legs.

As we walked down the track towards the settlement of Beatrix, we could see the home straight ahead of us - the grassy path following the pylon line across a vast meadow, leading to the banks of the River Dunsop and a gentle stroll along a lane back to the now-overflowing car park at Dunsop Bridge with the prospect of a cooling lunchtime pint not far away.

Step by Step

  1. Leave car park at Dunsop Bridge and turn left. Walk down to bend and cross road to go through gates into driveway of house (Thorneyholme Hall). Ignore "PRIVATE" signs, which relate to grassed areas on bank of River Dunsop. Cross bridge and immediately turn left through gate on to path along bank of the River Hodder. Walk downstream, go through gate, then stay with fence to a facing stile. Don't cross this but go right then left with fence, then go half-right across field, following dip, to a climb a tricky stile in a short stretch of wall in fence.
  2. Turn left between gateposts and follow track (a concessionary path rather than a right of way) to a gate into cluster of houses at Mossthwaite. Keep on along main track, passing Knowlmere Manor on left and then crossing Giddy Bridge. Soon at junction, go left and walk along lane to reach road.
  3. Turn left in road, passing house on left and, on right, entrance to track leading to farmstead (Foulscales ). Pass, on left, end of barn with derelict house attached to it and within yards go left over hidden stile in hedge. From here walk half right across field to go through gateway and keep on in same line. Through next gate head down to river and walk on to stile in fence to another riverbank field, leading to stile into road by bridge.
  4. Turn left and cross bridge, walking up into Newton, looking for telephone box near seats and bus stop. Swing round up access track to right of telephone box, looking for ladder stile in lefthand corner of garden of facing house. Over this, head up field to ladder stile to right of gate. Over this, go right to field corner and turn left to walk up field side to stile on left of barn at top. Follow hedge on left as it goes ahead across field then swings left, looking for slab bridge over stream below. Cross this and walk up slope ahead to find wall stile leading into road.
  5. Turn right and walk along road, passing farm on right, to reach access track on left to Gamble Hole Farm. Walk towards farm, turning right to go across cattle grid then head for gatestile to right of farmhouse. Walk up track ahead to iron gate in fence. Turn right before gate then follow fence to corner and continue in same line across huge field to gate stile near far left-hand corner into lane. (Alternatively, if this field is full of cattle and you prefer to avoid them, don't walk up track to Gamble Hole Farm. Instead, keep walking along road for another four fields and turn left into track, Bull Lane, into which the gate stile out of the aforementioned field leads at a bend).
  6. Walk ahead along lane, soon swinging left and eventually coming to stile into open field. Veer right-ish down hill to ladder stile and continue down slope to pass Rough Syke Barn. At bottom, cross stream and go over stile by gate to cross another stream. Walk up hill ahead, going over another stile and heading for left-hand side of Back-of-the-Hill Barn. Continue on track from this to descend to homestead Beatrix.
  7. Follow lane to right of buildings and skirt left around the back of them to emerge through gate into field. Turn right here, walking up fence side then veering leftish to follow pylon line across large field to descend to stile leading to steps to riverbank. Go left here and follow track/road back to Dunsop Bridge.

Fact File

  • Time for seven-mile walk: three hours or more.
  • Going: mderately easy.
  • Map: OS Outdoor Leisure 41, Forest of Bowland.
  • Parking: in Dunsop Bridge (free).
  • Toilets and refreshments: Dunsop Bridge.
  • Getting there: drive up the A65 through Gargrave and Hellifield to Long Preston, taking left turn in village on to B6478 to Tosside and Slaidburn. Drive straight through Newton and on to Dunsop Bridge. Return, if you like, by taking the southbound B6478 over Newton Moor and through pretty Waddington to Clitheroe, then the A59 back to Skipton.