First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Railway, road and river all wriggle close together through the Ribble Valley at Long Preston. Lumpy fells flank the elongated village on the east, and we were headed up there on a peerless day of unbroken blue sky over the western fringes of the Yorkshire Dales.
We watched a train of thirty thundering goods wagons crawl its way through Long Preston station. Then we made for Scaleber Lane and a long, gentle climb northwards with the midday chimes sounding below. The stone walls along the lane were hip height, giving views over undulating pastures where somnolent cattle dozed out the day.
We crossed Long Preston Beck in its rocky bed and went upstream. A pair of scarlet crab claws lay unexplained on the bank – someone’s esoteric picnic, or a titbit let drop by a far-wandering gull? A kestrel floated overhead, pursued by a crowd of tiny birds; perhaps it would fancy a crab snack.
Stepping stones across Bookil Gill Beck brought us to Langber Lane, an old walled lane running confidently north. In Langber Plantation a tree creeper inched up a pine trunk, snicking insects out of their hiding places behind the pink bark scales. Stonechats and whinchats bobbed on the walls beyond, their heads ceaselessly turning, spying out the land for food or danger.
Pale knobbly ramparts of limestone appeared ahead, Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar. Below them Stockdale Beck cut through the outcropping strata, tumbling in long hissing tails of white water down tall steps of limestone in a water-delved gorge.
From the heights another walled way, Lambert Lane, ran south through sheep pastures to meet Edge Lane, the old hill road from Long Preston over to Settle. Today in warm sunshine the gritstone walls and the sandy track sparkled cheerfully. In proper old-time winter weather the bumpy and winding hill road must have been a fearsome prospect for drovers and benighted travellers.
Edge Lane rose to the heathery heights of Hunter Bark, highest point on the old road. We stood and stared round at the 50-mile view – Ingleborough flat-topped in the northwest, the long green stretch of the Craven lowlands running away west, and down in the southwest the hummocks of the Bowland Fells and the grey upturned hull of Pendle Hill, all under a sky of unblemished china blue.
Start: Long Preston railway station, near Settle BD23 4RY (OS ref SD 834579)
Getting there: Rail to Long Preston. Bus 580, 581, 582 (Settle).
Road – Long Preston is on A65 (Settle-Skipton)
Walk (8½ miles; easy; field paths, walled lanes; OS Explorer OL2): Up B6478; cross A65 into Church Street; left at church. In 200m, right (836583, ‘Langber Lane’) up Scalehaw Lane. In 700m cross Long Preston Beck (842586); left beside beck. Pass New Pasture Plantation; cross Bookil Gill Beck (840592). Don’t cross next footbridge, but fork right through gate and uphill, heading to right of skyline barn. In ¾ mile ford Bookil Gill Beck (847600); left on Langber Lane track for 1½ miles to road (841623). Left; in 200m, left at Scaleber Bridge through wicket gate (841626, ‘Scaleber Wood’) to view Scaleber Force. Back to road; left; in ½ mile, left (835630, ‘Pennine Bridleway’/PB, ‘Lambert Lane’). In ⅔ mile, left at road (828625, ‘PB Long Preston’). In 150m fork left beside wood (828624); follow Edge Lane for 2¾ miles to road in Long Preston (834583). Right; at A65, left. Right down Greenbank Terrace; left on footpath (834581) to B6478; right to station.
Lunch/Accommodation: Golden Lion, Duke Street, Settle BD24 9DU (01729-822203, goldenlionsettle.co.uk)