Going: Tarmac road throughout. Long steep hill between Duddon Bridge
and Ulpha, if starting at Broughton. Short sections of ascent after Seathwaite. Some care
needed on descending the narrow road, particularly between Cockley Beck and Seathwaite.
Total Distance: 14 miles (Ulpha start) ; 22 miles (Broughton start).
Beginning only a dozen or so miles from Barrow, Dunnerdale is a world apart, an unspoilt valley beloved by Wordsworth, leading from wide estuary sands to the foot of high fells. There are many opportunities for the cyclist here, from gentle explorations which follow the rocky River Duddon, to lofty ascents of the surrounding fellsides.
Although Broughton offers a possible starting point, a fearsome hill soon after Duddon Bridge means that those looking for an easier outing would do better setting off near Ulpha. There is plenty of roadside parking close to the river here, the shallow water making this is a popular paddling spot in warm weather.
The stone packhorse bridge at Ulpha marks the former county boundary between Lancashire and Cumberland, while past the plain dale church a row of attractive Almshouses stands. Before leaving the bridge however, glance up at the western horizon, where the ruins of Frith Hall stand gaunt against the skyline. A former 17th century hunting lodge, this was also used as an inn, with tales of wild behaviour and brawls.
Press on up the valley, with the conical peak of Caw prominent on the right, through Hall Dunnerdale, where the huge face of Wallabarrow Crag looms ahead. At Seathwaite, the Newfield Inn might prove a diversion, while the little chapel is known for its 18th century curate, Robert Walker, who served here for almost sixty-seven years. Wordsworth called him the Wonderful Walker, and outside the chapel door lies a large stone used by the Reverend for clipping sheep.
The road steepens after Seathwaite, the river has diverged into a long deep gorge, and the scenery becomes wilder, with wide views up to the old slate workings on Walna Scar, and the broad fellside backing Dow Crag. To the left Harter Fell becomes the dominant height.
After the old farmhouse at Troutal is passed, look out for Birks Bridge on the left, another packhorse route. Here the river is squeezed through a narrow rock channel, and drops below the bridge to a deep serene pool a magical place!
A picnic area just beyond would make a good resting place, but it would be a shame not to press on to the broad head of the valley, at Cockley Beck. Here the road leads one way over Hardknott, and the other along a desolate expanse towards Wrynose Pass and Langdale. The course of a Roman road runs alongside the young Duddon here, from the fort at Hardknott towards Ambleside.
This marks the turning point of this excursion more ambitious rides can be undertaken, but return down Dunnerdale to Ulpha for now, enjoying the downhill run!
The friendly Post Office at Ulpha sells drinks, home-made sandwiches and so on. The Newfield Inn at Seathwaite is open all day, and serves food. The cottage at Cockley Beck is a National Trust property, and seems to serve teas - not sure about times though.
The bridge at Ulpha, beloved of small boys for jumping into the river. (Not recommended, dangerous, definitely don't do it, etc, etc.)
Wallabarrow Crag, seen from the road before Seathwaite. This is a favourite haunt of rock climbers, and can be approached on a foot path from Seathwaite.
Birks Bridge, a former packhorse route. On the other side of the bridge, the River Duddon is squeezed through a narrow rock channel.
The site of Ulpha village post office.
The Duddon Valley community site.
Some Victorian history of Seathwaite.
The site of the Newfield Inn.
Any comments on the cycling pages would be gratefully received!
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed.
May be printed for personal use only.
Open Country Prints, Main Street, Baycliff, Ulverston, Cumbria
LA12 9RN, England