Going: Two off-road sections. The first, to Frith Hall, is
mainly easily rideable to the Hall ruins, apart perhaps from a short section of the rising
track by the woods. After the Hall, the descent is very broken and rough, and walking will
probably be needed for a couple of hundred yards. The second section, from Ulpha to Kiln
Bank is rideable throughout. On the road, the hill onto Corney Fell is steep for a while,
and the ascent from Ulpha towards Duddon Bridge is prolonged.
Total distance: 13.5 miles
This figure-of-eight meander explores some more nuggets of history in the Duddon Valley, from old industry, to a lofty ruin, to a peaceful burial ground. The beginning is just beyond Duddon Bridge, at the start of the Corney Fell road, although a few minutes should be put aside for a visit to Duddon Ironworks. This was an early 18th century charcoal-fired furnace, producing pig-iron from Furness ore. Much of the fabric has been restored.
The road rises gently at first, through coppice woods close to the river, then climbs further past Duddon Hall on the right, host to a crop of ghost stories. A steep section is soon over when the cattle grid is crossed, and the outlook opens to a wide bleak fellside. Turn right almost immediately, and after a bridge leave the road for a track through a gate on the right. This offers a modest ascent, and then flattens, being mostly rideable.
After another couple of gates, look for a stone ruin above the road on the right this is Frith Hall, a one-time hunting lodge, and later a wild inn, in what was once a mediaeval deer enclosure. The ruins are said to be haunted by the ghost of one William Marshal, murdered in a drunken brawl in 1736, and supposedly lain to rest here. What a splendid and evocative viewpoint over the valley!
Press on downhill over a rough section and on to the road, descending steeply to Ulpha. Bear right over the river, and go straight on for a short return. To explore more, turn left after the cattle grid at the bridleway sign, and climb past the house and into Birks Wood. Keep right on leaving the trees, and just before a gate, look out for a clump of trees standing within square stone walls on the right. This was a Quaker burial ground, or Sepulchre, an unmarked resting-place in a tranquil setting.
The track drops down to a farm, with fine views to enjoy along the way, Wallowbarrow Crag looming large up the valley. Turn left at the tarmac road, and left again at Hall Dunnerdale, to return once more to Ulpha. Notice the neat row of Almshouses opposite the little Post Office, endowed by John Gunson in the late 19th century.
The little dale church, entered through a lychgate, has a simple plastered interior, and is mentioned on a 1577 map. Cross the river once more, and press on past a rocky section of the Duddon, well-stocked with paddling people on hot days. One more climb to come, and then a long steep descent back to Duddon Bridge to finish.
The ruins of Frith Hall, high above the Duddon. The conical fell in the right background is Caw.
The Almshouses at Ulpha, seen from the Post Office.
The Quaker burial ground, the 'Sepulchre', by the track between Ulpha and Kiln Bank. Wordsworth featured this in one of his Duddon sonnets, while Wallowbarrow Crag is seen in the background.
The Duddon Valley web site.
Local history from an 1847 Gazeteer.
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