Three Hidden Valleys

Leader - Keith Bolger
11th April 1999
Meeting Place - Maypole Green, Long Preston

We were favoured with a surprisingly fine day for our exploration of the little known hinterland of Long Preston. The country north and east of the village, between the river valley and the high moors, is a vast sea of rounded hills up to 300 meters in height. They are larger and more pronounced than the drumlins at Ribblehead, and not quite as regular, but seem, like them, to be the work of glaciers passing back and forth, depositing heaps of debris over many centuries.

From the green we set off up School Lane and followed the walled track which cuts the corner to lead into Newhouse Lane and on to Little Newton Farm. The footpath starts from the far end of the farmyard and crosses a little stone bridge to climb gently by a broad green track to a knoll high above the stream. From here we could look down onto Newton Gill, the first of the afternoon’s hidden valleys. These valleys have been a real surprise. They cut through the full depth of the glacial deposits in places and reveal the bedrock in their steep sides. They are quite deep and some are two miles or more long, but are mostly quite invisible from any distance at all. We followed this one northwards around the lower slopes of Newton Moor until we crossed its stream by a little footbridge (another pleasant surprise) and climbed away from it to cross a stile and then a large field, north-eastwards now, to reach Langber lane, an ancient route from Settle to Otterburn. Our little valley was now curving away from us to the right and we were fascinated to see that it had been planted long ago with rhododendrons, probably as a covert for pheasants.

When we reached the lane we turned left along it and walked past the burnt-out ruin of Bookilber Barn and past the signed ends of two footpaths to Long Preston, to take the third one, as this has the easiest crossing of the stream which has formed Brook Gill, the second of our hidden valleys. Once over the stepping stones the path is easy and well-marked and follows the stream high above its right bank until it drops down into a broad flat place where Book Gill Beck joins Long Preston Beck to form the pleasantest hidden valley so far! Here there is a footbridge and another little stone bridge as well as a ford for farm tractors.

The path follows the track from the ford up the other side of the valley to where the Woodland Trust have a small wood walled off from sheep and cattle but open via a sprung wicket gate to human visitors. From here the track becomes a walled lane but we left it at the wood by a stile in the wall on the left to follow an indistinct path across a gently rising field. At the top we had a surprise view of the village and the Ribble valley. It seemed strange that throughout our walk through apparently remote countryside we had never been further than a mile and a half from the main road! We made our way down in a straight line through several stiles and flocks of sheep until we reached the tarmac and the houses and our cars and what we call civilisation.