Downham is celebrated as one of England’s loveliest villages so that any walk that starts from it must be by definition a good walk. This one will take you along a delightful stretch of the Ribble Way before returning by way of Sawley Abbey – a circuit full of interest and charm.
Start: Downham Village car park. From junction 31 M6 follow the A59 to Clitheroe. After passing the town on the left turn onto the B towards Chatburn. In the village centre turn left towards Downham which will be reached after a mile. The car park is at the bottom of the village on the right.
Map by kind permission of the Blackpool Gazette
Summary: Distance 10k 6 miles
Time: 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours
Terrain: Mainly easy walking across farmland. Note there is a footpath diversion in force along the Ribble Way.
Map: OS OL41 Forest of Bowland
Directions: From the main car walk back towards the village turning right onto a footpath that soon leads across pasture towards Worston.
Worsaw Hill becomes an attractive aiming point as the route edges around its based. After passing Longsands Wood on your right the path crosses a large field to a squeeze stile and kissing gate.
Crossing the next field to a similar arrangement. The path follows a wall as it edges around Worsaw Hill and then begins to climb a modest rise between Worsaw and Warren Hill.
After a small wooden gate, the path drops steeply to a large field.
Keep ahead to cross to a ladder stile. The next field leads onto the busy A59.
Cross with care to a footpath directly opposite. This takes you behind gardens on the edge of Chatburn. Take a stone stile on the left and follow the path to a bridge across a brook.
Bear right to a narrow path that will bring you out into a residential area.
At the road turn left, cross the railway line and walk down to the junction.
Turn left and then in front of the Brown Cow pub turn right onto a footpath.
Keep on past a large playing field on the right and then bear right and follow the path down to the River Ribble. You will find yourself on a particularly attractive reach.
Turn left. After 500m the Ribble Way will come in from the left leading down to the Ribble Lane road bridge.
Cross the bridge. Turn right onto the riverside path - still on the Ribble Way. [Note: Owing to erosion of the bank this section of the Ribble Way has been closed in the past. If this is still the case continue towards Grindleton and turn right onto the Sawley Road. After a mile you'll rejoin the Ribble Way at Foxley Bank. ] With the river on your right follow the Ribble Way as it curves through a large meander.
Below Fields House the way turns left and then climbs through pasture to reach Sawley Road at Foxley Bank.
Turn right and walk past Bowland High School and down towards Sawley.
A footpath on the right cuts across a meadow to the bridge.
Cross the bridge and walk down to the Spread Eagle. Opposite the Spread Eagle and before you come to the impressive ruins of Sawley Abbey,
turn left into a tree shaded car park and then bear right to cross a stile leading into pasture behind the abbey.
Keep ahead and after crossing a drive enter woodland by a stile.
After crossing a small stream the path continues up emerging into an overgrown pasture next to the A59.
Cross the road to a farm track opposite. After crossing a stile, keep ahead to reach a metal gate.
From here bear left, cutting the corner of a field to reach a stile. Keep ahead with the hedge on your left.
Depending on when you try this walk the next field could be problematic. Unusually in this part of the Ribble Valley, it is given over to cereal growing. The right of way goes straight across, but we advise keeping to the field boundary if confrontations with farmers are to be avoided. At the far side follow the footpath as it drops down to a very attractive packhorse bridge.
Cross the bridge and turn left and then after climbing over a stone stile turn left to follow a path than will bring you to the (seldom used) railway. Passing below it bear right on the far side aiming diagonally for a hedge. At a gate cross into the adjoining field and keep ahead with a wall on your right.
This footpath will bring you onto Rimington Lane. Turn right. After 200m look for a footpath sign on your left.
Pass through a squeeze stile and follow the path as it crosses the ridge into Downham.