Downham village

Three highlights: Swanside packhorse bridge, the idyllic village of Downham, and the ruins of Sawley Abbey.

Technical sheet
No. 18458968
A Sawley (Lancashire) walk posted on 14/01/22 by Walks from the Door. Update : 14/01/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h10[?]
Distance Distance : 6.42km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 113m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 113m
Highest point Highest point : 166m
Lowest point Lowest point : 71m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Sawley (Lancashire)
Starting point Starting point : N 53.915044° / W 2.341723°
Download : -


(D/A) Walk to the rear of the Spread Eagle car park opposite the pub, and in the far left-hand corner, behind the trees, climb a concealed stile into a field. Cross the field behind Sawley Abbey, keeping well to the left of the abbey grounds.

(1) Go through a gap in a broken wall and cross the next field to a kissing gate into a farm track. Cross straight over through another gate and follow a tree-lined path alongside a small stream, which it shortly fords. Continue uphill to a kissing gate into a field.
Cross the field to another kissing gate (next to a farm gate) which leads out to the A59.

(2) Cross with care and join the farm drive opposite. The drive bends left but the path crosses a stile in the fence and continues straight ahead to a gateway, and then to a stile at the far side of the next field. Climb the stile and walk down the left-hand side of the field with views ahead of Pendle Hill.

In the far corner, climb another stile and cross the next field diagonally, still heading directly towards Pendle. A further stile leads to a steep valley side; bear left then right down to Swanside Bridge, before which is another stile. Beyond the bridge bear left and climb a stone step-stile in the wall.

(3) Walk up the side of the field with woodland on the left then bear left through a gateway and continue to a bridge under the railway. Keep following the woodland edge through a gate and out to a road (Green Lane).
Take the driveway opposite, then turn right through a kissing gate into a field with limestone outcrops.

There is no obvious path on the ground here: aim to the right of the largest, tree-covered knoll, then follow the bottom of the slope on the left, heading towards the wood at the far end of the field.

Bear left over the ridge as you approach the trees and follow the wall along the edge of the wood. Descend past a shallow, disused quarry to a kissing gate, then continue to another.

(4) Turn right and follow the lane in front of a bungalow on the right and out to the village by the church. Then turn right Pass some ancillary buildings of Downham Hall on the left, then take a permitted path on the right that cuts the corner to Rimington Lane.

(5) Turn right along the lane for 300 metres then, beyond a wood on the right, turn left through a hand-gate onto a signposted footpath. Walk down towards New Field Farm and go through a gate on the left. Pass to the left of the farm buildings and pick up a farm track that leads downhill to the railway.

(6) Beyond the railway bridge, go through the farm-gate ahead and climb to a stone barn. Go through the gate to the right of the barn and walk down the slope. A little to the right of the bottom corner, a stile gives access to a path into the wood.

Follow a narrow path down through the wood, which may be overgrown, and ford a small side-stream. Bear left with the main stream on your immediate right.

Cross another stile and follow the narrow fenced path with the stream still on your right. Continue through pastureland, keeping between fence (left) and stream (right) wherever possible, erosion permitting. As you approach the A59, you go through a kissing gate and pass a farm bridge; ignore the underbridge below the main road, instead of going through another kissing gate on the right and climbing a few steps up to the road.

(7) Cross with care and turn right along the pavement, crossing the stream and passing a farm. After 550 metres, turn left at the turning for Sawley. Follow the road through the village for half a mile, passing the abbey ruins, to return to the Spread Eagle. (D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 74m - Spread Eagle
1 : km 0.45 - alt. 84m - A59
2 : km 0.67 - alt. 104m - Pendle Hill
3 : km 1.74 - alt. 100m - Wall along the edge of the wood
4 : km 2.92 - alt. 152m - Church
5 : km 3.53 - alt. 140m - New Field Farm
6 : km 3.96 - alt. 100m - Railway bridge
7 : km 5.04 - alt. 71m - A59
D/A : km 6.42 - alt. 74m - Spread Eagle

Useful Information

Walking boots recommended. Sheep and cattle are likely to be encountered and there are several stiles to be negotiated, and some road walking at the end.

Pdf link :

Sawley, Clitheroe,
Lancashire BB7 4NH
Tel 01200 441202
Nestled within the Forest of Bowland on the banks of the River Ribble, we’re a dog-friendly coaching inn with stylish accommodation, an amazing menu and a warm Lancashire welcome.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

  • Downham is one of the prettiest villages in Lancashire, with its stone cottages running down the hill from the church to the bridge over the beck.
  • Swanside Bridge is a fine example of a packhorse bridge. Such bridges are typically narrow and lack parapets, which would have fouled on the panniers of the ponies. The Grade-II-listed bridge dates from the

17th century if not earlier, and is likely to have been built by the monks of Sawley.

  • Three medieval crosses are encountered in the vicinity of Bolton-by -Bowland. The most complete is on the village green, alongside the village stocks.
  • Pendle Hill (557 m/1,827 ft) is a peat-topped gritstone hill which is isolated from the rest of the Bowland fells by the Ribble valley. Its association with the Pendle Witch Trials makes it a popular destination for Hallowe’en walks.
  • The River Ribble rises in the Yorkshire Dales near the famous Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle–Carlisle railway, and flows through Clitheroe and Preston before entering the Irish Sea between Lytham and Southport.

Other walks in the area

distance 16.95km Vertical gain +564m Vertical drop -564m Durée 6h25 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Sawley (Lancashire) - Lancashire

Over the hill to pretty Downham and onwards to the top of the iconic Lancashire landmark.

distance 4.17km Vertical gain +42m Vertical drop -42m Durée 1h20 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Sawley (Lancashire) - Lancashire

A medieval packhorse bridge, a pretty stream, and a stroll through the village past the abbey ruins.

distance 7.5km Vertical gain +61m Vertical drop -60m Durée 2h20 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Sawley (Lancashire) - Lancashire

Explore the Ribble and its tributaries, find three medieval crosses, and visit a pretty village.

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distance 6.81km Vertical gain +110m Vertical drop -102m Durée 2h15 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Downham - Lancashire

The walk starts from St Leonard Church on Downham main Street and follows the clockwise circular route via Worsaw Hill, Chatburn and packhorse bridge.

More detailed route info :

Pendle Hill from Downham (short version)
distance 10.25km Vertical gain +462m Vertical drop -461m Durée 4h15 Average Average
Starting point Starting point in Downham - Lancashire

This Lancashire walk starts from the pretty village of Downham and provides a relatively easy ascent of Pendle Hill. In good weather the views are extensive over the Ribble Valley to the Yorkshire Dales and the Southern Lake District, across Burnley to the Southern Pennines and across Clitheroe to the Trough of Bowland. The route is fairly easy to follow although do be careful during the descent as paths shown on maps are not very accurate.

Downham Circular Walk via Worston
distance 9.49km Vertical gain +119m Vertical drop -110m Durée 3h05 Average Average
Starting point Starting point in Downham - Lancashire

The walk starts from Information Barn Downham and follows the anticlockwise circular route via Worsaw Hill, Worston and Little Mearley Hall.

More detailed route info

distance 7.76km Vertical gain +329m Vertical drop -331m Durée 3h10 Average Average
Starting point Starting point in Barley-with-Wheatley Booth - Lancashire

This Lancashire route in the Forest of Bowland starts from the attractive village of Barley Green and climbs to the summit of Pendle Hill using the direct route. The descent is easier in mist or poor visibility. With strong associations to the witches of Pendle this walk also provides superb views over parts of Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales.

distance 15.78km Vertical gain +461m Vertical drop -470m Durée 5h50 Average Average
Starting point Starting point in Bowland-with-Leagram - Lancashire

Without the optional ascent of Totridge this is a fairly long but mostly undemanding walk, apart from a moderate climb to the shoulder of Mellor Knoll. The fellside climb to Totridge is steep and the trig point is on high peat moorland (avoid in poor visibility), but the reward for the effort on a clear day is an exceptional view that includes Pendle Hill and the tops of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The stepping stones may become impassable after heavy rain.

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