Duddon Valley (Dunnerdale)

(See also Seathwaite , Ulpha , Seathwaite Tarn , Stickle Tarn)

Duddon Valley scene by Barbara BallardThe Duddon Valley begins west of the Three Shires stone on Wrynose pass where the river heads south from Pike O'Blisco. In the west are Harter fell and the Ulpha fells; eastward are Dow crag and Coniston Old Man.

Herdwick sheep roam the fells, and highland cattle graze near Cockley Beck. Red squirrel, buzzards, and peregrine falcon feel at home. Hayfields dot the valley bottom. Look for wild flowers in the spring and summer: violets, primroses, bluebells, and wood anemones.

Duddon Valley scene by Barbara BallardEven in the heavy tourist traffic of today's world, following the twisting narrow road through the valley, often closed in with trees or stone walls, is almost a solo adventure. The road offers views of the fells and the woodlands and is open at its northern end. Along the riverbank are walks and paths through the forest. A car park for walkers is found near Hinning House. It is here the valley narrows.

Continuing down the valley from the north, Seathwaite Tarn and Stickle Tarn (reached by a hike up) lie to the east as does the reservoir of Levers Water.

The first village along the road is Seathwaite (not to be confused with Seathwaite south of Keswick) on the old Walna Scar road. Walkers follow the Walna Scar to Coniston. Another walking route leads from Seathwaite to Grassguards and onward to Eskdale.

Duddon Valley scene by Barbara BallardThe 16th century Newfield Inn at Seathwaite provides a welcoming refreshment stop. The chapel, restored in Victorian times, was where the parson known as the ‘Wonderful Walker’ preached. He lived here from 1736 until 1802 and worked on the area farms, brewed and sold beer, spun wool, and taught classes until he died aged 92.

Having left the road for a short distance, the Duddon River follows it again below Seathwaite. Just past Seathwaite is Hall Dunnerdale. Here a road branches off to Broughton Mills, but stay on the road to Ulpha to follow the river valley. Views of the volcanic fells are a mile to the south of Seathwaite.

Duddon Valley scene by Barbara BallardUlpha (the name comes from the Norse) is the “capital” of the valley. Here is a combination post office and village store and St John the Baptist Church. The church was restored in the 19th century but retains some 18th century wall paintings. At Ulpha the road splits once again, the valley one heading to Duddon Bridge, the other taking a turn through Loganbeck and Beckfoot (a very narrow and twisting road). Another road leads back north to Eskdale. The road through Loganbeck is the site of a forge dating from 1736, which closed in 1867.

Duddon Valley scene by Barbara BallardThe river continues to the salt marshes at Duddon bridge and Haverigg, north-west of Morecambe Bay, before emptying into the sea. Sandscale Haws nature reserve is located at the mouth of the estuary. Here are intertidal sand and mud flats and saltmarsh providing a winter home to water birds.

The River Duddon and its valley were a special favourite of Wordsworth and he wrote about it in a series of 35 sonnets, The River Duddon, a Series of Sonnets. His first sonnet ends:

“Pure flow the verse, pure, vigorous, free, and bright, For Duddon, long-loved Duddon, is my theme...”

Sonnet 32 begins:

“Majestic Duddon over smooth flat sands Gliding in silence with unfettered sweep!...”

Location: The Duddon Valley begins on the road between Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass at Cockley Beck and leads south to Duddon Bridge at the A595 in south Lakeland.

Walks in the general area:

Ulpha Fell and Devoke Water
Ulpha and River Duddon: valley bottom paths
Dunnerdale Fells: accessed from Ulpha and Broughton Mills
Harter Fells
Seathwaite Tarn
Scafell Pike
The Old Man of Coniston
Dow Crag

Photos by Barbara Ballard

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