SPRING BANK: THE SURROUNDING AREA
The Duddon Valley follows the River Duddon from just south of the precipitous Wrynose Pass towards Duddon Bridge and Broughton in Furness, passing Harter and Ulpha Fells in the west and Coniston Old Man to the east.
Wordsworth loved the Duddon Valley and wrote a sequence of 34 sonnets entirely about it. In his ‘Duddon Valley: Conclusion’, he contrasts the permanence of the ancient valley with the impermanence of man:
‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;
While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish.’
The small market town of Broughton in Furness is a mile east of Duddon Bridge, and the biggest settlement in the valley. The town is ancient in origin, as its strategic point on the Duddon make it the obvious disembarkation point for successions of Celts, Romans and Vikings. It has some older buildings, notably the 300-year-old Old King’s Head, but most are Georgian.
The church of St Mary Magdalene lies a mile to the south of Broughton, and is well worth a visit. Parts of the building are Saxon, parts Norman, with a grand eighteenth century clock tower and Victorian additions.
To the west of Duddon Bridge lies the stone circle of Swinside, described by Aubrey Burl as ‘the loveliest of all the circles’ with an aspect to compare with Castlerigg, at Keswick, and Long Meg in the Eden Valley. Swinside is signposted from the A595, with the nearest parking spot at Crag Hall, a little more than a mile from the circle. There is a rough path from here just to the south of Swinside Farm. The circle consists of 51 stones, in a perfect circle about 90 feet in diameter.
The village of Ulpha, whose Norse name means ‘Wolf’s hill’, considers itself capital of the valley. The riverside is a popular place for picnics. It has a handy village shop and post office, which sells fishing licences for the river.
The village of Seathwaite – not to be confused with the Seathwaite in Borrowdale – is a tiny place with a good, 17th century pub, the Newfield Inn. The Inn is home to the Duddon Valley Fell Races, which take place in May, and serves local beer and food. It also sells fishing licences for Seathwaite Tarn.
Seathwaite Tarn is the third largest in the Lakes, and sits at 1200 feet above sea level on the west-facing slopes of the Coniston fells.
The Duddon Valley is particularly popular with walkers, with its proximity to Coniston Old Man, Scafell Pike, Dow Crag, Harter Fell, Caw and Greyfriar.
Gentler walks can be had at the stunning Wallabarrow Woods, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which has an array of native flowers and plants. Wallabarrow Crag is an excellent spot for climbing.
The Duddon Valley is also popular with canoeists with excellent rapids and different grades of difficulty at different points of the river.