Explore the countryside around Ribchester on this glorious springtime walk
Marl Wood is at Dinkley on the outskirts of Ribchester on the way to Brockhall. I remember it being called Sale Wheel Wood and as a boy, I remember being chased out of the wood by an irate farmer for camping there because at the time I think it was private land. It is far from private now, with a large car park and a popular place for families to picnic by the River Ribble. I decided to work out a circular walk that included crossing the new footbridge at Dinkley and avoid as much road walking as possible. I think I managed it.
1. Leave the car park by the main entrance and turn right and go downhill on the road to a stile, and a footpath sign a short distance on the left. Cross the stile and then, keeping the woods and fence on the left, carry on to a stile, cross this and then cross the field to a stile in the fence, cross this and bear slightly diagonally left to another stile and cross this and with a wire fence to the left and a small pond behind this carry on to a path junction.
2. The path junction is to the left and is marked by a post with three footpath signs on it. Turn right and go downhill, bearing slightly right to reach a curious step stile with a gate stile on top of it. Cross this and bear slightly left through a new tree plantation then cross a similar stile and go rather steeply downhill to reach a footbridge. After crossing this, keep straight on crossing four stiles to reach a development of terraced cottages. The footpath has been diverted to bypass the cottages so after crossing the last stile follow the diversion right then left and enter the courtyard of the cottages.
There are some impressive metal gates onto the main road that at first glance will make you feel you have taken a wrong route, to the right of the double main gate there is a side metal gate for the footpath. Go through this and enter the main road and turn right then left and cross over Ribchester Bridge and the Ribble.
Note: The terraced cottages were once a pub called The De Tabley Arms that was closed in 2007. It was popular for weddings and similar occasions but was also one of a trio of pubs people of my age and slightly younger would regularly frequent in the area, along with The Tanners Arms and The Lodestar. In the 1970s these were the go to places for a night out. Sadly they have all closed and are now all houses.
3. Immediately over the bridge turn right and follow the single track tarmac road until it reaches a farmyard. To the left is a sign saying Dewhurst Farm. Enter the farmyard and there is a sign pointing right saying ‘Bridle Path and Mountain Bikes’ pointing left and a sign saying ‘Ribble Way Footpath Only’ pointing right. Follow the sign and go downhill to the riverbank, cross a ladder stile then turn left and, with the river on the right, follow the path. Eventually the path reaches a footpath sign on a post that points left uphill and seems the most obvious route. Ignore this and keep straight on following the path by the river.
The path then turns left steeply uphill to a metal gate stile on the right, cross this and then a footbridge and keep on following the path as it goes through some woods. The path reaches a sign that says ‘No Further Access Along The River’ and guides you to go left. Go left and uphill away from the river to reach a metal gate stile. Cross this and there is a sign saying ‘Ribble Way’ pointing left and uphill. Go steeply uphill diagonally left and all of a sudden, the path disappears. There is what seems to be a path going down towards the river but don’t be tempted as it’s not a footpath. Straight ahead there is the corner of what is Coppy Scar Wood. Head for this and once there turn left and go uphill on the open pathless field.
Once at the top of the hill look diagonally left downhill and there is a metal gate with a stile to the right of this.
Note: From the top of the hill Dinkley Bridge can be seen and looks particularly impressive with Pendle Hill in the background. It replaced a footpath carrying suspension bridge that was damaged by floods a number of times, the last proved fatal and the bridge had to be replaced. It used to be fun crossing the old bridge as it used to bounce as you crossed it. This is probably remembered by the older end of Clayton Le Moors Harriers when Walt Wilkinson led a line of us runners across it and had us staggering around like Friday night drunks as the bridge bounced and swayed.
4. Cross the stile and climb uphill, bearing slightly left to a marker post and pass this then keep on to a wooden gate with a stile next to it, cross the stile and field keeping to the left of a telegraph pole to a bridleway sign by a wooden gate.
To the right of the bridleway sign is a gate stile, cross the stile then turn right down a concrete lane then almost immediately cross a gate stile on the left and follow the path downhill with a wire fence on the left and reach a wood on the left and then a footbridge.
Cross the footbridge and go straight uphill, bearing diagonally right to reach a wire fence and, keeping this on the right, follow the path to a metal gate with a stile to the left of it. Cross the stile and then keeping the wire fence on the right follow the path, crossing another stile by a metal gate and then follow the fence on the right until it turns right. At this point keep straight on to a metal gate and go through this and enter a track and follow this downhill.
5. At the bottom of the hill the track bends left towards some buildings but directly to the right is a stile, cross this and follow the path between two wire fences to Dinkley Footbridge. Once across the bridge, go down the steps to the right and, now with the river on your right, follow the path through one stile and then keep on to a gate stile that leads into Marles Wood.
Cross the stile and enter the woods then keep on the path. As the path reaches the rapids of Sale Wheel it goes left uphill and up some steps into the back of Marles Wood car park.
Note: The rapids of Sale Wheel are where the river is constricted and plunges over a series of boulders into a large pool before flowing on towards Ribchester. The name Sale Wheel is actually the pool and the name Wheel comes from the Anglo Saxon word Weal meaning whirlpool and there is a slow whirlpool in Sale Wheel pool. I met a couple on the bridge, Mr and Mrs Greenhalgh from Longridge and he told me he was a keen angler and had caught a 42in long salmon in Sale Wheel pool. He also told me there are a number of otters along this stretch of the river so keep your eyes peeled.
Start/finish: Marles Wood car park, Ribchester Road, Dinkley.
Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9km
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Mostly footpaths on open fields and tracks. It can get pretty muddy in places along the riverbank in or after wet weather but on a nice day light walking boots will be fine.
Toilets: There are public toilets in nearby Ribchester but none on the route.
Refreshment: Potters Barn, beside the main car park in the village, is truly excellent. A full English breakfast to start the walk was a great idea. I’ve had the vegetarian Tuscan Bean Stew on an earlier visit and that was excellent too. The café is open seven days a week. potters-barn.com, 01254 878431.
Map: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors.