Just nine or ten miles west of Skipton, where Yorkshire runs into Lancashire, is to be found a rural backwater, totally unspoilt, centred upon the ancient Forest of Pendle.
This circuit cuts a lovely swathe through the heart of this green and pleasant land with far-distant views towards the lofty heights of Ingleborough and Penyghent and with that Lancashire icon, Pendle Hill, dominating the near skyline.
Gisburn was part of the old West Riding until the boundary changes of 1974 turned it into a Red Rose acquisition. In the early Middle Ages, Gisburn was a prosperous Yorkshire manor split between two mighty Norman barons, William de Percy and Roger of Poitou. In 1224, it became the property of Sawley Abbey, four miles to the south-west, and remained so until the Dissolution in 1538.
In 1613, the estate was bought by the Listers, a family which was to make a big impact on the community over the next 300 years. The Listers lived, first, at Westby Hall, now demolished, which was situated beyond the southern fringe of the village. By 1724, they had outgrown Westby Hall and moved to a magnificent new home, Gisburne Park, on the opposite (northern) side of the village.
In 1797, when these shores were threatened by Napoleon, Thomas Lister, of Gisburne Park, raised and equipped a troop of cavalry for the defence of the realm. For this act of patriotism, he was created Baron Ribblesdale. Among his properties was the Malham Tarn Estate where he built Malham Tarn House, now a field centre, as a shooting lodge in the 1780s.
The 4th Baron Ribblesdale, who died in 1925, was the last of his line, having lost his two sons in the Boer War and the Great War. The family sold Gisburne Park in 1944 and it became a hospital. The Lister family vault is to be found in the village church.
PARKING: Enter Gisburn along the A59 from Skipton, drive through the village on the A59 to just before the livestock market at its western edge and turn right into Mill Lane and park near the old toilet block. Other spaces are available in Park Road, which is the right turn before Mill Lane.
6 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours.
Map: O/S OL41 Forest of Bowland
From Mill Lane, re-enter the A59, cross it with care and turn left along pavement for 70 yards and then turn right along A682 for Nelson. After about 100 yards, spot footpath sign on your right on lamp-post and turn right up entry drive to Gisburn Primary School and, after 20 paces, turn left (arrow) through gap to left of double metal gates.
Go slightly right to a stile and continue up right edge of field. Now go straight ahead through smallholding, passing to right of a blue-and-white container box to stile and continue in same line up left edge of field. At top of field, look back over your shoulder for a fine long shot of Ingleborough (in centre) with Penyghent to its right.
Cross a stile with Pendle Hill dominating the skyline and go slightly right down the wheat field (on our visit) in line of the arrow on stile, not in line of the stubby fingerpost. Aim for the lefthand nose of Pendle Hill. On crossing brow of field, descend into righthand corner of field with the nose of Pendle Hill behind it. Root out a stile in hedge in field corner and turn left along farm access road to arrive in A682.
Cross it and take the minor road (Coal Pit Lane) opposite (Pennine Bridleway) and follow it for about 600 yards, passing a footpath sign on your left after 400 yards and then a metal gate on your right. Continue to double metal gates on your right (open, on our visit) at the start of a tarred farm access drive. Go through the gates and immediately turn left along the grass with trees on your left, soon passing a redundant stile with two arrows.
Keep on along field edge to spot a stile in fence to your front right – cross it (beware hidden ditch just before stile) and the footbridge and then go half right (arrows) with Weets Hill on horizon. A farm (New Ing) comes into view – aim for its centre. Descend to a wall corner, bear left round it to a gate and stile and then go up slope, aiming for left side of barns.
Go along left side of barn to a gate with arrows, pass through and turn left across the field – do NOT turn sharp left along the tarred drive – to a stile which is visible to right of telegraph pole (arrow can just be seen on telegraph pole). You will cross a non-too-obvious footbridge over a hidden ditch in mid-field.
1: Cross the unusual high stile and go half left to a gate, cross Coal Pit Lane and take the gate opposite. Go half right up the field (no path) in line of footpath sign. On cresting the brow, aim for left end of a line of trees when a waymarked stile pops into view. Cross the vegetated plank bridge at the stile and continue up field in same line, aiming to the right of two trees on the skyline which form an arch.
As you near top of slope, a gate appears 50 yards right of the two trees. Gain it. On the far-distant skyline is Rylstone Fell with the Cracoe War Memorial obelisk. The open gateway has concrete gate posts and two arrows.
Pass through and, boldly, go straight ahead down field (no path) – do NOT go down right edge of field. You will pass to the left of a small, half-dead tree within a few yards. Now aim for a massive tree in mid-field a couple of hundred yards ahead. Pass to left of this huge tree and then aim for right edge of wood in distance. As you descend the big field, admire the views half left to the hills around Malham.
On gaining right edge of wood, go through waymarked gate and pass down right edge of wood, exit via kissing gate and go straight on by wall, passing a reservoir on your left. Follow wall to its end to waymarked gate, pass through and go forward 20 paces to waymarked stile with broken top slat.
Cross it and go half right across field to gain a fence and turn left along it. After about 150 yards, ignore stile on your right with yellow permissive path notice. Keep on by fence. Go over the brow and then ignore another stile on your right – press on past drinking troughs to an arrow and, here, go a quarter left down the field, passing to right of a clump of trees, and then aiming about 100 yards left of a stone bungalow with white conservatory.
On approaching wall corner to left of bungalow, spot the stile and marker post to right of a gate. Cross the stile and go ahead on to an area of cut grass and go up left edge of cut grass, past tennis courts, to a waymarked gate ahead giving access to house drive on edge of Bracewell and looking down upon the mellow stones of St Michael’s Church.
The church was built about 1100 as a private chapel of the Tempest family who lived in a medieval hall next to the church. The hall was pulled down in 1656 and a new hall was later erected on the site. The Tempests now live at Broughton Hall between Skipton and Gisburn.
2: Turn left into the B6251 Barnoldswick road and turn left along road for about 150 yards – walk single file, facing the traffic – to a sharp righthand bend and, here, take the access drive on lefthand side of road (footpath sign half hidden in trees). After about 100 yards, as access drive swings left to a farm, go straight on along the vehicle track.
This idyllic track winds its way through picturesque countryside with a lake on your right after a few hundred yards. Soon after passing the lake, cross a cattle grid and then turn right over a stile to a footbridge. Cross it and go a quarter left up the field to gain a wall and root out a narrow gap in wall which turns out to be a stile with two wooden steps.
Now carefully negotiate the fallen stones in the path and continue through wood on an obvious path which exits into a field. Go slightly left up the field (arrow just out of line), picking up a faint trod. Go over the brow to find a water trough at a field boundary line. You must find this water trough.
Just before the trough, turn left along a line between fields with wood to your left. Go past a dirt banking and a hidden spring on your left and then go straight up field to gain right edge of wood. Negotiate the gate ahead (yellow “Farmland” disc) and then continue along left edge of field.
At end of field (lone stone gate post), turn right along fence towards a farm (Wedacre). Follow the fence all the way to the farm, entering along a concrete drive. Go through gate into farmyard (silo) and go half right to a barn corner and turn left, round the barn corner, and go straight ahead with large barns to your right and an ancient white farmhouse appearing on your left.
Turn right along the farm access lane. The tarmac becomes a dirt road – press on to the next farm (Bomber), go past a silo and then turn right along the farm access drive and follow it for nearly half a mile to the A59.
Turn left along the grass verge and, when this runs out, cross to righthand side of road and continue into Gisburn on the pavement. Go straight through the village, past the church – built in 1135 and containing the family vault of the Listers - to regain Mill Lane and the finish.