This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

Monday was an absolutely gorgeous day …which was fortunate, because I’d agreed with one of the new Wordsworth Trust trainees that we’d spend a big chunk of it in the valley and, as this was to be her first time in the Duddon, that of course meant the Wrynose!

Look at it!

Sort of a source

I wanted to try making some audio recordings at various points along the river, so after a look at the Three Shires Stones we walked along the bridleway for a short time and then peeled off to follow a promising looking stream.

Sort of a source

Above: looking downstream.

Sort of a source

And this little gully is what we found! It seemed to represent the source well enough (even though it almost certainly wasn’t) so I set up my recorder in what I hoped would be in the lee of the wind, pressed record and hoped for the best. It’ll be a while before I get a chance to listen to the audio on half decent speakers and get a feel for how bad the noise from the wind is, but this will be a useful test.

Sort of a source Sort of a source

Wrynose Bottom

I’d like to explore that knobbly fell more – maybe following the bridleway further or having a more determined effort at following one of the streams up to its source.

Wrynose Bottom

Wrynose Bottom

Meanwhile, we had to continue our journey along the valley.

There was time enough for another audio recording a little further down Wrynose Bottom, again needing me to be resourceful (or perhaps foolhardy) with trying to place the recorder in a sheltered spot where it would pick up the sound of the water.


not in fact Dale Head steps

not in fact Dale Head steps not in fact Dale Head steps

Or next stop was the stepping stones at Dale Head.

At least that’s where I thought we had stopped: it wasn’t until we were back home and I was able to compare map with our GPS track that I realised we were at the next steps down.

Above Birks bridge Above Birks bridge

Birks bridge

Anyway, that explains why, when we parked at the Birks Bridge car park and walked up alongside the river, we couldn’t then find the next set of stepping stones – we’d already been to them!

I tried another audio recording whilst stood in the river, but I suspected the wind noise would be too much, so we made our way back to the car and I tried again downwind of the bridge.

Next on the itinerary was the ruins of the Iron Furnace near Duddon Bridge. Unfortunately there has been some collapsing recently, so there is no public access to the site and we had to content ourselves with photos from the footpath. Fortunately a decent zoom on my camera meant that I could later read what the information panel says! All but the very bottom lines, anyway!


Duddon Iron Furnace

Duddon Iron Furnace

I’d have loved to have had a closer look at the buildings but, having seen where one of the doorway lintels was starting to disintegrate, I think closing the site was the only choice. Oh well.

As well as the photo of the information panel linked to above, there’s also an interesting description on the Historic England website.

I’m still trying to comprehend how much wood was needed to produce the charcoal to feed the furnace. I’m really curious about what the charcoal kilns would have looked like and how that area must have smelt: burning wood and burning metal. The two seem to come together in the name Furnace Wood.

cakes and local history

Our final stop for the day was at The Square Café in Broughton-in-Furness. Here we met with the group of participants that Chris (Lancaster University) and Jeff (Wordsworth Trust) had been working with using some photos of the river as a starting point.

We didn’t talk so much about the photos in the end, but there was some fascinating conversation about how people had arrived at the Duddon Valley, what their connections were to the landscape and what life was and had been like there. More on that later after I’ve had a chance to digest it a bit more, I expect.

cakes and local history cakes and local history

cakes and local history

The conversation also seeded some ideas for how to move forward with the project, so I’m also trying to process those and try and give them a bit more shape.