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Walk: Around Sunnyhurst Woods, Darwen
As the winter days shorten it makes more sense to enjoy local walks like this one.
From the car park, turn right along an obvious and substantial track leading to Waterman’s Cottage, which was built in 1897. Be sure to bear sharp left and ascend the track. Earnsdale Reservoir is visible down to the right.
Approach Higher Wenshead Farm and continue straight ahead keeping the farm on the left. Pass through a stone gate, continue ahead and cross a stile to the next farm gate. When the farm track bears right, take the first of two stiles.
Bear left and climb the steps up the moorland towards Darwen Tower. A footpath is signed to this but is not part of this present walk.
The tower was built in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond Jubilee. At the top of a flight of steps turn right and look out for Owd Aggie’s, which is now just a ruined cottage.
The name refers to a former owner who in 1860 was murdered by thieves.
There is a legend that the area was once called Stepback because Cromwell was on the march with his troops during a heavy storm and the area became flooded.
It is said to have “Step back I will go no further”. The red grouse, which is common in this area, has a call which sounds like “step bank” seems to me to be a much more accurate description.
Turn left near a bench which overlooks a bench called Stepback Clough. Pass over a stile and turn left where there is a stone waymarker. Here there are really fine views away to the right to Ryal Fold. Continue along the track and look out for Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir on the left.
This came on stream in 1875 as Darwen’s cotton mills demanded more and more water.
At the next junction carry straight on and the track then sweeps to the right. There is an alternative route which leads down to Darwen town centre.
The present route follows a path downhill with a wall and a substantial banking to the left. Do not pass through a kissing gate but keep this on your right.
Look left as the path descends close to the water treatment works associated with the Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir.
Pass through a metal kissing gate where the path forks left and descends to the old Sunnyhurst Hotel.
Turn right here and then left into Sunnyhurst Lane. Descend and then turn left along Earnsdale Avenue which leads into Earnsdale Road.
Continue along Earnsdale Road and turn left down an obvious lane leading down to the Information Centre and the Old England kiosk. This was built in 1912 to commemorate the coronation of King George V and the cafe has been popular.
From the kiosk keep the stream on the right, pass a number of artificial waterfalls, little bridges and a small lake. Pass the site of the gazebo and follow the steep path leading to the lych gate and the car park.