This walk didn’t go exactly as planned. My daughter and I wanted to walk to Darwen Tower and take in Sunnyhurst Wood on the way. The route was plotted the night before on an Ordnance Survey map and things should have gone well. What we didn’t know was that a section of our planned trail was closed due to work on the Earnsdale and Sunnyhurst Hey reservoirs.
It was an adventurous and enjoyable trip and we managed to get to the tower in the end. However, some of the footpaths we ended up taking were temporary. We did the walk in August 2015 and suspect adjustments may be necessary in the future.
We parked the car on Earnsdale Road (postcode BB3 1JA), outside the main entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood. From here we walked a couple of hundred yards to the Sunnyhurst Wood Visitor Centre where we picked up a few free walking guides and had a quick look at an art exhibition.
There was a long journey ahead with no refreshment stops so we popped next door to the Olde England Kiosk and bought ice cream. We overpaid by a pound, but the lad working behind the counter was honest enough to notice our mistake and bring it the money to our table.
After finishing our ice cream, we headed south west along a well-marked path through Sunnyhurst Wood, passing the Paddling Pool and Bandstand.
Walking further along the path we came to the Fish Pond, a wetland habitat. I spotted what I initially thought was giant hogweed. Closer inspection led me to believe it was cow parsley. I’m no botanist though, so steered well clear of it and advised my daughter to do the same.
We soon arrived at the far western entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood, near the Earnsdale Reservoir. United Utilities were carrying out maintenance work on the reservoir and the road across the embankment was completely closed.
We headed west for a couple of hundred yards, passed through a gate in the stone wall on our left, and took the public footpath south towards Ryal Fold. We soon came to a cattle field and spotted a couple of bulls amongst the herd. They didn’t look aggressive but as I was with my daughter we decided to climb over the barbed wire fence. We followed our intended route from the safety of a sheep field.
After safely avoiding the bulls we arrived at Ryal Farm. We needed to pass through the farm gate to continue our journey. However, we were a bit wary of the sound of barking dogs coming from the farmyard. It was a public right of way though, so we took an educated guess that they would be kennelled. We were proved correct.
Shortly after leaving the farm, we went through another gate and took a footpath east towards Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir.
Approaching the reservoir we realised we couldn’t continue on the route we had planned. The footpaths we had intended to use were closed due to work on the reservoir. Apparently it is no longer need for water storage. United Utilities say a small portion will be turned into a wetland area and the rest will be returned to moorland.
We winged it, took a few temporary paths, and then followed a track running along the southern edge of the reservoir. We eventually reached the main track leading to Darwen Tower, but took a well-deserved break before tackling it.
The track was steep but my daughter got a burst of energy as she approached tower, running quickly up the spiral staircase to reach the upper viewing platform. It was a fairly dull day but we could still see much of Lancashire and had great views of Darwen and Blackburn.
The route back from the tower to our car was all downhill and easy. The footpath brought us out at the Sunnyhurst pub. A pint would have been nice but it was getting late. We walked down Sunnyhurst Lane, and back to the car on Earnsdale Road.
Bulls, barking dogs, closed footpaths, and steep assents made this walk fairly difficult. For an easy walk up to Darwen Tower try our walk from Bold Venture Park or just park near the Sunnyhurst pub and take the path directly opposite.
Length: 4.2 miles
Time: 3 hours
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