THE River Calder’s last port of call before it joins the River Ribble is the ancient village of Whalley. Whilst Whalley and its ruined abbey sit on the north bank of the river, the bridges crossing to the south bank lead into the neighbouring parish of Billington and Langho.

This walk links the roadside war memorials of these settlements and visits the 16th Century church of St Leonards in Old Langho. There are war graves in the churchyard and Alfred Wainwright sketched the church for his ‘Ribble Sketchbook’. The church itself can be visited at certain weekend times but is now redundant, the ‘new’ St Leonards Church was built a mile further north when a new Langho village developed around the 19th century train station. This walk is a pleasant exploration of the rural landscape where the steep flanks of Whalley Nab give way to the flat pastures of the Ribble Valley.

Facing the abbey entrance turn right and follow the lane leading to the gatehouse. At the lane crossroads beyond the railway viaduct turn left and follow the enclosed path running parallel to the arches on the left. The path crosses the River Calder at Old Sol’s Bridge and you are now in the parish of Billington and Langho. At the end of the fenced path cross the road and continue almost straight ahead keeping the terraced houses on the right. Go through a gateway to new houses and look out on the right for a kissing gate. Go through this and turn left along a field edge keeping the hedge on the immediate left. Pass through another gate/stile to join a track (Neddy Lane) past houses. Turn left at the end of this to reach the Whalley-Billington road.

Turn left and cross this road, turning first right up Calder Avenue. As the estate road bends left go straight ahead up the left of two alleyways. This leads to a level crossing over the Blackburn-Clitheroe railway. Cross this with care and follow a field edge with a hedge on the left uphill to a gate at the top end to reach Whalley Old Road. Turn right and follow this for about ½ mile. Ignore several paths signed on the right until a signed path on the left is passed. Then turn right downhill next to a house to join a tarmac driveway. This runs steeply downhill, bends sharp right after a cattle grid, passes between houses and goes through a gate. Continue straight ahead and the driveway crosses the railway again and reaches the main road opposite the Billington war memorial.

Cross to the war memorial and turn left from this following the pavement of the main road. Immediately after passing the houses on the right at Higher Elker join a path on the right which begins at a little gate. The path crosses a boggy stream and keeps the houses on the right. The track bends left, crosses a tricky wall stile at a gate and passes a stone memorial inscribed with a Philip Larkin poem. After this the field path bears left downhill to a stile by a stream crossing and trees. Cross this and go straight ahead uphill to cross another stile and meet a lane next to the village hall behind the new St. Leonard’s Church. Turn left to rejoin the main road. Turn right pass the Petre Arms and cross over to pick up the cycleway on the left that leads into Langho. This rejoins the main road before the railway bridge.

Do not go under the bridge but cross the main road with care and just before the bridge turn right down a lane that leads to the busy A59 bypass. Use the traffic island to cross this with great care and continue on the opposite side down Northcote Road which starts next to Northcotes restaurant. The pavement of this road is now followed for the next mile all the way to the t-junction at Old Langho. At the junction turn left and cross over to reach the old St Leonard’s Church. After a wander around the church yard retrace your steps to Northcote Road. Follow it back in the direction you have just come but only as far as the first signed footpath on the left hand side, reached after crossing a bridge over a brook.

Cross the stile and go straight ahead across a field. It crosses a farm track and continues straight ahead dropping to a footbridge over a brook. Cross this and walk uphill to cross another stile and enter a large field. Walk straight across this heading for the farm at Lower Elker. Follow the track straight ahead between the farm buildings. The track bends right around the farm and then leads straight ahead. The official path then runs across the low hill to the right of the farm track, leading straight ahead to the access gate/stile on Elker Lane.

Turn right along the lane and after crossing the bypass pick up the path on the left that runs through woodland at the side of the A59. Turn right down steps and cross a footbridge. Cross the field to a gate at the far end and then bear slightly left through the next field to join a track to the left of the farm buildings.

Keep left of the farm and the track leads back to the main road and the track on the left walked earlier. Turn left and retrace your steps back to Whalley via Old Sol’s Bridge and the abbey gatehouse. Pass the abbey entrance and the parish church to reach the main village street.

Turn left along this to view the village war memorial by the mini-roundabout at the corner of Mitton Road.