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The Westmorland Way 7

By the River Kent in Kendal

By the River Kent in Kendal

Kendal to Arnside (17 miles) 

This was our longest day on the Westmorland Way, more by necessity than anything else.  Most of the day was to be flat, as for much of it we would be walking along the old Lancaster Canal.

Leaving the town behind

Leaving the town behind

It was a later start than we intended, meaning that we would be pushed for light towards the end of the day.  We wandered down to the River Kent, and despite the cold, grey morning (at least it was dry), it was a pleasant enough walk out of the town.  Just before we turned down a lane past a shoe factory, the way briefly touched  the canal, or certainly what was the canal.  It more resembled a railway track bed than an old waterway as this section had been in filled.  More about the canal later…

Looking back towards Kendal

Looking back towards Kendal

The path dropped back down to the River Kent and, once again, we were treated to a delightful riverside walk.  Even on a gloomy morning this was a pleasure to walk, leaving me dreaming of what it would be like on a balmy summers day.  The only annoyance came where the path crossed a minor road.  The gate to the fishermen’s carpark was locked.  The only access was a tiny gap between the gate and an overhanging tree, making progress with a large backpack impossible.  In the end, rather than taking the pack off and throwing it over, it was quicker just to climb the gate.

Sedgwick House

Sedgwick House

Eventually we emerged at a bridge just below the impressive Sedgewick House, where our route left the river.  There was a little climbing here, up towards the West Coast Main Line.  First we crossed the canal by way of a completely redundant bridge, a rather odd and sad sight over the in filled canal.  Soon there were fine views north, back over Kendal, complete with patches of blue sky, rainbow, and in the near distance, rain.

Climbing to cross the dry canal

Climbing to cross the dry canal

We were lucky though as the wet stuff passed us by, and gradually the sun was attempting to make an appearance at the crossing of the railway (by way of a new footbridge).

A few fields later we were back with the canal, this time for quite a distance down to Greystone, around 7 or 8 km away.  The canal here had not been filled in, and once again this was really enjoyable walking – not to mention that it was a complete contrast to anything else on the route.  We could have been forgiven for thinking that this would have been easier going, but the grassy towpath was wet, muddy and slick making things surprisingly tiring.  It was with great delight then, that a pub appeared at Crooklands, the temptation too strong to miss.

At the top - looking towards Kendal

At the top – looking towards Kendal

The rain came down for a while as we lingered a little too long in the pub before setting off again.   From here the act of 1960’s vandalism becomes all too obvious.  Not only had the northern reaches of the canal been filled in from Kendal, but here the canal had been blocked off no less than three times.  Twice by the M6 and once by the A65.  Really, would it have cost that much more to install tunnels instead of culverts?  Apparently there were strenuous objections at the time, but as with many developments from that era, the projects were pressed ahead regardless.  It is a real pity as this section of canal was quite simply one of the prettiest.  As an aside, the great hulk that is Farleton Knott was looming over us – a familiar sight and shape to anyone who has regularly travelled on the M6.

First sight of the canal - this time with water in it

First sight of the canal – this time with water in it

The M6 was crossed for the last time, by way of a road bridge diversion and soon we were in Greystone.  It was here we left the canal, returning to field walking.  The railway was recrossed, and after a muddy scramble across a ploughed field, we reached the A6 which took us into the lovely little village of Beetham (with a very inviting pub).

Farleton Knott from the canal

Farleton Knott from the canal

I must admit to giving the pub a longing look as we passed, but time was against us so it was a case of pressing on regardless.  The generally flat walk of the day gave way to a stiff climb into some quite outstanding woodland (obviously a local shoot, with many “Keep Out, Private Property” signs and Pheasant feeders around) as we worked our way to the Fairy Steps, a narrow cleft in Limestone Cliffs.  The views were outstanding from here, Arnside Knott and the town itself visible just a few km away.  The cleft itself, to quote the guidebook, is something of a “fat man’s agony”.

The Lancaster Canal

The Lancaster Canal

It’s tight.  Having a full pack on made it interesting (nothing to do with the size of my gut…honest) and eventually I spewed forth from the bottom and settled down for the entertainment as my father tried to negotiate it!  This was a special section of the walk and a marvellous spot on the route.

Church in Beetham

Church in Beetham

A couple of horrifically muddy fields later, we crossed underneath the railway taking the line into Arnside and began our ascent up the Knott.  Unfortunately the light was fading fast, and we only managed to get lost in the woodland on the slopes, missing the path to the top.

Approaching the Fairy Steps

Approaching the Fairy Steps

With head torches on we decided just to make for the hostel and call it a day, rather than blunder about on the Knott in the dark.

It wasn’t long before we reached the hostel, and settled in for the night.

The view from the Fairy Steps

The view from the Fairy Steps

Day Rating 9/10

A really fine, and different days walk, with plenty of variety and interest.  The Fairy Steps was a special place, and we were lucky to get there in good weather as the sun began to set.  It was a popular place with quite a few families up there enjoying it.  A nice way to end what had been a top quality trail.

Breathe in!

Breathe in!

We finished the trail the next morning, walking down to the pier on the waterfront on the way to the station.  It was safe to say it was freezing, a light fog out over the water with the viaduct carrying the railway over the bay shrouded in fog.

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Overall Rating 59/70 (84%)

An outstanding trail that just about has it all.  River walking, moorland, mountainous sections, waterfalls, lakes and canals just to mention a few items of interest.  It got off to a slow start, but just got better and better as the days went on.  After day one it could quite easily have taken the “easy” option of heading over the hills, but instead took a lovely low level route past Shap Abbey.  The section through the lakes was just sublime (but when has it been anything other than sublime!), with they day through to Windemere really being the highlight of the walk.  Scout Scar and the Fairly Steps were two special additions to the route.

The railway viaduct across the bay in the morning mist

The railway viaduct across the bay in the morning mist

This is up there as one of the best long distance routes I think I’ve walked (especially as it doesn’t officially exist!), and it probably deserves a little more recognition – possibly even being way marked (we did go wrong several times – not badly enough to get hopelessly lost, but occasionally way marking would really have helped).  We were lucky, for the most part with the weather, but there were some very wet moments, which does change your experience of a walk.  In fine weather this would probably have rated even higher!

Highly recommended as a LDP.

 

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The Westmorland Way 6

The bridge over Trout Beck

The bridge over Trout Beck

Troutbeck (Windemere YHA) to Kendal (15 miles) 

The fine day and crowds of the day before were left behind on what was a strange old days trail walking through to Kendal.  We had to retrace our steps from the busy hostel, back down the road to Troutbeck.  The morning was overcast, cold and grey.  Fortunately it was calm as we reached the village and regained the path, dropping down an old track to cross the Trout beck before an early stiff climb up to the road on the other side to warm us up.  We followed the road for a short distance before taking to a green track, passing by a lovely old Larch and some more fine views over Windermere.

Looking back over the village of Troutbeck

Looking back over the village of Troutbeck

The tracks here were obviously much quieter as we were heading away from the honey pot sites, although there were still one or two others out and about.  The route was now much more like the first couple of days, back to a pleasant meander through fields, skirting a number of farms, some with the typical chimney stacks that seem to be peculiar to this part of the country.

A green track and Larch

A green track and Larch

It wasn’t long before the tranquillity of the morning was broken on the approach to the main Kendal to Windermere road.  It took a few minutes to get across the road, having to wait for a suitable break in the endless flow of traffic as the rain started to fall from the unchanging grey sky.  The waterproofs came on, it was the steady persistent rain that soaks everything, and we left the road behind, passing through a very muddy community woodland.

A last look at Windermere

A last look at Windermere

The branch line into Windermere was crossed, next to what looked like an old, and rather attractive mill race.  The climb up to School Knot began, first through a housing estate, then up an old lane.  Down came the rain still, and to make matters worse the wind was picking up as well.  By the time we reached School Knot and reacquainted ourselves with the Dales Way, it was pouring, and not to put too fine a point on it – horrible.

A Typical farm

A Typical farm

The walkers cafe in the farm at Hag End seemed to have long gone, dashing our slim hopes that it may have been open for a cup of tea.  As we passed the place was in darkness, all signs that it had once been a cafe gone, and even had an angry dog inside that had a good bark at us.

We said goodbye to the Dales Way and continued down a muddy track which petered out in a large damp area.  Eventually we found the exit and continued along miserably over rough ground, which turned into a track.  It soon crossed a quiet B road, then turned into a green lane alongside what looked like a fishery.

The Mill Race

The Mill Race

At Brow Head we turned onto a narrow lane and took refuge in a convenient tractor shed next to the road as the rain came down with a vengeance for about 10 minutes.  Suddenly it stopped, and we continued on up a lane then through some fields which were now giving fine but very moody views, especially of Scout Scar in the distance.

Between showers

Between showers

This was a lovely little section as we gradually descended towards Underbarrow, the transition from moorland to pastureland a marked one.  Once again the rain came down and we were forced to take shelter in another open shed by the path.  With no sign of the weather abating we swiftly covered the kilometre or so to the local pub (the Punchbowl) – this time it was open.  Fortunately they had a stone floor as we were a tad soggy, pools of water forming under the table we were sitting at!

The high point of the day and a first glimpse of Scout Scar

The high point of the day and a first glimpse of Scout Scar

We stayed put until the rain stopped and for a while things started to clear and started our assault on Scout Scar, passing through some lovely estate grounds, including shooting butts, populated by a huge number of Pheasant.

It was a stiff climb up onto the Scar which was nothing short of spectacular.  The views were stunning in the now fading light, and the collection of stunted trees and shrubs gave it an otherworldly feel.  It was a delight to walk along the Scar, along with a surprising number of dog walkers and runners.  We soon turned off and began the walk into Kendal as darkness was falling.  Behind us, to round off the day, lightning was flashing but eerily without any thunder.

On the Scar in the fading light

On the Scar in the fading light

At least it started off like that!

As we crossed the Kendal bypass a huge flash of lightning was followed by a loud bang and accompanying hailstones.  Soon the road was like a river and we were crunching through about a half inch of hailstones on the ground and some flash flooding.

Walking along the Scar

Walking along the Scar

We couldn’t help but find the situation funny, after a quite bizarre weather day, finally reaching the hostel in Kendal completely soaked through.

Day Rating 8/10

The day was a walk of three parts.  The early part was lovely, the middle section was a little uninteresting and the finale was just superb over Scout Scar.  On a balmy summer evening this would be a special place to linger.

The (rather blurry) hail in Kendal

The (rather blurry) hail in Kendal

We spent the night at Kendal Hostel, no longer a YHA but an independent.  The building has bags of character but has certainly seen better days.  In fact, the place was a little bit of a mess.  Still, we made up for it with a few decent pints in the Wetherspoons round the corner.  Cracking day!

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The Westmorland Way 5

Leaving Grasmere

Leaving Grasmere

Grasmere to Troutbeck (Windemere YHA) (11 miles)

This was a day I was really looking forward to.  The route on the map looked great, and we were to meet an old friend, the Cumbria Way, early on in the day.

Looking back at the Langdales

Looking back at the Langdales on the way to Ambleside

We had a good breakfast in the YHA and were away at a reasonable 0830, just as the sun was breaking through what had been a permanently dull grey sky, up until this point.  We passed through the village, which looked like it was well designed to cater for the thousands of tourists that must converge in Grasmere during the silly season.

The view opening up over Grasmere

The view opening up over Grasmere

It wasn’t long before we were on a steady climb up a green lane to start our traverse over Silver How to Chapel Stile.  Itwasn’t long before the views opened up over Grasmere with panoramic views towards Loughrigg Fell.  Several attractive Yews were passed before the end of the short climb amongst a rabbit warren of paths.  From there it was a short and spectacular descent down Mags Gill, crossing a steep sided gully and scree slope on an airy path which really came too soon.

Looking back towards Fairfield from yesterday

Looking back towards Fairfield from yesterday

Although still early, we stopped for a cup of tea and a spot of cake in Chapel Stile before setting off again, revisiting the

Grasmere

Grasmere

Cumbria Way.  The last time we walked the short section through to Elterwater it had been dark and we had just walked through from Keswick – a fantastic walk in its own right.  There was no time to stop in the fine pub here (to be fair it was still far too early) so we carried on following the route of the Cumbria Way, now surrounded by many day walkers out enjoying the fine weather.  Despite this, this little section is a delight to walk and the views are outstanding, bourne out by the number of professional looking photographers set up by Elter Water all pointing at the fells around Langdale.

Grasmere

Grasmere

It didn’t take long to reach Skelwith Force where the Cumbria Way left our route, crossing the River Brathey to head up towards Tarn Hows and Coniston, while we continued along past the waterfall.  We stopped to take some photos here, although it was so busy we had to wait for the path and rocks to clear before we could get down to take a few snaps.

Panorama above Grasmere

Panorama above Grasmere

 

From there it was only a few hundred yards into the village where it was difficult to resist the lure of a pint in one of the plethora of hotels.  This is obviously a tourist honey pot, being extremely busy even in early November.

It was a steep climb out the village up a narrow country lane towards Loughrigg Tarn.  Soon we turned off the road and were treated to a

The start of the airy descent into Chapel Stile

The start of the airy descent into Chapel Stile

well defined (and worn) bridleway taking us towards Ivy Crag.  It was a steady climb here and once again the views were quickly sneaking up on us.  Ivy Crag itself was a special place where, for the first time, the expanse of water that is Lake Windemere came into view.

This was an incredibly popular route with a steady stream of walkers heading in both directions, but it is no distraction from the fine views.  It is, however, quite a long and steep descent along a lane to the insanely busy Ambleside.  We stopped at the rather good Giggling Goose for a spud (lucky to get a table) before setting out on the last leg to Troutbeck.  Our route was quieter and away from the crowds as we headed south through the town before turning up a very narrow (and steep) lane right on the edge of town.  The route heads through some delightful National Trust woodland and is once again busy, despite the time getting well on into the afternoon.  Jenkin Crag was well worth a visit and we lingered here a while just enjoying the views over Windemere.  Better was yet to come though where the path left the woodland.  Simply said, this section is just stunning, especially on a clear day with the sun just beginning to dip in the sky.

Crossing the scree

Crossing the scree

As we reached the farm at High Skelghyll the path dropped into a dip and back up the other side.  On the path, coming the other way on the other side of the dip were some walkers, all of whom had a large orange object with them.

Chapel Stile

Chapel Stile

I commented that these things looked a lot like Space Hoppers from this distance.  The reply I got was “no, don’t be silly.  It’ll just be orange rucksacks”.  To be fair, I agreed.  Why would you have space hoppers out here?

Well, it turns out they were Space Hoppers. They weren’t using them as we passed (they may have just given up), had they been, it would have been up there as one of the stranger sights I’ve seen when out walking!

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From there it wasn’t far into Troutbeck, then a walk up the road to the YHA at High Cross Castle.

Above Skelwith Force

Above Skelwith Force

Day Rating 10/10

Skelwith Force

Skelwith Force

A quite sublime days walking.  One of the best individual sections of trail I think I have walked.  There are quite exceptional views all along the route, understandable then that much of the days route was very busy.

On the way to Ambleside

On the way to Ambleside

Brilliant!

Below Ivy Crag

Below Ivy Crag

Early view over Windermere

Early view over Windermere

Windermere

Windermere

 

 

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The Westmorland Way 4

Patterdale to Grasmere (9 miles)

The view from the the Shepherds Crook Bunk House

The view from the the Shepherds Crook Bunk House

This day was to cross the highest point on the route, just above Grisedale Tarn and just below Helvellyn.  Also it follows the route of the Coast to Coast into Grasmere, one of several long distance routes the Westmorland Way meets over its length.

We left the bunkhouse after a fine breakfast provided by the owner,  into an overcast and cool day, for the short walk into Patterdale.  It was a quick climb out of Patterdale with some super final views back over Ullswater, before the route  dropped down to a lane which would take us into Grisedale itself.

About to walk back into Patterdale

About to walk back into Patterdale

At the end of the lane the route turned right and crossed the dale, rising to a wall where four paths met.  One of these rose steadily, heading for Striding Edge – not today.  It was blowing a gale at the bottom of Grisedale, the ridge would be a tad blowy!

A last look at Ullswater

A last look at Ullswater

Our route followed the wall maintaining the contour line for a while before starting a steady climb towards the head of the Dale.  Ahead was a fine view of Striding Edge and behind there were sublime views back down Grisedale towards Patterdale.

Near the bottom of Grisedale

Near the bottom of Grisedale

The various routes up Grisedale joined up just as the ground started to rise steeply; a breathless climb up past the climbing hut before a bit of a scramble up over the saddle to Grisedale Tarn where the wind nearly blew us off our feet (nothing to do with last nights meal, I might add).

Looking up Grisedale

Looking up Grisedale

It wasn’t far to the highpoint, a saddle between Dollywagon Pike & Fairfield.  There were quite a few walkers out there wandering along some of the surrounding ridges, especially Fairfield.

Striding Edge looming closer

Striding Edge looming closer

The descent by the side of Little Tongue Gill was well trodden and hard on the feet.  Initially there were fine views towards Grasmere, which were swiftly hidden as we dropped into the rather narrow dale.  This part certainly wasn’t as spectacular as Grisedale, although a fast running waterfall was an impressive feature.

Looking back towards Patterdale

Looking back towards Patterdale

It was with some relief that we eventually reached the road, and for a change it was nice to be walking on tarmac for a while, a lovely mile or so to the YHA in Grasmere.

It was a bit windy up here

It was a bit windy up here

Day Rating 9/10

Although our shortest day it turned out surprisingly hard, the last 50m of climbing up to Grisedale Tarn was hard work with a full pack in the strong wind.  That being said, it was a spectacular and moody day.  Grisedale was delectable.

Grisedale Tarn

Grisedale Tarn

The descent was a little disappointing, but can’t complain too much as, even as short a day as it was, the ascent more than made up for it.  The YHA was superb (as usual) and saved us from a journey into the town to find a pub.  Another excellent, and importantly, completely different day.

On the descent

On the descent

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The Westmorland Way 3

Pooley Bridge to Patterdale (12 miles)

 

Leaving Pooley Bridge

Leaving Pooley Bridge

The B&B provided us with another fine breakfast which we devoured while watching the local bird population from the comfort of their conservatory.  Blue, Coal and Great Tits, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, the ubiquitous Sparrow and a lone Nuthatch all visited the feeder as we ate.

The view from High Street

The view from High Street over Ullswater

Setting off it was simply a case of walking out the front door and we were on the path, heading out of Pooley Bridge and up onto the hills above Ullswater.  As we climbed the views quickly opened out over a moody and stunning lakeside views.   Eventually the road ended, turning into a clear track.  Here a couple of cars were waiting with two guys, a lot of tents and trangia stoves.  Spot the Duke of Edinburgh award checkpoint!

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The two blokes weren’t very talkative so we swiftly pressed on up the hill on the wide bridleway to a crossing of tracks at a roman road, High Street.  On the way up to this point a couple of groups of walkers were visible wandering aimlessly across the moor.  First was a group of around 7 lads who quickly sped off in the direction of Penrith and they were soon followed by a group of lassies, also wandering about like lost sheep.  Of course they were DoE, and it turns out they had missed their turning and had supposed to have reached this point via Pooley Bridge.  Hence the two chaps waiting at the end of the road.  I hope they didn’t get in too much trouble for missing their checkpoint.

Starting the descent into Howtown

Starting the descent into Howtown

We followed the roman road for a short distance to a stone circle named the cockpit then turned right to head back towards Ullswater along a quite lovely path high above the lake with a long and gradual descent into Howtown.  The views are consistently superb and when we reach Howtown, we take a short diversion to the public bar in the hotel.  It is a tad bijou, but served up a fine pint of beer.

Ullswater

Ullswater

It’s a stiff climb out of Howtown, but the effort is well rewarded with stunning views back over Ullswater.  Soon the route passed St Peters church, a superb but rather remote location, before crossing the road and shortly after giving us a  stunning view up Martindale.

Looking back over Ullswater above Howtown

Looking back over Ullswater above Howtown

Above Sandwick the path took to a busy bridleway, with many day walkers out for a ramble.  It was rough and undulating, surprisingly a much harder walk compared to what had gone before earlier in the day.  The Views were limited through the heavily wooded banks of Ullswater and after a short rest at precisely 2 o’clock, the heavens opened with a vengeance as the wind and rain moved in.

St Peters

St Peters

The rest of the day was a soggy slog into Patterdale.  Our destination wasn’t the YHA, apparently completely booked up, but a superb little bunkhouse, the Shepherds Crook bunkhouse around 1/4 mile further down the road from the YHA.

Looking up Martindale

Looking up Martindale

We got in, got dry and sorted out the wet gear onto the radiators while the tempest continued outside (the water was even managing to find a way in through the front door).  At 7 o’clock I stuck my head out the door, contemplating a rather wet walk to the pub, to be met with the stunning sight of a clear sky.  The wind had dropped leaving it calm and serene as we made our way back into Patterdale.

Martindale

Martindale

Day Rating 8/10

Just before the heavens open

Just before the heavens open

A cracking day following the banks of Ullswater.  A total contrast to the previous two days and there was a real sense that the path was moving into something special.  The tiny bar at Howtown was a lovely little distraction.  The Lakes have always been spectacular.  The short middle section was stunning past St Peters church and although the final section into Patterdale turned into a bit of a slog it was still a very pleasant, if busy (and wet) part of the walk.  An enjoyable day, just spoiled a bit by the rain in the last couple of miles.

Entering Patterdale in the rain

Entering Patterdale in the rain

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The Westmorland Way 2 – Shap to Pooley Bridge (14 miles)

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A shorter day, meaning a bit of a later start after a comfortable night at the Hermitage.  Special mention to the two young girls who served us superbly (being kept busy by their nan during the school holiday).  It was quite possibly one of the best cooked breakfasts I have ever experienced!  Fortunately, as we had walked the length of Shap the previous evening, we were right on the path and on our way pretty quickly.

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The Boggleby Stone

The route to Pooley Bridge, rather than being direct over the fells, was a little more circuitous and low level.  We left Shap by way of the wonderfully named Boggleby Stone, a large standing stone overwhelmed by the large population of  sheep.  The sun, which had shone as we left the B&B a few minutes earlier, gave way to a bitter wind and hail.  It was going to be that kind of day.

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The route took us across several fields and some rather precarious stone stiles, many of which were a little vertigo inducing.  There is nothing quite like balancing on top of a stone wall with very little in the way of support.  Allied to this were several rather tight pinch stiles (nothing to do with my gut, it was all the backpacks fault), which made the first mile or so to Keld slow progress.

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Keld

The way then turned north, taking a delightful path high above the river lowther, part of the “Millers Way” apparently.  The views west, while not what I would call beautiful, were moody, brooding and utterly atmospheric.  The ruins of Shap Abbey were passed, and although we were high above the river at this point, the path was akin to a quagmire.  Sun and rain alternated frequently and we were treated to rainbows a plenty as we passed through Rosgill on the way to Bampton Grange, a pretty little village with a huge (open) pub, and rather nice church.

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The way crossed the river in the village then took to the opposite bank before recrossing via a rather impressive, and bouncy, suspension bridge to emerge at Knipe – nothing more than a finger post and a telephone box which had lost its telephone and now doubled as a kind of local information “centre”.  More of a notice board really.

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Shap Abbey

An uphill stretch on road followed, before cutting off to the wonderfully named village of Whale just before we entered the grounds of Lowther Castle.  From here it wasn’t far to the pretty, but surprisingly busy village of Askham where we stopped in the superb Punchbowl Inn for lunch.

A long stretch on road followed with good views back towards the ruined Lowther Castle, and despite it being a country lane, it seemed to be a of a rat run for the locals, with a bit more traffic than you would expect!  At Celleron however the way left the road and began to drop down to Barton.  The church here, St Michael’s, can be traced back to the 12th Century and, to quote the visit Cumbria website, it “occupies a site on a mound with a circular churchyard that may have prehistoric origin.”  Whatever its origin, it is, like so many churches in the uk, a fascinating and interesting building.

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Approaching Bampton Grange

The church here forms the pivot from which the Westmorland Way swings from its northerly course to the south along a seemingly well used bridleway.  It not long before we were walking alongside the River Eamont,  which was flowing not so gently into Ullswater, evidence of recent flooding apparent on the riverbank.

Whale

Whale

From there it was a short hop into Pooley Bridge and our B&B, Elm house, right on the path (and more importantly close to the pub).

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Day Rating 8/10

Lowther Castle

Lowther Castle

A really enjoyable days walking especially early on in the day.  Some lovely river sections and a really interesting route with very few people out and about, apart from the village of Askham.  We were lucky with the weather as well and, despite the odd squally shower, it stayed dry (if a little cool) all day.

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The Westmorland Way, October 2013

 

 

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My autumn walk was to be a week-long trip, the last week in October.  The idea was to do something relatively close to home, mainly to reduce travel time.  A search of the LDWA path database came up with the intriguing Westmorland Way.  The route was a mere 95 miles, running from Appleby in Westmorland to Arnside on the Southern side of Morecambe Bay.  The only sticking point was that it is an unwaymarked route, although a cracking little guidebook (by Paul Hannon) has been around for about 30 years.

Not a recent addition to the long walks list!

Cue a couple of evenings with the lakes map, the guidebook and a pink highlighter, making sure that, at least on the maps, we would have a good idea of where we were supposed to be going.  The route meets with a few other long distance routes, including the Coast 2 Coast (twice), the Cumbria Way, Dales Way and the short Limestone Link, way down near Arnside.  Much to look forward to then!

All set to go the weather forecast for the week ahead was mixed, but like it or lump it we were committed to the walk. Travelling down to Carlisle on the Sunday, we left the car at a friends then got the train to Appleby, an enjoyable short journey along the Settle – Carlisle line.

We stopped overnight in Appleby (can highly recommend the Golden Ball for real ale) and had a few pints of Jennings finest and a curry to prepare for the 17 mile first day.

Appleby to Shap (17 Miles)

Appleby

Appleby

It was a short walk down to the Boroughgate, the starting place for the day in the centre of Appleby.  The town is quite lovely here and is a typical English market town, though not very large, but very pretty indeed.  Down came the rain, a heavy squally shower, and on went the waterproofs.  The day wasn’t looking very promising!  Hunkering down, we climbed the Boroughgate, passed the castle gates (there’s no view from the road) then followed the wall that enclosed the castle grounds to the rather saturated river Eden.

The river Eden

The river Eden

On another day this would have been a charming introduction to the walk as we turned to follow a footpath along the river bank.  Unsurprisingly, with the weather that we had had the previous few days, the path was not only muddy, it was under water in places and required a bit of wading here and there.  Thank god for a decent pair of gaiters!

The path meandered with the river, in and out of woodland with spectacular autumnal colours. The rain had subsided to a mere drizzle and we settled in to enjoy the walk to the village of Great Ormside, along with its very unusul tree.  Close to the Norman Church is an old sycamore with a stone base built around it.  Part of a former market cross apparently.  There was also an unusual waymarker, one of several that would appear en-route to Pooley Bridge.  This was a post with an attractive ceramic picture on it, this one of (I’m assuming) a pair of Griffins.

Sycamore at Great Ormside

Sycamore at Great Ormside

A bit of a road walk followed, interrupted by a short hop across some fields with a fine (and very moody) view North.  We were soon standing at the charming Rutter Force, today in full flow.  The path crosses by way of a long footbridge, but the road crosses via a wide ford.  It wasn’t a day for trying to cross in a car!

Rutter Force

Rutter Force

The path here turned to walk along the river side and another long distance path, the Dales Highway.  It was here we managed to make a mistake, missing the correct turning and continuing on to cross the river at completely the wrong point.  Fortunately the mistake was discovered before we went too awry, and despite an unintentional but rather attractive bypass of Great Asby (it probably saved us getting stuck in the pub), we were soon back on route and climbing steadily onto some wild looking moorland, where a group of shaggy looking horses tried to mug our backpacks.

A grassy diversion

A grassy diversion

From there it was a short walk to Gaythore Hall, a very atmospheric 16th Century manor house occuping a seemingly very lonely aspect.  Our route through the grounds was blocked by a pen of young cattle, (on a public bridleway no less) and it took us some time to find a route around them to reach the farm lane just a few metres away.  This was now a bit of a slog up onto Bank Moor, all on tarmac, although once on the B road over the moor the road was open and we could walk on the verge.  This was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, and quite literally the high point.  There were superb views North and South here over a bleak and leaden landscape.

P1020740

The road was left behind and a lovely open and grassy byway was followed down into the attractive village of Ravensworth where we stopped for a sandwich break in a very comfortable wooden bus shelter opposite the village hall.

Bank Moor

Bank Moor

Therw was still around four miles of walking to go before reaching Shap, so we didn’t linger long, making our way out of the village towards a large farm at Haber complete with bad tempered collie.  He was cahined up right on the path and wasn’t in the least bit pleased that two walkers were passing so close (the stile was only 3 metres from where the dog was chained).  A bit naughty from the farmer here I think.  As the light began to fade we passed the huge quarry at Hardendale and crossed the busy M6 by way of a large footbridge.  It was dark by the time we reached Shap which must be one of the longest villages in the country.  Just our luck then that the accomodation for the night was a B&B at the other end of the main street.  It took 20 minutes from one end to the other!

Gaythorne Hall

Gaythorne Hall

The Hermitage was a fantastic old farmhouse dating back to the 15th Century.  Fantastic.

Day Rating 7/10

A mixed day, not really helped by the weather.  Some lovely little sections on this, the river walk from Appleby, Rutter Force and the view on Bank Moor being the highlights which stop the score from dropping to a 6.  Much of the rest wasn’t bad, but not particularly memorable.  On a fine day it could be a much more enjoyable walk, as it was I don’t think I have ever been so glad to see the M6!

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

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