Westmorland Heritage Walk 2004

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Days 7 & 8 - Milburn to Patterdale

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Day 7 - Friday 16th July - 10.5 miles - very little ascent

Milburn to Eamont Bridge

I had a very good breakfast at 8.30. There was a family staying the night as well as myself, but they arrived late and were down later for breakfast. There was no rush for me to get started, as I had less than 12 miles of low level walking to do, including the mile or more to get me back onto the route in the village. I did wonder whether I had made the right decision this time by staying here, as my B&B was only about two miles from Dufton where I had been the night before. Last time I did this walk, I stayed for two nights at Dufton and did the walk over the fells with only a light pack. When I was planning the walk this time I thought it would be better to advance to Milburn, but then I ended up at a B&B that was nearly half way back to Dufton anyway, and didn't have a pub nearby either.

By the time I got back to Milburn along the lane it was nearly 10.00. I could have taken the road but I thought that I would have enough road walking today without adding any more. There was a very black cloud over Cross Fell and the other fells were also in cloud, but elsewhere the weather was not too bad. The two-mile road walk to Newbiggin was not very interesting, although there were views across to the Lakeland Fells in places where the weather seemed a little brighter. There followed a mile along a path to the National Trust property of Acorn Bank where I took a break in the picnic area at 11.30. Half a mile further on the route goes along the very busy A66 trunk road for about a mile on a section that is rather narrow and winds around a little. Most of the way there is no verge worth mentioning and it was just a matter of treading a very narrow path between the white line and the edge of the road whilst all the heavy traffic came rushing very close by. Needless to say, this was not a very pleasant experience, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I reached the minor road where I turned off.

It was about time for lunch so I started looking for somewhere convenient to stop. Although my route was still on minor roads, I managed to find a nice grassy clearing by a gateway and settled down for a leisurely break. The sun started shining, so I was even able to do some sunbathing and also take off my boots and socks to give my feet a well earned rest after all the hammering they had taken since the start of the walk. By last night I had covered just over half the distance of the walk in six days, with eight days left for the remainder. The mileage is rather unevenly split but at least I have short days in-between long days from now on. As my blister was now only half covered by the Compeed dressing, I decided to put on a new one. I had been very impressed by how well they stay in place despite the severe conditions that are imposed upon them. It was such a change not to be in a rush to get off that I lingered for quite a while in the beautiful sunshine and eventually set off again at 2.30 pm.

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Cross Fell, Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell from Hornby
Cross Fell
St Ninian's Church by River Eamont
St Ninian's Church

There was only five and a half miles left to walk to my B&B at Eamont Bridge, and the route at last departed from roads to make its way to the lovely little church of St. Ninian's at Ninekirks near the River Eamont. From the church there were some fine views over to Cross Fell, which was now in sunshine, then past the church there were views over the River Eamont towards the Lakeland Fells with Blencathra now prominent. Soon it was back to the A66 for another mile of road walking, but this time the road was wider and had better verges so was not so much of an ordeal, despite the Friday afternoon traffic that was very heavy. By the side of the road stands the Countess' Pillar, erected by Lady Anne Clifford in 1656 to mark the spot where she bade farewell to her mother for the very last time. Still having plenty of time to spare, I stopped for another rest by the pillar with just two miles left to walk.

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River Eamont and Blencathra from
near St Ninian's Church
River Eamont
Countess Pillar beside A66, Brougham
Countess Pillar

Before long it was time to leave the main road and head down a minor road to Brougham, with its castle overlooking the river. The rest of the way to Eamont Bridge was along a footpath by the river and I soon found my B&B very close to the bridge. After a shower, a cup of tea and a rest, I set off to find something to eat. There were a couple of pubs nearby, but I was running a bit short of cash, so I decided to walk into Penrith to find a cash machine. The town offered a good selection of pubs and I ventured into the Lowther Arms where I had a couple of pints of Directors' bitter and a very good rump of lamb with redcurrant. I decided to return to Eamont Bridge to try one of the pubs there. One pub had tables outside, so I had a pint of Young's bitter sitting in the evening sunshine. Unfortunately, the beer was rather cloudy and didn't taste very good, so I didn't stay for another pint, as they had no other real ales available. The other pub didn't seem to have any real ale at all, so I returned to my B&B and watched TV. The weather forecast was for rain in the morning but better weather later.

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Day 8 - Saturday 17th July - 10.5 miles - 2,450 ft ascent

Eamont Bridge to Patterdale via Place Fell

I started the day with another good breakfast at 8.00. The rain came as expected but was not too heavy and, as I was not in a rush to get started, I waxed my boots to give some protection against the wet grass and packed all my things very carefully in my rucksack to keep them dry. It was 9.15 as I set out into the steady rain to follow the river for a little way towards Yanwath and Tirril. After the fairly gentle day yesterday, my feet and legs had recovered a little, although it still took a little while to get them going at a normal pace. Although there was more climbing today than yesterday, it was still a short day and I could afford to take things easy to allow my legs and my blisters to recover further.

From Tirril, there was a mile or so of road walking before reaching the old Roman road of High Street which I was to follow for a couple of miles. This gave some lovely views across Ullswater, though there was cloud still hanging over the fells. I took a chance and removed my waterproofs, as the weather was looking better despite the few spots of rain that were still falling. I forgot to fill my water bottles at the B&B, but still had some left from yesterday, so I could manage until I could find a nice clear beck running down the fell side.

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Ullswater from High Street Roman Road

The walk along the lake was marvellous with an easy path running half way up the fell, giving stunning views of the high fells around the head of the lake. On my way I got caught up with a group of about twenty mountain bikers, mainly youngsters but with a few adults. The youngest one, a lad named Billy, who couldn't have been more than six or seven, was finding it a bit hard going and had reached the point where he had had enough. No amount of encouragement from his father seemed to get anywhere and promises that it would soon be downhill didn't convince him either. Consequently, the group had to keep stopping for little Billy to catch up, which meant that I would pass them. A little further along they would pass me again until they had to stop once more to wait for Billy and his father. This was repeated a few times until, at last, the route really did go downhill and Billy went by in a much happier frame of mind.

Although mountain bikers can sometimes be a nuisance, it has to be remembered that they have as much right to use bridleways as walkers. In the case of this particular group, they were all very polite and didn't ride recklessly so I had no cause to complain, and the whole thing was quite amusing.

At last I found a suitable stream from which to fill my water bottles and it was also a convenient time and place to stop for lunch. The spot was up above the Sharrow Bay Hotel, noted for its fine cuisine, though the hotel itself was hidden by trees. I sat admiring the view and watching the occasional steamer come and go across the calm waters of the lake along with sailing boats and other small craft (the boats are called steamers but are now driven by diesel engines). My highest point of the day, Place Fell was just below the cloud base, but the higher fell tops were still obscured.

The route gradually descended towards the lakeside at Howtown, then skirted round the foot of Halkin Fell to Sandwick Bay. There were quite a few people about now, which was not surprising as it was a Saturday. There were lots of lovely views around the various bays of the lake shore, but to my mind the best views are from higher up. I had another rest at Sandwick Bay before starting the ascent of Place Fell and then the sun started to shine as I made my way up the grassy slope through the bracken. It was a moderate climb, but with a good path all the way it was not too difficult. There were one or two false summits before the real one, but then I was aware of this from before, so it was no surprise. By the time I reached the summit, the sun had gone in but the far end of the lake was still bathed in sunshine and there were a few dramatic shafts of sunlight from time to time lighting up parts of the mountains and valleys. I always think that, despite its modest height, Place Fell offers some of the most magnificent mountain views of Eastern Lakeland, with a vast array of mountains in every direction except to the north. It also offers a bird's eye view of Glenridding and Patterdale.

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Ullswater from Place Fell
Place Fell
Helvellyn and Glenridding from Place Fell

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St Sunday Crag and Patterdale
from Place Fell
St Sunday Crag
Brothers Water from Place Fell
Brothers Water
Patterdale from Goldrill Beck

It soon started to get cold, so I made my way down to Patterdale and reached the youth hostel at 5.45 pm. This hostel is quite large and purpose-built, unlike most hostels, which are adapted from other types of building. There was a wide choice of evening meals with several more exotic dishes at an additional price, as is starting to happen in some hostels now. Again, like many hostels, security is becoming more of an issue, so all the dormitories were fitted with locks and everyone was issued with their own key - even the drying room had a key-code lock on the door. One chap from Hull called Malcolm, aged 67, who was sharing my dormitory, was doing the Coast to Coast walk and finding it very hard going, as he had only ever walked on the flat before. He had done a walk from the Humber Bridge to Southport, doing quite high daily mileages, and got on fine, but in the Lake District it was a different matter.

I had my evening meal of soup, haddock and treacle tart. The hostel was not very busy, as there were no large school parties in, only one small one. A while later, I went into the village for a few pints. I had a pint of Castle Eden in the one pub but it wasn't very good, so I then tried Marston's Pedigree, which was somewhat worse and only just drinkable. Hoping for better luck, I went to the next pub for a pint of Bass, but that was absolutely undrinkable and there was some horrible disco music booming out non-stop. The only redeeming feature was a very comfortable chair in which I could relax for a while until the music became too much for me and I left, leaving most of my pint untouched. The moral is, if you are looking for some good real ale, give Patterdale a miss. In fairness to Patterdale, though, I have had some good beer there on previous visits, so I must have just have been unlucky this time.

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