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 8 - Days 13 & 14 - Staveley to Arnside and Afterthoughts

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Day 13 - Thursday 22nd July - 13.4 miles - 875 ft of ascent

Staveley to Brigsteer via Kendal Fell and Scout Scar

I had a very good breakfast at 8.15 and was off by 9.15, not bothering about a packed lunch, as I would be able to get something in Kendal, which I would be passing through around lunch time. The next part of my route was along the Dales way to Burneside, where I could rejoin the proper route after my accommodation detour. It was fairly quiet as I returned through the village of Staveley, which used to be on the very busy Kendal to Windermere road until a bypass was built and it became much more peaceful, though there is still quite a bit of commercial activity around there. The Dales Way runs just to the south of Staveley, and I picked it up at Sandyhill, strolling steadily along beside the River Kent, glad of an easy walk today after a rather strenuous but very enjoyable walk yesterday.

To start with the landscape is very typical of the Lake District with craggy fells, but these were quickly left behind and replaced by more gentle, rolling hills. The weather was mainly overcast but with some periods of sunshine, making quite good walking conditions. At Burneside I rejoined my route towards Kendal, still following the River Kent, whilst the Dales Way headed off to the east. The route follows the river as much as possible on the way to Kendal, passing through a golf course and past a few factories on the way. Though not the best part of the walk for scenery, it was compensated for by a proliferation of wild flowers and some pleasant stretches of the river. Where the path enters the town itself, an effort has been made in recent years to improve the riverside area and make it more attractive.

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River Kent at Kentrigg, near Kendal
River Kent
Remains of Manor Hall at Kendal Castle
Kendal Castle

Kendal Castle stands on Castle Hill, overlooking the town centre, and the route makes its way up there, before dropping back down to the southern end of town. The castle is in considerable ruins, but enough remains to give a feeling of what it must have been like six centuries ago. At the moment, it was in danger of being destroyed even more by a bunch of extremely noisy and boisterous youngsters, who managed to destroy the peace and tranquillity that would otherwise have prevailed.

My next objective was to find a pub in town for a pint and a bar meal. I try to be very careful about having a drink in the middle of a day's walk, as it can have the effect of making any exertion seem a mammoth effort, so I only have a drink if I know that the rest of the walk is relatively easy. Of course, there are many days on a walk when the opportunity never presents itself, and this was the first time on this walk that I had had a lunchtime pint. The New Inn alongside the main street had tables outside, so I called there for a pint of Guinness, as there was no real ale available, and had the day's special of moussaka at 4.20, which was very good. At 2 pm, I set off to go up the steps by the Brewery Arts Centre, but these were cordoned off by workmen, so I had to wander around until I could find a side road with an alternative route up to the war memorial on the site of the old castle. From there it took me a while to find the right way to Serpentine Woods and, once in there, I was confronted with a whole network of paths. When I emerged from the woods I soon found that I was at the bottom edge of Kendal Fell Golf Course rather than higher up the fell. A walk over a number of greens and fairways, keeping a keen watch for flying objects, led me to the path that I wanted and this soon took me off the golf course, heading for a bridge over the Kendal bypass.

It was now nearly an hour since I left the pub and I had only progressed about a mile along the route. This didn't worry me unduly, as I had plenty of time in hand, but on a longer day's walk it would have knocked my schedule back quite a bit. The views from Kendal Fell were good, with a panorama of distant fells and mountains visible through the haze, and Kendal itself down below. A gentle incline led me up to Hallhead Nab with its large cairn, then the route almost doubled back on itself to follow the edge of Cunswick Scar, a limestone escarpment largely covered by trees below but still affording wide views along the ridge. Unfortunately, the weather had deteriorated somewhat and the distant views were not very clear. I stopped for a short rest by a junction in the path and watched as a farmer drove a tractor round in apparently random loops and circles, spraying as he went along. At first I couldn't make out what he spraying, but eventually worked out that it was the thistles that were growing here and there about the hillside.

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Looking South along Scout Scar with Arnside Knott and Morecambe Bay in distance
Scout Scar South
Looking North along Scout Scar. 'The Mushroom' viewpoint indicator is just visible.
Scout Scar North

The signposted footpath to Scout Scar Car Park didn't seem to match up with my guidebook and it was even more confusing when I found that there were two car parks, but I soon found my way along the wide path up to Scout Scar though, as my guidebook points out, it is actually Underbarrow Scar for the first part of its length. This is a much deeper scar than Cunswick Scar, with a substantial drop to the trees below and, at its highest point of 770 ft, it provides a very good panorama of the landscape. There is a shelter called 'The Mushroom', which has recently been restored, and this displays the names of all the distant landmarks around the rim of its dome shaped roof. Unfortunately, the visibility had deteriorated to such an extent that many of the distant fells could not be seen. The scar runs for about two miles, with good views all the way, before the route drops down to Brigsteer, my destination for the night. Just as I was about to start my descent, the rain started, making me stop to put on my waterproofs for the last mile. The last port of call was a visit to the remote little church of St John's, though in the steadily worsening rain, I was tempted to bypass this by taking a shortcut down the hillside. However, I continued on, but did not spend any time looking around the church, hastening down the path to Brigsteer instead. Quite close to where the footpath entered the village, I soon found my B&B where I could take shelter from the rain.

After a shower and a rest, I set off to find The Wheatsheaf at the far end of the village for a meal. It was surprising how far the village stretched out along the hillside, as it looks quite a small village on the map. It was quite a busy pub and they were having problems with the real ale which wouldn't clear properly. I waited for a while to see if they could resolve the problem, but then resorted to Guinness when it became obvious that the keg would have to be left to settle for a longer time. The menu was more that of a restaurant than of bar meals, but there was a table d'hote menu at 9.95 for two courses or 11.95 for three. I had a very large platter of cold seafood for a starter, then salmon in Hollandaise sauce with freshly cooked potatoes and vegetables, which was all very good, but I was a bit too full to manage a deseert.

After some time and a lot of cleaning of pipes, the draught ale called Catnap by a brewery I had not heard of, was ready to drink , and I was able to finish off with a pint which was very good. I went back for an early night, as I was still feeling a little weary and footsore, despite having a relatively easy day. The rain had stopped and there were signs of a sunset as I walked back to my B&B.

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Day 14 - Friday 23rd July - 13.5 miles - 1,640 ft ascent

Brigsteer to Arnside via Lord's Seat and Hampsfell

Breakfast was at 8.30, and I was joined by a couple I had seen in the pub. They appeared to be there on business. There was a bit of everything on my plate - bacon, egg, sausages, tomato, mushrooms, fried bread and beans, and just the thing to set me up for the last day of my walk to Grange over Sands and Arnside.

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Lyth Valley looking east from Brigsteer
Lyth Valley

I was off at 9.25 into a bright and breezy morning, with a distant haze limiting the visibility somewhat. The first couple of miles were on roads, crossing the Lyth Valley with a view of the distant hills and mountains of the Lake District. The valley itself was very flat with lots of drainage channels making it look as if it had been reclaimed from a flood plain. Once at the other side, I started the climb through woods to Lord's Seat, another limestone outcrop and scar. The route up had a maze of footpaths and tracks going off in all directions, so I followed what appeared to be the main track, only to find that it took me a very roundabout way to the top. It is always difficult finding the way through woodland, with no landmarks on which to get a bearing. However, although I must have done the best part of a mile extra, it was a pleasant walk which took me out of the trees and along nearer to the ridge, so I didn't mind the extra effort. I passed a very unusual fungus on the way, and from the top there was a very good panoramic view taking in many of the hills and mountains I had climbed in the last two weeks, as well as Arnside and Grange over Sands on Morecambe Bay, the start and finish of the walk.

For the first time since near the beginning of the walk, I chanced walking without a plaster on my heel, as it was looking a lot better, though still feeling a little sore. Without a plaster, I could feel it a bit more than usual, but it was not too bad, so I would see how it progressed through the rest of the day. There were several people out walking over Lord's Seat, as I started my descent, looking for a gap in a wall marked in the guidebook. It didn't help that I couldn't even see a wall to start with and the direction I was heading in had ridges of limestone which made the going rather difficult. I eventually found the wall and followed it along to its end without seeing any gap, only to find that there was a near vertical drop down below, so I resorted to using my GPS and found that I was too far south. Following the wall back the other way, with some difficulty, I came across the gap, now with a stile, hidden amongst trees. From there, a very steep path runs down the scar at an angle, and it was a bit tricky in places on the slippery limestone, even though it was dry. It didn't take long to reach the bottom and on past Witherslack Hall School into woods again towards Witherslack itself. The path emerged from the woodland onto an open common and, with a little aid from my GPS, I found the right route to a stile leading into more woods.

The sun was shining, there was a good view across to the limestone scars, and there was shelter from the wind by the wall, so this seemed like a good place to stop for lunch. I was able to do some sunbathing and take off my boots and socks to give my feet an airing. I like to do this whenever I can, but there is not always the opportunity nor the weather to do so. Navigation was again a problem but, with the aid of my GPS and some forging of my way through the forest, I regained the right path leading me down to meet the road. There followed some road walking on a minor road before picking up a track leading to the busy A590 dual carriageway. The track was quite easy, apart from a few parts that were rather overgrown. After crossing the A590, it was soon back to road walking again, this time on a very busy road into Lindale, this now being a Friday afternoon with all the weekend traffic taking to the roads. This involved some hopping on and off verges until the road widened out, making life a lot easier.

From Lindale started the final ascent of the walk, onto Hampsfell. There were, again, opportunities to go astray, but I managed to find the right route and was rewarded by some fine views overlooking Morecambe Bay on the way. Further up, the open area of limestone leads to the summit where the Hospice stands. It is a stone shelter with some entertaining poems written on the inside walls. Steep steps outside lead to the roof, where can be found a direction pointer in the form of a pivoted piece of wood with degrees of the compass marked around it. A chart by the side lists the compass bearing of various landmarks and points of interest. This is yet another viewpoint with fine views of the Lakeland Fells and of the hills all around.

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Morecambe Bay and Arnside Knott from Hampsfell
Morecambe Bay
Hampsfell Hospice Viewing Platform
Hampsfell Hospice
Finish at Grange-over-Sands
Railway Station
Grange-over-Sands Railway Station

After a while at the Hospice, I made my way over to Grange Fell and Fell End, with views over Cartmel, before dropping down to meet the road into Grange. The estuary has to be crossed either via the quicksands, which have taken the lives of a number of inexperienced people, or by the safer option of the train. I didn't want to be too late as I wasn't sure of train times and I wanted to get to the Arndale Youth Hostel in time to place my order for dinner before 6 pm. I reached Grange railway station, the end of the walk, at 4.50 to find that the next train was at 5.25. It would have been nice to have a pint whilst I was waiting, but all the pubs were at the other end of town, so I settled down for a while in the very pleasant gardens by the lake until it was time to catch the train. The fare was 1.35 and the journey was so quick that there was only just time for the ticket collector to get round to me before I had to get off. The views across the bay from the train were lovely for the five minutes that the journey lasted and, when I reached Arnside, I decided that I had enough time for a quick pint of Thwaite's Bomber at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks before making my way up to the youth hostel. When I arrived, I found that dinner was at 6.30 not 7 pm, but I was just in time to place an order for Cumberland sausage.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I joined a cyclist from Edinburgh for the evening meal. The dining room was quite full with a large party which included a lot of young children, so the decibel level was alarmingly high, which didn't make for a peaceful meal, but the food was good. Gradually the youngsters started to disperse and a semblance of normality returned. A little later, I made my way to The Albion for a pint, sitting outside looking at the sunset over the bay and watching a couple of anglers who seemed to be getting quite a good catch of some sort of flatfish. It was getting rather cold for sitting outside and The Albion was rather busy with a 50th birthday party, so I went on to Ye Olde Fighting Cock where it was more peaceful. Ending my walk in lovely weather added the perfect finishing touch, and this delightful little place made a better starting and finishing point than when I started from Kirkby Lonsdale last time I did the walk.

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Thoughts at the End of the Walk

It always begs the question when a walk is done for the second time as to how it compared to the first time around, and whether any changes to the schedule made it better or worse. In the case of this walk, I think it worked quite well this time, especially by having an extra day and a change of route to ease the otherwise long walks from Ambleside to Kendal and Kendal to Grange over Sands. Earlier in the walk, however, there was still the very long day from Ravenstonedale to Kirkby Stephen where there wasn't much of an alternative without the use of taxis, which I always consider a rather extreme option. I could have reduced the distance by a couple of miles by staying at the more expensive Fat Lamb Hotel, but I thought it was hardly worth it for that distance.

In general, I enjoyed doing this walk again, although there are still a few days that are rather tedious and uninteresting, such as the one from Kirkby Stephen to Dufton, and the one from Milburn to Eamont Bridge, both of which involve mostly low level walking, a lot of which is on roads. The compensation was that there were some extremely good stretches of high level walking, and I was fortunate to have pretty good weather for most of them. One of the main disadvantages of this walk comes about because of its lack of popularity, and that is the amount of walking over rough ground with no visible paths. This makes the walking that much harder on top of what may already be a long and difficult day. The lack of visible paths in places also makes route finding more of a problem. Unfortunately, this walk never created much interest amongst walkers and never took off in the same way as others have done. I suspect that the reason for this is that people are looking for some goal or theme when they do a long distance walk. In this case the only theme is that of walking around the approximate boundaries of the old county of Westmorland. To anyone who has not got a strong attachment to Westmorland, this isn't likely to inspire them and, being a circular walk, there is not any sense of getting from A to B. To me, this walk was of interest because it offered a high level route taking in some areas of great scenic beauty, regardless of what its objectives were. The circular nature of the walk also offered a practical advantage as far as transport was concerned, as I was able to drive there and back without having to bother with public transport.

I am not sure whether I would want to do the walk again, although I would not rule it out entirely. I think that it is a walk that is destined for, if not already in the history books. If I wanted to do a similar walk again, I would probably devise one of my own that was not constrained by trying to follow county boundaries. I always think that it is a bit of a mistake, when putting together a good walk, to let some other agenda override the choice of route, rather than looking for the one that takes in the most interesting and varied scenery. However, in deference to this walk, the route taken does take in a great deal of excellent and varied scenery as it circumnavigates Westmorland. Its only limitation is that there are a few sections with quite a bit of road walking over low lying areas, which detract somewhat from its enjoyment. However, nearly all long distance walks have some such parts with which to contend, though National Trails have the advantage that some permissive paths may have been introduced, whereas an unofficial walk has to make do with existing rights of way.

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