First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Looking back from the old fell path from Kentmere over to Long Sleddale, the Kentmere Valley on this gorgeous clear morning looked almost too good to be true. Church, houses and scattered farms lay in a dale bottom so richly and uniformly green it might have been stroked there with a painter’s brush.
A farmer went bouncing down the fields on her quad, shouting ‘C’m-aan!’ to the madly bleating sheep chasing her trailer with its load of feed. Near the crest of the path we were following, a tiny just-born black Herdwick lamb wobbled on splayed legs, sniffing along its mother’s blue-grey body to locate the bulging udder that awaited it.
We found the steep upward path to Wray Crag and set our boots to it, pushing upwards under lark song that poured out from invisible singers overhead. Wray Crag came and went. Up on Shipman Knotts beyond we sat to catch our breath, looking east to the long back of Sleddale Fell and a gleam of Windermere down in the south-west.
Now the rocks and crags gave way to a smooth saddle of moor grass, the dark stain of the path leading on and up the long nape of Kentmere Pike to the summit cairn at 730 metres. Up here the wind blew strong and cold. We huddled down and gazed our fill at the westward view – Coniston Old Man and Windermere, Great End and Bowfell beyond the breaking wave of Ill Bell – just about level with us now – and a shoulder of Helvellyn crusted with snow.
A long descent over bogs and crags, down to Hallow Bank and the walled and cobbled lane back to Green Quarter. We chatted with a farmer looking over the wall at his sheep – tales of winter storms, lost lambs, and ewes completely covered by snowdrifts. ‘We’d 40 lambs indoors being bottle fed,’ he said, ‘and 40 ewes looking for ’em once the snow went! But we got ’em all matched,’ and he smiled with satisfaction as though it had only happened yesterday.
Start: Green Quarter, Kentmere, near Staveley, Cumbria postcode (OS ref NY 461040)
Getting there: Staveley is signed off A591 (Windermere-Kendal). Follow road to Kentmere. Just before village, right (‘Hallow Bank, Green Quarter’). Limited parking at Green Quarter (4-car space on left just before triangular green). If none available, park in Kentmere and walk to Green Quarter.
Walk (6½ miles, strenuous, OS Explorer OL7): From triangular green, right up lane (‘Longsleddale’). At Old Forge gate, right through gate (yellow arrow, ‘Longsleddale’). Bear left; through gate at wall angle; follow track (public right of way) across fields NE for 1 mile. Through kissing gate (476050) onto Hallow Bank-Sadgill track. Left through gate; right up track, following wall on right steeply uphill northwards for 1¼ miles over Wray Crag (473054) and Shipman Knotts (472062) to ladder stile across wall (472067). From here, clear path up Kentmere Pike (fence soon coming in on right) to summit cairn (465078).
Return in poor weather/mist – back the way you came. Otherwise – return to where wall meets fence on left (468075). Fork a little right away from ascent path, following clear path. Cross ladder stile 250m NW of ascent stile (470069). Follow path (sometimes faint, but well trodden) SSW downhill for 1 mile to farm lane gate at Hallow Bank (466055). Through gate, down track; in 50m, left through gateway beside parking area; fork right down stony track. In 200m cross stream; next right (465052, ‘Mardale’), down road, through gate, and on to where farm buildings are in front of you. Bear left (not sharp left) past barn and on downhill. Track bends left; don’t bear right through gate (463053), but keep ahead along Low Lane. In ⅔ mile join road (461044); right to Green Quarter.
Conditions: A moderately hard fell walk; appropriate clothing and boots recommended.
Wainwright Book 2 – The Far Eastern Fells (Frances Lincoln)
Accommodation: Eagle & Child, Staveley, LA8 9LP (01539-821320; eaglechildinn.co.uk) – very cheerful, walker-friendly inn.
Information: Kendal TIC (01539-735891); golakes.co.uk