First-time guests at the hospitable Mardale Inn in Bampton should take heed – the bar game of Nails is not for the faint-hearted, nor the over-refreshed.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
It involves a massive tree stump, a sharp hatchet blow, a flat-headed nail, and more hand/eye co-ordination than I usually possess. As things turned out, a lucky whack put me in the winner’s enclosure, and I was able to set out for Haweswater reservoir next morning with my fingers still attached to my person.
A quiet, still, cold winter day, with distance and incipient mist laying a milky gauze across the east Cumbrian fells, muting the fiery red of the bracken to a soft fox-brown and melding ridge-line and sky together. The long curve of Haweswater lay flat in its cleft, its water stained yellow with the reflections of larches and shirred by cats-paws of wind too slight to feel on the cheek.
A bridleway through mossy woods brought me down to Naddle Farm where the farmer, his sheepdog and shepherd’s crook all jolted up the fellside together on a spluttering quad. I crossed Naddle Beck and climbed a stony track into bare moorland. A solitary, sinewy old thorn tree stood at the crest, bent nearly double by the blasts of many hundred winters. On over an upland of sphagnum and pale moor grass, and down into narrow Swindale, with a memorable view of Swindale Beck snaking in extravagant curves through neat green inbye fields and a swathe of dun-coloured bogland under craggy red dale sides.
Swindale is a lonely dale, where farming is as hard as the landscape is beautiful. Few make their way here, even to walk – it is a little outside the Lake District’s charmed inner circle. A scatter of stone-built barn and farmhouses, a muck-spreader parked on the road verge, Swaledale ewes in the bracken and the chattering rumble of the beck over its dipper-whitened stones, all enclosed by a mighty half-moon of crags at the dale head.
I could happily have idled away the short winter afternoon under Swindale’s enchantment, but already the light was draining out of the day. A green track took me up under Trussgap Brow, then across a squelchy moor to Tailbert Farm. A teeter along the rim of Tailbert Gill’s precipitous little cleft, and I was walking the old concrete track back towards Haweswater with the rocky jaws of Swindale closing behind me.
Start and finish: Burnbanks car park, Haweswater, Cumbria postcode (OS ref NY508161).
Getting there: M6 to Jct 39; A6 through Shap; left at north end of Shap through Bampton Grange and Bampton towards Haweswater. At Naddle Gate (510162) road bends left to cross Naddle Bridge; keep ahead here (‘No Through Road’) to car park in Burnbanks (507161).
Walk: (8½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL5): From Burnbanks car park, follow footpath (Naddle Farm’) through woods to road (510160). Right across Naddle Bridge; follow road (‘Hawsewater Hotel) to dam for reservoir views (503155). Return along road, in 250m right up bridleway (506156; fingerpost) through woods to descend to Naddle Farm (509153). Right along house; follow Swindale’ across beck (510152); up fellside on stony track. In ½ mile at ridge, ahead through metal gate at junction of walls (516151); ahead across moor on path, aiming for peak dead ahead. Descend to road in Swindale (521142); right up dale. In ¾ mile pass a dam; in another 100m, left across Swindale Beck (515132). Forward for 100m (very wet!) to turn left up green track. Attop ahead over crossing of tracks (528140); bear right, ???? with wall below, across wet moor for ⅔ mile to corner of wall (534123).
Ahead over moor for ¼ mile to road (537144). Left to Tailbert Farm (534145). Right along back of farmhouse; through gate (yellow arrow); ahead along westrim of Tailbert Gill to meet concrete road(534152). Left for 2¼ miles to road(510159); right across Naddle Bridge; left
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Lunch/accommodation: Mardale Inn, St Patrick’s Well, Bampton, Cumbria CA10 2RQ (01931-713244; www.mardaleinn.co.uk). Friendly inn at the heart of its community.
Information: PenrithTIC (01768-867466); www.golakes.co.uk
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk