This short stroll down to the river and back up again is now called Uncle David’s Walk as we rambled around it after his funeral one fine September.
Turn right out of Sykehouse cottage and up the hill to the High Cross Inn. Cross the busy A595 to the pavement beyond and walk down to find the signpost and gateway off to the left. Leaving the traffic madness behind, stroll along the footpath across the River Lickle and fields down to the Duddon at a spot called The Sheep Dip. Good bathing in the Summer. At the river bank turn right and stroll along past the wild garlic and trees to the bridge. Stopping for the obligatory skimming stones contest.
Then cross the road by the traffic lights at the bridge and climb up the Ulpha Road, pass the first set of houses at Bank End. Look out for a rough track and signpost on the right leading up through some woods and out down the bottom of gorse covered Bleansley Bank.
At Lower Bleansley, a collection of farmhouses, turn right through the barns, down across the marshy pasturelands by the Lickle again, heading for Manor Farm. Follow the farm road up to the Coniston Road. Cross over to the White Gates of West Park, known by locals as the Show Field. Stop and admire the newly dredged pond, before making you way back across the field and into Broughton Square by the Coniston Road.
Takes about 2 hrs. One short steep climb through the woods at Bleansley Bank.
We started at the NT car park just above the beautiful Hobbit-like Birk’s Bridge and headed into the forestry land, marked on the OS map as Dunnerdale Forest and by the Forestry Signs as Hardknott Forest. Much of the wood that was described by Wainwright as “young plantations” has now been cleared and neatly stacked up making for a rather beautiful, if working, landscape. The Commission is now replanting the forest as a mixed deciduous rather than the stark fir crop to reflect the changing purposes of these fells.
We used the level forestry roads rather than the narrower public footpaths as they are lovely for chatting whilst walking. Good progress was made across the forest to Grassguards Farm with its little concreted ford. Here we picked up the Grassguards Gill bridleway down into the beautiful gnarled trees and river walks around Wallowbarrow. Here, we took the opportunity to lob some rather large stones in the river before retiring to the Newfield for half pints of CatNap and something-and-chips.
The walk took one hour 40 minutes and we were helped by another member of the family was waiting to provide a lift to retrieve cars rather than having to walk back after a rather heavy meal!
Swimming in a river or lake IS different. It doesn’t taste of chlorine for a start. And isn’t crowded. The water has a smooth soft quality that slides around your skin.
I only swim on hot Summer days. The water coming off the mountain tops is still much colder than you think. Even in August. But there are many places up the Duddon for a dip or a paddle – and then a leisurely recovery on a hot, flat stone. I take old sandals to paddle into the water as pebbles can be sharp under foot. Crocs or flip flops disappear surprisingly fast on the current.
Okay, you will need a wet suit and more stamina than I have: but how about attempting the Great North Swim on Windermere? This is now the UK’s biggest open water swimming festival and happens in June every year. Follow this link if you would like more details about it.
The distinctive look of Lake District fells, ribbons of stone walls and treeless slopes, has largely been created by Herdwick sheep.
The animal has been part of the landscape for centuries and there are now many products you can take home with you to celebrate this hardy breed and to remember your stay at our cottage.
If you pop into Melville’s in Broughton-in-Furness, you can pick up one of our favourite local products: a beautiful Original Cumbrian Wool throw. These are woven from undyed Duddon valley fleeces and would be a unique memento of your holiday.
A link to the Original Cumbrian Wool website is here if you would like further details. If you are handy with a needle, they sell yarn and fabric as well as finished products.
The restored remains of Duddon Iron Works are the most complete surviving example of a charcoal-fired blast furnace in the country and, happily for us, are just past the Duddon Bridge outside Broughton in Furness. It’s such a beautiful building, in a lovely setting and I marvel at the ingenuity and elegance of the Works.
In the 18th Century, blast furnaces revolutionised the way iron ore could be processed. Large furnaces were built using water power to drive bellows which could pump air into the combustion chamber to create an intense heat. The water wheel is missing but the course of the leat (or stream) has been traced, bringing water from the river half a mile away. Higher up the hill is the charcoal store, 100 feet in length, and as high as a church.
Duddon Ironworks was established in 1736 and operated until 1866, smelting iron ore bought in by boat from Millom. Pig iron cast here was sent down to Chepstow and Bristol where it was used in the manufacture of anchors, chains and other iron work for ships. It’s called “pig iron” because the molten metal ran out at the base of the furnace into sand moulded into a branching structure of one central runner and lots of little ingots which looked rather like a litter of piglets suckling on a sow.
The buildings are in the care of the Lake District National Park. At the site, this information panel (right) gives a description of the various parts of the furnace and, in the drawing, you can see the ingots laid out.
If you take the road out of Broughton, past the High Cross, towards Millom (A595), immediately after the bridge, turn right and the furnace is a short way along on the left and can be seen from the road.
At Easter, we tramped through the snow around Wallowbarrow. This is one of our very favourite walks: a beautiful, quiet river and woodland walk along the Duddon in National Trust land. It can be as long or as short as you want and has the added bonus of starting/ending at the wonderful Newfield Inn.
In the Summer, we often picnic on a river beach and sometimes even take a dip at Watersmeet where the Tarn Beck meets the river Duddon. But today we were just grateful that someone had been around before us to tamp down the snow – which in places was higher than our wellies!
We wandered about for an hour and finished with lunch at the Newfield. Run by Paul, this c17th inn at Seathwaite has great, hearty food for walkers, a log fire and a fine selection of local beer. This lunchtime we ate their famous steak pie and Cumberland sausage and sampled Barngates’ Catnap and Cumberland’s Corby Ale. Click here for their website.
On Thursday 15th April 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal:
‘… I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway…”’
Two years later, when her brother wrote: “I wandered lonely as a cloud …”, his wife, Mary, contributing what Wordsworth later said were the best two lines in the poem : “They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude”. This group of three’s collaboration for such an iconic poem always makes me think of how many other unseen contributors there must be to great works of art.
If you need a little inspiration, why not come to Sykehouse Cottage in March and search for wild Wordsworthian daffodils? Wild daffodils are simpler and shorter than the tall, fancy ruffle cultivars we see in gardens. They like to grow on damp ground under trees. Dorothy and William Wordsworth found theirs at Ullswater but wild daffodils are more common in the South Lakes. Probably the best place to see them from Sykehouse Cottage is on the banks of the Duddon. A short drive and a lovely walk to find your own secret “host of golden daffodils”.
For further information about the Wordsworths and their time in the Lakes, including Dorothy’s journals, you should really plan to visit Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum in Spring 2020 when their redevelopment will be complete. It’s just a 40 minute drive from Sykehouse cottage through beautiful countryside. Follow this link to Dove Cottage.
If you would read another post about Wordsworth : The Westmorland Girl : click here.