I smile to myself as I reply to the email from Sir Hugh. He has plotted a walk for us from Cartmel taking into consideration our combined physical failings. I did the same for him on our last walk and his immediate response was ‘we could perhaps extend it farther’ by using some other paths. All turned out well – LEVEL FROM LEVENS. My immediate response this time, without a good deal of thought, is that we could easily extend his proposed route from Cartmel. No more is said until the decision time comes later in the day. Somewhere along the line is a hidden understanding of the other person’s idea of a good walk, I don’t think we have ever crossed that line though we have had some exciting episodes close to it.
What is going on in Cartmel? There are cars parked alonside every road and a one way system in operation. We follow it blindly into the racecourse car park where we had meant to park in the first place. £2 for the day as we scramble to find some change. There is a Medieval Pageant in the village explains the man on the gate. (Subsidised parking with medieval prices, normally £4 for the day or a hefty £10 on race days)
It takes a bit to orientate ourselves in the massive car park which is filling fast. We are the only ones taking a bearing across the racetrack to enter the woods on the northwest side. Once in the woods the path is not as clear as we had expected but a bit of steep climbing, not Sir Hugh’s favourite at the moment, and we were out onto little lanes and on our way.
The little lanes connect up with isolated properties on the hillside – Well Knowe, Hard Crag, Wall Nook, Over Ridge and finally Speel Bank. Each unique in its own way but all bearing the mark of Lakeland vernacular architecture from the C17th- C18th. They all look in good condition in stunning scenery and in the last decade or so most of the outbuildings have become out of the way holiday cottages. Though in a hard winter would be difficult to access.
Halfway up we come across an agricultural machinery graveyard. Old tractors, strange looking implements, old cars and strangely up here a speed boat, all rotting into the vegetation. We find it a bit spooky and once Sir Hugh mentions some American horror movies it is time to get going. Only just last night I had rewatched Psycho for the first time for years – remember the cars in the pit.
I then took to photographing the various stiles we squeezed through or climbed over.
A couple of girls pass us brandishing what looked like a well presented leaflet of walks in the area, though their map was somewhat basic for the almost identical walk that Sir Hugh has us on. I will look into finding this publication as we are well impressed with the area so far. We never see them again.
The lane keeps going up past the last farmhouse, which shows no signs of gentrification for the Airbnb set.
Soon we were onto what I’m calling Ellerside Ridge, volcanic rock outcrops everywhere, we even spot a few bouldering areas. Lakeland in miniature.
A last stile over a high wall and suddenly we are looking down on the Greenodd/Cartmel Estuary. There is Ulverston, there is the railway viaduct from Cark and there is Chapel Island off the coast from Conishead Priory. I seem to remember being told that one could walk out to the island at low tide, not something I will be doing. All places familiar to us from previous expeditions but never seen from up here before. We are thrilled with the way the walk is turning out even though rain clouds are massing over the sea. The undulating ridge gives us plenty of time to take in all the views.
After about a mile we can see from the map a nearby trig point on How Barrow, a lowly 170m but one we could not walk past without visiting. Fortunately a gate gave us access to that side of the fell and the proud little craggy summit was soon reached, A perfect spot for lunch. Others also reached the summit for the first time, and all proclaimed its vantage point despite the incoming rain, we are a hardy lot.
From up here Cartmel village was a little hazy but the backdrop of Hampsfell reminds me of the last time I visited Cartmel on my trek around Lancashire’s monasteries.
Back on the other side of the wall a couple with a smart Airedale seemed to be hanging around. “could you tell us where we are and how do we get back to Cartmell?” They have no map and had been wandering in completely the wrong direction. Sir Hugh demonstrates the usefulness of GPS and sends them confidently on their way – we never see them again.
The meat of our walk is over but decision time has arrived – walk back down the road into Cartmell or keep to tracks on a more circuitous route through the woods. Yes, you guessed it, into the woods we plunge. I have used these tracks before, but all looks different today until we realise that there has been extensive forest clearing on the estate following the storms of 2021. A curiosity passed on the way is a walled enclosure – we speculate on a pinfold, but there is no evidence of a gate. Perhaps some sort of water collecting reservoir? Anybody know?
The light rain accompanies us all the way back to Cartmel.
We don’t venture into the village festivities but set off in the car on a long diversion to get us out of the racecourse, an hour later and there would be a queue of traffic trying to leave.
I complement Sir Hugh on his choice of route, a good 5 miles, or rather 6 miles after I had gently twisted his arm for that little extra, equally enjoyed by both of us. And in my mind it never really rained until the journey home.
I will give a link to Sir Hugh’s version when he has posted. Here it is, hot off the press – conradwalks: Five miles or six miles?