- Start: Windermere Road
- End: Windermere Road
- Country: England
- County: Lancashire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Wilf’s in Staveley, pubs The Eagle and Child, Staveley, The Jolly Anglers, Burneside.
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer OL7, The English Lakes, south eastern area
- Difficulty: Medium
These boots were made for walking but why were they left in a field, asks Keith Carter
On a warm day with soft breezes, the fields looking freshly scrubbed and the view of the distant hills hazy under an azure sky there’s nothing better than a good walk.
Staveley was the objective, the outward point on a circular that takes in a good stretch of the Dales Way, running from Ilkley to Bowness, 84 miles of incomparable walking that includes some lovely river scenery along the Kent.
There are several possible starting points including the Mill Yard in Staveley or in the village of Burneside but my choice is to park in a lay-by off the A591 Windermere road about a quarter of a mile north of the huge roundabout where the A5284 from Kendal meets the A591.
There is an information board with accommodation details posted and a farm entrance to one side. Cross the main road to the right-hand of two possible openings, the one we want has no signpost but admits us to a rising lifefield which we cross to meet a wall at a corner where the wheels of a tractor have created deep ruts.
Go through the gate you find here and head away from the wall. Look for a post with a way mark, the first of several on this early part of our walk.
Over to the right is a low-lying mere, more like a flooded area of ground.
We keep ahead to pick up a second post indicating our way ahead slightly left past two isolated trees to where a gate leads to a path between gorse bushes. Go through a second gate and take a line towards a tree-topped knoll ahead. When a farm comes into view head for it but be aware that the footpath passes round to the left of the big stone barn and emerges on the Crook road. Turn right and walk along the verge.
Watch out for traffic along here. After a dip past cottages known as Bonning Gate the road begins to rise and we see Ratherheath Lane coming in from the right. 250 yards beyond the junction look for a stile in the wall on the right with a signpost indicating the way to Ashes Lane. We follow the wall in a northerly direction crossing a number of stiles where field boundaries are encountered and as a small triangular coppice appears we head for it over rough fell with scattered gorse bushes and outcrops of rock. At a gate keep right and join a fence by the coppice.
When researching this walk my companion Jim and I came across a pair of walking boots, size ten and a half, abandoned on the grass. Who would discard their boots out here? The Mystery of the Barefoot Rambler continues to puzzle.
We leave the coppice at a corner and head for a much larger wood ahead, the wall still to our right. Take a ladder stile and take the path through the trees. We leave the wood by a step stile then follow a left hand wall to where a signpost points away half right to Staveley. Cross to a gate but finding it locked climb the stile beside it followed by another to the left then head for a wall corner where a signpost reassures us that we are on the correct route.
At a further stile look ahead to Staveley. Go down the broad field to make the perilous crossing of the main A591 Windermere road with double stiles each side. You need to have your wits about you then follow the wall keeping left to a kissing gate then go under the railway. We come to the Staveley road just by Stock Bridge Farm.
To sample Staveley’s food and drink you can turn left and walk on the footpath into the village to find the Eagle and Child on your left.
This was known locally as the ‘Brid and Babby’ at one time. I recall coming down to it from our camp when I was in the Cadet Force. One of our number proposed that since we would be visiting the pub each night of our stay, we should each buy a round of drinks for the whole eight of us. This was agreed and I was chosen to be first. We never came back. Drinking in pubs was banned. You couldn’t help wondering who was the eagle, who the child.
If you prefer a cup of tea and toasted teacake, continue into the village and go to Wilf’s Café in the Mill Yard. Wilf’s is one of Lakeland’s jewels, having few equals when it comes to teashops. Return along the road we came in on and walk away from the village towards the level crossing.
Before it take a path through a gate on the left with a Dales Way signpost. After a short stretch of enclosed path we go left at a gate and follow the wall, the way now clearly evident thanks to the passage of numerous boots following this super walk.
The river is to our left and we follow it all the way to Cowan Head where old mill buildings have been converted into flats.
Once past the buildings we stay on the access lane then leave it where it bends right, keeping forward until the riverside path meets a bungalow barring the way. Keep to the right of it on an enclosed path leading to a side road and go left. Don’t take the first turning on the left which seems to lead down to the river but doesn’t, instead take the next left past the cottages, the road leading to Bowston bridge crossing the river. The other side, take the stile on the right and rejoin the Dales Way.
There’s no mistaking the route from here to Burneside, in the words of the eternal optimist ‘you can’t go wrong’.
If the river is not on your right, your plans need a re-think. Approaching Burneside the path has been re-directed around an industrial building forming part of the James Cropper factory site where they make coated paper. On meeting the lane, go right and walk down to the village where we cross the river bridge and meet a T-junction.
Turn right, pass the Jolly Anglers pub and then the church where the parishioners have made available a loo for use by passers-by, a nice considerate touch. It is spotlessly clean.
At Burneside station take the opening on the left and cross the railway at a pedestrian crossing and leave the lane opposite at a stile on the right just before the private property sign. Climb the hill towards a wooded knoll and stone barn, going between them.
Keep left having crested the hill and climb a stile in the fence line then head for a lone oak tree with a divided trunk.
Go through a metal kissing-gate and head to the right of a wood, making for a narrow squeeze stile in the top right-hand corner.
The farm buildings you can see are kept to the left as you climb roughly half right to a rocky outcrop beyond which a step stile over a wall followed by a kissing-gate leads to our starting point.
Lots to think about on this walk, lots of wildlife spotting opportunities too, especially along the river.
The mystery of the barefoot rambler still bothers me. We left his boots where we found them. You never know, he may come back for them.
Area of walk: Strickland, South Lakes.
Map: OS Explorer OL7, The English Lakes, south eastern area
Distance: Eight miles
Time to allow: Five hours
Refreshments: Wilf’s in Staveley, pubs The Eagle and Child, Staveley, The Jolly Anglers, Burneside.
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life
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