Lake District Walk - Kentmere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:43 19 January 2016
Keith Carter returns to an old favourite spot – and makes sure he wears the right clothes
When I was cutting my teeth at fell walking, Kentmere was a favourite starting point for tackling the fells in Wainwright’s Book Two, The Far Eastern Fells. My first visit was to climb Shipman Knotts where I recall I wore jeans, a horrendous faux-pas stylistically speaking and I learned fell-walkers never under any circumstances went onto the fells in jeans, something to do with them being useless in the wet. I also wore Doc Martens boots which were also totally beyond the pale, so I learned how important it is to wear the right gear, a rule I have obeyed to the present day.
The Kentmere Horseshoe was one of the key fell walks to be bagged along with other famous circuits such as the Fairfield Horseshoe, the Coniston Round and the Mosedale Horseshoe, all ticked in their turn but never likely to be done again.
Parking a car near Kentmere Church never used to be a problem but you try these days and likely as not you’ll be unlucky, even mid-week. You might find somewhere to squeeze in a small car if you arrive early but I wouldn’t count on it. The parish website has some useful suggestions for those wishing to park and you could do worse than visiting www.kentmere.org.
As you approach Kentmere from the direction of Staveley, the only way in actually, it’s worth finding a lay-by as soon as you can and not even trying to find a space by the church. When I was researching this walk with my companion Jim it was a fine sunny day and by the time we got to Kentmere the cars were packed in like sardines so we returned along the road to where we had noticed a handy place near the opening to the factory – the signs are for Kentmere Studio Pottery and the works is Hollingworth and Vose who make something obscure like battery components, nothing you or I need to bother about. There’s a lay-by just big enough for two cars and we parked here.
To start this month’s walk, head back on the road towards Staveley for about half a mile to where a footpath sign indicates the route to Longsleddale. A good path climbs up through trees then emerges onto open fell and passes through a gate in a crossing wall. Keep forward, a wall to your right and meet a second gate as the wall curves round, a way mark in blue on a yellow background signifying a bridleway. Through the gate turn left onto a clear moorland track and once through a further gate the path divides. Here the farmer has improvised some signs to deter us from taking the left fork so keep right where his sign indicates ‘bridleway and path’.
Continue across the open moor completely devoid of trees, an area called Green Quarter on the map, then a wall comes in from the right and we find a hand-gate in the wall corner. The next feature in an otherwise featureless landscape is the gable of a stone barn, a ruin, and this acts as our reminder to change direction and head back on ourselves, heading leftwards. A post is the only marker as we turn back towards the valley. The path climbs to a brow from where the bright, white-painted houses of Kentmere can be seen.
Head down towards Kentmere, passing through a number of gates then a sheepfold with two gates one of which Jim managed to dismantle, the top hinge coming free and the lower bar landing on his toe. For the next half hour he was pondering who he could sue.
The path brings us to a lane opposite a property called High Fold where we turn left, then in 20 yards take a concealed path on the right beside the wall of a barn. Go through a gate then descend a field of rough grass to meet a further lane via a new hand gate. Turn left then next right, cross the bridge and climb the narrow lane to St Cuthbert’s Church where housemartins were busy with their nests under the eaves where I imagine they have lived for generations.
Take the track that strikes off opposite the church gate leading to Kentmere Hall which has a ruined pele tower of interest to antiquarians. Walk down as far as the farm and just before the farmhouse take a footpath on the left crossing through two fields and bearing right where the path divides. This valley path continues past Kentmere Tarn.
Carry on along this path which leads to the Works, first of all along a wall of old railway sleepers then passing through the factory buildings where walkers are under caution to stick to the yellow lines for their own safety. Exit the works across the bridge over the River Kent, turn right and the car is where we left it, along the road a few paces.
There aren’t many walks as good as this one, the only shortcoming being the absence of a pub half way round. In fact there isn’t anywhere you can get so much as a cup of tea since Kentmere itself has no shop, café or facilities of any kind. Never mind. Call in at Wilf’s in Staveley on the way home and you’ll be well satisfied.
Area of walk: Kentmere
Distance: 6 miles
Time to allow: 4 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL7 South Eastern Lakes
Refreshments: None on walk.
Not suitable for wheelchair users