• Start: Pooley Bridge
  • End: Glenridding
  • Country: England
  • County: Lancashire
  • Type: Country
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer OL5 The English Lakes North eastern Area
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Keith Carter joins Southport Walking and Social Club for a day in the Lakes

In spite of heavy rain, the seventy-odd ramblers of the Southport Walking and Social Club gave no thought to cancelling their planned trip to Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, only too aware that to be put off by a little shower means giving up a great day out in the area closest to their hearts.

The SWSC is an enthusiastic group of people run by a committee who plan a varied and appealing range of walks throughout the year in the Lake District, Shropshire, Derbyshire and destinations around our own home county.

On the day I spent with them they had laid on a choice of four walks from tough to easy and while I am all for an easy walk I showed willing and joined Walk Two described as ‘not particularly challenging by our standards’ with some slight apprehension that there was a hidden message in there somewhere.

We were to be led by the veteran Chris Grayson starting from Pooley Bridge where the coach would drop us off and go on to allow the other walks to start from Glenridding. Our route would follow the western side of Ullswater as an interesting alternative to the more popular eastern shore from Howtown and we should expect ‘good footpaths and forest trails and a few short sections of busy road’.

Several of the committee were out, including secretary David Lovell, social secretary Christine Dodd, press secretary Lorraine Cookson and Caroline White who held the important post of pastoral care officer, a new one on me. Caroline was a long-term supporter of the club with 40 years membership behind her.


The president of the club Bert Rothwell and the chairman Pat Waterworth were not able to join us on this occasion but sent their best wishes for a good day on the hill. With us for the first part of Walk Two were Chris and Elaine Wood who then departed for Troutbeck to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.


We waved goodbye to the coach in Pooley Bridge and followed our leader across the bridge to a kissing gate and entered a narrow path in trees as the rain momentarily eased off and the view of Ullswater opened out to our left with a brief ray of sunshine lighting up the opposing fells.


Our way ahead climbed on field paths, zig-zagging in places via a series of stiles to reach a farm track that led us to the road at the tiny settlement of Bennethead. We were a varied group with one of our number sporting an umbrella possibly inspired by TV’s Nicholas Crane who carries his everywhere. You never know, they may catch on.


Lunch was taken sitting with our backs to the churchyard wall of Watermillock Church where individual lunchtime preferences included a nice glass of wine for our leader, followed by a bag of chocolate-coated Brazils and a quarter of Pontefract cakes. Each to his own, I always say.


Our route then entered the forested area of Swinburn Park described in the notes as ‘rather atmospherically dark and gloomy at times’ then crossed Kirkstyle Ghyll to enter the National Trust plantation of Gowbarrow where the best views of the length of Ullswater and the mountains beyond can be enjoyed. It could almost be Switzerland.


Lorraine Cookson had given me the prospectus of the club and I was impressed by the range of events besides the walks for members to enjoy from mid-week get-togethers to winter social evenings and even short-break holidays. What better way of getting involved if you are new to the area or find you have more time on your hands? Of course the walking is the main activity and this does not mean long, hard slogs over steep hills either, the choice of walks leaving it up to you to decide how far you want to walk.


I noticed there were only a few on the longer walk led by Frazer Nairn but if you like a really demanding pace and could keep up then this was the walk for you. The important thing is to â get out and experience the pleasure of fresh air, exercise and good company.


Our walk began the long descent of the bracken and gorse strewn slopes of Gowbarrow Park and then suddenly we were in for a shock. Where had all these people come from? It took a moment to realise that we had reached Aira Force, one of Lakeland’s premier tourist attractions, easily accessed from the car park on the A5091 road that links to the major artery of the A66 Penrith to Keswick road. Mums with pushchairs, weekenders in casual shoes and tourists in sling-back sandals made our wet weather gear and heavy boots seem rather incongruous.


The beck was in full spate and a fine mist hung in the air from the tumbling waterfalls crashing through the narrow gap. At the road we went left and walked down to pick up a footpath on the right, a rather muddy path through an area of what Chris Grayson described as stately mature trees, emerging near Glencoyne Bridge onto the busy lakeside road,
the A592.


Walkers will do anything to avoid main roads especially those with no proper verge. The main rule is to face oncoming traffic and keep well in, walking in single file. We made several attempts to get off the road but had to give this up and just keep up the pace all the way into Glenridding.


Then came the de-brief and chat over a pint in the Traveller’s Rest before it was time to board the coach for the trip back. Judging by the buzz of talk and rosy cheeks everyone had enjoyed a good day out in spite of the rain.


Area of walk: Pooley Bridge and Glenridding

Distance of Walk Two: Approx 10 miles

Time taken: Six hours

Map: OS Explorer OL5 The English Lakes North eastern Area

Refreshments: Cafes and pubs in Glenridding. None on the walk.

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