Lake District Walks - Grizedale

PUBLISHED: 15:37 14 February 2011 | UPDATED: 16:46 19 January 2016

Mea Culpa by Robert Bryce Muir, one of the artworks in the forest

Mea Culpa by Robert Bryce Muir, one of the artworks in the forest

Keith Carter takes a stroll around a huge outdoor art gallery in Grizedale Forest

The aerial runway at Go ApeThe aerial runway at Go Ape

ON one level Grizedale Forest is an enormous sculpture park. In the Sixties artists were encouraged to create their own work in the forest, work that came to be called 'site specific', that is relevant to its surroundings.

One of the earliest to work here was the now internationally renowned sculptors Andy Goldsworthy whose 1990 construction 'The Wall that went for a Walk' became almost a standard by which all other work was judged.

The sculptures on show along the forest trails inspire a range of emotions from shock to laughter, some of them obviously built with the artist's tongue firmly in his cheek, others commenting on the uneasy relationship between man and nature and his impact on the natural world.

The forest environment is constantly changing and the effect of the passage of time is apparent in the way many of the sculptures are decaying and will as the seasons come and go eventually return to the earth. This was the artists' intention and new ones will take their place.

The Eagles Head at SatterthwaiteThe Eagles Head at Satterthwaite

A new feature since I was last at Grizedale is the Go Ape! adventure playground known as Go Ape!, a series of aerial walkways and high-wire challenges in the tree tops for anyone who is reasonably fit and over 10 years of age. If you can climb a rope ladder you should be fine! (Climb a rope ladder? Just watch me.)

There are more down to earth pursuits to enjoy in forest, too, where walking shares equal billing with mountain biking. You can hire bikes at the centre and there are numerous marked trails of varying length and standard throughout the forest.

The way marking can be confusing, though, especially where two trails meet and none of the maps available seem to me to be ideal. The Ordnance Survey map is not much help since the network of trails changes over the years and not all of them are marked.

The walk I want to describe is easy to follow and if you stick to the instructions you shouldn't go far wrong. The main car park is not now at the centre but beyond it on the left going towards Satterthwaite but on summer weekends I can imagine it becoming packed solid. As an alternative, I parked at the Kennels Road car park by Grizedale Beck, the first car park you come to when approaching from Hawkshead. The charge is the same; it will cost you £4 for enough time to do this walk

The ropes, ladders and tree top walkways at Go ApeThe ropes, ladders and tree top walkways at Go Ape

Follow the path along the beck, passing under the high wire structures of Go Ape! You can watch the antics of the would-be Tarzans swinging above your head as you make your way to the group of buildings of the visitor centre. The path comes out beside the huge carved figure of The Ancient Forester, David Kemp's take on the spirit of the forest.

Turn right then cross the stream by a wooden bridge and go through the archway by the mountain bike hire shop. Turn right again through the children's play area and the temporary home of the information centre

We leave this track at the first obvious path on the left, slipping down to a gate on a clearly defined, stony path that winds down hill with a stream tinkling away to our right. Where it levels out we stay with it and go through a five-barred gate and soon the white painted houses of the village of Satterthwaite come in to view.

Approaching the village we pass a children's play area then a lovely Lakeland farm on the right before the path meets the road, coming out opposite a property called Bracken Ghyll. Turn right and walk along the road through the village, passing the church of All Saints after which we reach the pub, the Eagle's Head on the right. This pub is a real gem with cask conditioned beers brewed specially for them by Moorhouses of
Burnley, a nice choice of bar meals and a blazing fire when the weather demands it. Ten out of ten, landlord. a finger post indicating the visitor centre in one mile.

Satterthwaite villageSatterthwaite village

Having sampled the ale, retrace your steps along the road to We are on the home straight now. Skirt a green grassy area where a lane forks right past an artist's studio. Take the next with picnic tables and cross two foot bridges then stay on a right and climb the hill past Pepper House B&B and at the top path that runs parallel with the road visible through the trees to
of the brow, Breasty Haw, don't go through the gate but take the left hand of two paths heading into the woods. Both have purple topped posts so be careful to take the left hand path heading back up the valley.

Maintain the same contour on a quite narrow path through the trees until a disquieting figure appears on the right. This is called Mea Culpa by Robert Bryce Muir and is a life-size metal figure of a naked man hanging from a wire, twisting and turning in the breeze. A second figure, now collapsed, is seen on the green a short distance away, the rope he was holding now rotted through and the help he was offering to the hanging man now in vain. I take the meaning to be a metaphor of the human condition although other opinions may vary. You can make of it what you will.

Just beyond this sculpture, a sign points the way forward to Bogle Crag Car Park, the general trend downhill until we come to a forestry track where we turn left and walk down to the bottom. A barrier crosses the track and on the right of it there is the left. Turn left at a green footpath sign, then another, and our path joins a broader one that soon becomes surfaced as the centre gets nearer. The sculptures become more frequent and the post tops are now blue and white.

Just before a high footbridge crosses our path, scramble up the bank on the left to where a viewpoint has been made with a timber shelter and a stainless steel owl keeping guard. Along here several of the sculptures are improvised musical instruments which you can play to beat out a primitive rhythm like jungle drums. We are now in the grounds of the old Grizedale Hall, demolished in 1950s, some of the landscaping still discernible.

All Saints Church at SatterthwaiteAll Saints Church at Satterthwaite

Then we pass under the last sculpture, Larch Arch by Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley and come to where the new education centre is under construction, an imaginatively designed building in timber and glass that fits in well with its surroundings. A few more minutes and we're back at the visitor centre buildings and ready for a welcome cup of tea. and a mobile café and go through the gate onto a lane.

Turn right and walk down the lane to where a double gate gives access to a forest track on the left with a footpath sign pointing the way to Satterthwaite. Follow a rising track to a cattle grid which you cross into trees, the going easy and pleasant with some undulations, the only company being the occasional passing cyclist.


Area of walk: Grizedale Forest Distance: 5 miles Time to allow: 2 ½ hours

Map: OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes, South-Eastern Area

Refreshments: Kiosk at the visitor centre, pub at Satterthwaite. Toilets: Grizedale visitor centre

Useful web site:

Public transport: Daily service The Grizedale Wanderer from Hawkshead to Haverthwaite, four buses each way.

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