Weekend walk with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com
The English Lake District is one of this country’s most popular tourist destinations but unfortunately for tourists it is an area that has the country’s highest rainfall. It is no fun climbing the fells in cloud and mist but luckily there are low level alternatives. The walk described below uses the 555 bus service from Keswick to the top of Thirlmere to access a route through the delightful Vale of St John and then into the wild interior of the Northern Fells.
Start: Bridge End Farm,
Thirlmere CA12 4TG
Finish: Keswick Bus Terminal CA12 5EA
Distance: 14 miles
Time: 6-8 Hours
Map: OS OL 4/5 The English Lakes North western/eastern areas
1. Alighting the bus on the A591 at Thirlmere walk back towards Keswick to locate a footpath on the far side of St John’s Beck (somewhat hidden by foliage at most time of the year). Cross a ladder stile and follow a narrow path that edges along the wooded fellside with the beck to the right. In half a mile the path reaches open space and then skirts behind Low Bridge End Farm. On the far side of the buildings go right through a gate to join a footpath that continues alongside the river through fields to attractive Sosgill Bridge. To reach St John’s in the Vale Church from here there is a bridleway and footpath. Here we describe the footpath but in terms of time there is little in it. From the bridge keep ahead picking up a fence line on the right traversing four fields before bearing slightly left in the fifth. The path continues with river across to the right and the fellside to the left for another half mile to arrive at Bridge House. Keep to the left of the farm to turn left on a footpath that soon after climbs steeply through bracken to the lane that leads up to St John’s Church. When you reach the lane turn left for the church.
2. The discerning reader will realise that the stop here represents a detour from the main line of travel in order to visit one of the Lake District’s most attractive churches. To continue go back down the hill passing Yew Tree Farm. After the lane turns right take a footpath on the left that follows the fence line on the left through pastureland. After 1/4 mile cross a stile in a fence leading to an enclosed path to a lane. Turn right. In 50yds turn left onto a path in the direction of Threlkeld Bridge ¾ miles away. To begin with this path follows the wall to the left in a northerly direction. After Moss Dikes (no obvious feature but marked on the OS map) it veers slightly to the right crossing fields to a loop in the river on the right and continues through a property to arrive on a lane close to Threlkeld Bridge. Turn right. Walk up to the A66. Cross with care and turn right soon after bearing left on a lane taking you into the village of Threlkeld.
3. After passing the village hall turn left into Blease Road. Now commences a long steady climb taking you into the heart of the Northern Fells. Keep on the lane as it passes High Row Farm (1/2 mile) and the Blencathra Centre (1 mile). After the centre the lane downgrades to a wide track as it enters Glenderaterra Valley with the Blencathra massif to the right and the Skiddaw massif to the left. A mile and a half after Blencathra Centre the track begins to swing left and then crosses the beck over a wide wooden footbridge and then climbs steeply to meet the Cumbria Way at Guide Stone a large rock with ‘Keswick’ and an arrow helpfully pointing left. Here the recommendation is to go right for a detour up to Britain’s highest youth hostel Skiddaw House which on a clear track is reached in a mile.
4. Despite its isolation and the fact that the only way to reach it is on foot or mountain bike the hostel is very popular and was fully booked for August when we visited last month. From here Keswick is a two hour trek on the Cumbria Way. Retrace your steps to the Guide Stone and then continue along the track above Glenderaterra Beck which happens to be one of this author’s favourite paths. It leads along the flanks of Lonscale Fell bringing you round to the car park below Latrigg which marks the start of the tourist path for Skiddaw. After turning right into the car park turn left onto the path at the far end which descends to a footbridge over the A66 and continues to the edge of the town.