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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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187.  From Glenridding to Pooley Bridge on the Ullswater Way

It is a strange thing that although the Lake District is called the Lake District almost all the books about walking there focus on the hills, not the lakes. Is there a book of sixteen chapters telling us how to walk around the sixteen lakes?  There are thousands of walkers who carefully tick off the hills they have walked up. Is there anybody who ticks off the lakes they have walked around?

I hadn’t thought about it before but, thinking now, I find that I have walked or run around ten of the sixteen. The ten doesn’t include Ullswater. This lake is about eight miles long, second in length only to Windermere, and the A592 skirts the western shores, making walking there difficult. In 2016 a new path, the Ullswater Way, was opened, providing a route around the whole lake. It is variously described as being 20 miles or 21 miles or 22 miles long, which may be the case as some variations are possible. Whatever it is, it is too long for us to tackle on one walk, so we focussed first on the western half.
Leaving Pooley Bridge

Leaving Pooley Bridge, looking up Ullswater

We took the steamer from Pooley Bridge. We must still retain some of our youthful enthusiasm because we eagerly sat at the prow, for the best views, and despite the cool wind generated by the steamer’s motion and the occasional spots of rain we sat there for the whole hour of the journey. Other passengers came out for a few minutes and then retreated inside.

The trip begins among the relatively gentle hills around Pooley Bridge, gradually entering the more dramatic fells around Glenridding. It is far better to take the steamer from Pooley Bridge, rather than from Glenridding, as this way you feel that you are slowly venturing into the real Lake District. The shape of the lake, with its three reaches, means that you see the fells from different, changing angles, making their identification difficult. Especially so on this occasion as the imposing tops were in swirling cloud, adding to the drama of the scene, as the many overlapping fells came into and out of view.
Approaching Glenridding

Approaching Glenridding

After disembarking at Glenridding, we followed the Ullswater Way which proceeds north on one or other side of the A592 and occasionally on it. It is certainly a bold attempt to make the three miles to Aira Force an enjoyable walk. There were, of course, many excellent views over the lake while we weaved our way through the autumn-coloured trees by the gently-lapping waters of the lake but one is rarely unaware of the nearby traffic.

From our picnic spot, just north of Glenridding

Looking down Ullswater

Looking down Ullswater

Aira Force is usually rated the best Lake District waterfall but that may be because it’s the most convenient for visitors. There’s now a large car-park plus tea-room, and always numbers of people walking up and over the Waterfall Bridge. The main waterfall drops about twenty metres below a pretty stone footbridge. With its surroundings it is, of course, a charming scene, regardless of any comparison with other Lake District waterfalls.
Aira Force

Aira Force, from a distance (the bridge with a person upon it is in the middle)

From Aira Force the Ullswater Way offers a choice – over Gowbarrow Fell (481 metres) or along a path on its eastern flank, overlooking the lake and traversing above the incongruous-looking (to me) Lyulph’s Tower. We opted for the latter, and there really were superb views over the lake, with Place Fell and Hallin Fell prominent opposite descending steeply to the lake’s edge. This stretch is really the only piece of typical Lake District walking on the western half of the Ullswater Way. It seemed longer than shown on the map – or at least we took longer over it than we might have expected.

Ullswater from the Gowbarrow Fell path


Ullswater from further along the Gowbarrow Fell path

From Gowbarrow Fell there’s still another four miles to walk to Pooley Bridge, and by Lake District standards it is rather ordinary walking. It is pleasant enough, with Little Mell Fell prominent to the left, but you are far from the lake, with only occasional distant views of it. Perhaps we had been sated by the earlier views. The paths through woodland, across fields and on quiet lanes didn’t have the feel of the Lake District about them. We tip-toed past the Quiet Site, which considers itself the “coolest place to stay in the Lake District”, and opposite it Cove Park, which, not to be outdone, labels itself “the peaceful park”.

The Ullswater Way proceeds, eventually, to drop down into Pooley Bridge. The route has been well-engineered and clearly way-marked, although we were confused at the end at Waterfoot Caravan Park. I suspect that there’s an attempt to keep Ullswater Way walkers away from the caravans. Anyway, we proceeded through woodland, now almost in the dark, below Dunmallard Hill into Pooley Bridge for some much-deserved, or at least much-needed, nourishment.

    Date: October 22nd 2023
    Start: NY390169, Glenridding pier  (Map: OL5)
    Route: (linear, all on the Ullswater Way) N, NE – Aira Force – E, N, NE through Swinburn’s Park – road – N, E – Bennethead – N, E – Maiden Castle – E – Waterfoot, Pooley Bridge
    Distance: 9 miles;   Ascent: 150 metres

The two following items:
     189.   The Standard Pen-y-ghent Walk
     188.   All Along the Eastern Shores of Ullswater
The two preceding items:
     186.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Holme to Carnforth)
     185.   The Peace of Shap
Two nearby items:
       18.   Viewpoints around Keswick (part 1)
       17.   Sheep-Wrecked Matterdale?
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell