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A walk in Kentmere

Wednesday, 08 September 2021

Lake District Travel Guide

To Kentmere which is as good a place as any to visit for the first blog in a very long time. The valley’s not one of Lakeland’s most populous places so even on a warm summer’s day the narrow road which winds northwards from the busy village of Staveley carried little traffic.

Lake District Travel Guide. The Westmorland damson

It’s about four miles to the actual hamlet of Kentmere, past the weir on the fast flowing River Kent at Barley Bridge just outside Staveley (its water used as a source of power for many centuries), along a short part of the road shaded by trees and finally into open countryside.

Lake District Travel Guide

Parking’s always been pretty limited at Kentmere but we found a spot in a field (£5, courtesy of Maggs Howe B&B and camping barn), put the walking boots on and headed off past 16th century St Cuthbert’s Church towards the Garburn Pass, a route which eventually leads into the Troutbeck Valley.

Lake District Travel Guiden

It was a long, uphill slog on a cobbled and stony path but, as with so many walks, every few steps bring their own reward. First it was the sight of Badger Rock, a solitary boulder which has become something of a local landmark, then a random collection of other rocks and stones, used by a farmer long ago to create a stretch of wall. A simple case of working with what you’ve got.

Lake District Travel Guide. The Westmorland damson

And as we climbed higher, it was the splendour of Kentmere dale itself, the scattered homes and farms, the clusters of slightly bent trees, the myriad shades of green, the piping of dry stone walls criss-crossing the fields and stretching up the hillsides, the sight of the hills and fells themselves.

Lake District Travel Guide

Some of the fells here - like Yoke, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, Harter Fell, Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts - make up the 13 miles or so of the Kentmere Round or Kentmere Horseshoe, a classic Lakeland walking (and running) route. To the east of Shipman Knotts is the slender valley of Longsleddale. A route for the future.

Lake District Travel Guide

We didn’t meet many people. Ten at most in almost four hours of walking, which says it all. A few were making their way clockwise around the Kentmere Horseshoe, someone else looked to be heading for Troutbeck. 'It’s a symphony,' said a man up from near Manchester as he looked around the hills.

Lake District Travel Guide

After an hour and a half of steady walking we came to the point where we could have either turned north towards Yoke or carried on along the Garburn Pass into Troutbeck. We did neither, found some stones to rest on and had a spot of lunch. And then returned the way we came.

Lake District Travel Guide

Or rather almost the way we came because right at the end we made a slight detour to take a peek at Kentmere Hall, a 14th century tower house - a fortified tower - and its adjacent buildings. This was the birthplace, in 1517, of the famous preacher Bernard Gilpin, known to many as the 'Apostle of the North'. 

Lake District Travel Guide

And so back to the car which is when we stopped and chatted to a retired farmer who had moved into the valley in the 1950s. What changes he must have witnessed over the years but as we looked down the valley and thought of that word ‘symphony’ it was easy to see why he had stayed so long.

Lake District Travel Guide

Information. There’s no pub in Kentmere but there are two in Staveley (Eagle and Child and Hawkshead Beer Hall) while nearby Ings is home to the Watermill Inn. The last two have their own breweries. For cafés, try More? The Artisan Bakery, Wilfs Café or Café Eclec, all in Staveley. Staveley is a good centre for independent shops/businesses.

Lake District Travel Guide

As for staying in Kentmere, there’s Kentmere Farm Pods and Maggs Howe B&B and camping barn, while self-catering properties include Kentmere Hall Bank Barn and One Long Houses.

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