Lyth/Winster valleys

South and south east of Bowness-on-Windermere, roughly bordered by the A592 to the west and the B5284 to the north, are the Lyth and Winster valleys.

It’s an area best known for the growing of damsons where names like Crosthwaite, Bowland Bridge, Strawberry Bank, Witherslack and Underbarrow lend a fairy tale sound to the place.

The valleys once attracted thousands of people in spring, many making their way from Lancashire mill towns to see the spectacle of the damson blossom.

Later in the year, after the harvest, tons of damsons were despatched to jam-making factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire, while Kendal’s Damson Saturday in October saw growers and farmers piling into the town to sell their fruit to the public.

By the 1970s the numbers of the trees had declined significantly, partly because of changing farming practices and eating habits. But in 1996 a number of enthusiasts formed the Westmorland Damson Association and the fruit is now much better known, and used in all sorts of produce.

The biggest road here - though not that big - is the A5074 which heads south east from Bowness, through the small village of Winster, past Crosthwaite and on to the A590 at Gilpin Bridge.

The River Winster and Winster Valley lie to its west and much of the Lyth Valley and River Gilpin to its east. The limestone fell of Whitbarrow Scar comes between the two areas.

A drive south west from Crosthwaite on a minor road through Bowland Bridge and Strawberry Bank towards Newby Bridge ends in panoramic fashion as you drop down the hill towards the southern end of Windermere.

Doing the journey in reverse (from Newby Bridge to Crosthwaite) offers fine views of the Winster Valley and Whitbarrow Scar. Turn off the road near the Masons Arms at Strawberry Bank to see the 500 year old church of St Anthony’s at Cartmel Fell.

If you want more good views of the area, take the road towards Brigsteer from Kendal and about three miles (4.8km) out of town turn left along a narrow road to ‘Helsington Church and viewpoint’.

Park outside the church and get the full 180 degree experience: the Kent Estuary, Arnside Knott, Morecambe Bay, the Lyth Valley and a whole cluster of Lakeland fells.

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