The Lighthouse Walk No. 69 – Magic Staveley – December
By popular demand, December saw a return to the familiar surroundings of Staveley and the River Kent, just north of Kendal. A shorter walk was promised by Nigel and Paul, our walk leaders, with a different route than in November. The hope was that, with a less strenuous hike, we would be joined by folks keen to discover what The Lighthouse walks are like.
Promoted as ‘Magic Staveley’, the walk was to take in the beautiful countryside surrounding Staveley village, along with its delightful woodland glades and riverbanks. Secretly, though, I’m sure the title was chosen as a follow-up to the tales of dragons and mythical beasts I discussed in my last travelogue.
I must thank Paul for generously describing my writings as a ‘travelogue’ – I haven’t previously considered them as such.
Our small group had travelled to Staveley from various points of the compass, some taking advantage of the excellently valued £2 (each way) bus fare from Kendal.
Meeting again in the village centre, I was gently and laughingly chastised for, shock horror, being two minutes late! Luckily, the defence of my car being stuck behind the 555 bus from Kendal slowly meandering along the narrow roads of Staveley was accepted in good spirits.
For the final time in 2023, We’re Off!
Wrapped up for protection against the softly falling drizzle, we made our way through the famous Staveley Mill Yard.
Why is it, I wonder, that drizzle seems to make you wetter than rain itself?
Crossing over the River Kent via a narrow footbridge, the group paused to watch the torrent of raging water of the almost full-to-overflowing river passing beneath our feet.
We ambled onwards, saying goodbye to the river as its course separated from the track we were to follow. It wasn’t long before an ancient stone building came into view. A combination of a two-storey barn and farmhouse, the structure looked majestic in the drizzle’s muted light. Old buildings are fascinating; if they could speak, what tales would they tell us of times and people long gone?
The east face of the old building was fascinating. Stone steps led to a raised gallery area on the second floor. Such characteristics, known as ‘Spinning Galleries’, are a feature of farm architecture in The Lakes. They are placed under the eaves on an upper level, providing valuable storage space and access to second-floor rooms. On a fine evening, during the long summer days, this was a place to sit and work at a spinning wheel so as not to waste valuable natural light.
An interesting wooden gate persuaded us to temporarily abandon our route to detour into a heavily wooded area edged with a timeworn dry-stone wall. The wall was covered in moss and lichen, or, as I prefer to call it, ‘earth fur’.
We made a circular tour of the woodland grove. It was a place where you just had to admire the venerable trees as you walked amongst them. There were large rocks as well. Also covered in earth fur, the sight of the stones took our conversation back to the last time we were in Staveley when we spoke of Celtic legend, druids, and times long past. We discussed more gruesome themes here – how the rocks might have been stone altars used by the ancients for human sacrifice. An examination of the stones showed no evidence of knife marks, carvings, or blood (which, anyway, would have been washed away aeons ago). I guess our speculation was just speculation, after all.
Returning to our route, we trekked along narrow paths and through fields and meadows; the River Kent came back into view, its raging waters flowing toward Morecambe Bay. We eventually reached the lane running alongside Staveley Water Treatment Works. There are, I believe, issues of discharges of unclean water by the local water company into the river nearby, but this article isn’t the place to dwell upon that, and, in any event, I would get vexed discussing it!
Back on the Road
Having walked through boggy fields and muddy paths, it was a treat to hike, for a while, on a firm road surface, and this we did for a while, admiring the forest on our left and fields on our right. Here, we were less concerned about where we placed our feet, for there was less chance of sinking ankle-deep in mud! An opportunity then to gossip and find out how we were all spending the festive season, aka Christmas, or some other name, depending on your beliefs. Me? As an ‘Old Soul’, I celebrate Yule, the Solstice and the ever-turning Wheel of the Year.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I prefer to walk ‘off-road’, and I was pleased when we left the lane and ventured into the woodland that is Beckmickle Ing. Here we found pollarded ash, oak and birch along with stony beaches along the side of the river. The water was less angry here, its shallow depth calming the torrent we had seen earlier. The Woodland Trust owns Beckmickle, a haven for flora and fauna.
Did you know that ‘pollarding’ is a method of pruning that keeps trees and shrubs smaller than they would naturally grow? It typically starts once a tree or shrub reaches a certain height. Annual pollarding will restrict the plant to that height.
I like the name ‘Beckmickle’ and am pleased that I have been able to share it here with you. ‘Ing’ is also interesting as many Ings are here in The Lakes, and in neighbouring Yorkshire. An old English word (potentially borrowed from old Norse). Those Viking rascals were all over the area back in the day! Ing refers to an area of water meadows or marshes.
This section of our walk was, for me, the most enjoyable. Among trees, my soul and mental health receive a boost. Try it, join us next time, and you will see what I mean.
All too soon, the woodland ended, and we again found ourselves in open fields.
Refreshment Break, the River Kent and The Homeward Leg to Staveley
Reaching the furthest point of the walk, we paused for a while to rest and take on fluids. We also had a bite to eat from our packed lunches. Our rest point was on a bridge which, once crossed, would take us to the south side of the River Kent and the path back to Staveley.
The drizzle returned, and a drop in temperature prompted us to resume our walk quickly.
Once over the bridge, we joined the Dales Way and headed north-west. I mentioned the Dales Way in my The Staveley Round post, so I won’t dwell on it here. Suffice it to say from here; we retraced the steps we took in November and returned to Kendal Road as it made its way into Staveley Village. Once more, we followed the upstream meandering course of the River Kent. The path was narrow in places, muddy, and slippery elsewhere, but that didn’t detract from the beauty of our surroundings.
As always, the lure of an end-of-walk coffee encouraged us to up the pace of the final part of our walk back to the village centre. Having previously visited Mr Duffin’s, we decided to head for Wilf’s Café this time.
There is always a feeling of satisfaction at the end of a Lighthouse walk. Some of the group may have been weary. Some were cold, but we were all united in being wet from the refreshing drizzle. That’s not a complaint! Far from it because a winter walk is perhaps more enjoyable than a summer one. You see, there’s no risk of ticks, midges, or getting too hot! You may think I’m odd in that respect, but we’re all different!
Talking of being different, I had a change from my usual end-of-walk Flat White. I went for a hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream on this occasion. Naughty, but oh so very nice!
Another grand day out, and the splendid walk came to an end. My tracker tells me we walked 4.49 miles (I still can’t be doin’ with those kilometre thingamajigs). It was not a steep walk at all, the elevation being only 126ft.
We finished our drinks and said our goodbyes with a cheerful ‘Have a Merry Christmas’ and ‘See you Next Year’.
As I write this, Yule has passed, and it is almost Christmas. The next walk is planned for early in the new year. I’ll be there, along with Nigel and Paul. How about you? Will you join us?
For information on other Lighthouse activities, please visit https://thelighthousecmhh.org/mental-health-social-activities-and-services/