The Lighthouse Walk No. 68 – The Staveley Round – November
Aye, ‘appen it were another excellent walk in the uplands, meadows and riverbanks of Staveley, just north of Kendal.
I’m beginning to sound like a parrot. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it. ‘The Lighthouse Walks are an enjoyable way to spend a few hours in good company and great surroundings’.
Great for mental health and physical exercise, The Lighthouse walks benefit both body and soul.
This month, we ventured over to Staveley. ‘Tis not far, just under five miles from Stricklandgate House, along the A591. It is easy to get to using the 555 bus, taking advantage of the current discounted fares.
Strategically placed at the junction of the rivers Kent and Gowan, at the mouth of the Kentmere Valley, the village got its name from the woodworking industry that thrived in the area due to the forests that originally covered the surrounding hills and the proximity of two rivers for processing the wood. For the etymologists among us, Staveley means the ‘field of staffs’ (from the Middle English plural stave for staf OE stæf and the ME leye meaning pasture from Old English leah, akin to Old High German loh thicket).
Our small group of walkers met at Staveley Square, in the centre of the village. It was a fine morning, dry (for a change), with bright sunshine and a cloudless, clear blue sky. It was cold, though, I’d say, frigid!
And, We’re Off
Leaving Staveley Square, we crossed over the River Gowan and strolled along the pavement of Station Road, passing Staveley Station before joining Crook Road. Crossing over the busy A591, we ambled alongside Sidegarth Coppice. Sidegarth is an ancient semi-natural woodland dominated by oak with ash, sycamore, rowan, holly, and hazel. The ground flora includes creeping soft grass, wood sorrel, wavy hair grass, honeysuckle, bluebell, wood sage, bracken, and broad buckler fern.
Onwards – we continued down the road, chatting as we went. It’s always good to talk and catch up with what friends have been up to since we last met. Our perambulation saw us continue along Ashes Lane. Here, we passed fields of sheep, warm in their woollen coats, munching on frozen grass.
The large camping site operated by The Camping and Caravanning Club came into view, and I made a mental note to go that way again, if only to visit their onsite bar – The Whistling Pig.
Pausing for a while, we had some refreshments for elevenses, greeted passing walkers, and waved at cyclists as they rode along the lane. The sun was still shining; the sky was still blue, and it was still cold, very cold!
Refreshed, we continued along Ashes Lane, observing some interesting rock formations and more woolly sheep munching on frozen grass as we went.
We soon went ‘off-road’. Going off-road is the bit I like. Country lanes are all fine and lovely, but, for me, there is nothing better than walking through fields, meadows, and woodland glades. It’s so beneficial to the mind and spirit.
Passing through a field (sans sheep), we crossed the bustling A591 again. This time, we could hear the thundering traffic above our heads as we walked through a stock tunnel.
Road walking, once more – I didn’t complain, though, because I knew more off-road walking was to come – we hiked onward.
Tall Tales and Familiar Places
The banter, story-telling and general bonhomie of the walks are a bonus. Time for jokes and tall tales. Opportunity to talk about shared interests, memories of old times, and surprises too. It’s interesting when someone mentions an obscure place hundreds of miles away down south, and another person says, ‘Aye, I know it well’, thus enabling you to talk animatedly for half an hour about mutual knowledge and experience.
Time to talk about shared interests; on this occasion, Celtic legend, druids, Stonehenge, Glastonbury (Tor, not festival – don’t get me started on festivals! Festivalgoers these days have it easy! Back in the day, there was no such thing as running water, flushing loos or RVs. A hole in the ground, yes, if you were lucky!), Yule and the Winter Solstice. Time also to observe damage to farmland gates and debate how the bending and twisting in them occurred. Did you know that if the top rail of a metal farm gate is bent downwards, it has been caused by a female dragon resting while secreting herself from view by using a cloaking spell? ‘Tis true, honest – you just need to believe.
Crossing Winter Lane, we walked along the long drive leading to Cowan Head on the bank of the River Kent at the foot of Potter Fell. Originally a paper mill, Cowan Head is now a private gated community of sixty apartments and cottages with a golf course and leisure centre.
Off-road once more (yay!), we walked on. Our walk continued along the west bank of the River Kent, past the weir, and along a rocky path. The sound of the rushing water was a joy to hear, and the sight of a heron (the second of the day), poised and ready to fish, was beautiful. There were more sheep, too, in adjoining fields, warm in their woolly coats, munching (yes, that’s right) on frozen grass.
It was time for lunch. We rested on the bridge at Haggs Foot and enjoyed drinks, sandwiches, and sundry nibbles. The sun was still shining, the sky was still blue, and it was still cold!
Refreshed once more, we continued our trek. It was the homeward leg now, and the day was almost done. Still off-road (another yay!), we strolled along the riverside, passing Beckmickle Ing as we did so. This stretch of the River Kent is one of the nicest I have seen, flowing through woodland, with clear water inhabited by fish and populated by ducks. I recommend a visit.
The Final Leg – Back to Staveley
We navigated the last stile of the day. How many had there been? I’d forgotten to count them! There had been a lot, I know that. Wall stiles, ladder stiles, step stiles, we’d seen them all. Due to the re-routing of the footpath, we had to leave the riverside and continue our journey through the fields. Reaching the Kendal Road back into Staveley, our off-road walking was complete.
From Cowan Head to the Kendal Road, our route had taken us along part of the Dales Way. Announced to the public in 1968, the Dales Way is a 78.5-mile long-distance footpath from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, to Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria.
The Dales Way
The Dales Way passes through two National Parks: the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District National Park. The first half of the walk follows the River Wharfe upstream to the main watershed of Northern England at Ribblehead. The second half follows several river valleys (Dentdale, River Mint, River Kent) to descend to the shores of Windermere.
I wonder if Nigel and Paul have ever considered arranging a walk along the entire Dales Way. How about it, guys?
Strolling back towards the village, we passed the historic Eagle and Child Inn (c1742) and once more crossed the River Gowan.
There is an interesting tale of the Eagle and Child, and the landed Lathom family.
An Eagle and Child became part of the Lathom family after a miraculous ‘delivery’. The story goes like this: Sir Thomas Lathom, who lived in the time of Edward the Third, longed for a son and heir, but his wife had only given birth to girls. Perhaps, to console himself, the knight made love to a village girl, who eventually gave birth to a baby boy. Sir Thomas was overjoyed but still had the delicate problem of introducing the child into his family with his wife’s approval. He succeeded by leaving it under a tree at Lathom Park and allowing his wife to discover it on her daily walk. He explained that the infant must have been dropped by the eagle that nested in the tree as a gift from heaven. Lady Lathom accepted the story and adopted the child, or so the story goes.Anon
Hmmm, do you believe the tale?
The promise of a hot cup of coffee put a spring in our step; yes, the sun was still shining, the sky was still blue, and yes, it was still cold!
We admired St Margaret’s Tower. The tower is all that remains of the former St Margaret’s Chapel, which was founded in 1338.
Back on Main Street, our destination was Mr Duffin’s, the noted artisan coffee roasting house. Now, I’ll tell you this. I have visited many coffee houses, but none compare with Mr Duffin’s. Intimate, with the aroma of freshly roasted coffee and comfortable seating, it was a fitting finale to our walk. We sat awhile, drank coffee, spoke of the day, and thanked Nigel and Paul for leading us on ‘The Staveley Round’.
Aye, it were a grand day out and a grand walk. 6.6 miles in length (I can’t be doin’ with those kilometre thingamajigs), so my tracker tells me.
The day done, we said our goodbyes and departed Staveley to go our separate ways home.
As I write this, we are on the eve of December. The next walk is planned for mid-December. I’ll be there, along with Nigel and Paul. How about you? Will you join us? I do hope so.
Remember, if you think 6 miles is too far, why not try some gentle walks first? Ramblers run some excellent Wellbeing Walks. They usually are two to three miles and last no longer than 90 minutes. Local walks in Kendal, Grange and Cartmel are ideal practice for the longer Lighthouse treks.