07/09/2009
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Literary walks - views that inspired prose and poetry

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THE fells have inspired generations of writers to pen prose and poetry in praise of the incomparable beauty. Walk in the footsteps of five of them...

1. ROBERT SOUTHEY

‘How does the water come down at Lodore?’ Southey said it came ‘pouring and roaring, and waving and raving, and tossing and crossing, and flowing and going...’ and it is worth a visit after heavy rain.
THE HIKE
1 Leave Keswick to walk across fields to Portinscale, then use woodland paths that eventually lead to the shore of Derwent Water around Hawse End.

2 Enjoy woodland trails and lakeside paths, noting the ferry landing stages at Low and High Brandlehow. Walk on long duckboards across boggy ground.

3 Cross a footbridge over the River Derwent and turn left to follow a road past the Lodore Hotel. Lodore Falls are behind the hotel and have a modest entry fee.

4 Walk round Barrow Bay and stay near the shore, except when forced away near The Ings. A path leads to Friar’s Crag and a road runs into Keswick.

2. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Wordsworth was a prodigious walker who had an intimate knowledge of the Lake District. No doubt he knew the area around his beloved Grasmere better than any other place in the world, and lived in three houses nearby.
THE HIKE
1 Follow the narrow road running from Grasmere village towards Langdale, until steps on the left reveal a path dropping down to the lovely Grasmere lakeshore.

2 Walk towards the outflow and continue along a path through a valley that becomes densely wooded. Turn right uphill, then left downhill, following a path for Rydal Water.

3 Walk along the shore of Rydal Water, then cross the busy main road in Rydal itself, to walk uphill past one of Wordsworth’s former houses at Rydal Mount.

4 Follow the old ‘coffin route’ across the fellside from Rydal to Grasmere, passing another of Wordsworth’s houses at Dove Cottage on the way back into Grasmere.

3. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

Coleridge settled at Greta Hall in Keswick, and often visited Wordsworth. On one occasion he walked from Keswick to Grasmere, taking Helvellyn in his stride, then sat and talked about mountains all night!
THE HIKE
1 It is reasonable to assume that Coleridge would have climbed Helvellyn from the Kings Head at Thirlspot. There is an old path known as the White Stones Route.

2 Join a more popular path high above The Swirls and climb over Lower Man to reach the summit of Helvellyn, enjoying wide-ranging views in clear weather.

3 Follow the broad path across the upper slopes of Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, descending a zigzag path to the prominent Grisedale Tarn.

4 Cross Grisedale Hause and walk down beside Tongue Gill to the main road. Turn left to continue towards Grasmere, or even to Dove Cottage to visit Wordsworth!

4. THOMAS WEST

Father West was a Catholic priest living in Ulverston when his ‘Guide to the Lakes’ was published in 1778. No doubt he pounded some of the paths around town while visiting his parishioners.
View from Hoad Hill imageTHE HIKE
1 West lived on Fountain Street, close to where a Catholic church and school were later built. Walking past the Parish Church, Ladies Walk leads to Hoad Hill.

2 The prominent ‘lighthouse’ monument on Hoad Hill was raised in 1850, long after West’s time, in honour of Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty.

3 Come off the back of the hill to follow a track to a ladder stile. Cross it and walk down a woodland path. Cross a road to pick up a field path nearby.

4 This path leads to another road. Cross over and walk alongside a stream through a field. The stream, The Gill, runs into woods and the Cumbria Way leads into town.

5. HARRIET MARTINEAU

Harriet Martineau settled in Ambleside and must have astonished the locals. If she was not bathing naked in a water-hole in her garden, she was walking to Kirkstone and back before a 7.30am breakfast!
THE HIKE
1 No doubt in the winter months Harriet Martineau started walking in the dark, so it is likely she simply followed the Kirkstone Road all the way for safety.

2. You can wriggle up the last steep bit, called The Struggle, to reach the Kirkstone Pass Inn, but come back down that part of the road afterwards.

3. Leave the road to follow the path gently downhill, past the ruin of High Grove to the farms of Middle Grove and Low Grove. Continue down a road.

4 It is known that Harriet Martineau enjoyed a stroll around Stock Ghyll Force, so take the opportunity to follow the restored path from there to Ambleside.

  • To learn about more great walks in the Lake District, then subscribe to Lakeland Walker magazine by clicking here.

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