A Walk through the Pages of Industrial History.

Start. Oxenholme.

Route. Oxenholme - Burton Road - Oxenholme Lane - Natland - Hawes Lane - River Kent - Hawes Wood - Low Park - Nannypie Lane - Sedgwick Gorge - Park Head - Levens Park - Levens Bridge - Levens Park - Hincaster Road - Kendal/Lancaster canal - Hincaster Tunnel - Tunnel Hill - Stainton - Barrows Green - Oxenholme.

Notes. Industrial history being the production of black powder. The first gunpowder works in Cumberland and Westmorland (Cumbria) was set up by John Wakefield in 1764 on the east bank of the River Kent just below Sedgwick Gorge, eighty eight years later the New Sedgwick Works opened on a substantial site at Low Wood on the west bank of the river, it is this we'll be exploring. Unfortunately when production ceased in 1935 as was standard practise the whole site was torched, a precaution to eradicate any residue left behind..

I reside at the top of a hill, when I opened the curtains I found myself living in a world of swirling mist and heavy drizzle, distant views ended at the opposite side of the street, with the threat of decorating looming (something I've put off for the last six years) a walk in the rain seemed a favourable option. In the event I walked from home descending to Natland via Burton Road and Oxenholme Lane, after crossing the village green Hawes Lane guided me to the banks of the River Kent. I joined the west bank slipping and sliding through Hawes Wood a very muddy path under foot, once I'd escaped the tree cover a green trod guided me through sheep pastures descending through a hawthorn thicket to access a gate, after passing through said gate I joined the head race that once carried water to power the machinery of the New Sedgwick Gunpowder Works. This is a fabulous stretch of path, the noisy fast flowing waters of the River Kent on one side and the almost tranquil head race the other. I was soon passing roofless buildings, a glaze house and dust store, wheel pits and engine houses, three incorporating mills and lots more. Once I'd had my fill the access lane guided me passed an old cooperage to Nannypie Lane. Nannypie Lane in turn ushered me to Sedgwick Gorge and the remains of an earlier black powder mill.

I followed the tarmac surface until progress was abruptly halted by the main road into the Lake District, lucky for us ramblers a walkway passes under the road, once under tarmac ushered me to Park Head, a small scattering of houses and converted farm buildings, next to a rather smart barn a finger-post invites walkers to Levens Park. Over the stile I climbed to let field paths guide me to Levens Park. Through park land I wandered a way-mark path to guide me, on reaching Levens Bridge I crossed the river before joining the east bank, north I walked a substantial avenue of oaks keeping me on track. This tree lined walkway was once the original carriage drive to Levens Hall, it deposited me on the Hincaster Road.

South I wandered tarmac under my boot soles the song of traffic for company, the main road was but a field away. After a few hundred yards a finger-post invited me to Tewitfield, I joined the canal for the short walk to Hincaster Tunnel. At 378 yards long, cut 76 feet under the summit of the hill this was a substantial barrier, built to enable the canal boats to service the gunpowder works on the banks of the river. Boats were legged through by boat men, horses were uncoupled then guided over the hill via a horsepath, half a mile long incorporating three limestone accommodation bridges, one carrying the main railway line built in 1846, the other two field access tracks built 1817, this was to be my guide over Tunnel Hill. After traversing said hill the canal again guided me, at a narrow single arched road bridge the canal becomes a waterway alive with wildlife the waters stocked with fish, but here I said goodbye ascending a quiet tarmac lane. The lanes that run north from here are quiet only used by locals and a few cyclists, they afford some stunning views on clear days unlike today. With tarmac under foot and hedge rows to guide me I wandered to Barrows Green. This small scattering of houses and inn takes it's name from a burial mound found near by, the main road runs through the village, this busy highway with pavements running alongside safely guided me the short distance home.

view route map.


The River Kent above Hawes Bridge.

The sad remains of a bobbin mill, considerably less remain since storm Desmond passed through last year.

The River Kent near Low Park.

The head race that once powered the machinery at the New Sedgwick Gunpowder Works.

Looking north, up stream from near the remains of the Glaze House.

I believe these moss covered remains were once an Ammunition Dump, one of two on the Low Wood site.

Incorporating mills.

Looking to the wheel house, a 37ft water wheel once filled that gap, generating 90hp enough to power up to six incorporating mills.

Another view down the line of incorporating mills, so named because they incorporated (mixed) the ingredients together.

My route passed this old cooperage and saw mill.

The River Kent at Sedgwick.

The stately pile of Levens Hall, I had to make a short diversion to take this picture.

Strolling through the avenue of mighty oaks, it's a bit muddy today but its a fine route.

The western entrance to Hincaster Tunnel.

The horsepath over Tunnel Hill, looking to one of three accommodation bridges.

On the other side of the hill looking through the Hincaster Tunnel, top left you can easily make out the entrance to the horsepath.

With water for company, I stroll towards Stainton.

The canal at Stainton, no more photos I'm about to climb the lane into the low cloud of a rainy South Cumbria day.

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