River Kent Ramble, a History Lesson.

Start. Natland.

Route. Natland - Hawes Lane - Crowpark Bridge - Kendal/Lancaster Canal - Larkrigg Hall Bridge - Larkrigg Spring Wood - Horse Park Bridge - Sedgwick - Wellheads - Hincaster Road - Levens Park - Levens Bridge - Levens Park - Beech Wood - Park Head - Nannypie Lane - Low Park - Hawes Wood - Hawes Bridge - Hawes Lane - Crowpark Bridge - Natland.

Notes. Today I made a conscious decision or maybe semi-conscious to stay in bed, I had intended to rise when Sue's alarm sounded, drop her at work then head into the Lake District. Idleness got the better of me, three hours later I crawled from under the duvet not knowing what day it was. After hanging around the house another hour (watching You Tube, there's some Scots guy with a dog called Moss, I think he's from the Glasgow area because I can hardly understand a word he says).

Back to the affairs of the day, watching somebody else walking was the spark I needed, I threw some gear in the car and drove to Natland, parked opposite the school then without a clue where I was heading set out. Hawes Lane's a good route out of Natland, while I wandered over it's tarmac surface I formulated a plan. If it stayed fine before I reached the canal I head up Scout Scar, if rain fell it would be south along the canal, it rained as I approached Crowpark Bridge, the canal it was then.

What can I say about this stretch of dry canal that I haven't already said, apart from it makes a superb foot-path. Opened in 1819 it instantly turned Kendal into a wealthy town, coal prices halved, the various industries in the town reaped the benefits, limestone, slate and manufactured goods from local industries were cheaply transported south. The building of the railways tolled the death-knell for the canal, the last coal barge sailed into the canal head basin in 1944, it finally closed in 1947.

With the history lesson swimming around in my head I wandered south, under long abandoned bridges, through woodland and cow pastures, across Sedgwick Aqueduct before descending to the Hincaster Road. This narrow lane crossed the main road into the Lake District, I crossed to be met by a finger-post inviting me to Levens Bridge. What followed was a stunning walk through lovely park land, a mile long avenue of oaks my guide, the original carriage drive to Levens Hall. Once at Levens Bridge I crossed the river to re-enter the park on the opposite bank. With a green trod under foot I wandered north, through parkland and pastures, along the edge of Beech Wood to access Park Head, a small scattering of dwellings, the lane through the tiny hamlet ushered me to the River Kent and another history lesson.

The River Kent fast flowing but relatively short, around 20 miles in length, it maybe short but it has a long history. Used as a source of power since the 13th century, powering many mills. On the upper river above Staveley corn mills and bobbin mills, below Staveley paper mills, in Kendal mills servicing the wool industry and snuff producers, just out of interest the mill at Helsington was the last water powered snuff mill in the country. On the banks of the river at Sedgwick stands the remains of three mills producing gunpowder, today one mill survives, James Cropper producer of fine paper.

Nannypie Lane now ushered me north, the river to my right, I ignored the road bridge at Sedgwick Gorge continuing on to a junction, I turned right, still treading over the surface of Nannypie Lane I wandered passed the foot-bridge at Wilson Place then entered Low Park Wood, a National Trust caravan site, it's also the home of the remains of the New Sedgwick Gunpowder Works. Many of the structures remain, take your time, have a good look round. I continued the river to my right, this path guided me along the edge of the race that once carried water to power the grinding wheels, it's a spectacular stretch of path, especially when the river's in spate, I left the ghosts of past industry escaping into cow pastures, I think I'd have preferred the ghosts.

One field full of cows, I wearily wandered through to access a muddy path passing through Hawes Wood, take your time here, drink in the spectacle of the river the gorge it's quite impressive, as is the 18th century bridge that crosses it. When I'd had my fill I crossed the bridge to start the short walk over tarmac back to Natland.

view route map.


Looking across the Kent valley to Scout Scar, at this point it was still an option.

The other option, the winner today, the Kendal/Lancaster canal.

Sunlight on the limestone escarpment of Scout Scar, seen from Horse Park.

Sizergh Fell and a splash of Autumn, viewed from Wellheads.

Still at Wellheads, looking to Scout Scar over undulating sheep pastures descending to the River Kent.

Stunning avenue of oaks, my guide through Levens Park.

The River Kent in Levens Park.

The Helm rising above the tree tops, seen from the small cluster of properties at Park Head.

This shot was taken from the underpass beneath the main road into the Lake District, I haven't captured it very well but there was a wonderful play of light dancing across the concrete surface above my head, a reflection from the river and trees.

The River Kent in a never ending hurry to reach the estuary at Sandside.

The race that once powered the grinding wheels of the New Sedgwick Gunpowder Works.

Hawes Bridge over the River Kent.

A wonderful play of light across the Kent valley.

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