Great and Little Urswick lie in a fertile valley at the foot of a fine ridge of limestone. Through the vale flows Tarn Beck, which issues from Urswick Tarn. The reed-fringed lake is the haunt of coot and often visited by heron and geese.
Great Urswick’s church is believed to date from the middle of the 10th Century. It has undressed stone walls and a beamed ceiling. Look for the three-tiered Georgian pulpit and an altar painting of the Last Supper by James Cranke, a local painter, born in 1707.
Parking is difficult in the village. Try roadside parking opposite to the church grid ref 268744. Further north through the village there is space for two or three cars up against a wall on the left.
1 From the church, a delight to visit if open, walk on, north, to take a signposted left turn just beyond the General Burgoyne pub. The tarmacked way soon becomes a rather wet track with a pleasing raised grassy area through the middle. At two farm gates take the little gate to the right side of the right gate. Beyond, walk parallel with the hedge/wall on the left to reach a splendid old limestone stepped stile in the left top corner.
2 Continue on to a waymark that directs you left. Pass through the gap and then strike half right up over limestone outcrops. Continue winding left past more large limestone boulders and then head down over a pasture to a clearly visible ladderstile against a wall. Once over follow an indistinct path across a fine valley pasture to a signposted ladderstile beside a gate onto a narrow road. Cross and climb up the large limestone steps beside a building on the left. Go over the stile and ascend a lovely secluded pasture to take a ladderstile into woodland on your right. Stroll through the trees and leave by a ladderstile into a high-level extensive pasture. Walk straight ahead along a wide green swathe and then ascend, to your left, a short slope to see traces of what are believed to be two Iron Age enclosures, one oval in plan and the other rectangular, the latter possibly containing five hut circles.
3 To continue, drop down a couple of steps to the middle of the slope and then go on, keeping above the fine swathe of short grass as it winds round left. Almost immediately turn left up a low grassy rib of limestone that turns back on itself and is used regularly by a tractor. Follow the wheel marks as the way soon becomes a good track. It winds through scattered trees, first right and then over open ground of Urswick Crags (best seen further to your west) to a good but narrow squeeze stile to the right of a gate. Go on down the gentle sloping pasture to another splendid limestone stile, with steps on either side. Beyond, bear slightly left to descend the indistinct way that brings you down and down to a wide gateway and a very poor ladderstile beside it, which you might have to use if the mud is too deep and wide in the gateway.
4 Once through, press on ahead, hedge to left, through scattered bushes towards several houses, to take a good gate into the cul-de-sac of a small estate at Little Urswick. Descend to a narrow road, cross the green to reach the village bus shelter and a large signpost directing you over the main road and through a farm gate. Walk down beside the farm buildings and then wind left to take a gated/stiled track, which leads you to a gate onto a wet pasture. Turn left before it to walk a delightful grassy track behind the houses on your left.
5 Join the road and remain on the pavement for a short way to reach the Recreation Hall. Turn right, just beyond it, to walk a path, to go through an iron kissing gate, the first of several that lead to the church. Continue beside the hedge on the left and take the next kissing gate in the hedge, well before a footbridge that you can see ahead more clearly. Walk across the pasture, parallel with a hedge and the river on the right, to go through the next gate and then follow a distinct path that leads to a gate into the churchyard. Before you join your vehicle you might wish to sit on one of two seats on a banking for your picnic.
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Terrain: A short interesting walk with some fine stiles and kissing gates. Try not to miss the left turn at Point 3 because if you continue, and then wind left, there is no way to descend to Little Urswick.
Map OS Explorer OL 6
NB: Restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.