A walk around the head of Thirlmere

THIS walk is full of interest. It crosses an unusual bridge, strolls over the magnificent dam that holds back Thirlmere - the large reservoir that often looks like a glorious lake - and ends in an optional climb to the viewpoint at the top of much changed Great How.

Leave your vehicle in the small parking area at Stannah village hall, grid ref 317189, where there is an honesty box and it is suggested that you put in a £2 fee. The bus from Keswick/Kendal stops here.

1 Leave the parking area and walk for a quarter of mile along the B5322 to enter the Legburthwaite car park, where there are toilets. Pass through the parking area and leave by the gate at the end. Turn left onto a lane and carry on to the side of the A591. Cross with care and walk the quiet lane, opposite, to pass Bridge End Farm. Take the signposted footpath, on the right, directing you through the last of the outbuildings. A short way along, go through a waymarked gate on the right before a wall. Follow the wall down to cross an unusual bridge. Once it was a fine packhorse bridge over a small beck but when the reservoir was constructed more water passed through the valley and, today, two wooden footbridges, one at either end of the packhorse, take you across.

2 Walk on to the end of the fence on the left and wind around, left, with it. Climb steadily up the continuing grassy way. Follow it as it passes through a wall gap and then between the sturdy deserted buildings at Smaithwaite. Beyond, follow the track to a narrow road and turn left to walk below Smaithwaite Banks forest, with towering Raven Crag ahead. Where the road divides, bear left before a small car park, to start your walk across the magnificent dam, noting the informative plaques as you go. Once across, stroll on along the narrow lane and take, on the right, a gate onto steps that climb to a narrow path that continues above the reservoir. Take care on this path if it is muddy and pause often to look down, quite steeply, through the trees to the water below.

3 Eventually the path swings left and climbs to join a wide track. Bear left, and then acute left, to climb Great How. Follow the narrow unsignposted track into the fine woodland and climb steadily as the way curves up the fell to a signposted right turn. Stroll on to steps leading to a T-junction. Turn left or right, better both, to enjoy the glorious views. The brow, once shrouded in conifers, now allows you to enjoy some splendid views.

4 Descend by your upward route and turn left on to the track you left earlier. Carry on soon to descend quite steeply to wind around a bend, left. Walk on along the good track for half a mile to go through a large gate to the side of the A591. Cross the road, with care, and walk right along the good grass verge to reach signposted steps and a stile into sheep pasture. Walk ahead across the field to a gate. Beyond, turn right to return a short way to where you have parked.

Information:

Distance: 5 miles

Time: 2-3 hours

Terrain: Woodland, pasture, quiet narrow roads. Mainly dry.

Map: OS Explorer OL 5

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.

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