Trying to guess the best time to see the Lake District at its most spectacular is a hit-and-miss business. Last autumn we chose just the right time to take some spectacular pictures of trees that line the shores of Ullswater. We also got it just right to see the daffodils in their glory on our walk to Broughton Mills. Last year we also chose the right time to see a multitude of young lambs at their liveliest. But this week we were too early for the bluebells at Staveley. Leaves and a few buds were visible but no haze of blue or cloud of perfume. But hopefully by time this walk is published it will be just perfect for the lovely flowers.
Park at Wilf’s Café, Staveley, grid ref 471983.
1 Stroll left out of the parking area and then left again just before the fine St Margaret’s Tower. Cross the new footbridge over the River Kent and walk right, with the wall to the left. Keep left at the signpost to join a track. Once past a barn look for an arrowed gate on the left of the track. This gives access to a delightful grassy mound with a seat. Pause here to enjoy this lovely corner, shadowed by tall trees, before continuing on the rising footpath to join a narrow lane. Walk right, ignore the turn on the left, and carry on until you can descend to signposted steps, on the left, over the wall.
2 Go ahead beside a beck on the right to take the gate to the left of a small rock opening through which the stream gushes. Head left to see a traditional charcoal kiln. Then return a few steps and go left up a steepish but distinct path, with the tumbling stream to your left. Follow the white arrows to pass through a tall gate into another lovely section of the woodland. Still no bluebells in flower but lots of leaves. Press on the gated and well arrowed way until you can see a small gap through a low wall. This gives access to Mike’s Wood. Bear right through the young trees, ignoring two gates on the left out of the plantation. Head on slightly right (no path) to reach a wooden gate out of the trees onto a walled bridleway.
3 Stride left, pass through a gate and continue on the grassy way to reach a narrow lane. Follow this right and wind round left with it to walk the lovely way below Potter Fell on the right. The lane, virtually traffic-free, is lined with spring flowers. Sheep with lively lambs enjoy the sun. Go past Littlewood farm with its delightful variety of fowl and carry on uphill until you pass more farm buildings on the right. Just before the second wall, going downhill on the left, look for the signed footpath. But first make a decision. Look right to see Brunt Knott close by on the right. Here you might be tempted to extend your walk to its top (see the Gazette walk published on March 29).
4 If you decide to take the signed stile on the left, descend with the wall to the right. At the wall ahead, turn left, keeping the wall to your right, still on a wide, lush grassy track (surely the best in the Lake District?). Look right for a fine view across the valley to Reston Scar. Go on the gated way soon to walk with the wall to your left. Keep beside this and finally wind right, downhill to join a ladderstile to the road. Stroll left and enjoy the bluebells in the wood to your right - at last. At Barley Bridge, do not cross but go ahead along the lane to pick up, on your right, the start of the almost new lovely path along the side of the River Kent that flows strongly to your right. Cross the footbridge and the walk on to the main street. Turn right and then right again, beyond the Spar shop, to return to where you have parked.
Distance: 4 miles or 7 miles if you continue to Brunt Knott
Time: 2 hours or 4 hours
Terrain: Some very good paths and tracks; some will be muddy after rain.
Map: OS Explorer 7
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.