From Kendal continue on the M6 to Junction 39 and follow the signs for Shap and look out for a turning to the left indicating Wet Sleddale. The narrow road leads to the dam wall where there is parking. This is free.
Map: OS Explorer OL15
Grid reference: 555116
Length: 3 miles
This area has been underrated by walkers in the Lakes as they concentrate on the tourist areas which do get very busy at this time of the year. There is less fun walking among crowds and if you want to see wildlife this is obviously not ideal. 2012 has so far been the wettest on record and the only bright side is that wildlife around water has been interesting. In the Wet Sleddale area where I spent the whole of the day I was able to see a dipper, which is not unusual but I also got close to an otter which was only my second of the year. This was my reward for starting this walk at six in the morning.
Route 1 From the car park following the dam wall. Pass through a gate and be sure to continue straight ahead and ignoring the path heading off to the left. Time needs to be taken here as there are excellent views of the reservoir. The early shower had stopped and the sun was shining. I heard the welcome sound of a skylark singing and with the sheep also being vocal I felt alone in our wonderful countryside.
2 These sounds continued as I passed a fenced off woodland to the right and listened to an early blackbird singing and a late tawny owl having its last shout before going to roost. Follow a marker post which forks left. Cross a wooden footbridge and then left to a stone wall and a stream. Here I disturbed a common sandpiper which flew off with its white rump shining in the sunlight.
3 Continue ahead and ascend to reach a gap in the wall and follow the line of a stone wall. For this walk you do need a pair of waterproof boots as it can get boggy especially in this year!
4 Follow the obvious set of marker posts and through a gap in a wall to reach a gate and a stone bridge which crosses Sleddale Beck. Once more there was plenty of wildlife to be seen and I saw heron and a kingfisher. There were plenty of flowers including self-heal, lots of clover and water mint.
5 Cross the bridge and continue to follow the markers which direct you uphill to reach a step stile. This can be difficult for some dogs to negotiate but not my labrador. Turn right and ascend through a wooded area where once more there was lots of bird sound.
6 Once you reach the barn on the right you will see Sleddale Hall to the left. Bear right once you see a footpath sign on a stone wall. Go through a gate.
7 You are now on a substantial track with the reservoir on the right. Pass Green Farm on the right and then through a gate to reach a minor road.
8 Keep down the road and ignore a high stile on the right. As you pass Thorney Bank Farm look out for a Victorian postbox set into the wall. In the 1950s my father worked for the Post Office testing postmen’s rounds. I remember going with him and seeing that old postbox which thankfully is still there. I love this old reminder of the past. Follow the line of the river Lowther after crossing a footbridge and bearing right. Pass a weather station on the right. I think that 2012 will have kept this station busy.
9 Keep the river Lowther to the right as it feeds into the reservoir. Bear gently left and continue to the starting point.
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.