DESPITE its astounding beauty, the Duddon area is probably one of the least visited parts of the Lake District, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. This walk climbs the fells to Seathwaite Tarn exploring an area once inhabited by Bronze Age settlers. Around 7,000 years ago this area was forested but by 3,000 years ago, the trees had been cleared for hunting and agriculture and the thin soils degraded. Numerous ring cairns were built, probably to create fields. Sheep and cattle would have been grazed; hence its current name Seathwaite, which is derived from Viking words saetr, meaning summer pasture, and pveit, a clearing.

The rising population of Barrow in the mid-19th Century meant that more water was needed. Rather than pump water at great cost from Coniston a dam was completed in 1907 to raise the capacity of Seathwaite Tarn.

Start from the off-road parking area about 1.5 miles up the Duddon Valley from Seathwaite, just opposite a path down to Fickle Steps, map reference SD 230 974.


Distance: 5 miles with 800 feet of ascent

Time: 3 hours

Terrain: Grassy footpaths, often boggy

Map: OS Explorer OL6


1 From the two-way fingerpost take the footpath to the left, going around crags on the left, through a gateway and past a stone barn. The gateway is a good example of a traditional stang and stoop, where stangs (poles) fit through the holes in the stoop (post). Follow the path by the wall on the right past a farmhouse and beside a beck, going through a gate then right over a footbridge across the beck. Pass a ladder stile on the right and walk along a boggy area following the beck upstream below Throng Close and below overhead power lines. Walk across a footbridge below an attractive waterfall then go over a ladder stile. Pass through a gate then turn right going uphill past a pylon and through a gate in a wall. Continue ascending past a crag to a yellow waymarker. The reservoir dam can be seen ahead. Follow the footpath going left at a waymarker, below a crag on the left and on the left of the dam by the overflow weir.

2 Turn right, cross the 342-yard long dam then keep ahead, past a weather station and visit a ring cairn. By looking through the rocky notch on the right you can see Harter Fell framed by the notch. Continue walking in the direction of Stickle Pike ahead. On reaching a wall with a sheepfold behind it turn right to meet a track from the dam. Turn left down the track. Where the track bends right several stone enclosures can be seen on the left. This was thought to be the site of a Bronze Age settlement (from 3500 BC), possibly a summer shieling.

3 Immediately before the track reaches a wood, turn right through a gate onto a walled path. Pass a white house (Long House) and turn left on to the track going over a bridge. Turn right beside a barn onto a path signed Tongue House. Go through three gates to a tarmacked lane. Turn right and after 50 yards left on to a signed path beside a beck on the right. Cross a footbridge then follow the boardwalk path to the right alongside a wall. Pass a stone shelter and turn right through a wall gap on to an uphill path leading back to the parking area.

Next week: Torver Commons

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.