LOW Sizergh Barn is a popular working farm, café and shop four miles from the centre of Kendal, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. This short walk combines a farm walk with an historical tour of Sedgwick Gunpowder Works. As you stroll round the site you can learn how gunpowder was made here between 1875 and 1935 and identify remains of the works. The walk goes through picturesque woodland and beside a fast-flowing section of the River Kent.

Start from Sizergh Barn, map reference SD 502 876, postcode LA8 8AE.


Distance: 2.7 miles

Time: 1.5 hours

Terrain: mainly good footpaths and tracks

Maps: OS Explorer OL7


1 From the far side of the car park go through a high gate into a field and alongside a hedge on the right. Visit the polytunnels at Growing Well, which is a mental health charity, organic farm and training centre, then go through another high gate and continue walking beside Low Park Wood on the right. This ancient semi-natural woodland used to be coppiced to provide wood for making charcoal, bobbins, brush heads and stakes. Pass through a gateway then turn 90 degrees right into the wood. Walk along the track and soon after crossing a beck enter Sedgwick Caravan and Motorhome Club site.

This picturesque wooded area was formerly the site of Sedgwick Gunpowder Works. The process started with weighing and mixing charcoal, saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and sulphur. The mixed powders were then amalgamated (incorporated) under heavy stone runners with a small amount of water added to reduce the chance of ignition. The mixture was pressed to expel the water then broken up and sieved (corning process). The powder was dried at 126 degrees Fahrenheit (52C) for 12-15 hours in the Stove House, mixed (glazed) with graphite in rotating wooden drums, sieved and pressed into cartridges.

2 Turn left onto a tarmacked lane, left at the next junction, cross a bridge and follow the road bending to the right. After passing the site laundry and dishwashing building turn left before a bridge (to pass Pitches 56-120) onto a path going beside the leat on the right. This 7 feet wide x 5 feet deep water channel is more than 700 yards long and delivered water from the River Kent to large waterwheels that drove the machinery making gunpowder. Pass remains of the Stove House then cross the leat next to a sluice. Turn left to visit the site of a wooden weir at the start of the leat. Return to the sluice and walk along the path between the river and the leat. On reaching the bridge passed earlier cross the road and continue alongside the leat past remains of the corning buildings. The huge concrete structure on the right are the tall blast walls that separated the incorporating mills. Walk past them up to the footbridge by the site of a huge waterwheel that drove the mills.

3 Return to pass the site shop and reception building, turn right at the car park and head towards the site entrance. The old buildings on the right were the sawmill and cooperage where they made barrels for transporting the gunpowder. A leat can be seen entering the sawmill. On its outside are remains of one of several Gilbert and Gilkes turbines that the works used. After passing the building turn right, go through a builders yard then turn left in the woods. Turn left to rejoin the farm trail, going alongside a field and past a pond then uphill to return to Low Sizergh Barn.

Next week: Ingleton waterfalls, potholes and caves

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.