Area: In the valleys
Posted By: grahamAs you arrive in Cartmel village, you become aware of an atmosphere of welcome and, if it is not a busy time, a pleasing tranquillity. This walk leaves from Cartmel¹s racecourse and climbs steadily through woodland and over pastures. It continues to Speel Bank, a sylvan, isolated area, where there is a deer farm. Quiet, indistinct paths take you beside deciduous Collkield Wood, where, as you climb the stone steps over a high wall, a magical moment occurs - see below. The way then carries on over the airy slopes, with a small diversion to lofty How Barrow, where a pause is essential to enjoy the stunning view. The route goes on below Mount Barnard and along the Cistercian Way to Cartmel, where you will want to enjoy the village’s pleasing hospitality. Cartmel Priory is the village’s greatest treasure. In 1190 William Marshal, Baron of Cartmel, founded an Augustinian priory as a thank you to Richard I (1157-1199). The kinghad increased Marshal’s wealth and influence and later, under Henry III, he became Regent of England. The priory was dissolved by Henry VIII (1491-1547) and most of the buildings were destroyed. The villagers lived around the precinct of the priory, but after the Dissolution moved within its walls. The church, St Mary and St Michael, remained ‘unpluckt’ after local people pleaded they could worship there, but the lead was stripped from its roof. The priory is at the heart of the community and is a place of worship as well as a venue for concerts and other social events. In the centre of Cartmel village is a square, with ancient fish slabs and a pump. In front of each of the surrounding old-world houses, shops, inns and teashops are small cobbled forecourts. On these, on summer weekends, stand tables occupied by visitors enjoying the sun and the good food. Under a lofty gatehouse - a remnant of the Priory buildings, owned by the National Trust - a narrow road leads off from the square. Another narrow lane of stone shops and cottages leads westwards to cross a picturesque bridge over the shallow River Eea. Northwards runs another narrow street of pretty houses and cottages, which leads to Cartmel Racecourse. Cartmel Races take place during the spring and summer Bank Holiday weekends. Legend has it that these were organised by the monks of the priory as their Whitsun break after a season of austere duties. In the past the grandstand and all the paraphenalia required for the very successful steeplechase meetings were taken down and stored until the next year. Now it is a permanent course and includes a building with a gallery from which Lord Cavendish, patron of the Priory and owner of all the land around, can be seen looking down on the crowds that flock to these Bank Holiday jamborees, where people picnic, punt and enjoy the fairground fun.
Mount Barnard was the first choice of the monks on which to build their Priory. Then, when one of them had a prophetic dream telling him to build beside water, they decided to establish their monastery beside the River Eea, which winds sogracefully through the village.
1. Take the signposted footpath, near the entrance to the car park, that
crosses, right, over the racecourse. Go through a gate and cross the
race track to pass through a kissing gate into woodland. Climb straight
up through the trees to struggle through a narrow squeeze stile. Press
on along a pasture, keeping close to a wall and hedge on your right.
The next stile gives access to a narrow road, where you turn right.
Walk on for 50 metres to bear left up a wide signposted track on the
left. Follow the track, which is wet in places, to its end. Here take
the overgrown, short, tree-lined path that goes ahead in the same
direction as the track. Beyond the gate, bear right along another
overgrown path that brings you to a signpost and the front of a
dwelling. Head on and turn left, as directed by the waymarks, before
outbuildings that stable horses.
2. Go through the next gate onto the open fell. Then strike diagonally to the top right
corner. Beyond the gate, walk on for a few metres to cross a small
stream on a clapper bridge. Continue with the stream to your left to
wind, right, round the corner of a wall and walk up beside it to a
stile tucked in the next corner. Go ahead to take the next stile and
then stride on towards Wall Nook. Pass through the gate and walk left
in front of the dwelling. Follow the tarmacked track as it winds right
and, where it is joined by an access track coming in on your left, take
the squeeze stile through the wall on your left. Head, right, across
the corner of the field to a stile onto a narrow lane.
3. Turn left and begin the long, delightful walk along the virtually
traffic-free way. Pass Over Ridge on your left and continue on along
the lane to reach Speel Bank farm. Here look for deer scattered about
the pastures. Follow the gated track as it winds right and, at the
signpost, ignore its directions and go ahead to pass through a
waymarked gate. This takes you along a walled way and then continues
for a little way beside the wall on the left. Then climb, half right,
to a waymark beside a small section of a wall, coming in on the right.
Go on with Collkield Wood to your right, to come to a step stile over
the high wall.
4. Once over (the steps are widely spaced
and the first step is very high for short legs!), pause here to enjoy
that magical moment, a wonderful view which includes the Coniston
Fells, the Leven Estuary and the Hoad monument at Ulverston. Then turn
left and stroll the delightful high level ridge. Keep parallel with the
wall, on your left, for just over half a mile. When you come to the far
end of a wood on your left and are faced with two gates, take the one
on the right. Continue on close to the wall on your left until it ends
and then go on a clear tractor-marked way to pass through a gate. Walk
ahead. Soon the wall turns away and drops left. Continue on, with views
away left to the Kent estuary and, to the right, the Leven estuary.
5. Drift gradually right, with the track, to come to a gate in the wall on
the right. Beyond, a path leads uphill to the trig point on How Barrow,
where you will want to dally and admire the view. Then return to the
gate and walk on to join the Cumbria Coastal Way (CCW) coming in on
your left. Walk on and, ignoring all other gates, bear half right
across the pasture to take an obscured CCW signposted gate into the
woodland of Mount Barnard. It is important here to access the correct
6. Carry on along the track, with a young plantation
to the right and Mount Barnard, tree-clad, rearing up to your left.
Then the way moves into denser conifer woodland before emerging into an
open pasture, with oak woodland away to your left. Beyond the next
gate, turn right to continue on the Cistercian Way and descend gently
along the track until you reach a narrow road, going off left, which
7. Follow it uphill and then down. Go on where it
becomes a track through coniferous woodland and where it leaves the
trees and continues on as a wide way to return to Cartmel.
Distance: 6 1/2 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL7
Terrain: Generally easy walking. Gently graded climbs and descents. Some paths can be muddy.
Route Grade Easy
(Map Ref: 377788)
(Map Ref: 377788)