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Easy walks around Coniston

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Levers Water, Coniston

Levers Water stands in a natural cove, on the side of the Old Man of Coniston. Once a natural tarn, it was dammed and enlarged to provide power for the mining operations in Coppermines Valley. This route ascends alongside the Levers Waterfall, circuits the tarn and comes down via Boulder Valley and Church Beck. Although hard going in places, you are rewarded with wonderful views of Coniston and a chance to explore a landscape rich in industrial heritage.

Distance and terrain: 7.5km (4.75 miles). A long climb to Levers Water, with some sections of rough track. The circuit of Levers Water may be wet and boggy in pins. An easy descent.

Parking: The National Park car park in the centre of the Coniston village, on the B5285 (follow the signs for the tourist information centre).

The walk begins at the centre of the village. Head down Yewdale Road and turn left opposite the post office, up a cul-de-sac between the Black Bull Hotel and the Co-op store. The road runs alongside Church Beck and you are quickly out of the village and surrounded by fields, heading towards Wetherlam and Long Crag.

The road narrows to a single, rough track and is signed Coppermines Youth Hostel. Beware of the mineshafts! The lane climbs gradually uphill, and once over the cattle grid, you start to get a view back to Coniston Water. The white house on the far shore is Brantwood, once the home of John Ruskin. Once past the wood on your left, you get another view of the river and a small waterfall. Just above is Miller Bridge, a good viewpoint. Even better, scramble down and see how this old packhorse bridge has been constructed.

Continue up the track, past another waterfall and you can see the white youth hostel ahead. The path forks; keep straight ahead, towards the YHA. Levers Water Beck on your left is very wide and meanders through a valley wrecked by mining. Vegetation is reclaiming the spoil heaps but it is still a desolate view. Another beck comes in from the right and across that you can see a terrace of houses, once miners' cottages.

The track bears left, to pass in front of the youth hostel and alongside Levers Water Beck. Look out for the old mining carts scattered about the valley floor. There is an information panel just past the youth hostel. Just past a stone hut (the old powder store for the mine), you pass another waterfall and in the hills to the left you can see Low Water Beck tumbling down the fell side. Ahead is the Old Man of Coniston and behind you can still see Coniston Water.

Above the waterfall, the path divides, with the left fork heading down to a rusty iron footbridge. Go right, uphill, leaving the beck behind but climbing towards Levers Waterfall. As you climb you get a view over the desolate foreground to Coniston Water and the pine-covered fells beyond.

The track begins to converge with the river again. After a steady climb for a few minutes, you will arrive at a small plateau and a crossroads in the path. Left goes to a wooden footbridge but you should turn right, zigzagging up the hill, past a small cave and an open mine shaft. The path gets steeper and is rough underfoot. As you approach the waterfall and the wall of the dam, look back for a brilliant view of Coniston Water, beyond that the Yorkshire Dales and, around to the right, Morecambe Bay. The tower on the hill just in front of the bay is the Barrow Monument at Ulverston, a replica of Eddistone Lighthouse.

Climb up to the dam wall and you arrive at Levers Water. Now you have a choice. You could go left, cross the river and begin descending almost immediately. A more interesting option is to make the 1. 5km circuit, anticlockwise around the reservoir. Skirting the shore, the perspective continually changes and with it, the atmosphere of this isolated mountain tarn. The crags form a natural amphitheatre and you can hear the voices of walkers as they climb Gill Cove Crag on the far shore. The path around the tarn is distinct until you reach Swirl How Beck, when it disappears into a bog. Go right down to the shore and you should be able to traverse the rocks and keep your boots dry. Looking back from this point, the solitary rock in the tarn acts like a sight, centred on the view into the valley below. Two thirds of the way round, the shore becomes very squelchy. Climb above the bog and you join a path coming in from the right. Go left and follow the shore towards the dam.

The path is distinct as you enter a boulder field (this whole area is known as Boulder Valley) and approach a spoil tip on the right. Continue below the spoil tip and a path comes in from the right, about 40m before the dam wall. Turn right, back up this path to climb the spoil tip and past the mine opening on the left. This is a mine shaft which has collapsed and left a gaping hole in the hillside. Continue up the hill, past a second fence and then bear left up the hill. Don't continue straight or you will end up on the scree. Climb to the saddle between a grassy knoll on your left and the scree on your right, passing a large, flat-topped boulder. Looking back you get a final view of Levers Water.

Once over the saddle, you drop down into the grassy valley, with a superb view of Coniston Water as you descend. Watch out for Gondola, the National Trust steam launch. The grassy slope is littered with boulders and the path zigzags between them, heading towards Low Water Beck below. The view to the left opens up and you can see Coppermines Valley and the youth hostel once more. As you drop down to the beck, there is a large, angular boulder on the left, which looks like something imported from Easter Island. This is good for a practice scramble. Once across the beck, there is the remains of an old pipeline on the right and another huge boulder, frequently covered in rock climbers.

The path continues across the flanks of the Old Man, crossing another beck and then onto scree. You pass a picturesque mine entrance on the right, with water dripping down the moss-covered rock. It is safe to peer in but do not enter. The path continues below a crag and then reaches a T-junction with a much larger track. Turn left and go downhill. After 20m, the track bears right around the hill and forks. Go straight on, downhill towards the youth hostel, to a gate in a stone wall. Go through the gate, across the field to a gap in another stone wall. Here the path bears left, away from the wall, and continues downhill through the bracken.

The path drops to a wire fence. Follow it down the hill, alongside Levers Water Beck again, through another gate and down to Millers Bridge. You can cross and retrace your steps to the car. Alternatively, continue past the bridge without crossing, and go through a kissing gate. The beck is now on the other side of a stone wall and you drop down along the bottom of a field to a slate workshop. Once past the workshop, the path becomes a track and bears left, keeping to the river. You cross another beck coming in from the right and then pass a lovely wooded spot by the river, complete with a bench. This is a handy spot to sit and get your breath after the long slog down from Boulder Valley. Continue down the track to arrive at Dixon Ground Farm. Go through the gate onto the tarmac road and turn right. At the T-junction, next to the Sun Inn, turn left and follow the road down into the village, emerging beside the road bridge in the centre of Coniston.


Rusland Valley

Circular walk from Colton Church via Oxen Park and Low Hay Bridge. Length of walk: 5 miles. Start/finish: A large open area beside Colton Church.

Leave Hawkshead and take the road to Grizedale. Go on through Satterthwaite, Force Mills, Oxen Park and on to the tiny village of Colton, where you turn left. Continue up the narrow lane to take a very sharp left turn that ends at the church. Terrain: Easy walking. After heavy prolonged rain the path beside Rusland Moss can be under water and a diversion has been included.

This walk takes you through a glorious secret part of High Furness and Rusland. It starts by Colton church. which you might like to visit. Holy Trinity stands on the top of the hill above the hamlet of Colton, from where there is a stunning view. The church is surprisingly large inside and was consecrated in 1578 by Archbishop Sandys. It has a striking west tower. Go through the kissing gate above the church hall. Walk on up the slope and look out for the signposted step-stile through the wall on the left with, beyond, a glorious view of the Coniston range of mountains. Walk ahead, keeping a derelict stone wall to your left and a deciduous wood to the right. Follow the waymark directing you ahead to another stone-stepped stile in the left corner of the pasture. Stride diagonally right towards a waymark set between trees in a row of straggly hawthorns. Walk with the hedge to your right to a post with several arrows on it. Note this point for your return.

Turn half left and walk on to cross a sturdy footbridge over a small stream. Ascend the slope, walking in the same general direction, heading to the right of New Close farm. Beyond the buildings, join an access track and turn left. Take the stone-stepped stile in the wall on your right, just before the first barn on the right. Walk ahead, with the hedge and fence to your left. Pass through a gate and continue uphill. with the wall to your right to pass through the next gate. Beyond, you can see the rooftops of Oxen Park, towards which you walk. Continue into the small village. Cross the main road and walk right down a narrow lane, between cottages. At the road cross and turn left. Take the grassy track that leads uphill on the right. Walk on, with a wall to the right to an idyllic hollow with a beck wandering through and steep bracken-clad slopes coming down almost to the water. Do not ford the beck but go on with the hurrying water to your left. Continue on the clear track to pass through a gate into a walled track. Away to the right is New House, a dwelling that once was the poorhouse for the district.

Stride on the wayrnarked way, with a good view of the moor above to your left, to join a delightful track, where you turn left. Walk the lovely way until you reach a gate. Here take the kissing gate on the right and carry on with a wall to your right. Pass through a kissing gate into deciduous woodland and follow the track. Emerge from the trees by a gate and go downhill. Ignore the track that swings away right and press on to a gate into more woodland. Stride on along the grand track to escape the trees by another kissing gate. Ahead stands the gracious Whitestock Hall. Stroll on to join the road, passing through a gate on your right.

Cross the road and stand by the gate to see a standing stone in the middle of the pasture. Turn right and walk with care along the lane for 450 yards. Take the easy-to-miss tiny footbridge set in the hedge on your left that gives access to a signposted track. Turn left, pass through the gate and bear right downhill, keeping to the wall side of the beck. Go ahead to a waymarked stile into the willow and birch woodland of Rusland Moss. In autumn the blackthorn trees along the path are heavy with sloes.

Stroll on along the edge of the wood. (If the way is very wet, move out into the pasture to your right and walk on close to the trees on your left.) The indistinct path through the trees brings you to a footbridge which you cross and a four-armed signpost. Stride across the pasture, at a right angle to the wood, in the direction of Hulleter. Pass through a waymarked gate and then head up towards Hulleter farmhouse, taking a gate to the right of the dwelling. Beyond walk on, bear left and then right through the farm buildings to join a wide signposted track, where you turn left.

Where the track divides, take the left branch and walk down towards the signpost for Low Hay Bridge Nature Reserve. Stay with the wall on the left through two gated pastures and then through a gate into woodland. Follow the path as it swings right to a signpost that directs you towards Bouth, along a metalled road. To the left of the signpost is a cottage.

Stroll the pleasing way through the woodland of the reserve. Watch out for the 'toad crossing' sign and the two delectable tarns, one on either side of the road. Cross the cattle grid to leave the wild life sanctuary and walk on. Take the signposted footpath on the right and aim towards the right side of the next waymark post, stationed on a hillock. At the next signpost, ignore the right turn, and walk ahead over a few humps and dips to cross a tractor bridge close to the wall on your left. Go through the gate and stride ahead to follow the wall on your left through two gates to join a narrow lane.

Turn right and in a few yards take the signposted left turn through hazel woodland. Leave the trees by a gate and walk on, following the well waymarked path that descends to a waymarked gate. Beyond walk ahead to the waymark at the end of the straggly hawthorn hedge noted on your outward route. Turn left and stay with the hedge and the wall to the stone-stepped stile to the left of a gate. Beyond walk on with the wall to the right. heading for the wood. Go on with the wood to your left and the derelict wall to the right to another stone-stepped stile in the wall. Beyond follow the wall on the right, downhill to the gate to rejoin your car.


Black Crag and the Mountain Road

4 miles [6.5 km]

The title of this walk may sound formidable. In fact Black Crag is a little hump of rock on a softly-contoured fell south of Skelwith Bridge. The Mountain Road is the local name for a hard track at a modest level, north of Tarn Hows. But this walk should not be done in mist, as good views are its fine feature. Part of the way is muddy. Having said that, the walk is a delightful adventure.

From Ambleside take the Coniston Road, continuing as for Coniston at the junction with the Langdale road at Skelwith Bridge for about 1.75 miles. At the top of the long hill take the second turning right; that is the one after the road signposted 'Wrynose'. At the time of writing the road you want is signposted 'Unfit for Cars'. Pull in on this road, and park on the grassed area just inside. From Coniston the road above is four miles along the Ambleside road, beyond the hill crest and beginning the descent. After parking, return to the main Ambleside to Coniston road and cross it. Go up the grass track, past the seat, which is opposite. Go through gate and on along track. The mixed woodlands away to the left are very colourful in spring and autumn.

After crossing a little beck, turn right across a wet area to follow the wall which is on the left, but at some distance from it. A hundred yards up, the track is better seen and is on drier ground, as it zig-zags up the hill. Looking back as you climb there is a view of Elterwater. Near the top the track bears left through a gate. Here it is more difficult to see, but it follows the wall which is now on the right. Go through gate towards the buildings of Low Arnside Farm, hidden among trees. Bear left just before the farm, up a more distinct stony track. The track meanders, then goes through a gateway, and follows a wall which is on the right. On approaching the crown of the hill there is another gateway. Just beyond this the track levels, and there is a large bog on the left. Turn off this track here. Just before the bog, a track will be seen bearing sharply left round a rocky knoll. This is your way. Unfortunately the old track here has been drowned in the bog, but it is possible to pick it up by skirting the knoll, and following close to the wall on the left across stepping stones. The good built-up track is then picked up following the wall upwards. Following this track and looking left at Low Arnside one can see how the old Lake District farms were built - backs to the wind in a sheltered hollow, with a shelter-belt of trees. When the track begins to fall it is time to leave it.

To find the point recommended; over the wall to the left another wall can be seen coming up to join it. It is just before this joining. At the foot of your wall following the track can be seen a 'hog-hole'. (Hog is a yearling sheep.) This is a little passage way for sheep. Strike up the bank immediately opposite to this. On reaching the top of the first rise, the square-looking cairn on the knobbly top of Black Crag can be seen ahead. This is the point to be eventually reached. To avoid bog and unnecessary loss of height, do not go straight ahead towards it, but bear right towards where the top of a larch tree can be seen above the brow of a hill. Go by this tree and cross the wet ground below it; cross the rising ground to the right, cross the wet ground beyond that, and walk up to the track which crosses your view ahead. Go right across this green track and toil up the hill.

The ground now is rough; take the ascent to the left, using the grass as much as possible in preference to loose rock. You will then arrive at the Ordnance Survey's triangulation pillar on the summit. The pillar has the unusual distinction of bearing a National Trust emblem. The view over Windermere is a delightful surprise. Blelham Tarn can be seen below; then right, Esthwaite Water and nearer, Tarn Hows. Above Tarn Hows you should see Coniston Water. The fell views, visibility allowing, are remarkable. As always in this area the Coniston Old Man range dominates the scene, left, if you face the way you have come. The knobbly crags to the right and farther back are Crinkle Crags; just forward of these and a little right is the pointed peak of Pike o'Blisco, and between it and the large hump of the next mountain, Bowfell, might be seen the distant tip of Scafell Pike, the highest point in England (3,206 feet). On the other side of Bowfell is Great End, the northern hump of the Scafell Pikes range. Then there are the Langdale Pikes curved, right, with the great crag face of Pavey Ark.

Then there are the softer shapes, but high fells, of High Raise and Ullscarf, and a little nearer, Steel Fell. The gap of Dunmail Raise is next, and through it, if visibility is specially good, there is the distant rise of 'Saddleback' or Blencathra. The Helvellyn range is then seen end-on, the summit point almost at due north. Nearer and to right is the Fairfield range, followed by the gap of Kirkstone Pass, then there is the High Street range.

After enjoying the view, descend a little way by the same route as that by which you arrived, then incline left, towards Tarn Hows. A path should then be picked up which passes by a little pool. After passing the pool the path bears left a little, and after crossing a small gully it bends left round a little crag outcrop. Although this is only a footpath it should be clearly seen. It meanders and rises and falls, and heads in the general direction of Tarn Hows. It eventually joins a track.

Turn left along the track, go through a gateway and alongside a dense spruce wood. On approaching wood ahead keep close to left-hand wall to avoid bog. Go through the gate or over the stile into the plantation. Go directly on down the track. It is probably wet at first, but it improves on the descent. Leave the plantation at the bottom by the gate or stile. Follow the track down, through an old gateway and you are onto the Mountain Road. Turn right.

The road is well made, fenced both sides, and raised above the bogs. Presently there is a view of Tarn Hows on the left. Later there is a little tarn on the right. The mile or so walk on this road is a delight. It eventually, however, falls to join the main Ambleside to Coniston road again. Go directly, and with care, over the road, and enter through the gateway into the lane opposite. However, immediately through this gateway turn right and follow the wall through the pine trees, cross the wooden footbridge and go over the ladder stile.

Then continue alongside the wall along the field. This is a path, provided by the National Trust, to keep pedestrians off the narrow road alongside. If we follow the path along the wall another ladder stile is reached, and on climbing it you are back at the starting point.


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