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More easy walks near Windermere

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Crier of Claife and Lake Shore
6 miles [9.5km]

Claife Heights is the fell facing you across the lake from Windermere. It is densely wooded with mixed woods facing the lake, and above and beyond are the thick plantings of the Forestry Commission. Crier of Claife is on the summit track. (The crier was a fearsome ghost who haunted these woods, making his presence known with a terrible cry.)

The walk is a pleasant woodland excursion, returning along the shore of Windermere, and is highly recommended. The hardest part of the walk is directly at the beginning when it goes steeply for a section.

The walk starts at Station Wood which is on the Hawkshead side of the Windermere ferry.

From Windermere the car can be parked at one of the Bowness car parks. Follow the footpath which starts at the end of the promenade past the boatyards. This goes by Cockshot Point, along the lake shore, then joins the road down to the ferry. Cross the lake by the ferry. Walk towards Hawkshead, and just past the first road junction a little way along, there is a footpath through a wall gap into a wood. Follow this clear track until you come to a ruined building.

From Hawkshead, take the ferry road to Windermere. At the bottom of the steep hill leading to the lake, the road nears the lake shore, and immediately on the left is a car park in a wood. Park here. Walk out by the footpath towards the ferry, then branch left and climb at the sign post. Follow the short but very steep path, waymarked white, to the ruin.

The ruin is the 'station'. This is not to be confused with a railway station. A station, in the Lake District's romantic era, was where the discerning visitor was expected to stand, or station himself, to view the classic views. This station belonged to the Ferry Hotel, now no more an hotel. Windows faced classic views, and were glazed with coloured glass to give added effect.

The path leads upwards from the station and is way-marked with white spots of paint. The path goes between crag faces. The path falls a few steps to a wet area, then climbs through the trees. The climb is steep. The path wanders a little, and near the head of a gully goes off right on a gentle slope, then turns left quite clearly, and zig-zags up to a fence. Turn right and follow fence under mountain ash clump. Go through gap in wall, and path goes on and is well defined. There is a view of the lake and Belle Isle. Bowness Bay with its boat yards is to the right. The path falls and rises, and goes between a fence and a wall, through a wall gap, then between fences between two plantations. This path ends at a kissing gate and T junction. Turn left. Go through gateway and the track then goes between a fence and a wall. Just after this watch for a gateway on the right to a track going up between two walls. This is the track you want, and it should be way-marked white.

After a while a pool, or a wet patch, is on the left. You go through a gateway. After another interval an open area is reached (good view of Langdale Pikes, left). Track forks. Go right with wall on right, ignoring tracks through wall. Follow this track right through; it changes to a pathway then reaches a stile. Go over. The path beyond can be seen climbing steeply left, but this is a short section. Follow it through. The path zig-zags near the top. There are two wet sections in the path.

Near the summit of this path there should be a signpost on the left. The white waymarks should go off to the left. You turn right however, leaving the waymarks, and onto a rock view-point. The right-of-way is over to your left but it is very wet going and you are advised to cross the broken fence and wall at the view-point and pick up a path going left - meandering, but going roughly parallel with the old wall and forest-edge. You can take in some pretty views over Windermere. A beck is crossed by the wall and the path continues on steeply to a very good look-out point. From here, the path descends to re-join the more clearly-defined right-of-way where it has left the conifer forest to enter the broad-leafed wood. The path goes onwards and meanders. Wet sections can be avoided left or right. Presently the path shows better preservation, the lower side of it being built up. Here there are good views across the lake. The path enters mixed woodland again, and you are now in the area of the Crier of Claife.

The path goes along the right of a spruce plantation, then it begins to lose height. Ignore path joining from right. Go on to a T junction (ignore track, sharp right). Turn right and go down the track. The track finishes by the garden wall of Belle Grange and a T junction is reached. Turn right, walk along the lake shore. The track goes through pleasant woodland.

When the walls of a property ahead are seen (Strawberry Gardens), there is a very fine large sweet chestnut tree on the right. The track passes above Strawberry Gardens and approaches the lake shore again. These woods were once great charcoal producers. The charcoal was made by very controlled burning of wood. The fire was almost smothered by sods and earth, air being let in very carefully. Earth platforms called 'pitsteads' were dug out by the charcoal burners for their fires. There are many pitsteads in this area, now largely lost in the new woods.

There are views across the lake. Watch for a second old sweet chestnut on the right. The nuts only ripen successfully very occasionally, as they are natives of Spain. Go by the cattle grid. The track becomes a surfaced road.

The island on the left between the shore and the large island of Belle Isle is Thompson Holme (locally 'Tommy Holme'). On the left farther on two islands are now seen on the left between you and Belle Isle. These are the Lilies of the Valley islands; so called because the plant grows wild there. The much overgrown island just before the ferry is Crow Holme. The tiny one before it is Maiden Holme. Go by the cattle grid. You are soon at the T junction with the Hawkshead Ferry road, which was your starting point. The station is above on the right. Walkers bound for the car park can go through the wall gap which comes after the footpath gap, and walk parallel to the road, in the wood, by some good viewpoints.


Windermere Shore Footpath, South to Lakeside

7.5 miles [12 km]

A circular route of Windermere would be a marathon, so take the return journey to the starting point by steamer.

Park in one of the Bowness car parks. From Bowness Pier follow the promenade round past the boathouses and the car park. At the end of the promenade the pavement curves left but a public path turns off right between a hedge and fence. This leads onto Cockshot Point. Follow the path round. At first sight here the lake looks very narrow but in fact there is a large island in mid-lake, Belle Isle. The path eventually brings us past the police and lake warden's boat house, and onto a road. Turn right. This leads to Windermere Ferry. Cross and disembark on the far shore and walk up the road. Pass the buildings on the left, and avoid the road with its blind bend, by going through a wall gap on the right into the wood. Ash Landing Wood (National Trust.) Follow the road side, climbing through the silver birches, to the top of the small crag. Here there is a lovely view down the lake. The odd looking structure on the jetty end on the left of the downward view is Storrs Temple, a folly built in 1804.

Continue on across the informal car park then across the road. Quit the road almost immediately by going along the lane left. The wooded fringe of the lake is on the left, a nursery on the right. The trees thin out to allow lake access, then the lane bends right to avoid properties, and we join a surfaced road. Turn left and walk with care. Presently the wood thins out on the left and there is a stile onto a lake-side field (signposted). Follow the path to the shore, and walk again by the edge of the lake. After crossing a footbridge and a stile, after 120 yards there is a fenced area. Do not be put off by this - the right of way is through the gap and close to the lake shore. Pass the concrete jetties, but before going over the stile look back up the lake: there is a good view of the mountains beyond to the north-east - Yoke, the hump of Ill Bell, then Froswick and Thomthwaite Crag (2,569 feet) on the High Street range.

The path follows a wooded promontory. Just off shore is an attractive little wooded island - Ling Holme. There is next a damp section through reeds, then there is another 'nab' or promontory Rawlinson Nab. The view up-lake is cut short by Belle Isle. The prominent fell feature in this direction is Red Screes (2,547 feet) above Kirkstone Pass. Down the lake on the other hand the prospect is softer and quite beautiful. Following the track on, there is a reedy island left - Grass Holme - the haunt of swans. Then the path turns off the road, and you are faced with a twenty to thirty minute walk on the road after turning left.

If the road is not too busy the walk is enjoyable. There are conifer woods left and hardwoods right, but there is no grass verge offering security against traffic until you being to ascend a hill. Ignore the road's hairpins and take to the path up the grass to the left. At the top of the hill the road levels before a descent. Watch for the gap in the fence, left, which should be signposted. Go through the gap and down between the fences. The path steepens under yew trees then turns right, goes behind some property, and eventually reaches the lake again. There is another attractive little island - Silver Holme - before you. Local tradition has it that there is a hoard of silver hidden under the water at this point. A small 'nab' after it gives excellent views up and down the lake. The shore becomes a rock slab known as Long Tongue, and there are more good views. A little further on, the lake must be left again for ahead is private property, in the ownership of the YMCA.

The path leaves the lake shore between a high deer fence on the right and a barbed wire fence, left. The road is then reached. Although only a secondary road it can be busy. Turn left. Go carefully and after a few minutes watch for a gap in the wall into the wood right. Follow the roadside in the wood.

After about ten minutes one is again forced onto the road by swamp and steep ground opposite the entrance to the YMCA South Camp. Less than fifteen minutes later you should be at a group of buildings - Stock Park. You must now look at your watch and make a decision. The Lakeside Pier for the steamer is twenty minutes - allow thirty - along the road, which needs even more care after you have turned left at the first junction as there are blind bends. If you have an hour left before steamer time a comfortable and pleasant diversion can be made across the fields to avoid the road hazards.

The detour starts directly after the buildings along a lane on the right, bending sharply. On reaching the fork in it bear left. Go on through the gate and across the field. Bear right, keeping the grass hump just to the left, and then go through the gateway in the wall. Then make for the point ahead where the walls on the wood boundaries on the left and right appear to converge. Go through the gate, and along a track to a quiet road. Turn right and make for the village church at Finsthwaite. In the churchyard is an interesting grave, that of 'Clementina Johannes Sobiesky Douglass, of Waterside' (1771). The presence of a 'Polish princess' here was once something of a mystery but it is now assumed that the lady, who lived quietly near here, was the illegitimate daughter of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' by his mistress Clementina Walkenshaw, god-daughter of his mother, Clementina Sobiesky.

Take the road past the village school nearby. The road quickly changes to a footpath at an odd stile. Make for the gateway in the field ahead and on to the wicket gate. Follow the track then through the wood and downhill. This brings us onto the road again, but the more hazardous sections have been avoided. Turn right and Lakeside steamer pier is soon reached.


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