The Lake District Guide

Lake District Valley and Low-level Walks

Harrop tarn and Ullswater (Dacre and Dalemain)

Harrop Tarn - 2 miles

Before Manchester Corporation dammed Thirlmere, virtually destroying the hamlet of Wythburn, an important track left this settlement, going over the Armboth Fells to Watendlath and Borrowdale. The track is still there, though almost lost on the summits in mire. The fell has the reputation of being the wettest in the Lake District. Manchester chose well for its water supply. However the first part of this track, as. far as Harrop Tarn makes a very pleasant walk. Everyone can do it, though its steepness will slow down the less energetic. Some wetness cannot be avoided. There is a headless ghost at the tarn, it is said; a minor hazard you are hardly likely to meet in daylight.

Thirlmere is reached by the A591 from Keswick-the Windermere road, turning right at the end of the dual carriageway to go along Thirlmere's western shore road. From the
bottom (dam) end of the lake go about 3.75 miles. The road cuts through a rock, on the left there is a little gateway with steps up a rock beyond it. (If you can park here for a moment, there is a good view from this rock, over Thirlmere to Helvellyn's slopes.) Shortly after this there is a big gate on the right. There are two more cuttings and shortly after this there is a loop lay-by on the right. Park here.

Leave the lay-by and walk on in the same direction in which you arrived. After the road crosses a beck there is a distinctive smooth crag up upon the right. After passing this crag turn a corner and there is a gate on the right with a signpost. Go over stile, walk towards and to the left of the crag. Avoid the wetness by going towards the crag. The crag is a good viewpoint. After it go forward and upwards towards rough ground and juniper bushes ahead, skirting the wet ground as best you can. The great fell across the lake of course is Helvellyn. The mountain's summit is out of sight.

The main path from Wythburn can be seen going up the hollow. Follow the path you are on, however, as it zig-zags parallel with the beck you should hear on your right. One or two cairns mark the route, though they are rather unnecessary. The path follows a fence, and then the path crosses the fence by an eccentric stile and goes into the wood among pines and Norway spruce.

The path reaches a beck which must be crossed to follow the path on the other side. Harrop Tarn appears on the left. The path rises with a beck on the left, and then there is a Y-junction. The right-hand way is a hard forest road. Take this. It leaves the beck and is joined by another track from the left, shortly. Continue on. Another track joins from the left and then a descent is begun. There is an old alder swamp on the right. Helvellyn can again be seen over the tree canopy ahead. In one of its gullies you can see an old mine, which began well but proved to be unprofitable.

Presently the wood is left, and a breathtaking view opens up. From this angle ThirImere looks natural and not at all like a reservoir. Go through an awkward high stile. Immediately afterwards turn right to follow the fence down. The path zig-zags away from the fence. Go through gateway and the path curves left away from the fence and towards the group of pine trees. Join the road by the gate. Close it, and the lay-by car park is just on the right.

Dacre and Dalemain - 5.5 miles

The geology of an area determines its landscape. The Lake District has much variety in landscape because of its extraordinary geology. The rocks of the Borrowdale volcanic series provide the dramatic craggy landscape; the ancient rocks which make up the Skiddaw slate series make up the smooth-lined bulk of the Northern fells, and of Black Combe in the south-west. Looking northwards from Hallin Fell there is a different form of landscape of gentler hills and fertile plains. This is the landscape of Old Red Sandstone and limestone. In it are the ancient seats of Dacre and Dalemain. To walk here is like being in a different country - border country with a turbulent history.

The walk described goes by Dacre Castle, Dacre's ancient church, and by Dalemain Park. There are no hills to climb of any height, but some of the walk is by grass paths, and by the riverside, so waterproof footwear is desirable. The walk starts at the car park at the foot of Ullswater, at Pooley Bridge, on the west side of the bridge.

The way is by the path which you can see on the west side of the car park along the edge of the wood. At the time of writing access to it is through the entrance to the car park and over a stile. Follow this broad path through the very mixed woodland. The path rises into oaks. When the path eventually comes close to a fence as it curves left round the wood, a stile will be seen over the fence. Cross this. Go forward and left towards a gate in the fence and hedge opposite. This leads onto another path alongside a fence going off to the right. Walk alongside this fence to a gate at its far end. Turn left through this gate and head for the gate opposite. You reach a road. Opposite, on the other side of the road, you will see two gates, one on either side of a sycamore tree. Go through the one on the right. Follow the fence. Go through gate and continue with fence. There are some old oaks at the end of this path before it reaches a gate. You join a macadam lane, turn right. Go on to a T junction and turn left. Walk along the grass verge, and you lose height towards the village of Dacre. The castle can be seen on the hillside opposite.

Go over the arch bridge across the river (Dacre Beck). Looking over the bridge you will see that the river slides over a sandstone bed. The bridge itself is built of the same material. Continue on up the road, and on the side of the barn on the right you will see that it is built from a mixture of sandstone and limestone, and the roof is of sandstone. A road joins from the left but continue on into the pretty village, and take the turning on the right to the church. The church stands on the site of the Saxon monastery mentioned by the Venerable Bede in his history. All that remains of this are traces of foundations, and an old drain. The present structure dates from Norman times. The round piers are dated around 1250, the octagonals show some reconstruction around 1400. There are some stone fragments of interest (a leaflet giving information about the church is available). On the south side of the chancel is a stone traditionally said to represent the "Peace of Dacre" signed in the year 926 between Athalston of England and Constantine of Scotland.

In the churchyard are four mysterious stones of unknown origin. They probably came from the Castle. Going anti-clockwise from the north west the first bear is asleep
with his head on a pillar. The second bear is attacked by a cat. The third bear tries to shake the cat off. The fourth bear eats the cat. Maybe there is a moral to the story?

Dacre is named after the family of Dacre. One of the early members of the noble family served at the siege of Acre, in the Holy Land (hence D'acre). Walk back a little way into the village and before you reach the junction there is a little green. Opposite it, on your left, is a gate with a stile alongside it. Go over the stile and along the track which goes by Dacre Castle. The castle is a residence and is not open to the public but the right of way passes under its walls. The castle was built in 1350 and has had fortunes which varied with that of the Dacre family. Most famous, or infamous, of the Dacres was Leonard, who led a rebellion against Elizabeth the first, probably dictated by self-interest as he gained land by it; but he was defeated close by the river Golt in 1569 by forces under Lord Hunsdon, Elizabeth's cousin. The castle was restored under the ownership of the Earl of Sussex in 1675, and there was further restoration about 1789.

Just after the castle the track forks. Take the left-hand one. Walk alongside a plantation and at an old gateway the track curves off to the left. Go through gateway, continue on along an almost flat, straight track. Go through gate. Alongside the track is a line of trees; an alternate planting of poplar and oak. Notice how the faster-growing poplars have outstripped the slower-growing hard-timbered oak. Go through another gate. There is a hedge on the left and according to an old practice, some of the trees have been allowed to grow on, but some horse-chestiluts and pines have also been put in. A farm drive joins from the left, continue onward. Go through a gate. There is a wood on the left with some tall trees including beech and elm. A track joins from. the left, continue on. There is a high wall on the right as we approach the hall of Dalemain. Enter the yard and then go through the archway on the left Just along here if you look left you may be lucky enough to see fallow deer, for this is the hall's deer park (not open to the public). Fallows are not a native deer like the red and the roe, which are both wild in the Lake District. Fallows were introduced and in some areas of Britain, notably the New Forest, they have become wild. Hereabouts they are park deer, somewhere in size mid-way between the roe and the red. They are dappled. In roe and red only the fawns are spotted.

Go forward across the cattle-grid, and follow the hard-surfaced road round. This macadam road forks-turn left to join main road. Turn right and walk with care. On the right is the large front of Dalemain, seat of the Laytons at one time, and now of the Hasells. The road crosses a bridge. Look on the right. Ignore the first gate on the right after the bridge. Watch for the next gate. Go through this gate and go on across
the field at an angle to the left towards the edge of the wood. The path is difficult to see but can be picked up at the wood boundary. Go on keeping the wood on your right and go through a gate. Forward of this the path is better defined. At the corner of the wood continue on (ignoring the gate on the right) go through the gate in front and continue alongside a fence. Go through another gate and follow fence. The path is again indistinct but follow the, fence round. A wall is reached with a blocked stile. Turn left here and go down to the gate. Join the road and turn left. In a few yards, on the right, there is a gate. Go through this. Continue on at a leftward angle on an indistinct path towards the river. A path is picked up on the river bank which goes by a series of stiles and eventually brings
you out at the car park where you started.

More walks: Part 2 page 14 Part 2 page 13 Page 2 page 2 Page 2 part 3

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