A fabulous six-and-a half mile circular walk from Ravenstondale in Cumbria. With a beautiful viaduct, a pretty bridge, sheep and cake – a perfect combination.

Date Walked: 9th October 2018

Distance: 6.5 miles

Map used: OS Explorer OS 19 – Howgill Fells and Upper Eden Valley

Guide book: Lune Valley and Howgill Fells – a Walking Guide by Dennis and Jan Kelsall

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A few years ago Bob and I did a traverse of the Howgill Fells from Sedburgh to Ravenstondale, finishing at the Kings Head. It was one of the best days walks I have ever done – here is the link – and we promised ourselves a return visit to explore more of this stunning landscape.

Our first visit, made in September, had been blessed with the most beautiful of days, and we were lucky again, with just a few puffy white clouds in an otherwise blue sky.  We were booked into the Kings Head for a couple of nights and had come up from Bob’s home in Barnsley so arrived in plenty of time for a short walk to limber up for a longer trek the next day.  Bob provided us with  the guide book and had selected this (slightly amended) circular walk, starting from the pub.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

It may have been bright and sunny but by the look of Bobs gear I reckon there must have been a chilly breeze.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

From the pub we followed the road West, leaving it above Lower Greenside Farm to cross several lush fields.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

The trees were beginning to show their autumn colours, and the birds had not yet stripped the Hawthorne of their dense clusters of bright red berries.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

In my neck of the woods in Monmouthshire few isolated barns are left unconverted, but in this part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park many are still in use and their pleasing, simple architecture preserved.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

But proximity to any kind of road adds to the pressure on these buildings to be brought into residential use and near Beckstones Farm, one such barn was receiving the makeover.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

This is limestone country and by the track leading to the farm is a well-preserved lime kiln, the lime here used as an agricultural fertiliser rather than for smelting.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Passing Beckstones Farm we reached a road leading through Newbiggin-on-Lune, – a rather sad little ghost village with no sign of any commercial activity . A place for commuters to  take advantage of the A465 which skirts its northern boundary, and no doubt several holiday homes. We were joined by a chap out for his daily constitutional and who accompanied us across the busy road and up the hill towards Brownber.

We turned right down a drive with an imposing gate house…..

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

….. our views over to our right above Newbiggin to the foothills of the Howgill Fells.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

This area is designated as the Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

For the next mile or so we were walking on the course of the old Stainmore Railway which ran across the Pennines between Tebay and Darlington.   I love routes on old railway lines. Their flat paths and often elevated positions mean that you can march along enjoying the views without having to worry about stumbling on uneven ground.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

We passed the remains of the Sandy Bank  signal box…..


Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes…. where on the wall someone had stapled an artists impression of it, complete with steam train.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

The wide track was cut into the side of  the hill in places…..

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

…. but for most of the time we had open views to the south  to the Howgills.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Below us we passed the pretty Smardale Bridge over Scandal Beck, which we would return to on our way back.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Above the track, a pair of closed up cottages produced speculation that they would make a fine bunkhouse or hostel for walkers.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

This railway was the catalyst for the opening in 1861  of a large limestone quarry and kilns by its side, (the lime here destined for the steelworks at Barrow and Darlington).  The quarried face of the limestone loomed above us.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

I climbed up for an explore, Bob staying on the track. Abandoned mine workings are always a source of fascination. Why was this small section of wall built there?

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

The spoil heaps remain, colonised by coarse, tussocky grass.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

On top of the kilns there had clearly been a building of some kind.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

I clambered back down and back-tracked a bit, finding the most perfectly preserved face of a double kiln.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

A short way passed the kilns we came to the Smardale Gill Viaduct. 

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

As we crossed the wind picked up and  the bridge whistled loudly. The far end of the viaduct was the turning point for our walk. As we followed the track on the far side of the valley the extraordinary engineering achievement of this 90 foot high, 14 arch structure only became apparent.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

It was more than impressive, it was beautiful.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Our path followed the contour of the hill for about half a mile…..

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

…..,to a stile that Bob hopped over Gazelle like.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Across the valley we had another view of the railway cottages, our vantage point also being a good place from which to appreciate the dry-stone walls of the fields……

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

…., and the meandering of the Scandal Beck.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

We lingered over a last view of  beck and viaduct combined….

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

before we descended to  Smardale Bridge.Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

This old packhorse bridge should have been familiar to both us us as we had both crossed it on the Coast to Coast path; but neither of us could remember it. Well, things look different when you have a different perspective and we would have crossed it from the other side.  I left the path for a better shot of the bridge.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Crossing over the bridge we climbed for a hundred metres or so before taking a stile where our path headed due south towards Ravenstondale.

Over to our right, the field was rippled.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Sometimes this can be caused by soil erosion but I was gratified to have my opinion that these were man-made confirmed by our guide book, which described them as lynchets created by a medieval strip ploughing system. In fact we were walking alongside a dyke forming a boundary created hundreds of years ago by monks from the  C12th Gilbertine Priory at Ravenstondale, delineating their timber and fishing rights.

On the far side of the valley we could make out another dyke in the fields running parallel to the one we were on.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Our path climbed gently  passed a small plantation….

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

…. before dropping down a steep bank to a small stream  originating from the Hag Mire  lake to the West.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Climbing again, we passed by Park House farm…..

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

…..where a flock of  curly-horned sheep were penned.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

The A 465 was just the other side of the farm. Somehow we were not where we were supposed to be as we could see no signpost on the far side of the road. There was a gate opposite though, and after some debate we agreed that we would risk it.  Behind the gate was a field containing several well-endowed rams.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

We didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother us and in 5 minutes we were on the far side of the field and back on our outgoing lane.

Circular walk from Ravenstondale, Cumbria; image by Charles Hawes

Back at the pub Bob went up for a snooze.  I stayed on in the bar where there was a nice piece of cake with my name on it. That was a sweet walk.

 

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