LEVENS PARK, RIVER KENT & LANCASTER CANAL from LEVENS BRIDGE

 


Summary

Date - 26th August 2012 Distance - 6.75 miles
Ascent -
360ft
Map - OL7 Start point - Levens Bridge (SD 496853)

 

Summits Achieved

No summits were achieved on this walk

 

Preface

Allen stared glumly out of the window, watching the rain pouring down. "This summer, well non summer really, has been such a wash out."

"You're right, I have never known one with so much rain", replied Grizzly.

"It is over a fortnight since we got a walk in, because on the few free days that Dad has had, it has been raining", added Tetley.

"This coming Sunday is free, let's see what the weather is like", said Allen, grabbing the iPad and opening the Met Office app. "Looks to be a mostly dry day", he went on.

"Great, so now we need to come up with an idea where to go", replied Grizzly.

"My mind works better if I have a mug of tea in my paw", replied Allen.

"Why am I not surprised", exclaimed Tetley, knowing what a tea belly his pal is.

As if by magic, Shaun and Little Eric strolled in carrying the flasks.

"What brilliant timing", cried Allen, dashing off to get the mugs.

Soon they were filled with steaming hot tea, and we all settled down.

Grizzly passed round the scones. "Cherry & ginger, made fresh this morning."

"There scrumptious", called out Shaun. "Thanks for making them."

"You're welcome pal", he replied.

"Now then", said Tetley, "where to go."

We thought a while, then Allen piped up, "we do not have to necessarily climb the fells all the time, and Dad has lots of walks that are closer by. I have leafed through the binders from time to time, and Dad has done many of them, but generally long before we were adopted, and our walking group formed. Perhaps we can pick one of these, as it will be completely new ground for us, and I am sure that after such a long time Dad will not mind doing it again."

"Excellent idea pal", replied Tetley.

I'll boot the laptop, so we can see the list on screen", said Allen.

Soon done, his paws danced across the keys, and opened the relevant file. Then we all gathered round and scanned the list. A few suggestions were made, and looked up in the binder. After a while, Little Eric said, "this one looks the most interesting, through Levens Park, then along by the river and back via the Lancaster Canal. There is plenty of variation. Looking at the notation, it is 22 years since Dad did this walk, so it will definitely be new ground for us."

"I agree", replied Allen, "so if everyone is happy, I will go and see what Dad thinks."

As he rushed out of the door, Tetley said, "pour him another mug of tea, as he is bound to want one when he returns."

The smile on his face, told us that Dad had agreed.

"Great", shouted Shaun, passing Allen his refilled mug.

"Thanks pal."

 

The Walk

For once we did not have to be up really early, as it was after 09.00 before Dad was ready to the off, the final sound of the car boot being slammed shut being our cue to dash out and settle in the car. We drove north on the A6 through the town of Milnthorpe to the start at Levens Bridge.

"This was once the main road to Scotland, and carried all the traffic, until the M6 motorway was built 40 years ago", said Dad. "It was busy enough then, but heaven knows what the congestion would be like now!

"It would be more like a car park than a road", replied Shaun

Not wasting any time Dad was soon ready and we jumped in the rucksack and got ourselves settled. Then walking a few yards south returned to Levens bridge, that spans the River Kent, this view looking west. Levens Hall, owned by the Bagot family is situated just to the left.

The Kent is a short river, running for about 20 miles from its source at Hall Cove in the hills surrounding Kentmere to Morecambe Bay. Its shortness means that after heavy rain its level rises dramatically as Dad has seen often, from the offices in Kendal where he worked. One day flowing gently in a fall over the weir, the next a raging torrent flat over the engulfed weir.

"Which way?", asked Little Eric.

"We go though the stile on the other side of the road, into Levens Park, on the north side of the river, by the sign reading Park Head", replied our trusty guide Shaun.

"Look there is an information board over there, let's see what we can learn", called out Tetley.

It informed is that, as part of the Levens Estate, the park was laid out between 1694 and 1710 by the celebrated French landscape designer Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, who was also responsible for the world famous topiary gardens beside the Hall. On our return along the south side, we would walk along the the mile long avenue of oak trees, many of which are the original ones planted, as are many in the intermittent clumps of oak, beech and lime. Any losses are always replaced in the original positions. The park is also home to a flock of sheep, an unusual herd of black fallow deer and a rare breed of distinctive black and white Bagot goats.

"Ooh I hope we see some of the deer and goats", enthused Allen.

"Right", said Dad, "we had better be getting on."

The information board instructed that we must keep to the waymarked path, which ran through the park, some way from and above the river.

Suddenly Grizzly let out a shout, "there's some of the goats across the river."

The distinctive black and white colouring can be seen, as can the long curved horns. We were to see them close up later, sitting under the trees.

As the path climbed gently through the park, a group of the black fallow deer ran across our path. Fortunately Dad had his camera in his hand so quickly snapped off a shot.

"It was great seeing those", enthused Little Eric, then going on, "there is one of the stags over to the left."

Levelling the path then curved right away from the river to a gate and stile in a substantial stone wall. Shaun said, "beyond the stile we go right alongside the wall."

Here is the stile viewed after climbing over.

Unsurprisingly after the wet summer, the ground was soft and muddy, and this is the scene that faced Dad as he crossed the next stile at the end of the pasture.

"Oh heck", said Tetley. "That does not look good."

"No Lad", Dad replied, "but if I go right round the wall corner and keep tight to the wall, I should be able to avoid the worst of it."

Thankfully this manoeuver was successful.

Once over this pasture, we arrived at Park Head, and out via a stile to the buildings on the very narrow road. "It's right here along the road", instructed Shaun."

At its end above the river and below the viaduct carrying the busy A591 link road from the M6, a walkway provides passage underneath to another narrow road.

"I wonder if they were joined before link road was built?, mused Allen.

"Quite likely I would have thought", replied Dad.

Below the walkway, above the river the trees were dense in their summer foliage, with just the rusty corrugated iron roof of a wooden building peeking through.

Now we strolled the narrow road with the surging River Kent below, swollen after the rains.  

This section of the river passes through a rock gorge which produces a number of low waterfalls. These are popular with kayakers, as it offers high quality whitewater for several days after rain. Indeed as Dad was taking this picture, a group of kayakers were surveying the scene.

At the junction we walked ahead then took the road right, by this prominent sign.

"That's where Dad and Uncle Brian go quite frequently", called out Grizzly.

"They sometimes go for lunch, but more often than not for all sorts of goodies, like bread, eggs, biscuits, cheese, bacon, sausage etc", added Tetley.

"The cheese counter is particularly extensive, so I believe", said Allen.

"Yes, they get that wonderfully tasty Little Black Bomber cheese from there, added Shaun.

Grizzly whispered, "it's quite expensive, so don't tell Dad, but I used some of it for the cheese scones."

At another junction, where the road left lead to Low Sizergh Barn, we kept ahead, all the time with the fast running River Kent below to the right.

"The road leads to a caravan park, but just before we cross the suspension bridge over the river", advised Shaun.

Thankfully our party was well within the maximum number of 25 allowed on the bridge at any one time. It was rather a strange feeling as the bridge bounced under Dad's weight, as we crossed. A gate and steps down brought us to the grassy bank on the far side.

Turning left, Dad halted almost immediately, when Little Eric called out, "this is a good place to get a picture of the bridge."

The bank was wide on this initial section, the river flowing more gently. Beyond the next gate the path narrowed with woodland to the left. There were very muddy sections, some being able to be avoided by diversions.

Dad strode on, the path climbing slightly, and going away from the river. He stopped as Shaun said, "we should have taken the path left at the fork."

"You're right lad", replied Dad. "I knew this, but was not concentrating. Still it is not very far to walk back."

Through the woods this path kept by and above the river that roared down over falls, to emerge into the open again after a gate. Here to the left was a bench bearing this dedication -

It commands a lovely view of a tranquil sweep of the river, and was the perfect place to sit and have our lunch. Nice sandwiches and those deliciously tasty cheese scones that Grizzly had talked about. Of course too, we have to make an appearance in every story, so we posed here sitting on the seat.

"Right", said Dad, "get yourselves settled in the rucksack, and we will be on our way."

"OK", replied Tetley for us all.

The path meandered along by the river, exiting by a stile to the road at Hawes Bridge, the most northerly point on the walk today.

"We go right here", called out Shaun.

At a corner the road swung right, and after a short distance we reached a kissing gate on the left giving access to the tow path of the Lancaster Canal, by which was this sign.

As we passed through the gate, Little Eric exclaimed, "there's no water."

"True", replied Tetley. "This is because this is part of the long disused and drained section of the Lancaster Canal. The distances represent the miles to it former head in Kendal, and to Tewitfield, the current navigable northerly end of the canal. Beyond this it has been long closed and is now cut twice by the M6 motorway, although there are still some undrained sections at Holme and Crooklands."

Allen added, "the Lancaster Canal Trust was formed some years ago with the intention of reopening the 14 miles of canal from Tewitfield. There have been various proposals, but nothing has come to fruition so far. One has to wonder to whether anything will happen at present bearing in mind the current economic situation."

"Thanks pals, that was most interesting", said Little Eric. "I have to agree too Allen with your assessment of the current prospects for the project."

The footpath is along the old towpath, and turning right we passed almost immediately under Crowpark Bridge. For the most part the canal bed has been filled in and the land returned to agriculture, but some sections remain visible. An impression of this could be seen at Larkrigg Hall Bridge.

In all we passed under three bridges, the last one, Horse Park Bridge, now being marooned in the middle of a vast field. Just looks so odd!

Once across this field the path became enclosed behind some houses, the canal bed being now within some of their gardens, which will have to be given up we guess if ever the restoration project happens. Now we were at the village of Sedgwick, where the former canal crossed the road by this rather impressive skew aqueduct built between 1817 and 1819.

Continuing on the canal bed was still visible, but much overgrown with trees. At the end of the woodland, there was then no sign at all of the canal in the field.

"Those clouds look a bit threatening", remarked Tetley.

"Oh well never mind", replied Dad. "It seems we cannot get away without having some rain any day this summer."

The footpath finally brought us to Hincaster Lane, where a signpost indicated the reverse of the route we had just taken.

Beyond we crossed the road bridge over the busy A591 dual carriageway. This road presents another obstacle to the reopening of the canal as a new aqueduct will have to be built across it. Just beyond the the road turned sharp left, but we kept ahead to enter once again Levens Park on the south side of the river, and we swung left to walk along the magnificent mile long line of oak trees.

Looking ahead the view became less distinct, which was the rain sweeping down. The trees however provided quite a bit of shelter, but nevertheless it was a good job that Dad had taken his waterproof which he now put on. About two thirds of the way along the oaks, the permitted path leaves them going away right.

Suddenly Allen called out excitedly, "look there are the Bagot goats, sitting under the trees. Maybe they are having a siesta, or perhaps they do not like the rain either."

They were right by the path and were not bothered at all by humans and bears, so allowing Dad to get some shots. We liked this one with the close up of an adult and a kid.

And this shot looking back.

"Wow" cried Little Eric, "that was great being able to see them so close up."

It was not far now to regain the road and walk along to the car, by which time too the rain had eased off.

As we jumped out of the rucksack and settled in the car, Grizzly called out, "I guess it is refreshment time now"

"Spot on lad. I'm going to Jane & Sam's for a late lunch"

"Ooh great", cried Allen, "that means we get to go in too."

As we walked in, Jane said, "what are you doing here."

Dad replied, "Brian sends his commiserations at you having to put up with me again, so soon." They had both been for lunch just two days before on Friday.

The cafe was very busy, but fortunately a table came free almost immediately. Dad had the lovely rarebit with delicious chilli. This was followed by the last portion of the apple cranberry & almond crumble with cream. Scrumptious.

The couple who had been in before when we had come in with Dad were there, and he had a good chat to them as well as some laughs and banter against Sam.

Thanks Dad for a lovely day out!

A few weeks later, we had a day planned for a walk with Uncle Eric. He needed Dad's help with some matters to do with his computer, so as a result it was necessary to do a local walk. Having enjoyed this walk, Dad suggested doing it again, to which Uncle Eric readily agreed. To save carrying the weight, Dad did not take his camera on the walk itself. We did see many more of the herd of deer, but not a sight nor sound of the goats. Coincidently too, it rain as we got back to the car.

Afterwards while we had our picnic in the car, Dad and Uncle Eric went to the restaurant at Levens Hall, for lunch, having a nice pannini and a pot of tea. This did give Dad an opportunity to take some pictures of the Hall itself, which we include to round off this story. Here first is the Hall.

The first building on this site was a medieval pele tower, built by the de Redman family of Yealand Redmayne. In the 1590s the Bellingham family, who were wealthy landowners, chose Levens as their main residence and incorporated the fortified tower into a gentleman's residence. Click the link to find out more - Levens Hall

This second shot shows the rear of the house, where the entrance to the restaurant is, and an enclosed garden.

And, the person in the blue coat, is Uncle Eric taking a picture of Dad taking a picture of Uncle Eric!! Well something daft like that!!

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