Date - 4th March 2008 Distance - 8 miles
Map - OL5
Start point - Bluebell Lane car park, Penrith (NY 513302)


The Walk

Tuesday dawned with blue skies, sunshine and light winds, and could not have been more of a contrast from the wild winds of Sunday when we had climbed Whernside. We were glad the weather was fair, as Dad had arranged to walk with Uncle Eric. We drove to Uncle Eric’s where Dad left his car and then continued in Uncle Eric’s car. He took us up the A6 now a quiet road but once the main road to Scotland. Passing a caravan sales site, Dad told us that this had once been the Jungle Transport Café.

Open day and night is was the stopping place for lorry drivers going up or coming down from Shap where the road is over 1000ft above sea level. Indeed in severe winter conditions when the road was closed the drivers had to stay here until it was cleared. It must have been a gold mine. Then one day the M6 motorway opened, and overnight their trade disappeared.

No weather problems today and we were soon at Penrith, a large market town in north Cumbria on the eastern edge of the Lake District, and our starting point. Leaving the car park we walked along the road to come to the busy A66 dual carriageway. This was crossed safely and in a few yards this superb view of the snow capped Helvellyn range of the Lakeland Fells came into view.

A short distance along the A6 brought us to the village of Eamont Bridge. Here the road crosses the River Eamont by this magnificent bridge dating from the 16th century.

The river starts as the outfall from Ullswater in the Lake District and flows eventually into the River Eden. We were to follow this river upstream quite a lot on today’s walk. Now walking by the river for a while we then went across a field to come to a quiet road beside the noisy M6 motorway. Just a little way along we went through a gate to visit Maybergh Henge a massive 16ft high circular embankment of stone rubble and grass. It is believed to date back to 2500BC and to have been the first meeting place for a large prehistoric community in the Eden Valley. In the centre is a large standing stone – one of seven that were present in the 18th century.

We found it hard to comprehend that this had been here for 4500 years. This was not the end of our exploration of such sites today and just a short distance away and actually beside the A6 road is another ancient fortification fancifully named King Arthur’s Round Table dating from 1800BC. This was protected by a deep ditch and the spoil was embanked. It too is believed to have been another meeting place.

In between this and Maybergh Henge is this huge 50 tonne block of Shap Granite…

It is a Millennium Monument and the Bishop of Penrith dedicated it on 2nd July 2000 at the culmination of the Eden Millennium Festival. The site was chosen because its association with the neighbouring Henges. The granite is 330 million years old and the Monument is intended to last thousands of years.

In a trench around the base are buried about 2000 small stones decorated mostly by primary school children of Eden and placed there at the dedication service as birthday presents of Jesus’ 2000th birthday.

There are carved symbols on three sides – an Alpha, a Cross with the number 2000 and an Omega. The Alpha and the Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and represent the beginning and the end, the past and the future, God the creator and God the Holy Spirit. The Cross and the 2000 represent the present, 2000 years of Christianity and Jesus Christ our Saviour alive with us today.

All these sites and the Monument was rather a lot for little Lads like us to take in but it had been really fascinating to see.

Returning past Maybergh Henge we passed under the motorway and then over fields to come to a house called The Grotto below the main railway line. Sadly no trains came along while Uncle Eric was photographing the railway bridge. Once under this and a little way along we saw ahead the picturesque Yanwath Hall a fortified farmhouse.

This wonderfully preserved Penrith sandstone fortress was a protective bastion against the marauding Scots who poured over the Border. The squat pele tower was built in 1322 and the courtyard buildings added in the 15th century. See - www.visitcumbria.com/pen/yanhall.htm

The walk now took us over fields first with the River Eamont far below. Then eventually we dropped down a steepish slope to reach a plank bridge over a stream and then through delightful woodland beside the rushing river. Here a convenient fallen tree trunk provided a good seat for Uncle Eric and Dad to have their lunch. We had ours sitting nearby where we could watch the river. Afterwards Dad took our photo sitting on the tree trunk.

The path led on out into a pasture and we reached this rather complicated signpost…

We had come from the Yanwath direction, and our route now was the Penrith direction via a wooden footbridge over the river. The sandstone piers it rests on are much older.

Still following the river we passed into more woodland below some towering sandstone cliffs on a narrow path that eventually descended down some steps at a point where there is an island in the river that is known as Stainton Island. This led via a stile to a track that we climbed up to cross a road and continue on the track to emerge at the village of Stainton. Here at the farm called Greystone House there is a café that Dad has frequented many times over the years but not today, as we had to keep on towards Penrith. Soon a narrow steep by-road was reached that brought us once again to the A66 dual carriageway. Again Uncle Eric and Dad got us safely across and we walked on a track that passed under this bridge.

This once carried the long closed railway that ran from Penrith west to Keswick and Cockermouth. There is a plan to reopen it to Keswick, as it would be of great benefit for tourists, but whether it ever happens remains to be seen. Rather forlornly the missing coping stone still lies amongst the grass.

After a short walk along the track we took a gate to cross a number large fields and a narrow road. As we reached the high point Penrith came into view, as did the M6 motorway that we had to cross. This we did via a footpath at the side of the railway viaduct. It was windy here and Dad sensibly held on to this cap! Something he should have done too on our next walk, but that is another story. We were soon in the town and we saw our last historical site of the day – the ruins of Penrith Castle.

Walking through the park in which the castle stands soon brought us to the car park. We hopped out and settled in the car, and had another picnic while Uncle Eric and Dad went off in search of refreshment. What a surprise I hear you say. They went to Bewicks restaurant and had a pot of tea and delicious scone with butter and jam. This building has associations with Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) the famous wood engraver. As we rode home we reflected on all the interesting things we had seen today on what had been a wonderful adventure.


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