The Duddon Valley and Wallowbarrow Gorge

Whilst all the London based news outlets were busy telling us that we had just experienced one of the warmest, driest springs on record, we had the coldest May that I can remember. Sometimes it rained and sometimes it didn’t, but the cold winds persisted. The 1st of June was no different – cold again. But then (briefly at least) summer arrived – an amazing reversal, one day it was bitterly cold and then a mixed day, and then baking hot.

Good weather had been forecast, so we had planned a day out in the Lake District. We’d discussed several options the night before, but settled on Wallowbarrow Gorge in the Duddon Valley. We parked at High Wallowbarrow Farm, where there is a small area set aside for parking and an honesty box for donations to the local Mountain Rescue team. From the farm it’s just across a couple of fields and then into the woods and soon we were on the banks of the River Duddon. We didn’t need to cross the stepping stones, but they were far too exciting to miss as far as the kids were concerned. I can remember what a highlight the stepping stones in Dovedale were when my parents took me there as a kid.

Just beyond the stepping stones there is an arched stone footbridge – we didn’t need to cross that either, but it gave a good vantage point from which to enjoy the view upstream:

The walk along the gorge from here is top-notch – I’m surprised that it never seems to be busy (unlike Dovedale).  There are a series of little cascades and falls with deep green pools between them…

Equally as important, as far as the kids were concerned, was the fact that there were lots of huge boulders to clamber over, round and even under. We didn’t get far before we had found an idyllic spot and stopped for a picnic.

That done, we continued up the gorge. On either side the slopes are steep and wooded, with a number of crags – I think that this is Pen:

On the west bank, where the path is, there are also great jumbles of large boulders:

Eventually the path climbs up and away from the river. The path does get quite boggy in places here and the duckboards placed to alleviate the problem are often stranded themselves amidst a morass. One compensation is that bog myrtle grows here in profusion – not very striking to look at, but it makes a wonderful smell if you rub your fingers across a leaf to bruise it.

Eventually we dropped back down to the river, which we crossed at another set of stepping stones, the Fickle Steps, where there is a cable handrail to help one across.

We left the Duddon here and the kids began to feel the effects of the heat – they were tired and thirsty and was I sure that this was really a short walk?

The path took us down to an extensive bog by Tarn Beck.

A set of duck boards took us dry shod around the bog and then we crossed the beck.

 Harter Fell.

We detoured ever so slightly into Turner Hall Farm’s campsite to get some drinking water. The eaves of the barn here were plastered with house martin nests.

 Holy Trinity Church, Seathwaite.

We didn’t pop into the church, as I would like to have done, because the kids were expecting ice cream and would brook no delays. The lovely display of wild flowers in the church yard has inspired me to finally get round to reading ‘God’s Acre’ by Francesca Greenoak which I bought second-hand a while ago. It’s a description and a celebration of the flora and fauna to be found in British churchyards.

Wallowbarrow Crag

Ice-cream, lemonade and a pint of Dickie Doodle were taken at the Newfield Inn and from there we were very shortly back at the stepping stones near the start of our walk…

This wasn’t the end of our day however. We returned to the car to grab some towels and swimming trunks/cossies and then returned to the pool by where we had had lunch….

This is where we walked, this is where we swam,                                      Take a picture here, take a souvenir*

The swimming was great – cold, but not too bad – nothing like as cold as Coniston Water has been when I’ve swum in it in September in the last couple of years.

Wallowbarrow Gorge held one final surprise, but I’m leaving that for the next post….. (what a cliff-hanger!)

*from Cuyahoga by REM. Between that song and Nightswimming I always associate riverswimming and skinnydipping with REM.

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The Duddon Valley and Wallowbarrow Gorge