Walking the Ullswater Way – Aira Force to Watermillock

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking stretches of the recently opened Ullswater Way, a twenty-mile circuit of  the second largest stretch of water in the Lake District.Ullswater Way 028.JPG

Now, the fitter walker might do the whole route in a day. Doing it over two would make a pleasant expedition for the weekend. But we’ve broken up the Ullswater Way into several walks, doing them in no particular order, often out of sequence, sometimes coming back the way we went out, or seeking parallel routes for our return.

The Ullswater Way gives you lots of opportunities to do your own thing.

It’s a grand and scenic walk and we’ve very much enjoyed our walks. Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about the Way’s many delights.

You can find out more about the Ullswater Way and download a free leaflet showing the route by clicking on the Friends of the Ullswater Way website at http://www.ullswater.com/the-ullswater-way/

In the meantime, follow my blog and see how we walked the Ullswater Way.

We started almost in the middle, walking from Aira Force to Watermillock…

The Ullswater Way very pleasantly links up paths to provide a route around this beautiful Lake. We’ve decided to walk bits of it from time to time, not necessarily in any particular order.

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It was a beautiful day as we set out from Aira Force to walk to Watermillock church and back.

The first part of the walk is along the terrace path on the lakeside of Gowbarrow Fell – well worth walking for the superb views not only over Ullswater but so many mountains around. This was the approach we used when we first went to the summit of Gowbarrow, but even if you’re not going to the top it’s worth a ramble.

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Just as the path turns a corner is the Memorial Bench dating back to 1905, a splendid place for a rest, for it’s a terrific viewpoint.

I’ve never known just what the Memorial Bench commemorates. If you know please do leave a comment below.

Ullswater was a deep blue and the boats and steamers looked like toys from this height.

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The narrow path winds above some lovely tree-filled gullies as it makes its way to Swinburn’s Park – one of the nine medieval deer parks surrounding the lake. Sadly, in the twentieth century, much of it was planted with light-defying conifers. Happily these are being cleared, offering much better view than previous walkers might have seen.

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Beyond the trees, the path crosses open moorland of heather and gorse, offering dramatic views of the Priest’s Crag. Just below is Watermillock Church.

Although there was an earlier church at Watermillock dating to at least 1218, the original was demolished and the present building dates to 1881. But for a Victorian church it is rather fine, with some wonderful stained glass, near Pre-Raphaelite in design – among them a memorial to Mr Spring-Rice, who wrote the words to I Vow To Thee My Country.

We talked to the gentleman maintaining the churchyard, who’d worked on the farms in this area since 1950. He told us much about the church and the village. The church is made of local stone – set watershot – with sandstone trimmings from the Eden Valley.

A sad tale too, some of what we heard. Barely sixty years ago there were thirty-one small farmers and smallholders working the fields around Watermillock – now there is just one farmer.

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We walked back to Aira Force the way we had come – worth doing because of the views over Ullswater open up as you descend Gowbarrow.

The Ullswater Way is a pleasing addition to the walks in the Lake District.

Next time – Pooley Bridge to Watermillock

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