Around the River Lune

Walk date – 24th June 2020

Distance – 9.5 miles

Weather – hot and hazy


A long, low level walk today because the forecast promised day long sunshine and high temperatures. Labouring up the high fells in those conditions held no attractions for us so we headed over to Beck Foot to explore the area around the River Lune at the base of the Howgills. From Beck Foot there is a steady climb over farmland up to the narrow Shacklabank Lane and the highest point we reached today was a little over 1000′ on the top of Firbank Fell. The surrounding countryside looked lovely on such a sunny day, the view of the Howgills from Knotts was stunning, the Victorian viaducts, as always, were impressive and the final section beside the River Lune was the highlight of the day. The hazy conditions muted the long distance views quite a bit but that’s what always happens when the air flow comes from the south and there’s not much that can be done about that. A superb walk with much to recommend it.


Beck Foot – High House – Firbank Fell – Fox’s Pulpit – Knotts – Low Field – Bridge End – Lincoln’s Inn Bridge – Dales Way – Waterside (Lune Viaduct) – Low Branthwaite – Bramaskew – Hole House – Crook of Lune – Crook of Lune Bridge – Beck Foot

With our backs to the Beck Foot viaduct we set off, from the lay-by parking area, down the road immediately opposite and then took a left turn at the Public Footpath signpost. This led us up a very overgrown sunken path, hemmed in by high bushes and shrubs, very dark and airless and full of midges so we were relieved to get to the end of it at this gate. From here it should have been possible to see the houses of Beck Foot but the jungle of shrubbery prevented that and all that was visible was my little red car parked in the lay-by beside the railway viaduct.

From the gate we crossed this open field where I took a look back from the top of it. Some of the buildings around Beck Foot have come into view, as has the M6 which is snaking its way towards the Lune Gorge. There’s been much more traffic on the M6 lately than there was so the lorry drivers have probably seen the last of the empty lanes they will have been enjoying these last few months.

We continue up the field to the sound of a tractor in the adjacent field gathering in the cut grass. My little red car now has a couple of neighbours in the lay-by beside the viaduct and we have a fine view of Fell Head on the centre skyline.

A look back to Grayrigg Common on the left and Linghaw on the right as we continue across the farmland. The climb is only gradual but the heat was stifling and faces needed constant mopping. Thankfully I remembered to pack the mopping towel.

Another overgrown path on the way up to High House farm but it was much brighter and had fewer midges than the previous one. We now have another tractor cutting the grass in the fields to the right of us. Local farmers all busy making hay while the sun shone.

At the top of the walled lane from High House farm we were met by a welcoming committee who must have heard us coming up and thought there might be something in it for them. Love the expression on the one at the back who is craning her neck to see what’s happening.

A few stiles later and the appearance of Hilltop Heights on the skyline indicates that Shacklabank Lane isn’t too far off now. By ‘eck, its hot and its only mid morning.

We’ve just emerged from the farmland through this gate onto Shacklabank Lane where we stop, take some liquid on board and remove all the scratchy bits of vegetation from our socks.

Walking along Shacklabank Lane, an intriguing name if ever there was one, where only one vehicle came by all the time we were on it. Very narrow with hardly anything by way of a passing place so you wouldn’t want to be meeting a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. Its peppered with ‘make-do’ tarmac patches all the way along and small patches of grass appeared from time to time in the centre of the road so it doesn’t get much regular attention or traffic.

A squeeze stile by the finger post gave us entry onto Firbank Fell so we diverted over to the summit, although that’s a grand name for something which is nothing more than a hill. Still, it does have a summit …..

….. and here it is, marked by a couple or three small stones. Over to the west, and below that bank of white cloud in the far distance, we should be able to make out the Coniston and Scafell groups of fells but not today as its much too hazy. Rather less hazy and a little more visible over on the right are the fells on the western side of the other Borrowdale to the south of Shap: Mabbin Crag, Whinfell Beacon and Grayrigg Common …..

….. just across the valley on the centre skyline is Fell Head …..

….. while to the north are Grayrigg Common and Linghaw. As we were a little higher we were able to benefit from a very slight breeze coming up from the south.. We had a snack/drinks stop and spent a few minutes letting the breeze cool us down. We had a wander around the top of Firbank Fell and below the top just a short distance away an extensive area of wide and looping dirt tracks had been scraped into the ground, beyond which was a much flatter area where a number of diggers and excavators were parked up. No work was going on as there was nobody around to operate them so we couldn’t make out what it was all for.

Still puzzling over the mystery we returned to the lane and made our way towards Knotts, the green hill in the centre of the shot.

Arriving at a handgate in the wall on our left, just below Knotts, we went over to view what is marked on our route map as Fox’s Pulpit. This is the rock outcrop where, at a secret meeting of seekers from Westmorland and Yorkshire in 1652, George Fox preached to a large gathering which is thought to mark the beginning of the Quaker Movement. Its quite extraordinary to realise that this worldwide movement originated here. Notable Quaker families founded banks, financial institutions and businesses which are still familiar today – Barclays, Lloyds, Friends Provident, confectionery producers Cadbury, Rowntree, Fry  and the shoe manufacturers Clarks. Quakers were active in philanthropic efforts too, the abolition of slavery, prison reform, civil rights and many other social justice activities.

A plaque is set into the rock which says –

Let your lives speak

Here or near this rock George Fox preached to about one thousand seekers for three hours on Sunday, June 13, 1652. Great power inspired his message and the meeting proved of first importance in gathering the Society of Friends known as Quakers. Many men and women convinced of the truth on this fell and in other parts of the northern counties went forth through the land and over the seas with the living word of the Lord enduring great hardships and winning multitudes to Christ.

Every year, as closely as possible to the anniversary of that meeting, Friends from far and wide gather for a Meeting around the pulpit to mark the occasion, and afterwards gather at the nearby Brigflatts Meeting House for refreshments and no doubt a bit of a natter, as you do on such occasions. It probably hasn’t happened this year which has no doubt been a great disappointment, especially as the weather has been good.

From Fox’s Pulpit we carried on over the grass for about five minutes for this superb view of the Howgills across the valley.

To the north are Blease Fell, Rispa Pike, Linghaw, and Fell Head …..

….. directly opposite are Fell Head, Breaks Head, Bush Howe and White Fell …..

….. then Bush Howe and White fell once again followed by The Calf, Bram Rigg Top and Calders …..

….. and to the south east we have Calders again followed by Arant Haw and Winder.

A short distance behind us was the top knott on Knotts, named Master Knott, so we thought we might as well pay it a visit and here’s the view looking south from the line of bare rock marking the summit.

From Master Knott we dropped down and made our way back to Fox’s Pulpit and then through the handgate back on to the lane.

A little way down the lane we noticed this sign set into the wall beside a gate so we made a diversion along the track beyond the gate and found ourselves below the wide looping tracks we had seen from the top of Firbank Fell. We still couldn’t figure out what it was all about but a little research when we got back home revealed that the Motor Club is about motor cycles not cars at which point the penny dropped. Well we think it has but still aren’t certain, the wide looping tracks must have been scraped out to create a race track or route for motor bikes, probably the lighter scrambling type bikes. I found a newspaper article from 2019 which mentioned that the club was planning to build a large storage facility there which would help to explain why a large flat piece of ground had been created in readiness. There was no sign of a storage facility and nothing was happening while we were there so things seem to be in abeyance for the time being.

Down the lane to the houses at New Field where we turned left along the path between the grassy banking and the white house …..

…. where this stile is located just a short distance further along the path and from where I took this shot looking back to the houses at New Field.

Across the stile and there are two or three fields to cross. The path led us to a gate below the little hill where the cows were gathered under the trees. However, all around the gate area, and a good distance beyond it, the ground was not only well churned up by their feet but full of their waste products too, and stinking to high heaven in the heat, which neither of us particularly looked forward to wading through. We retraced our steps, crossed to the other side of the wall and walked down to another gate. Beyond this gate we were able to rejoin the path, well beyond the stinking morass, and carry on towards …..

….. Hawkrigg Wood. By now it was now getting on towards noon and the temperature was still rising so …..

….. it was with huge relief that we entered the cool shade of the wood …..

….. which provided five minutes or so of much needed respite from the blistering heat. Here we are just about to leave the wood though so its over the stile in the fence and …..

….. walk out into the sunshine again to cross this field …..

….. down to the narrow Firbank Lane from where we had a good view of Winder, on the right, one of the Howgills lower summits and easily accessible from Sedbergh.

From the top of the ladder stile on Firbank Lane a look back at our route from Hawkrigg Wood across the field and down to the gate. The ladder stile was more or less concealed by the vigorous growth of the hedgerows, plus a few stray and very scratchy brambles on either side of it, on the plus side we avoided getting stung by nettles so not too bad a result really.

From the ladder stile there was yet another field to be crossed before we reached Bridge End. The Howgills are on view again and the Lune Viaduct is beginning to appear.

Down in the shade at the bottom of the field is the stile at Bridge End where we take to the road again to walk the very short distance to …..

….. Lincoln’s Inn Bridge across the River Lune. Its only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, there are sharp bends on either side and the road is generally busy as it connects Sedbergh and Kendal so we take our time and wait patiently for a suitable gap in the traffic.

Looking upstream from the bridge …..

….. followed by a look downstream, then its time to ….

….. drop down to the river side for a view of the bridge itself. A 17th century Grade 2 Listed Building which looked absolutely lovely in this glorious weather.

We followed the road round the bridge for just a few paces and then turned left onto the Dales Way footpath for the return leg of our walk. It was getting on for one o’clock now so when we reached some shade a little further on we stopped and had a lunch break. No crowds, no midges, cool shade and the soft rippling sounds of the river flowing past us made for a very restful break, it was a struggle to get up and start moving again.

After our break we carried on a little further and before too long the Lune Viaduct, known as Waterside, came into view.

Built during 1858 to 1861, and transporting its first passengers in September 1861, the Lune Viaduct carried a section of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway, between Ingleton and Low Gill, 100′ above the river Lune on a 124′ cast iron arch. The arch is suspended between three local red sandstone arches, built on each side of it, and the total length was 177 yards. Its in a beautiful setting and is a Grade 2 Listed Building.

When railways were nationalised in 1948 it became uneconomical to operate this line and the parallel Settle – Carlisle line so the line was closed to regular passenger traffic in 1954. It was still used for occasional weekend excursions, in addition to carrying pupils to and from the local boarding schools, and remained open for goods traffic until 1965. The line was retained as a possible relief route until 1967 when the tracks were finally lifted. You can walk up the hill to where the rail track would have been but access to the viaduct has been fenced off so its not possible to walk across it.

Its an outstanding example of Victorian engineering and, after standing in all weathers for 147 years, needed only a relatively modest amount of repair and restoration in 2008. This comprised waterproofing and drainage, various repairs to the masonry, grit-blasting and repainting the cast iron span, and the treatment and removal of any vegetation which had managed to take hold. You feel like an insignificant speck as it towers over you when you walk beneath it.

As we turned up the hill I took another look back at the magnificent sight and then wondered why nowadays nobody seems to be able to make a fingerpost remain vertical for any decent length of time.

Beyond the viaduct the path moves away from the river and from here onwards we passed through many lovely buttercup meadows. This one was at Low Branthwaite.

Another short but steep hill climb had us breaking out in a lather once again so we had a pause at the top of the climb for a mop round and a look back at Low Branthwaite farm.

More sweetly scented buttercup meadows followed and then we were approaching Bramaskew farm. The Dales Way veers off to the left below the farm and avoids the need to go through the farmyard.

Well beyond Bramaskew farm now and on our left across the valley is Knotts …..

….. and just ahead of us is Firbank Fell, both of which we strolled over earlier on in the walk.

Approaching Hole House farm where the path drops down the hill, and the yellow arrows direct you through the gap between the houses.

The Howgills appear again as the Dales Way drops us back down to the riverside.

From Hole House there is a lovely riverside walk, of about two miles, all the way back to Beck Foot so here are a few shots I took along the way …..

A good opportunity to splash hot faces with cool water, and give the towel a good soaking, very useful for keeping us cool as we walked along.

Chapel Beck joining the River Lune.

The lovely view upstream to Fell Head from the Crook of Lune Bridge …..

….. and, for the next three weeks according to the notices, a not so lovely view of the Crook of Lune Bridge. Work started today on repairs to the central pillar of the bridge which has been weakened by high water levels over the past couple of winters so the road is closed to traffic for the duration. Its a very narrow bridge, evidenced by the numerous paint scrapes on the parapet’s masonry, and added to this morning by one of the vehicles belonging to the firm carrying out the repair work. The driver’s workmates laughingly pointed it out to us and I expect he was on the receiving end of a lot of good natured joshing from them.  Judging by the amount of blue paint on the stonework the van will almost certainly need a bit of a respray. The driver’s boss will not be best pleased I think.

There is only a short walk from the bridge back to the viaduct at Beck Foot so we are almost back at the lay-by. This viaduct carried the same railway line as the Lune viaduct and this too is a Grade 2 Listed Building. It was constructed using local red sandstone, has eleven arches and a very elegant curved design. It is just as impressive as the Lune viaduct.

The spare bottle of water left in the car rapidly disappeared down very thirsty throats before stowing our packs and changing footwear. The car’s interior was like a furnace so the doors were flung open to let some of it out and I walked across the road for a last shot of the Beck Foot Viaduct. A delightful walk through beautiful countryside with plenty of interesting history to go with it all, all in all a great day out.