UW01 : Pooley Bridge to Aira Force

Sunday 9th April 2017

Bizarrely, it has taken just under a year for us to co-ordinate diaries with Ian & Cynthia to find a mutually convenient date to start the Ullswater Way. That date was today and the sun was shining.  Cynthia and Margaret were looking forward to a nice flat 6 miles alongside of the lake.  I didn't tell them that the brochure said 6.5 miles and there was a gentle climb involved.

Ian drove us to the Aira Force National Trust Car Park so that we could catch the bus to Pooley Bridge.  

Lord help any foreign visitors to make sense of the highly confusing timetable posted by the bus stop.

Even if they did manage to work it out, it was wrong. Completely different times to the one I had downloaded from the internet.

The bus driver forgot we wanted to alight at Pooley Bridge so we had a couple of hundred yards extra to walk.  So exhausted were we by the time we reached our start point, the bridge, we were delighted to discover Granny Dowbekin's cafe.  A good find.  Excellent coffee and cakes.

The bridge is rather different in structure to that shown on the Bridge Inn's sign.  It was washed away in the storms of a couple of years back and replaced by a "temporary" bailey bridge.  How long temporary will prove to be remains to be seen.  All bridges are temporary when you think about it.

A good footpath takes you gently into a lightly wooded area from which you have a good view over the steamer jetty up the lake.  And what an impressive view that is.

Soon you zig and after a while zag  to climb a field and Salmond's Plantation.  What came as a surprise was that the stile into the wood was wrecked.  We managed to reconstruct it after a fashion but it was rather wobbly and could easily have collapsed and caused injury.  The same was almost the case at the next style but more effort had been made to shore up the structure by creating a stone mound on which to plant one end.

The puzzlement is Why?  After only one year, how can it be like this?  Is it because it is a permissive path rather than a footpath and someone objects to permissiveness?  The barbed wire on the on the section to be crossed suggests someone is not too happy with the arrangement.

Any lingering thought about this matter soon dissipated when the view up the lake emerged from behind the plantation.

It is quite spectacular and of far more interest than the remains of the Iron Age Maiden Castle, the rings of which could be seen across the fields.

Reputedly there was once a tower, built there by a king to safeguard his maiden daughter.  

An evil witch had predicted she would drown one day so it was built to protect (imprison?) her, sufficiently far away from the lake.

However one day a handsome prince came by and sang to her so sweetly that she climbed out of her window to join him.

Sadly she lost her footing and fell into a water butt and drowned.  She'd have done better had she listened to Arthur Mullard. Rapunzel, Rapunzul, let dahn yer 'air.

Anyway, no sign now of towers, butts or 'air.

Further across the fields were the Mells.  

Little Mell dominated the view but tucked behind was Great Mell which will be our "bonus" addition to the UW in due course, in part to see the countryside of  James Rebanks, as described in his book The Shepherd's Life.

Today we remained focused on reaching Aira Force so continued across fields, emerging through a very nice caravan park, the term "very nice" being in great part earned by the chocolate and toffee coated vanilla ice cream they sell and in part by the very nice bronze couple who sat outside the shop) to a road, a short distance from the church at Watermillock.

All Saints is a lovely Victorian church which we explored for a few minutes before rejoining the Way.  Things now started to get serious again.  the path climbed relentlessly as it curved round the hill and continued to do so through Swinburn's Park.  Since I my last visit there has been a lot of tree felling so the views were open though the foreground is not the most attractive.  A cold wind was started to blow but we were getting hungry. Eventually we stopped climbing and found a sheltered place to eat.  A very late lunch.

Once out of the Park, the nature of the terrain changed.  It was now open fellside with superb views first down,

..... across to Pikeawassa (what a name!) .....

.....and later up the lake.  

However the path was quite narrow and the slope steep.  In summer that is to an extent disguised by the deep bracken but not so today.  Care is needed, as was the Memorial Seat.  Team picture location.

The narrow path continued along the Gowbarrow hillside, dropping down gently but still somewhat scarily, past the haunted Lynulph's Tower.

Lady Emma was engaged to Sir Eglamore. During the knight's long absences she would sleepwalk to the waterfall.  When he returned he discovered Lady Emma sleepwalking.  He tried to wake her but she slipped into the river and drowned.

Her story is captured (at length) in William Wordworth's The Somnambulist. Perhaps her ghost was wandering waiting for him to finish the rather lengthy poem.  For more on the story see Haunted History .

The path emerged just below Aira Force and, more importantly for today, just above the car park.

It felt a little longer than the brochure's 6.5 miles.  In fact my gps said 8.9. Admittedly we had made a minor detour to the church and a bit of to-ing and fro-ing but nowhere near 2.4 miles worth or even half that.

Even more surprising, Memory Map said we had climbed 1,905 feet. It felt nothing like that but it might explain why we were somewhat tireder than we had expected.  However, that didn't matter as it had been a superb walk and an excellent start to the Ullswater Way.  

Don, Sunday 9th April 2017

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