Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Grasmere village is a very pretty and popular tourist destination. It is situated on the River Rothay which flows into Grasmere Lake from where the village takes its name. Surrounded by hills the village is overlooked from the north-west by the rocky hill of Helm Crag also known as “The Lion and the Lamb” or the “Old Lady at the Piano”. These names are derived from the shape of rock formations on its summit depending on which side you view it from. To the east it is overlooked by Heron Pike and Great Rigg on the western ridge of the Fairfield horseshoe. To the south-east by Loughrigg Fell and to the west the long ridge comes down from High Raise. There are a number of walks that start from Grasmere and the village is also on the route of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. Grasmere is home to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread and the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop can be found at Church Cottage tucked away at the corner of St Oswald’s churchyard. Church Cottage which was built in 1630 was originally the village school. William Wordsworth who described the village as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found” lived in Grasmere for fourteen years. Dove Cottage located on the main road just outside the village was once an inn and became the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth for 8 years in 1799. He married Mary in 1802 and three of his five children were born there. Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum next door and Dove Cottage Garden, which has been restore to the half wild state that William and his sister Dorothy created, are all open to the public. Wordsworth moved to Allan Bank in Grasmere village to accommodate his growing family and finally in 1813 to Rydal Mount in Rydal until his death in 1850. He is buried in St Oswald’s Parish Churchyard alongside his wife Mary, daughter Dora and other family members. Next to the church is a Daffodil Garden in memory of the poet. Grasmere Lake, one of the Lake District’s smaller lakes, is both fed and drained by the River Rothay which rises close to Rough Crag above Dunmail Raise and flows through the village of Grasmere before entering the lake and then exits downstream into Rydal Water then continues south to merge with the River Brathay. The rivers then continue into the northern end of Windermere. The lake containing a single island known simply as The Island is leased by the Lowther Estate to the National Trust.
Easedale Tarn set in one of the Lake Districts most dramatic locations sits in a hollow about 280m (910ft) above sea level between Tarn Crag to the north-west, Blea Crag to the south-east and Slapestone Edge to the west. The tarn about 480 metres long and 300 metres wide was formed by a small corrie glacier which filled with water after the ice age 11,000 years ago. Its outflow is Sourmilk Gill, named after the milky white waterfalls, which runs east towards Grasmere. The gill provides exceptional water scenery when seen from Grasmere and from the footpath leading to the tarn. Situated about two miles west of the village of Grasmere the tarn has been a popular attraction since Victorian times providing a beautiful and quiet retreat for a picnic and a paddle or even a swim. A refreshment hut was built in the 19th century above the outlet of the tarn but is long gone and nettles now grow where the ruins used to be. The easy to follow walk gives the impression of being in the mountains although it is a low level walk with a final steep ascent to the tarn.
We walk through Grasmere village making our way to the square and walk up Easedale Road. We keep heading forwards along the road going over Goody Bridge and past a little road coming in from the right. Just round the bend we turn left at the signpost for Easedale Tarn crossing the little narrow bridge over Easedale Beck. We head forwards over a tiny stone bridge then go through a metal gate. We now follow the footpath with the beck on our right passing a bridge on the right. We ignore the gate on the left with the yellow arrow and keep heading forwards with the beck on our right. As we go through the next gate the path splits we bear left signposted Public Bridleway and follow the path through the field. We go through another gate and the path soon starts to climb steeply with the spectacular waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill on our right. We keep following the path steadily uphill making our way up to Easedale Tarn. At the tarn we cross over Sourmilk Gill via the stepping stones and start making our way downhill with the gill on our right. The ground becomes very boggy and the path faint so we carefully make our across keeping the gill on our right. When we see some small trees on the right the path soon starts to bear left. We keep following the path and the arrows on the posts to meet a wall. We keep heading forwards downhill with the wall on our right. The path soon bears right to a footbridge. We cross the bridge turn right and keep following the track passing a farm on the right. We soon enter some trees and turn right through the gate to follow a rough stony path downhill to the tarmac track. We now follow the tarmac track to meet the beck then retrace our steps back to Grasmere.
This is a lovely easy to moderate walk perfect for a winter’s day on tarmac, grass and stony tracks and paths. The ascent to Easedale Tarn is steep. The only way over the gill is via stepping stones and on the descent there is a wide area of boggy ground so care must be taken.
Elevation: approx lowest point 68.7m (225.4ft) approx highest point 299m (958ft) approx ascent 329.3m (1080.4ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 4.5 miles allow 2½ – 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL7, The English Lakes South-eastern area. The walk is clockwise.
Start point: lay-by car park on the A591 at Grasmere.
Grasmere is located just off the A591 north of Windermere and Ambleside in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Threlkeld take the B5322 on the left. At the t-junction at Legburthwaite turn left onto the A591 which runs by the side of Thirlmere Lake. At the roundabout turn right into Grasmere. The pay and display car park is just on the right. The free parking lay-by is on the left before the roundabout.
Parking: There are three Pay and Display car parks, £8 for all day, in Grasmere and very limited free road side parking. There are two free lay-by car parks on the main A591.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in the pay and display car park on the right just before the village and also in the village near the police station. For refreshments in Grasmere there are three pubs the Red Lion, the Wordsworth Hotel and Spar and the Grasmere Hotel plus there are many cafes and other places to eat and drink. There are also plenty of shops to browse round. There are three more pubs nearby on the A591 the Travellers Rest, the Swan Inn and the Daffodil Hotel and Spar. The nearest town is Ambleside.