Going: Quiet tarmac lanes all the way. Gentle rises and dips - hardly
Total Distance: 16.5 miles.
The River Winster, former boundary between Lancashire North of the Sands and Westmorland, ends its journey to Morecambe Bay a little to the east of Grange, constrained in a narrow man-made channel. Yet above Lindale, where this outing begins, it twists and meanders down a wide green valley, bordered on one side by the long limestone cliffs of Whitbarrow Scar.
Set off up the Back o th Fell Road from the roundabout in Lindale, and pass under the imposing concrete pillars of the bypass to begin this gentle exploration of the valley. There are no hills to trouble here, just a few short rises, over before you even realise. Keep to the valley, ignoring the various turns to the left which would soon have you ascending the harsh banks to Newton Fell.
The turning point is reached at Cowmire Hall, a 16th century pele tower, farm and home to a business producing damson gin with fruit from the Lyth Valley orchards. Turn right at the junction, Whitbarrow Scar looming nearer now and on the left, and passing several 16th century houses at Pool Bank, look for a left fork to Witherslack. Pleasant woodland follows, with the large pond above the Hall making a good spot for a break. The height, over 650 ft, and sheer scale of the Scar can be really appreciated now, with the vertical escarpment above Witherslack Hall being separately known as Chapel Head Scar.
Hearts may sink as the A590 is approached, but a handy farm access tunnel to the right ducks under the dual carriageway, and from here on Blue No 20 Cumbria Cycleway Markers show the route towards Ulpha and Meathop. The flat Mosses on either side would once have been part of the Bay, but surprisingly Meathop Fell itself is another limestone outcrop, parts of which have been quarried. This quiet little backwater is a real surprise for those who would normally rush by on the A590, and in great contrast to the valley further north.
The route runs alongside the railway line now, until a right turn means that the Grange to Lindale road must unavoidably be followed for the last 1¼ miles. Just before the roundabout is reached, look out for the large black pillar, which is made of cast iron, standing to the right of the road. This is a memorial to John Iron-Mad Wilkinson, born in 1728 and one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. He ran a furnace at Backbarrow, launched the first iron barge, and patented improved cannon-balls! He is buried in Lindale in an iron coffin of his own design; the burial apparently took four, or maybe even five attempts. In one attempt the wooden box meant to hold the iron coffin was too small. In another, the hole wasn't deep enough, and the limestone rock had to be blasted away!
There are pubs in Lindale, and at Witherslack village, near the A590. A mile north of Cowmire Hall, there is a fine pub at Bowland Bridge.
The nothern end of Whitbarrow Scar, seen from near Cowmire Hall, a 16th century pele tower.
Chapel Head Scar, an escarpment on Whitbarrow Scar, seen from near Witherslack Hall.
The River Winster at the very end of its journey to Morecambe Bay, on the fringe of Meathop Fell.
The Cowmire Hall farm website, with details of its damson gin.
There are many sites referring to John 'Iron Mad' Wilkinson. Examples: 1; 2; 3; 4
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed. May be printed for personal use only.
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