Lake District walk - Coniston and Levers Water Waterfalls

A walker on the way into Coppermines Valley

A walker on the way into Coppermines Valley - Credit: John Lenehan

The hills around Coniston once rang out with the sound of industry, but these days it’s the perfect spot for a new year walk.

Coniston today is one of the leading Lake District tourist destinations, with quaint shops and busy pubs and cafes. But in the past it was the base of a huge copper and slate mining industry and tunnels and shafts riddle the flanks of Coniston Old Man, Wetherlam, and Swirl How that rise high above Coppermine valley. 

The air would have been full of the sounds of clanking machinery and the ground would shudder as explosives tore quarries and tunnels out of the rocks. It is peaceful now with just the sounds of sheep, birds and walkers to disturb the tranquillity. 

There is still evidence of the past but most is in ruins, except for the refurbished huge waterwheel that once drove the ore crushing and sorting mills. I have spent many hours in this valley but hadn’t been since the wheel was refurbished, so I thought it was time to have a look.

The vast workings of the coppermines are still visible in the hills

The vast workings of the coppermines are still visible in the hills - Credit: John Lenehan

1: Leave the centre of village follow the road to Torver then turn right up Station Road then take a right to the Sun Inn and to the left of it is a track. There is a sign saying ‘Old Man Levers Water 2.5 Miles’. Follow the track through a group of buildings up to a gate with a sign: ‘Coppermines Conservation Area’, cross the stile by the gate and carry on along the track to reach Miners Bridge. Cross that and a stile, then turn left and a wide track leads up to the YHA Hostel and Holiday Cottages. The obvious waterwheel is behind the main building. 

Note: The waterwheel has a diameter of 32 feet. It was used to drive machinery when the copper mines were in operation but it was removed in 1850 when mining ceased. 

2: Go up the track to the left of the waterwheel and there is a path that goes behind the waterwheel and under the wooden leat that feeds it. Follow the narrow footpath to reach the wide track again, this time behind a metal gate and turn right and go uphill.

The waterwheel and leat

The waterwheel and leat - Credit: John Lenehan

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3: This point doesn’t match the OS Map, so keep on the wide track and follow it to a footbridge under the obvious waterfalls from Levers Water and cross the bridge and follow a narrow path until it reaches a T-junction. Turn left and cross a footbridge and pass a huge boulder known as the Pudding Stone and carry on along the path.  

The path reaches a T-junction with a wide track, turn left then in a few metres the wide track turns sharp right and at this point there is a smaller path leading straight on downhill towards some distant cottages. Follow the path downhill, crossing three stiles on the way to eventually reach Miners Bridge on the left. 

Note: The Pudding Stone is apparently shaped like a traditional pudding, which pudding it is I don’t know, but it is very popular with climbers using a technique called bouldering. 

4: Do not cross Miners Bridge or go down the track you came up on. On the right there is a small path that goes behind a wall. Keep this on the left and follow the path, cross a stile and a footbridge and another stile and with a wall on the left follow the path through a stile and then a stile to the right of a wooden gate to reach a tarmac road. Turn left and follow the steep road that eventually joins Station Road and leads back to the village. 

The route from Coniston takes in some glorious scenery

The route from Coniston takes in some glorious scenery - Credit: OS

Start and finish
: Centre of Coniston village 
Distance: 4 miles/6.5km 
Time: 3 hours 
Terrain: Mainly wide good tracks but after the footbridge under Levers Water Waterfalls it is mainly rough footpaths. Good boots and mountain clothes are best for this walk 
Map: OS Map OL6 The English Lakes South Western Area 
Facilities: Plenty in Coniston village 

READ MORE: 5 reasons to visit Coniston

READ MORE: Lake District walk - Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man