Lake District Walk - Levens Hall


Keith Carter leads a walk through the beautiful grounds of Levens Hall in South Lakeland

We chose a Saturday to do a walk from Levens Hall which has plenty of parking, a tea shop and toilets but it was a bad idea since the one day of the week they don’t open is Saturday. A nice man from the offices in the stable block suggested we park just up the road. By turning right once across the bridge heading north there’s a lay-by ideally placed for us.

Levens Hall is well worth a visit on any day but Saturday, the gardens laid out by the famed French landscape gardener Guillaume Beaumont in the early 18th century and renowned for the wonderful topiary. It’s odd the few things that are retained in the murky passages of the brain but two things linger for me.

One, the ace of clubs embossed on the rainwater spouts in reference to a former owner who lost his house on the turn of a card; and the other the legend that a curse was laid on the family by a gypsy woman which would only be lifted when a white fawn was born in the park. The present owners are the Bagot family who are determined to preserve the heritage of this fine estate.

Our walks starts by taking the footpath on the north side of the bridge, that is the side away from the hall, where steps lead down to the riverside, the path following the bend in the River Kent through the parkland where you may be lucky enough to spot the herd of Black Fallow Deer resident here, also seen at Trentham Gardens. They make a lovely sight and probably a lovely meal too, if you like venison.

Stay with the river following a series of posts which lead eventually to the boundary wall of the park and here steps bring us over the wall and into a meadow. Turn right and walk with the wall on the right to a second stepped stile, then head across a second meadow at 10 o’clock to a corner where a gate with a stile beside it brings us out on a farm lane.

Turn left and walk down to the main A591 road opposite the Heaves Hotel. My brother-in-law had his wedding reception here years ago, an occasion on which he spotted some friends jestingly tying tin cans to his car. Far from appreciating the joke, he waded in amongst them, fists flying, breaking up the jesters in no uncertain manner. I confess to having been one of the jesters but escaped with nothing worse than a torn shirt collar.

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Cross the main road and go up the lane opposite as far as a triangle then look for a footpath sign to Heaves Farm on the left. This path goes behind the hotel and we come to a detached house which has reached a point of deterioration beyond which renovation is hardly worth the effort.

At the top of the garden a kissing-gate leads us into a field and we follow a right-hand boundary hedge above a bowl in the land falling away to our left. Go through two five-barred gates and arrive at Heaves Farm. The right-of-way threads between the farmhouse and a barn then bends right to meet a lane.

Opposite the junction a stile brings us into a field characterised by hundreds of mounds, the homes of the Yellow Meadow Ant, active in fields which have never been cultivated. Their nests are below the grounds, the mounds acting as ventilation and temperature control.

The path trends right, goes through a wall and climbing up to a brow where there is a grove of trees enclosed entirely by a stone wall. Once over the brow, the path begins to descend towards a belt of woodland which has a gate into it but we veer right, resisting the temptation to enter the wood.

Drop down to a stream and emerge onto a track, turn left and we come out right above the Strickland Arms. The Stricklands are the family who own Sizergh Castle. This fine pub serves a good selection of ales including some from the Coniston Brewery like Bluebird Bitter and Old Man Ale.

Emerge refreshed from the pub, turn left then next right passing the entrance to Sizergh on the left. Walk under the A591 and continue to the bottom of Nannypie Lane and turn right at a T-junction. The road continues side by side with the River Kent as it funnels down into a defile creating a turmoil of water known as Force Falls. At the bridge over the river, cross it and turn right signposted Hincaster. Stay on the road and shortly we cross the main dual carriageway, high above it, the traffic tearing towards or away from the Lakes.

Once across the bridge, a signpost appears almost immediately on the right with a step stile leading us into Levens Park again. Walk the full length of the avenue of trees, keeping an eye out for the flock of rare Bagot Goats who inhabit the park, a distinctive breed said to have been brought back to this country by returning crusaders.

The river is to our right and we follow its course back to Levens Bridge which we reach on the south end which means we have to turn right to get back to the car. If you are visiting Levens Hall, cross the road and you are right outside the gate. But not on a Saturday!

Compass points

Area of walk: Levens Park

Distance: Six miles

Time to allow: Three hours

Map: OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes SE

Refreshments: The Strickland Arms, Sizergh

Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs