Book Review by Steve Matthews
Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks by Vivienne Crow. Cicerone. £9.99
Heavy boots and heavier rucksacks may propel the hardy hill walker to the bold, bare heights. Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Scafell and Blencathra provide their challenges and their exhilarations. For others of less aspiring inclinations, there can be equally inspiring walks.
As Vivienne Crow says - and for twenty years, she's been a hardened hill-walker - "Head up on to the lower hills or take a walk through any of Lakeland's great dales, and you'll discover that they are gorgeous, often spectacular and atmospheric places where attention to detail in the landscape will reward the observant walker."
And that's exactly where she takes us in this neatly compiled little book.
There are thirty walks on offer, ranging from seven to seventeen kilometres and covering the length and breadth of the Lake District from Swinside Stone Circle down by Millom - "a landscape of low grassy fells and occasional craggy knobbles - to Ullswater and the Cockpit up by Pooley Bridge. From Hampsfell near Grange where "the biggest views can be enjoyed from the smallest fells" to the Wythop Fells in the north-west. where, again, "low diminutive fells" offer some spectacular views.
The walk from Castlerigg Stone Circle to High Rigg - "a lovely little lump of a fell, sometimes grassy, sometimes craggy" - is "like the Lake District in miniature".
In a walk of eight miles or so - Vivienne allows you a generous four and a half hours - you will traverse farm paths and valley paths, quiet lanes and busy roads (just for a short section) and you will experience "hidden tarns, dark crags, springs and becks galore, knobbly summits, even a section of narrow, heather-covered ridge" and you begin and end in the "enigmatic" Castlerigg Stone Circle. Quite a day and, nicely positioned at the half-way point, there's Low Bridge Farm with the tempting lure of tea and cakes.
"A reasonably clear footpath now climbs to a gate, beyond which you are on a lovely, gently rising track above Derwentwater. On a clear, sunny day, the views across the lake to the Derwent fells are pretty special." You are on your way - "an easy wander across open fells" - to Walla Crag and then "a gorgeous stroll through ancient woods" before you return to Ashness Bridge. Almost at the top of Walla Crag you might notice a steep gully, It is named Lady's Rake after Lady Derwentwater. This is the route she followed as she made good her escape from Lord's Island when she heard of the impending execution of her husband Lord Radcliffe. That was three centuries ago. Lady Derwentwater would have had little time for the views up into Borrowdale or down across the lake and over Bassenthwaite and across the Solway to Criffel in Dumfries and Galloway - a view as romantic as the story of the Radcliffes.
One of the loveliest of all walks is the six mile route from Howtown along the shores of Ullswater and to the lowly summit of Hallin Fell. From the crumbling square stone obelisk you can see the full, irregular length of Ullswater as it sprawls beneath the fells reaching out to the valley of the Eden or stretching up towards the heights of Helvellyn.
There can be few places that offer so much for so little effort. Forget the strenuous hikes up daunting summits. Ramble in the valleys or stroll up gentle fells. The rewards are just as great. Vivienne Crow's little book is the perfect guide - beautifully crafted walks, well presented - she tells you every twist and turn of the track, every stumpy signpost and wooden kissing-gate - and she is so enthusiastic, you will want to put your walking shoes on, get the dog's lead and get out there straight away.