Wordsworth House countryside walk
This scenic walk through the quiet countryside of the North Lakes starts from Wordsworth House in Cockermouth – birthplace and childhood home of the poet William Wordsworth.
Much of the route follows the Allerdale Ramble, taking in views of the fells and the hamlet of Isel with its 12th-century church, before returning across fields to the charming Georgian town of Cockermouth.
Wordsworth House, grid ref: NY118307
From Wordsworth House, turn left along tree-lined Main Street. At the end, turn right onto Market Place and follow this road out of town. (If you would like to visit All Saints’ churchyard, where William’s father John is buried, you will need to make a short detour here, before starting the walk. As you join Market Place, turn right into Market Street and head uphill, passing the town hall on your right, and stroll through the atmospheric graveyard. The family attended an earlier version of the church, where William was baptised. Turn left when you emerge onto the historic Kirkgate to return to Market Place and, turning right, resume the walk route.)
Step back in time to the 1770s at Wordsworth House and Garden. Take a guided or audio tour, explore the hands-on rooms, meet the servants on selected dates, and see, hear, smell, feel and even taste what life was like for young William and his sister Dorothy. The house and garden are open from mid-February to early November.
Shortly after passing Wyndham Hall caravan park, cross the road and go through the gate signed for Isel Bridge. Follow the grassy track up Watch Hill. This is the most strenuous part of the walk, so take as many rests as you need to enjoy the view.
Watch Hill view
The sweeping view southwards from Watch Hill, across lush, sheep speckled fields, takes in a clutch of north Lakeland peaks including Ladyside Pike, Whiteside and the Loweswater fells. They may be smaller than some of the central Lakes mountains but they have a drama all of their own.
At the top, go through the gate into Hills Wood and keep to the left-hand track. Take care as it can be muddy after wet weather. Look out for deer flitting between the beech trees.
Follow the track down to the road and carry on. A little further on, take the left turn downhill to cross Isel Bridge over the Derwent, Wordsworth’s favourite river. It runs from Bassenthwaite Lake via Cockermouth to the sea at Workington. In his masterwork, The Prelude, Wordsworth calls the Derwent ‘the fairest of all rivers’, so this is a route he would have enjoyed. Go left at the fork. You will soon see a sign on the left for St Michael and All Angels’ Church, another excellent pausing point.
St Michael and All Angels’ Church
Perched on the north bank of the Derwent near Isel Bridge, St Michael and All Angels’ Church dates from around 1130. Its ancient graveyard is the last resting place of generations of local families and has several well-placed benches from which today’s visitors can admire the scenery.
After visiting the church, continue up the hill, passing Isel Hall. The road crosses a small bridge and winds up into woodland. Turn left into Gill Wood at the fingerpost for Redmain, taking care to avoid the brambles. At the path junction signposted Derwent Bank, carry on to cross a sleeper bridge, taking care again as this area can also be muddy.
This imposing range of buildings includes a pink lime-washed and crenellated pele tower (watch tower) dating from around 1400. The hall is open on Monday afternoons from late April to early October and on selected weekends. Call 01900 821778 for details.
Cross a succession of fields and stiles, climbing slightly all the while. Look back into the valley to catch glimpses of the Derwent. The largest fell visible in the distance is Skiddaw, the Lake District’s fourth highest at 3,054 feet (931m).
A final stile takes you back onto the road. Turn left to pass through the pretty hamlet of Redmain. Turn left again at the sign for Redmain Lodge and follow the track through a gate to return to the fields.
Keeping the modest hump of Park Hill and the woods on your left, continue over several more stiles to the A595.
Turn left along the verge for ½ mile (0.8km) until, just beyond Wood Hall Farm, a fingerpost on the left points you back into the fields.
Head downhill over more stiles, pausing to admire the view of Cockermouth, until you rejoin the road on the northern edge of the town. Turn right to reach Wakefield Road car park, cross the footbridge and, at Main Street, go right again to return to your starting point.
Cockermouth is known for its wealth of Georgian buildings and impressive array of independent shops. In 1965, it was officially designated a ‘Gem Town’ worthy of special care and preservation, one of only two in Cumbria. (The other is Whitehaven.) Wordsworth was baptised in an earlier version of the town’s All Saints’ Church.
Wordsworth House, grid ref: NY118307
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