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" Brackenthwaite Hows - National Trust "

Date & start time:    Friday 28th June, 2019.   5 pm start.

Location of Start :   Lanthwaite Woods (Scale Hill) car park, Cumbria, Uk. ( NY 149 215 )

Places visited :         Lanthwaite Woods and Brackenthwaite Hows.

Walk details :             1 mile, 350 feet of ascent, 2 hours 30 mins including multiple stops.

Highest point :          Brackenthwaite Hows, 675 ft - 208m.

Walked with :             4 National Trust officials, 20 locals including Ann and myself, plus 3 dogs.

Weather :                    Sunshine and blue skies.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Licence number PU 100034184.


Brackenthwaite Hows is one of our small local fells

and one from which I have taken many a photo since we first moved up here nearly twenty years ago.

The short walk is a delight and the view from the summit features all or part of about 20 of Wainwright's high fells.

Despite its diminutive height (675 ft above sea level) it rises quietly above its surroundings and offers surprisingly good views.

50 years or more ago Alfred Wainwright appreciated this spot and it mentioned it in his North Western Fells book :-

"Though less fashionable nowadays as an attraction for tourists the view of Crummock Water backed by the Buttermere fells remains superb."

It first became a visitor attraction when Thomas West published the first Lake District guidebook in 1778, when it was named

as one of several Georgian "Viewing Stations" in the Lake District, one of the most pictorial places from which to view the Lakeland scenery.

In Victorian days, when Scale Hill was a hotel, you could even ask for a local guide to take you on a walk to the summit to 'discover' the classic views.

Nowadays more people tick off "Wainwrights" rather than "Wests" so the location has faded from modern guide books.

Imagine our consternation when it was reported in the press that it had been sold

and that the new owners were to potentially "open it up and encourage the public to once again include it on their holiday itinerary"

It has become a quiet and unspoiled area of land, a low level moorland habitat above the trees of Lanthwaite Woods.

It is a favourite of those that take the effort to seek out its particular charms and by so doing, escape from the mass invasion of other tourist areas.

  Following a local request, the new owners, the National Trust, offered to meet to discuss their ideas in respect of their new acquisition.

Ann and I headed over to Lanthwaite woods car park to attend the discussion, called by Tom Burditt area manager of the Trust.

This was the view of Branthwaite Hows as we crossed the fields this afternoon.

The weather is fine as we arrive at the reasonably full car park just before 5pm.

The Trust acquired the summit of the Hows, which complements their current ownership of Lanthwaite Woods and Backhow Woods.

Like many local landmarks, it is known by several different names; Brackenthwaite Hows (O.S.) Scale Hill (from Scale Hill Hotel), Lanthwaite Hill

and even Dick Robin, possibly named after a member of the Robinson Family who at one time owned the land.

The Trust has recently bought the Hows from the Robinson, Thompson and Hill families, David and Ruth Hill gifting their portion back to the Trust

In the car park we meet up with Tom, Paul, Jessie and Nick of the National Trust

at the start of what was to be an interesting discussion as we walked around the Hows.

- - - o o o - - -

The technology of the ticket machine, plus local human surveys, show Lanthwaite Woods car park is used more by locals

rather than classic holiday visitors.  Main activities seem to be dog walking, swimming and relaxing on the lake shore.

Their future plans could be to update the signage to reflect the new acquisition,  to improve understanding of the area

and to outline the various walks available. Jessica and Tom lead a discussion as to what publicity was desirable

and how the property would be reflected in the next edition of the Trust Handbook and web site.

- - - o o o - - -

After the discussion we head for the top . . .

A pause on the Victorian steps to discuss the possibility of path alterations
. . . then it is on up through the mixed woodland to the first gate.

[ I'll not mention names of the people as there were too many today. . .  but apologies to our neighbour whose face is neatly obliterated by a rogue tree branch in the first photo]

- - - o o o - - -



In the days of the "Viewing Stations"

the woodland was not quite so dense and gaps in the trees

gave occasional views down to the valley and the lake.


These, and the effort needed to climb this rocky path,

added to the aura of the location and made the view from the top

all the more special.


Hopefully the Trust will maintain this feeling

and not be changing the paths in any way.


- - - o o o - - -


The Trust's new acquisition includes an area of new woodland

planted in recent years and surrounded by deer fencing.

Discussions included how the Trust were going to manage what local deer remained in Lanthwaite Woods

and possibly how they could organise their 'managed return' to the Hows, which after all had been a traditional grazing area in the past.

The view down Lorton Valley.

The Trust now own the area down to the wall and we chatted about the bracken that seems to be taking over here (and elsewhere) in the Lakes.

The option of spraying is no longer allowed so the only possibilities left are grazing where larger animals can trample the roots, tree cover

which takes forever and alters the appearance, or physically cutting or bruising the ferns so they die off which is very labour intensive.

I'm sure the problem has probably been made worse in recent years by global warming, the removal of grazing

by the owner's horses, sheep and of course the lack of deer.

However the path to the summit has been kept open by those who do visit on a regular basis.

The area is designated as "open access land" so the public can walk here despite the lack of a formal right of way.

On the top we were joined by more folk who had walked up from other directions.

In the end we had around twenty people, plus the four Trust representatives who made it up to the top today.

The outlook towards the Buttermere Valley from the old "viewing station" of Brackenthwaite Hows.

Of course the beauty of the view was that it also encompassed the full 360 degrees, unhindered by the trees below.

Click here or on the photo above to enjoy a larger, all round annotated panorama

Tom told us of the fauna and flora concerns . . .
. . . how the re-growth will need some management
. . . how they might maintain the special lowland heath environment . . .
and how to protect bio-diversity like this well camouflaged "painted lady".

Time to be heading down from the open grass heathland of the summit.

Down towards the recently planted tree area where unsightly plastic tube still protect many young trees.

- - - o o o - - -


Along the way

we had discussions about the future of the plantation,

the effect of the enclosure

and the presence of natural tree growth

such as this crab apple tree seen near the exit gate.



Conversations continued

about the change to the ground vegetation

which is causing alteration to the appearance of the fell

and the effect on the many paths that cross it.



- - - o o o - - -

Tom leads us down an alternative path through the gate on the south eastern corner of the Hows.

With the change of ownership and the concept of enabling easier and more meaningful access,

our last chat was about coloured markers or signposting of the walking routes,

such as here at the top of the rise on the Lanthwaite Gate bridle way.

- - - o o o - - -


It was mentioned that a helpful addition

could be the simple way marking

of the two paths to the summit that we have used today

and to reflect that fact

on new car park information boards.


- - - o o o - - -

One thing seemed to be agreed that Brackenthwaite Hows was an unique place that needed very little change

and certainly didn't need to be spoiled by extra advertising as the car park can be full to overflowing on sunny days.

Simple way marking to help new visitors discover the place for themselves could be a possibility

but thought must be given to conservation and maintenance of the special heathland environment.

- - - o o o - - -


And as for the newspaper report about a certain Mr Turner . . . well there's no proof that he actually made it to the top.

However, he certainly was attracted to the area by the concept of the viewing stations and possibly did visit the Hows.

His Buttermere painting (seen on the newspaper article at the start) took inspiration from slightly further down the valley which

in artistic terms may be significant. 

By choosing to ignore the “clichéd” view from the summit and taking his own line from further down the road

perhaps he sowed the seed away from the "Picturesque" . . . following a movement that was to blossom into "Romanticism".

Sadly he is no longer around to ask him for that definitive answer !

- - - o o o - - -

Should you find your way here bring a map, or take a photo of the new signage when it is installed.  Don't expect to be guided.

Come and explore this quiet and rather unique place for yourselves . . . long may it remain as just that.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Panasonic Lumix TZ60, or my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . future conservation in mind.

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Previous walk - 21st June - Mellbreak on the Longest Day

A previous time up here - 13th January 2017 - Lanthwaite Hill with Ian

Next walk - 3rd July - Stickle Pike and Great Stickle