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Taking the Line to Latrigg

A walk along a disused railway line, leads to a fine viewpoint above Keswick.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 902ft (275m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Railway trackbed, country lane, grassy fell paths, 3 stiles

Landscape River valley and elongated grassy ridge

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL 4 The English Lakes (NW)

Start/finish NY 270238

Dog friendliness No particular problems, but fell sheep on Latrigg

Parking At former Keswick Station

Public toilets At start

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the old Keswick Station, head along the trackbed, which speeds you away from Keswick. Beyond the A66, here cantilevered above the trackbed, the route covers a boardwalk section high above the River Greta, before continuing to the site of the bobbin mill at Low Briery, now a caravan site.

2 Beyond Low Briery, the River Greta is an agreeable companion as far as an old railway building on the right used as an information point (with a river bridge beyond). Before reaching the building, turn left through a gate and cross a narrow pasture to a back lane. Turn left and climb, steeply for a short while, to reach a footpath signed 'Skiddaw and Underscar', at a gate and stile.

3 Go over the stile and on to a broad track swinging round gorse bushes, and then running centrally up the eastern ridge of Latrigg. Look back here for spectacular views of Blencathra. A short way on you reach a plantation on the right. Before the plantation ends, climb left from a metal gate towards the top of the ridge and walk along the ridge to a gate.

4 After the gate, a lovely stroll leads across the top of Latrigg, with great views of the Vale of Keswick, the Dodds, Borrowdale, the Newlands Valley, and, to the right, the massive bulk of Skiddaw.

5 Beyond the highest point of Latrigg, a bench is perfectly placed to admire the view. From it take a path descending gently northwards, later dropping in zig-zags to intercept a track alongside another plantation.

6 At the track, turn left, and continue down to Spooney Green Lane, which crosses high above the A66 and runs on to meet Briar Rigg, a back lane. At this junction, turn left into Briar Rigg, and follow the lane (an enclosed path on the left along Briar Rigg makes for safer passage), until you can branch right at a pronounced left bend to return to the station car park.

The railway line from Penrith to Cockermouth was the only one to actually pass through this area, taking an intentional line to Keswick in order to tap into the tourist market. Opened to goods traffic in October 1864 and to passengers two months later, the line was, however, built for industrial rather than tourist reasons, to transport low phosphorous coke from Durham via Stainmore to the iron foundries of West Cumberland.

Strangely, in spite of having a profound impact on the growth of the mining and industrial areas of Cumberland, the life of Lakeland's railways was a brief one. Their development began in the 1840s, but by the 1970s only a single line around the Lakeland fringe remained - that, and a tentative link between Windermere and Kendal.

Thomas Bouch the engineer for the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway, (known as the CK&P railway) tried to choose an easy route between Cockermouth and Penrith, but there were still many hollows to fill in, hills to tunnel and rivers to cross. There are 135 bridges on this 31 mile (50km) long railway line, eight of them over the River Greta.

One of the stops along the route was Low Briery, the site of an old bobbin mill. In the early 19th century there was a water-powered pencil mill here, several bobbin mills and a specialist textile mill, known locally as Fancy Bottoms Mill, which made the intricate bottom edgings of waistcoats.

The earliest bobbin mills in Cumbria appeared during the Industrial Revolution in response to demand from the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire. By the mid-19th century, there were some 120 water-powered bobbin mills in the Lake District alone, producing half of all the bobbins required by the entire world textile industry. Bobbins from Low Briery, which at peak production could turn over 40 million bobbins a year, went as far as Central America, South Africa and Hong Kong. There were many different types of bobbin made at Low Briery, including those used for making the Coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth II. Other bobbins were used for silk, cotton, Irish linen and the wire that was inserted into the old pound notes.

The arrival of the railway in 1864, meant that timber could be brought from further away and made it was easier for the growing workforce to reach the mill. However, with the decline of the textile industry and competition from abroad, the bobbin market collapsed, and Low Briery closed in 1961. By March 1972, the whole of this modest railway enterprise, too, came to an end. Much of the route has since been incorporated into the A66 road, but some remains as the Keswick Railway Footpath and a stretch of the National Cycle Network.

Where to eat and drink

The nearest place is the Twa Dogs Inn, shortly after the start - a pub name that comes from one of the poems of Robert Burns. Otherwise, head for Keswick, where there is a good choice of restaurants, cafés, snack bars and pubs.

While you're there

Have a wander around Keswick, the largest town in the Lake District, and a place of lovely streets and buildings, among which the most prominent is the Moot Hall, now an information centre. It was built in 1813 on the site of an earlier building and was, until fairly recent times, used as the town hall. The word 'moot' means 'to argue' or 'discuss'. Modest in its aspirations now, the market town of Keswick was once the centre of a copper mining industry and the world centre of the graphite and pencil industries.

What to look for

A pair of binoculars would be a useful item to carry on this walk. The River Greta's fast-flowing waters are a habitat for many young invertebrates that live in the river for up to three years. This makes it popular with dippers, kingfishers and grey heron. In autumn and winter the fields and bushes alongside the river are visited by wintering thrushes - fieldfare and mistle thrush - and brambling.

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