I love maps of The Lake District and take great pleasure in the tiny detail of the 1:25,000 series. There is nothing better than spreading out on the carpet with a map of central Lakeland and a steaming cup of tea. That’s what long winter nights are for, planning your summer adventures!
My latest exciting map purchase has been of single sheet Ordnance Survey maps dating back to the 1950’s covering areas like Buttermere, Borrowdale and Ullswater. The fells have not changed and happily most of the settlements remain the same too. However the map covering Keswick shows a section of the railway between Penrith to the West Coast. The North Lake District line connecting Keswick to Penrith closed in 1972 and is now a scenic 4 mile trail for bikes, boots and dogs. There are several dog friendly Lake District cottages in the surrounding areas which would make an ideal base from which to explore this lesser known historic part of the Lake District.
Trees line the route through Greta Gorge as the trail makes its way out of Keswick. A boardwalk section takes you round the hillside, which the train would have passed through. You can see the remains of the tunnel arch if you look behind you as you finish the boardwalk.
The original railway crossed 78 bridges between Keswick and Penrith, 8 of them remain on the path between Keswick and Threlkeld, offering excellent stopping points for peering over the girders into the water below and daydreaming.
There is a wealth of natural and manmade features along the route and I like to look out for the hidden relics of the time when the trains ran along here. See how many you can find! Stop to explore every gate and stile. Some lead into woodland and ancient silver birch plantations, others right under the modern A66 road and towards Castlerigg.
Along the route you will find two old railway huts, great for a lunch stop on a chilly day. I am always fascinated to think what history these little building have. Look out for the blackened walls inside, relics of the days when a fire would have burnt to keep the workers warm. The information boards inside tell you about the wide variety of wildlife to be spotted along the route. Apart from the stalking herons in the river below, I like to look for red squirrels when I reach the final bridge to Threlkeld.
There are plenty of Lake District cottages ideally located for enjoying the railway line whether you walk, cycle or even run. The Salutation Inn and The Horse and Farrier, both in Threlkeld are highly recommended for a lunch stop before turning back to enjoy the route from the opposite direction.