Keswick was our destination on Tuesday when we went for a family outing. With the weather a little breezy dad thought it would be best if we visited the Keswick Railway footpath and went for a strole.
Built around 1862 originally as a mineral line between Workington in the West and Durham on the North East coast the line was progressively closed starting in 1966 when all the passenger services ceased.
Track and assorted parts of the infrastructure continued to be removed during 1967 with the final official closure in 1972.
Being on old railway trackbed the path is ideal for buggies, bikes and motorised wheelchairs. However we would suggest that manual wheelchairs may struggle in places as the gradients are a little bit high.
After a few minutes we come across a very strange black object. It looks like a fish with it’s head buried in the ground but turns out to be a C2C Millennium milepost. The two tail fins pointing towards Keswick in one direction and Sunderland in the other.
Mum and dad wondered if markers like this could, in a few years time, be seen as headstones for the Millennium quango society. Marking the passing of organisations, as the credit crunch and quests for efficiency bite, such as the Millennium Commission, the banks and the National Lottery as funding conduits.
The conversation got a bit deep at this point so we tugged on our leads eager to explore further.
Sniff of Water
Towering above, in matt white concrete, was the massive structure of the Greta Bridge carrying the A66 from the M6 to Cockermouth. It turns out that this is an award winning bridge thanks to the readers of a ‘must have’ journal about concrete.
Dad felt compelled to make up some concrete puns at this point, he wondered if they would be ‘set in their ways’ or maybe able to handle pressure because they were ‘pre-stressed’.
We could hear the cars above but could not see them which made us a little puzzled however, Charlie got the sniff of water and this became our quest.
To our left was the river flowing towards Keswick. However,between it and us lay some sheep and a few fences. No splodging to be had here.
Just beyond the bridge we entered an area of wooden boardwalk strapped to the side of a sheer stone cliff.
A bright blue and red sign nailed to a post nearby indicated we were on the British Cycle Network route 71.
The boards had netting over so no risk of our paws slipping between the gaps and we were able to look through the sides onto the valley below.
The path at this point started to fall towards the water and our hopes raised of a paddle soon.
Exiting the boardwalk, we were suddenly amongst a number of humans and fellow dogs all congregated in one area.
It was not a bottleneck of people waiting to get onto the boardwalk but an area with a lot of history going on and everyone wanting to learn more.
To our right was the former entrance to a tunnel for the railway. It is all bricked up now so this is the reason we needed to take to the boardwalk to get around the hill the once tunnel cut through.
Below us and to our left, obscured by the tree canopy, are assorted structures in the path of the river.
These were the former workings and footings of possibly the earliest hydro-electric scheme in the county, generating electricity for the Keswick area.
The plant started to generate power, around 30Kw, in 1890 and was owned by the Keswick Electric Light Company. It continued to operate up to 1941.
We negotiated through the many people and resumed our walk after saying hello to a few dogs and humans along the way.
The slight slope to the path continued for a while then resumed the more natural flat and level route you would expect on a rail line.
Ahead of us was a tunnel. At last, we could make ourselves sound really big as our woof would echo around. However, it was not to be as it was only around 5m long. A bit of a disappointment .
It turns out that the bridge we have just passed under was built to allow traffic to get to and from the Low Briery wooden bobbin mill which it to our left.
All is explained about the area in a couple of Lake District National Park information signs.
Just behind these notice boards is the former station platform at Briery and doing what comes naturally to boys we climb the few steps and walk on this ‘upper path’ leaving mum to walk on the track bed. We are still not a tall as her … but we are almost…
Around 120 bobbin mills used to operate in the Lake District producing almost half of the worlds wooden bobbins.
The mill closed in 1961 due to the collapse of the British textile industry and increased competition from abroad.
Mum and dad read the sign boards, it is what humans do, however we are eager to find a paddle. The river is still to our left and we are now starting to want a drink.
Charlie is the key to finding water and so far this walk is frustrating him. He can hear it and can smell it but just can not get his paws into it.
Our path leads onto another wooden platform, like the boardwalk earlier, and Charlie gets all excited. There it is, below us, glistening in the sunshine, all the water we need, now how do we get to it?
No problem as a small path leads down from the far side of the bridge to a rocky area at the base of one of the bridge supports.
Cool, clear fresh water right up to our tummies and as much of it to drink as we want.
The bridge above us is what is known a bowstring bridge and like all the bridges on this route was designed by Thomas Bouch .
Research on the web mentions that the Queen travelled on this rail line in 1966 in the Royal Train. Maybe this is the same bridge shown in this photograph with the Royal train passing over.
With our legs starting to get a little sore, we climb away from the river and start our return journey. We decide it is easiest just to retrace our steps back to the car. The return takes about 40 minutes as we take our time.
Thats all for now, until next time
Buster and Charlie.
LDNPA Latrigg walk
Organisation trying to re-open the Keswick rail line