Both walks take you past Sizergh Castle, the longer walk also passes Levens Hall.
Sizergh: April 1st- Oct 31st
Sun-Thurs afternoons from 12.30
Levens: April 1st- mid-October
Sun-Thurs 10 a.m.-5 p.m.(garden)
12-5 p.m. (house).
Start at Helsington Church (Grid ref. 488889) which is on the edge of the escarpment above Brigsteer and reached by a turning to the south from the Brigsteer to Kendal road. Please note that parking here is reserved for church-goers on Sundays.
Pause to admire the views before setting out along the track with the church and then a wall on your left. Ignore all footpath and bridleway signs until you reach a gate with the sign "Holeslack Farm - Footpath only". Continue down this track and look for Sizergh Castle which can be seen in the distance over the top of the farm house. Bear left past the farm buildings and after 25 yards, look for a stile on the right with a dog gate. Follow this path through the wood to another similar stile.
[In spring the wood has a colourful mixture of cowslips. bluebells and wood anemones.]
Bear right and take a well-marked track across the field and through a gate. The path is not so visible here, but head towards a gate near the castle. Through the gate you have three options:
To visit the castle and gardens turn left.
[Sizergh Castle has been the home of the Strickland family since 1239. Now a National Trust property, the oldest part of the building dates from the 14th Century when the pele tower was built to give protection from the marauding Scots.]
For the short walk turn right. Go over the stile into a green lane and follow this through a kissing gate and then another gate to a farm track which follows a wall on the left. After about 5 minutes and another gate, look for a minor road ahead and two huge weathered limestone gateposts. Next to the one on the right is a wicket gate. This is where you rejoin the longer walk. Follow instructions from #.
[Brigsteer woods, on the other side of this road, are especially worth a visit in wild daffodil season.]
For the longer walk go straight ahead, through the car park and follow the exit signs. Just before the cattle grid, turn right, through the kissing gate and follow the wall on the left. At the end of the field go through 2 more kissing gates in close succession, taking you down past a wood on your left. The next kissing gate is in the lower left-hand corner of this field and leads to a track; bear left and follow the track down to a minor road. Turn left, and at the next junction go through a tunnel under the main road. (In need of refreshment? Follow the sign to Low Sizergh Barn Farmshop - if you arrive about 3.45 p.m. you can watch the cows being milked as you drink your tea) otherwise continue down Nannypie Lane to the river Kent.
[The power of the river was used near here for the manufacture of gunpowder from 1764-1935. The process involved much grinding and mixing for which water wheels were used to drive different sections of machinery. Great care had to be taken to avoid sparks, but in spite of the precautions, explosions were quite common and some of the buildings had one side made of wood which could be blown out and replaced with less trouble than stone].
Turn right and then left to follow the river downstream. Cross the bridge - you could be lucky enough to see salmon trying to leap the rapids. Continue downriver on the other side.
[Wild raspberries and blackberries are plentiful in the verge.]
After crossing a bridge over the A590 enter Levens Park at the footpath sign on the right. Follow the notices in the park until you emerge at Levens Bridge, opposite Levens Hall.
[Levens Hall has at its centre another Pele tower but the main part of the house dates from 1580. The famous topiary gardens were set out from 1690- 1730 and remain largely unchanged. In the park you may see the Bagot goats and black fallow deer. According to legend, a curse laid on the family by a gypsy who was turned away to starve, means that a male heir will only be born when a white fawn is born in the park.]
Turn right at the road, cross the bridge and go up the hill to a footpath on the left signed to Levens. Follow this farm track to a bridge over the A590 and a ladder stile. Continue straight across the field to another stile, then bear left to a gate in the corner of the next field. Follow the track to the road and turn right. Go straight through the village, past the shop (last chance for refreshments) and the Methodist church and continue down Hutton Lane. Follow this lane for a good ½ mile to the end of the village, past Cinderbarrow Farm, and look for a footpath on the left at a U bend signed to Brigsteer Wood. Join the stony track to cross the field, then straight across the minor road.
# Rejoin the short walk at this point, taking the wicket gate close to the gatepost (it maybe hidden if the main gate is open).
The path is not very clearly visible, but you should aim up the hill to the top of the ridge and follow it to a gate at the furthest and highest part of the field boundary (there are other gates lower down). The stony track on the other side of the gate is more visible and continues uphill at first, crossing a smaller field. After the next gate bear left on the track leading back to the church and your car.