“Those few hours cast a spell that changed my life” – Wainwright.
For many visitors to the Lake District, Orrest Head is an introduction to both hill walking and the Lakeland landscape. The stunning panoramic view is just a short walk from Windermere Station. It kindled Alfred Wainwright's love with the Lake District and set him on the journey to writing his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells; guidebooks which have inspired and influenced generations of walkers.
Unfortunately, not everyone can get to this special viewpoint. The path just below the summit has steep steps and is rocky near the top. Waterlogging on the summit itself is causing more problems. There is an unofficial, alternative route avoiding the steps, but this is also becoming eroded and the landscape is getting damaged.
This project aims to help more people to enjoy and appreciate the view from Orrest Head by creating improved, sustainable access to the summit. It is a project about people - removing barriers, providing opportunity, increasing understanding and building relationships.
We are working with Windermere & Bowness Town Council to create an easy-access Miles without Stiles path to the summit which can be used by people with limited mobility, including people with powered-wheelchairs and families with pushchairs.
We are working to:
We are also exploring how to provide an all-terrain mobility scooter which will be available in Windermere for people to use.
Our project plans have been informed by access audits undertaken by Lake District Mobility and disabled LDNPA volunteers, and a visitor survey which we carried out in 2019.
The surveys demonstrated that Orrest Head is a popular walk for families as well as people over 60 years old but 21% of the survey respondents said that they had some difficulties with the path. We know that there are lots of people currently unable to visit as we have received lots of letters of support from local people.
Over 60,000 people visit the viewpoint each year. Left unchecked, the erosion on and around the summit will get worse and ground will be washed away by heavy rain.
The project will make the viewpoint accessible for more people all year round.
We are working with Windermere Town Council and South Lakeland District Council to continue the restoration of a Victorian carriage drive which takes people close to the summit. From there we will create an alternative, easy-gradient path to the viewpoint which will be suitable for people with pushchairs and mobility scooters.
The photo above shows a newly restored section of carriage drive. The stone used is locally sourced from Elterwater Quarry. It looks grey at first but over time will blend in with the landscape. The path section shown below was restored in 2017 and has weathered nicely.
The existing footpath through the gate and up the steps will remain in place as some people prefer this challenge.
We have resurfaced sections of the carriage drive in Elleray Wood with Elterwater stone to make them suitable for pushchairs and powered wheelchairs. This means that people with limility mobilty do not have to use the tarmacked road, which is often busy with residents' vehicles, to reach the viewpoint.
In wet weather, the summit area turns into a quagmire. The bedrock acts like a bowl to contain the water and the remaining grassy sections become deep mud.
We are scraping out the central earth section and will fill in the natural bowl with stone which will help the water naturally drain away and will provide a hard surface which will be easier for people to walk on. This will help contain the erosion as people will not need to walk around it to avoid the muddy bits.
Most of the benches which were on the summit were in very poor condition. We will replace these with new bespoke seating designed by local artist blacksmith, Chris Brammall.
We will plant the eroded areas with native trees and reseed with grass.
Local artist blacksmith, Chris Brammall of CB Arts Ltd is creating the new seats for the summit.
The benches radiate from the central directional marker and this will all be set to the correct compass bearing so it can be used to accurately orientate and give bearings of fells and landmarks on from the 360 degree panoramic view.
Each of the bench slats are set at 1 degree increments with every 5 and 10 degrees being defined by a slightly longer slat and highlighted in our patinated finish. It is our aim that this all has a crafted hand made feel and as part of the detailing we would stamp the 10 degree points with numbers and also pick out certain landmarks and stamp them in on the correct compass bearing.
Chris is also producing some new seating for the route up. This will have a more organic design, inspired by the branches and roots of the trees in Elleray Wood.
Rather than rushing up to the viewpoint and back by the fastest route, we would like people to spend longer exploring the lovely Elleray Woods and landscape around Orrest Head. So we are working to improve the site information.
We will replace the waymarker posts at path junctions to make it easier to navigate around the woods. New interpretation panels will be added at the start of the path and at Elleray Cottage (next to Gruffalo sculpture). These will include a map of Orrest Head and the woods and some background information about the history of the site and the plants and wildlife which can be seen here.
We will also produce a leaflet and short film about the easy-access Miles Without Stiles route to help people plan and make the most of their visit.
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Covid 19 has had an impact on our project plans so we are now aiming to complete the project by September 2021.
August 2020 - planning permission secured
April 2021 - funding confirmed
TBC July 2021 - completion of new pathworks, summit seating and site information and waymarking
TBC Sept 2021 - project completion
We are continuing to raise funds to help cover the future maintenance costs for the footpath.
We would like to thank individuals and the following organisations who have donated or pledged financial support to the project: