Four Stones? Well, actually, there are only two. But the setting of those two prehistoric standing stones is magnificent – with terrific views over Haweswater and the eastern fells – and in a part of the Lake District that is quieter than most. We only saw two walkers at the end of the ramble. And little indication that many people take to these hills very much at all.
What are the Four (Two) Stones? I think they are the remnants of a stone row winding around Four Stones Hill to the nearby cairn. Where the other stones went who knows? Perhaps there are other stones buried under the turf? Indeed, there are a few recumbent boulders which could just possibly be remnants of a row.
There are several other cairns scattered along the hillside, suggesting that this was a landscape that our prehistoric forebears held as sacred. It may well be that other antiquities have vanished over the years. It’s an area we intend to go back to for further exploration.
We walked from Bampton (village hall car park: £2 honesty box), strolling up past the newly re-opened Mardale Inn – an inspiring community buy-out. A hundred yards up the lane, a public footpath goes off on the right, running roughly south-west.
After a steady climb through meadows we reached more level high ground, with wide views across the Lowther valley to Knipe Scar. The high ground has some wonderful oak tree groves. A good place to linger.
We followed the path to above Drybarrows Farm where we were out on open fellside. This is where we abandoned the public right of way and took the less distinct fell path to Four Stones Hill. This is a winding path, and you need to keep a close eye on the path. At this time of the year it was very dry, but I’d imagine it might get boggier in the winter or after very heavy rain. So go now, if you are tempted. One of the joys of the walk was to see the first heather out.
The cairn above the stones has been fiddled into a stoney shelter. It shouldn’t have been. This is NOT some summit cairn, but a presumably scheduled antiquity. It would be a good idea to knock the shelter down and restore the cairn into something like its original form.
As I’ve said before, the view from the Four Stones is wonderful.
The path leads downwards from the stones into the valley of the Measand Beck, becoming a little bit indistinct as you head through the bracken. When you come near the beck ignore the hunting gate through the deer fence to the left and continue on, to where a footbridge crosses the water.
A path then follows the beck as it tumbles down towards Haweswater in a series of waterfalls called, appropriately, The Forces. Not that you can see much of them as you descend, so deeply are they buried below rocky cliffs and concealed by bracken and rowan trees.
The path emerges on to the wider track that runs down to the Haweswater Dam, now the route of the Coast to Coast Path. Hard to imagine that this narrow path was once the main road to the lost village of Mardale. Think of the traffic that once came this way – ancient fellwalkers, flocks of sheep, jaggers with their pack-ponies. A track that was once a road.
We soon reached the bungalows of Burnbanks, the remnants of the settlement lived in by the navvies who built the Haweswater Dam. Now a very peaceful settlement, tucked away from the world.
We strolled the lane back to Bampton, holding up a car on the way so that a caterpillar might cross the road without getting squashed. He was a bit slow so I had to carry him.
Note how this lane has several places called Walm – Walmgate Head, Walmgate, Walm How, Walmgate Foot. Interesting in themselves as these names link to Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Middle English. Walm – boiling and bubbling of water, so perhaps springs or wells . (The Old English is wælm or wielm Old English weallan, wyllan to bubble, well up – the root of our word well). Howe is a mound or hill. Interesting that in one stretch of lane we can find place-name derivations going back over a thousand years. The word gate from gata or geta, meaning a lane, rather than a gate – a not unfamiliar word in the north.
A fascinating walk into territory that mostly evades the crowds. And if you still have energy left you could combine it with the walk up to Knipe Scar that I wrote about a couple of blogs ago.
Do try them both – an uncrowded corner of the Lake District.