Ulpha Park in the Lake District
“Ulpha” from old Norse: Ulf (wolf) and Urghr (hill)
We parked the car near the hamlet of Beckstones on the eastern edge of Thwaites Fell. Reached by taking the right fork of the old road to Whitehaven from Duddon Bridge.
Tightening our boot laces and pulling down our woolly hats; we set off in a strong northerly wind. The sun was out for the first time in days; yet the wind kept us battened down in our down jackets! After crossing a small bridge over a babbling brook; we turned off the road and onto a gravelled track. In a few minutes we found shelter in the leeside of a dense pine forest called Park Moss. Instantly, I could take off my hat and unzip my thick jacket; as now without wind, I could appreciate all the strength of a seemingly weak winter sun.
These woodlands and rolling fell land on which we now walked is called Ulpha Park. Named after a village further on up the road. With the name Ulpha; meaning Wolf hill in old Norse. Historians believe Vikings settled here in the 9th Century; after defeating weakened Anglican forces who had withdrawn further south. As I looked out across the wild landscape; I could just imagine fair haired Vikings running after sheep and bothering local girls after a long sea voyage.
Dunnerdale and the Old Man of Coniston
After we had climbed a short rise past the deep dense pine forest; the view to the east soon opened out towards the Dunnerdale Valley. Off to the right we could see the Old Man of Coniston; an impressive 803 metre peak. With the name coming again from Norse (Konigs Tun) or Kings Farm; and Old man coming from Celtic meaning old stone.
The footpath led across a field; past a ruined farmhouse called Frith Hall and down to Bleabeck Bridge. Frith Hall was a hunting lodge 400 years ago, then an Inn for packhorses and then a farm. Some say that whilst it was an Inn; smugglers frequented and illegal marriages took place! At this time a man was murdered there and his ghost still haunts the ruins!
Find out more at this cool website called the Megalithic Portal: https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=36661
Here beneath Frith Hall we passed through a kissing gate. For those from foreign lands who maybe unfamiliar with this style of gate and name; the name comes from the fact that the gate swings between two posts, kissing both of them. Allowing a person but not animals to pass through a small recess.
If you ever come this way, with the one you love; why not use it as a cheeky excuse to have a good old snog in that cosy recess!
Millbrow and a wooded return
After basking in a beautiful winter sunlight we descended to a tarmacked road and down into the shaded Dunnerdale valley floor. After a few hundred metres; we came upon a mill and turned right through a farm gate. From here we passed through open pasture; then into the lower woods of Ulpha Park.
After a couple of miles of fairly flat gravelled road, through a deep dark wood; we climbed up through a farm to the road on which we had begun. A woodcutter smiled and waved; as he cut logs destined for focal fireplaces at this time of year. After passing through the farm; we had to walk uphill to regain altitude and our motor vehicle. With the ascent being made easier by fact we were walking on tarmacked road once again.
Take time to stop and listen at the babbling brooks that run down to the river. The gentle babbling, gurgling, bubbling water will only make you more and more relaxed the longer you stop and listen.
Parking, refreshments & other tips
Coming from the coast and the main road; the first suitable place we found to park was at a small hamlet called Beckstones. Just before the bridge over Logan Beck; there is a small layby on the left hand side:
If you are coming from the north over the Wrynose Pass; you can park in Ulpha and start the walk from there. Since Frith Hall closed almost two hundred years ago; there have been no Inns along this route. If you are running low on supplies; the nearby town of Millom boasts a Tesco and Spar as well as various eateries.
Being a low level walk; this route is possible even in mid winter. The path is clear and easy to follow even in fog. If you do the walk clockwise as we so did; take care on the last section as it is on a public road. It is a quiet road; yet keep your eyes and ears peeled for modern cars that can creep up behind you in a prevailing wind.
2 hours 15 minutes
Relaxed as a lazy river