The winter warmer

Mathilde walks

A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A brisk walk is the best way to warm up in winter, and we’ve found you a route that will take you through some of the finest Lakeland countryside, taking in some iconic heritage sites, that will bring you to Mathildes in time for lunch.

It’s a low level walk so you won’t need to worry about route finding or snow on the fells, but we can guarantee that you’ll work up an appetite for spiced carrot soup, garnished with sprouted seeds and pickled veg. Or maybe you want something more substantial? Perhaps kalops stew, a traditional Swedish beef stew with toasted hazelnuts, pickled parsnip and roasted leek, and served with our home made Viking bread?

Too late for lunch, or too early? How about a mulled spice fruit scone, and a mug of white hot chocolate with cloudberry liqueur? There’s a dark chocolate version, too, with a dash of liquorice vodka.

So now your appetite is whetted, you have to earn the treat! This walk starts in Ambleside where you can park on Rydal Road. Cross the main road, take the uphill lane Smithy Brow at the mini roundabout, then immediately left to take the back road – Nook Lane – behind the university of Cumbria campus.

Through a couple of gates, you’ll come to Low Sweden Bridge where Scandale beck tumbles to the valley. Follow the path to the left, heading downhill through a gate on a steepish path beside the beck, to a heavy metal gate that might take some effort to lift! Turn right here onto the broad track that runs alongside Rydal Park, the scene in high summer every year of our annual spectacular event , Ambleside Sports.

Snowy morning, Rydal, by A Heaton Cooper

The track leads you through the grounds of Rydal Hall, now owned by the diocese of Carlisle, with its grand and formal gardens designed by Thomas Morton.

At the road junction turn right up the steep hill to pass Rydal Mount on your left, the home of William Wordsworth for most of his life. (The house is closed except by appointment in winter, but open daily in the summer, so do come back to have a look around, and to visit the wonderful gardens that Wordsworth started to landscape.)

Beyond the house, take the signed footpath on the left, beside a high wall at first. This is the start of the Coffin Trail, an old corpse road that was used in medieval times to carry the dead to the consecrated ground at St Oswald’s in Grasmere for burial.

It’s never really very far above the main road, but it’s a totally different world up here, the splendid winter skeletons of magnificent trees, and birds along the way.

Stay on the path, rather than dropping down to the main road at White Moss, until it meets a tarmac road that will bring you behind Dove Cottage – Wordsworth’s first family home – and the crossing of the busy main road to take you past another sports field (Grasmere Sports) and the local school, into our village, and a well earned rest and that anticipated lunch at Mathildes.

The return journey leads round the back of Grasmere, past the boat landings known as Faeryland, and up the road for almost a mile, taking the second footpath sign on the left, which will lead you into Deerbolts wood. Keep to the upper path which will bring you onto Loughrigg terrace, named after the fell that rises on your right.

Below you is Rydal Water, one of the smallest lakes at 3/4 mile long, 1/4 mile wide and with a depth of 55 feet. As you head towards the foot of the lake, the path takes you to the entrance of Rydal cave, a huge cavern which was once a slate quarry. It’s safe to go inside, following the stepping stones.

Then drop down a steep and slatey path, round the back of Cote How and down to Pelter Bridge. From here, ignore the call of the main road, and turn right onto the delightful and quiet minor road under Loughrigg, with the river Rothay on your left. After a mile, cross a cattle grid, and go over the old packhorse bridge that leads into Rothay Park and a short stroll back into Ambleside.

Winter in Grasmere by W Heaton Cooper
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