Once regarded as a quiet backwater, in recent years Cartmel has become a deservedly popular village, with the outstanding Priory Church as only one of its many attractions.
The church was rescued for parish use at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.
The diagonal setting of the belfry (1410) is unusual; look also for the holes in an external door, resulting from shots red by (or at?) Cromwells troops when they camped in the building for a night in 1643.
Internal features include ‘The Holy Family’ by the late Jose na de Vasconcellos, a sculptress of international stature who lived locally for many years.
15th and 17th Century woodcarving and several memorials. The other surviving part of the former priory is the gatehouse, for many years in the care of the National Trust, now used for exhibitions.
The tiny Market Square also has the remains of the market cross, fish slabs, inns and interesting shops.
The racecourse is one of Britain’s smallest, allegedly founded by the monks of the priory to provide recreation at Whitsun. The bank holiday meetings are popular festive occasions bringing crowds from far and wide.
The ‘Hospice’ of Hampsfield Fell is a simple square structure provided by a pastor of Cartmel in the mid 19th century.
The accessible at roof has a view indicator. Inside there are texts on all four walls, one giving the Pastor’s rather sour view of contemporary humanity. On a clear day the immense views extend as far as Skiddaw and Helvellyn to the north, with the Howgills and Pennine Hills to the north east and east respectively.
Start/car parking – HPB Merlewood
Set off up the steps behind the Little Hazlemere Shop then continue up the gravel path into the woods. You reach a short post with sign to Hampsfell and The Hospice. Take this path to join a public footpath to a large gate. Through this bear right, with a wall on the right, to a gate/squeezer stile. At a waymarked junction keep left to another gate. Cross a eld to a waymark and a gate and walled lane towards Hampsfield Farm.
1. Turn left along a surfaced road, with a ‘restricted byway’ signpost. As the road bends to the right, turn left at a ‘public footpath’ sign to walk through High Hampsfield Farm, turning right at a waymarked gate. Continue along a fine level path with a wall on the right. Descend over grass, passing an old lime kiln, to a waymarked stile over a wall. Cross this down to another stile; the path continues along the bottom edge of a wood to a tied-up gate. Head across the next eld towards an overgrown pond. Go through the gate at the bottom, bearing left, past the pond to Hampsfield Hall Farm. Go through the farm before turning right along the farm access track to walk to the public road.
2. Turn left, pass the entrance gates to Broughton Lodge then turn right immediately through an awkward stile with a ‘public footpath’ sign. The path goes along the edge of a field. Cross a minor road, with stiles on each side, to continue along the edge of another meadow and reach a stream with two little bridges. Cross; there are more stiles then a narrow cultivated meadow before entering woodland. Bear right, then left to find a waymark and stile at the far edge of the wood. Go over; turn left to join a minor public road in a short distance. Turn left along the road, soon passing Aynsome Manor. Go ahead at a road junction.
3. In a further 90m turn right at a ‘public bridleway’ sign, keeping the eld boundary on the left. The Priory Church is in view to the left. Go through a gate at the top. There is now a wall on the right as the path descends to a stream, crossed by a footbridge. Rise across the meadow opposite to a gate giving access to a minor road. Turn left towards Cartmel, along the side of the racecourse.
4. Reach the village square by the side of the ‘Sticky Toffee’ shop. After exploration of Cartmel, go under the arch at the gatehouse, following the road past the Cavendish Arms and behind the Priory. At the main road turn left, then right up a few steps, at a ‘public footpath, Cistercian Way’ signpost. The well used path is obvious ahead. At Pit Farm bear left then right, going through a gate to the opposite field corner, to continue the ascent of Hampsfield Fell. The way steepens. At a gate with footpath sign stay on the near side of the wall, heading for a waymarked kissing gate. Ignore minor tracks to left and right. The views over Morecambe Bay are superb. At a major crossing of tracks close to the top of the ridge, turn left; there are waymarks on a post. Continue to rise towards the focal point of the fell – the ‘Hospice’.
5. After admiring the stupendous views in all directions, leave the Hospice on the doorway side to the east. Bear right round a wall corner then go left over a stone wall stile at the way-marked post and follow the path down to the wall boundary of Eggerslack Wood.
6. Turn left along to wall as far as the gate where you previously exited the wood. Retrace your way to Merlewood, bearing left off the main footpath down to the steps above the shop.
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