The stunning view from Orrest Head, Windermere, has inspired generations of people, include Alfred Wainwright, to explore the Lake District Fells. Unfortunately, not everyone could get to this special viewpoint, with the path just below the summit having steep steps and rocky near the top, while water-logging on the summit itself was causing more problems.
Marian Jones, Area Ranger (Central & South-East) for the Lake District National Park Authority applied to the Alpkit Foundation back in 2019 for support towards making access improvements to this iconic spot. However, due to Covid-19 it led to numerous delays, pushing the completion dates back to 2021. So it was great to hear from her recently when she got back in touch to keep us up to date on how things had gone and the impact it was making.
“This partnership project aimed to create a new, accessible 'Miles without Stiles' footpath to the viewpoint and repair the damage on the summit. Once completed a wider range of people will be able to enjoy the inspirational view and claim Orrest Head as their first Wainwright. This should include families with pushchairs and people with limited mobility, where the physical terrain and footpath furniture (kissing gates) prevents them from accessing the viewpoint.
Before starting we had letters of support from the Bendrigg Trust and Tower Wood Activity Centre; both organisations who provide outdoor activities for people with disabilities, as well as from local residents currently unable to see the view.”
A £500 award from the Alpkit Foundation contributed to the the overall access improvement works. These included the restoration of an historic carriage drive to create a new, accessible footpath to the summit viewpoint; surface improvements on the summit; new seating on the summit and at key rest points along the route; and new waymarking and interpretation along the route.
Specifically, the Alpkit award enabled them to work with young National Park Ranger Apprentices to plant a hedge along the new section of path. This included native British tree species which will grow into an important wildlife corridor; providing a route for small mammals, birds and insects between Common Wood with Elleray Wood.
“Four young apprentices learned tree planting skills as well as about native tree species and habitat creation. This helped them develop their portfolios for an intermediate (L2) Countryside Worker Apprenticeship. Three of the young people have now completed this apprenticeship. The hedge was planted at the request of the tenant farmer to separate his horses from people using the footpath. Without this hedge, permission would not have been granted for the new, accessible path. So it’s a really key aspect of the project. Over time the tree saplings will grow into a hedge, home to small native birds, which can be appreciated by the local Windermere community and visitors on their walks up Orrest Head.”
The route is now promoted as a Miles Without Stiles route. For a detailed description of the route, head over here: Orrest Head accessible route.
Since completion it’s proven a real positive, both in accessibility and overall well being for those visiting. A recent survey showing a 15% increase in all user groups with limited mobility. Now, 19% of visitor groups include someone with a mobility aid or a small child in a pushchair or carrier. Now the number of people experiencing difficulties with the path has reduced from 21% to 5%. With 85% of people surveyed feeling physically better from their visit to Orrest Head and 97% of visitors felt better mentally.
Huge thanks to Marian for letting us know how things have gone and giving us some cool stats on the impact. Visit and support the Lake District.