Return to Longsleddale

by David Murray on 27 August 2011

in Bridges, Cumbria, Longsleddale, Valleys

On Thursday afternoon I made a long-postponed return to what, in my not entirely unbiased opinion, is possibly the most beautiful valley in the Lake District, Longsleddale.

Entrance to Longsleddale Valley from the lane near the A6

The entrance to Longsleddale valley viewed from the top of the lane, near the A6

Having described it in those terms I have to say that it is also one of the less visited valleys. Its access is away from the major tourist routes and for many people the thought of driving up five miles of very narrow lane might be offputting. Driving north toward Shap up the old A6 road above Kendal it is very easy to miss the junction as you climb the hill but when you do turn down the lane toward Garnett Bridge you are faced, as shown above, with an enticing prospect.

Garnett Bridge - Longsleddale - Cumbria

Garnett Bridge, Longsleddale, Cumbria

River Sprint at Garnett Bridge - Longsleddale - Cumbria

The River Sprint at Garnett Bridge

It is more than twenty years since my wife and I spent a night in B&B accommodation at Garnett Bridge. We saw it then in sunshine, and I saw the same again this week. The Sprint is one of the feeder streams of the River Kent, from which Kendal gets its name. Here, after some recent rain it foams its way under the bridge. (Apologies for the tilt on the camera; you should see the other shot!)

From here I made my way up the valley to the car park by the old schoolhouse, now the Community Hall. This featured in a wonderful little book by a former teacher, Olwen Harris (School in the Fells) in 1969, describing not only the school but life in the valley during the 1940s. It is scarce now, but can be found secondhand (click on the link).

The Old Schoolhouse in Longsleddale - Cumbria - Lake District

The Old Schoolhouse in Longsleddale

There are many very old farmhouses in Longsleddale, the oldest of which is Ubarrow (or Yewbarrow) Hall which has an ancient pele tower. The valley provided the inspiration for the village of Greendale in the Postman Pat children’s TV series. In the 19th century it was the location for the popular novel Robert Ellsmere by Mrs Humphry Ward.

As is very often the case in old villages, the schoolhouse is right next to the parish church. In these days when the church is too often viewed as irrelevant to society it is important not to forget that in past centuries it was usually the parish church or chapel that provided education for local children. Long before there were school buildings as such the vicar or curate would often double as a schoolmaster. From the Lakeland valleys many a boy found his way to Oxford or Cambridge and out into the wider world as a result of his early teaching by the country clergyman. Nearby Docker Nook provided one example in Isaac Godmond (1734-1809) whose memorial is in the north transept of Ripon Cathedral.

St. Mary's Church, Longsleddale - Cumbria - Lake District

St. Mary's Church, Longsleddale

At the beginning of this article I mentioned my own bias toward Longsleddale. Part of the explanation lies in the gravestone to be seen on the photograph above resting against the church wall between the left and centre windows.

The Rev. Robert Walker was my 4xgreat-uncle. My great-great-grandfather, son of a poor miner from the hills above Sedbergh, arrived in Longsleddale as a farm labourer in the 1830s. Tom married one of Rev. Walker’s nieces, starting a farming family that still has members in these Lakeland hills. I would have liked to honour his final resting place but he lies unmarked, in common with most people of that period.

Looking up the valley from Longsleddale churchyard - Cumbria - Lake District

Looking up the valley toward Stockdale and Sadgill from Longsleddale churchyard

It was time to move on. As the scene above shows there is still more to be seen of the Longsleddale valley as it twists and turns up into the mountains. Passing the Swinklebank farms (Tom brought up his family and shepherded his sheep at High Swinklebank), and then the lane up to Stockdale, I arrived at the old bridge.

Packhorse Bridge at Sadgill Longsleddale Cumbria Lake District

Ancient Packhorse Bridge at Sadgill, Longsleddale

From here I could have gone further if the day had been longer, or rather if I’d started in the morning rather than mid-afternoon. From here one can go up to Harter Fell, walk over to Kentmere, take the track over Gatescarth Pass to Mardale (where the village of Mardale Green now lies under the Haweswater reservoir) or take the bridleway to Staveley. For this time, however, I must return to the car and be satisfied with a view of the young Sprint as it comes down from the fells on its journey to the Kent, and ultimately to Morecambe Bay.

Longsleddale with the River Sprint above Sadgill - Cumbria Lake District

The top of Longsleddale with the young River Sprint above Sadgill

For more on Longsleddale see the excellent Longsleddale Community Web Site.

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CHRISTINE FISHWICK June 20, 2012 at 22:54


I have been looking at your website regarding Longsleddale Valley.

I am intrigued by your information about the Reverend Robert Walker –
I know that he links to the Fishwich Family but am not sure through which relation yet – have more work to do.

James Fishwick is my Husband’s Great Great Grandad the son of Thomas and Mary Fishwick who lived at High Swinklebank. It was only a few weeks ago that a photograph of James and his wife and 10 children
came into our possession when they lived at Bannisdale Head in the next valley.

If it is possible I would like to contact David Murray and discuss the Family History further.

I love the valley and it was a truly memorable day out. We visited last on the Jubilee Weekend and to our surprise there was a party going on at the Old School Building. The people of the valley made us most welcome and we exchanged information.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards


David Murray June 20, 2012 at 23:34

Christine, Thank you so much for getting in touch. I don’t run this blog specifically as a family history site but from time to time I can’t resist mentioning ancestral connections with places about which I’m writing. James Fishwick whom you mention was my great-grandfather, so I imagine that one of the family on your photo must be my grandfather, Frederick. I’ll write further by email. With best wishes, – David –

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