The sky was blue and windswept. The clouds had a definite formation to them. They were pointing at the nearest part of the coast, their central blue line line exactly mirroring the River Kent, whose last two miles curve through Levens Park, ancestral home of the Bagot Family.

We are fortunate in the village of Sedgwick to have two points of access to Levens Park. The line of the old canal – built in the 1820s but now either filled in or an empty ‘half-pipe’ in the farming landscape – cuts right through the village, and the canal path takes you to within two minutes’ walk of the stile at the Levens estate’s northern edge.

(Above: a section of the old canal. Drained in the 1950s but still here… Protected by an act of parliament as a ‘navigation’, no-one can build on it…)

We follow the high ridge out of the village and past my favourite oak tree, now coming into leaf.

(Coming into leaf- my favourite oak – along the ‘high-line’ of the old canal)

The high path of the old canal divides. We take the lower track which plunges down to a gate that opens to a local road.

(Above: The canal route is now left behind as we draw near to the boundary into the Leven’s estate)
(Above: Coastal South-Lakeland – the dotted red area shows the location of the Levens Park Estate)

Immediately, we hear the tyre roar from the giant cut in the landscape. The sheer size and presence of the A590 is a stark contrast to the quiet fields of our stroll so far. There’s a sense that it doesn’t belong … and yet it does. It’s an absolute lifeline for those living in these parts.

(Above: the imposing A590 is the main link between the busy M6 motorway and the southern part of the Lake District and its major tourist towns: Kendal, Bowness, and Ambleside)

Passing over the dual carriageway, we cross over a stepped stile that Tess has learnt to navigate. I remember the panic in her eyes when she first saw it as a pup. These days, she can manage the whole thing by herself – which she now proudly demonstrates…

(Above: Tess the collie getting into the swing of things)

The north end of Levens Park is famous for its Bagot Goats – a rare breed named after the ancestral family who now breed them. They are known to be inquisitive and relatively fearless, as they proceed to demonstrate.

(Above: We are approached by the local ‘Bagots’!)

The central sweep of Leven’s Park is defined by two features that mirror each other: the River Kent, in its last mile before it flows out into Morecambe Bay; and the central avenue of tall trees that line the main track through the estate.

(Above: Defining features of this landscape)
(The trees will soon look like this – photo from 2020)
(Old and mighty)

Far below the tree line, the River Kent bends itself around the hill as it enters its final stage as water defined by land… Soon it will be water defined by water.

(The landscape changes – softens, as though taking an in-breath)

I have one final duty before we exit the riverside park – to take Tess for a stone-chuck down by the river. She knows full well she’s never going to find the vanishing pebbles, but barks and dashes as though she intends to return each of them.

(Above: the place where Tess howls and charges after stones thrown in the river)

And then its a scramble up to the path, again, via a giant and venerable tree with a vast root system spreading down towards the water.

(Above: one of the ancient trees that has come to define the slope between path and river)

The park ends with a steep climb up steps that were not designed for man and dog…with a narrow pavement that risks dropping the unwary onto the busy trunk road!

(And that gate is a dangerous place to enter the proximity of the busy A6)
(Crossing the busy A6 – the main route to Scotland, before the motorway system. Not a safe place for pedestrians – and no zebra crossing!)

And then we’re into the safety of Levens Hall with the main building lying to our left, behind the wall.

(Above: the newly restored north-wing of Levens Hall)
(Above: a kind of red-carpet.. at least for our eyes. You have to pay to enter here, but we only need the courtyard cafe)

The first house on the estate was built by the Redman family in the 14th century as a defensive tower – known as a Pele Tower. These were tall structures of refuge to offer protection against the constant raids from border ‘Reivers’. Often, as here, they were built first – before the main dwelling; such was the importance of a place of safety alongside the dwelling place.

(Above: clear sight of the original ‘Pele Tower’ structure at the heart of Levens Hall)

Much of the present hall at Levens dates from the Elizabethan era – including the fabulous topiary gardens.

(Above – undoubtedly a subject for a future blog: one of the few surviving Elizabethan gardens in Britain)

For now, I’m content to savour that final look at the River Kent as its enters the tidal flow…

(Above: the River Kent ceases to become a river…)

And await that much-needed latté…

(Coffee will be along shortly..)

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

9 Comments on “Following the curves of the Kent

  1. A wonderful circuit, Steve, in a “secret” part of the north, and some venerable trees!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michael. It’s an easy walk and you make it into a circuit rather than a too and fro. Even better, have someone meet you at the Leven’s Hall cafe and wait with a coffee while they drive! Having ordered one for them, of course…

      Liked by 1 person

      • We do keep meaning to visit Leven’s Hall. I’ve a feeling I could spend all day in the gardens. My wife’s family also claim a tenuous and somewhat grandiose link with one of the occupants. I tease them that if we go far enough back, we’re all related to dolphins.

        Liked by 1 person

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