The church bells were chiming nine as we walked through Bampton Grange, on our short ramble from Bampton to Shap Abbey – a walk we had been meaning to do for a long while.
There’s something of the nature of a pilgrimage in walking to some ancient holy ruin – whether you are religious or not. Just the knowledge that you are perhaps walking in the footsteps of folk right back to medieval times. And this is rather a lovely walk in a quiet corner of the Lake District. So many pass through on their way to Hawes Water and the higher fells. But this is a place to linger.
Much of the way is along the River Lowther and the scenery is very fine. Deep wooded valleys, distant views and heath.
From Bampton village hall, we walked down to Bampton Grange, then to Rosgill and along the paths to Shap Abbey, before returning to Rosgill by way of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path. Indeed, we passed several folk doing the Coast to Coast as we wended our way.
There is some lovely vernacular architecture as well, both in the villages and in the farmhouses and barns. Unspoiled a lot of them – passing them you could well believe you are in a past age.
We took the high paths from Rosgill and eventually caught glimpses of Shap Abbey in its valley – in the distance. I was reminded of M.R. James’ splendid ghost story (one of my favourites) A View From a Hill, where a man sees a distant abbey – and much more – through a pair of binoculars. I recommend it to you if you like ghost stories. What I love about M.R. James is his splendid descriptions of landscape, which he conjures up in few lines. He also wrote an excellent book on abbeys.
Did we see some ghostly monk as we approached Shap Abbey? Well, not quite, but I did see something I can’t explain, so read on…
Shap Abbey (free admission) was wrecked by order of Henry VIII, the way he did, and the Premonstratensian monks were evicted. It’s a beautiful ruin, with a farm hard by. Sitting there on a quiet day, you can almost hear the chanting of the long-gone monks. Apart from ramblers and Coast to Coast walkers, I suspect it doesn’t get many visitors, which is a shame.
Another place to linger in a nice day.
We followed the Coast to Coast Path on the way back, and, as we were crossing the enclosed rough country above the Abbey Bridge, I saw two ramblers coming towards us. A tall man in a green anorak with grey hair and a shorter grey haired woman.
I saw them quite clearly, for they were no more than a hundred yards in front of us. I began to anticipate the social distancing to come, and looked down to avoid a boggy bit of path. When I looked up again, they had vanished. Very odd, for the enclosure has a good stone wall on one side and a slope on the other, with no places of concealment. Ghostly fellwalkers revisiting their favourite rambles, perhaps?
There was no way that anyone could disappear there in just a few seconds.
On the way to Rosgill, we crossed the gorgeous little pack horse bridge known as Parish Crag Bridge. Another lovely spot to linger and a wonderful bit of vernacular bridge building.
Soon afterwards we crossed Rosgill Bridge and retraced out footsteps back to Bampton Grange and then Bampton, diverting to the chapel at Bampton Grange where jams and chutneys are sold with an honesty box outside.
A walk to be recommended – and worth re-walking at different times of the year.
(c) Text and pictures J and A Bainbridge.