Orrest Head

 

 

The modest height (780feet) of Orrest Head near Windermere village has huge significance for fellwalkers as it was from here in 1930 that 23 year old Alfred Wainwright saw the Lake District for the first time. He had never seen anything more beautiful and he vowed that if he ever was offered the chance to live in or near the Lakes he would take it. 

Until that point Wainwright lived in Blackburn which although is in easy reach of some attractive countryside it didn't match the Lakes. Working in local government he began to apply for posts in Furness and Westmorland. The opportunity came when he was accepted for a job in Kendal in 1941. From that time on nearly all his spare time was devoted to walking his beloved fells. 
 

In 1952 he commenced his encyclopedic "Illustrated Guide to the Lakeland Fells" which transformed the lives of thousands of his readers who were equipped with a detailed and reliable guide for exploring the fells. The Guide was characterised by Wainwright's determination not to have a single letter of printed typescript in any of the seven books. Every drawing, map and word was rendered by his own hand. 

Wainwright went on to be a publishing phenomenon - selling millions of books. TV and radio appearances followed. His life transformed because of a 20 minute walk. Two years ago the Wainwright Society replaced the view indicator to mark this special spot.

In the words of John Griffiths co-founder of the Lancashire Walks website, "It is the best view in the Lake District gained for so little effort. There are better views but you have to work hard to attain them." 
 

Fact file:

Start: Windermere Station LA23 1AH
 

Distance: 1 ½ miles 2k to the top and back

 

Time: 1 hour 20 minutes up, 20 minutes admiring the view, 20 minutes down - a perfect workout before breakfast.

 

Summary:  If you don't mind a 20 minute climb - easy.

 

Map: OS OL7 The English Lakes South Eastern area

 

Map by kind permission of Johnston Press 

Directions: The trickiest part of the walk is to locate the start. These days the walk is clearly signed but in the past the sign board could have easily mistaken for a guest house board. This is my excuse for not locating the walk when I first stayed in Windermere 40 years ago with Eileen. (We were on honeymoon so perhaps I had other things on my mind). 

From the station approach turn right and find a safe way to cross the busy  A591 in front of the Windermere Hotel. Turn left to reach a side lane. Here large unmissable notice boards

 

 

indicate you are on the route to Elleray Wood and Orrest Head. The tarmac lane leads quite steeply upwards past the large property of Orrest Howe and then after  a farm enters woodland. Keep on the main track as it zig zags up through the trees to reach a gate in the wall to the right. Continue on a path between a wall and fence with open fields to the right. At the end turn left through a kissing gate

 

leading onto a rocky path leading to the summit.

It you are ready for a rest you're in luck as there are a number of benches on this top. And what can be seen?

 

Most obviously the serpentine Windermere, England's longest lake at 10 ½ miles. To the south Morecambe Bay and then to the west and north a sweeping panorama of Lakeland hills.


This is what Wainwright wrote about his experience of climbing Orrest Head for the first time. "..quite suddenly we emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had been dramatically drawn aside I beheld a truly magnificent view…This was truth. God was in heaven that day and I a humble worshipper." 

You may not be transformed in the same way as AW was but I defy anyone to find a walk as short with a better view.