This was the opinion of Thomas West (1720-1779) when referring, not to a lady of his acquaintance, but to Levens Park, in Cumbria. The quote appeared in West’s ‘Guide to the Lakes’, allegedly, the first tourist guide to England’s Lake District, published in 1778.
Levens is in the south of the county, just outside the National Park boundary. You’ll find Levens Hall, and its estate, on the A6 about 20 miles north of Lancaster. If you’re coming the other way, from the roundabout junction of the A590 with the A591 south of Kendal, take the A590 west toward the South Lakes and, shortly after that, turn left onto the slip-road signposted A6 to Milnthorpe and Lancaster.
Part of the 9,500 acre Levens Park estate is accessible via public footpaths and, as Mr West suggests, it’s a very agreeable place. Opposite the current entrance to Levens Hall is the original carriage drive, a mile-long avenue of graceful oaks planted 300 years ago. Here, you’ll find a gentle circular walk, partly alongside the river Kent, through the verdant landscape of what was once a medieval deer park. Black fallow deer still roam freely. There is also a herd of Bagot goats, a rare breed given to the Bagot family of Levens Hall by Lady Nancy Bagot of Blithfield Hall, Staffordshire. The guidebook to Levens says that this is the only remaining feral herd of goats in England – though, according to the well-known British Feral Goat Research Group, there are herds of British primitive goats in the Cheviots – and Battersea. Of course there are.
But let’s stick with that nice, easy, walk around Levens Park. You can access the footpaths from whichever direction you like if you refer to OS Explorer Map OL7 for the south-eastern lakes. Or you can work it out painlessly enough for yourself starting from Levens Bridge (which carries the A6 over the river Kent), perhaps if you’re visiting the Hall. If you’re not visiting the Hall, there is limited off-road parking on the slip-road mentioned above, near its junction with the A6 proper.
There is a simple map of the walk you can download from the Levens Hall website. Or, you can be adventurous and follow my wonderfully imperfect instructions, below.
- Take the public footpath to the left (north side) of the bridge and follow this with the river Kent on your right. Eventually, you’ll come to a set of steps and a gateway into a field.
- Follow the path until exiting via a stile onto a very minor road. Turn right and follow the road until reaching a pedestrian underpass under the A590, alongside the river (still on your right), back onto a minor road and past some quite impressive falls (Force Falls – ‘force’ is from the old Norse for waterfall).
- You will come to a bridge, Force Bridge over the river. Go over that and turn right onto another minor road, parallel to the one you were on before you reached the bridge – back in the direction you have come from. Keep on this road (ie do not turn off). You will pass back over the A590 and shortly after that will see the return footpath across the park on your right. Follow this back through the avenue of oak trees, eventually reaching the bridge.
There, you’ve done it. The walk can probably be done comfortably in a couple of hours – obviously more, or less, depending how fit/fast you are. The terrain is very undemanding – but you might want to wear stout shoes. There are no refreshments or facilities en route, so prepare accordingly. If you want to take a dog, keep it on its lead. Of course, you can also do the walk in the other direction…
Astonishingly, there was a proposal in the 1960s to run a four-lane motorway link road through the park; fortunately, the owners of Levens Hall fought the proposal – and won. I’m very glad they did, aren’t you?