We had just begun our evening walk, the collie and I. We were going to visit ‘the oak’, and say our goodbyes to its ‘fullness’; its summer glory, as we knew that one or two of the leaves would be turning.
There’s always one walk, one outing, where you realise that the season is giving you the most it can; is conveying to you the ‘harvest’ of that time. Usually, you don’t realise until you set off – like so many things in life… You have to be in the river to truly appreciate the river. The constant change of ‘the flow’ is the essence of what it is to be a river. I’m thinking metaphorically, of course…
There would be a real river, later, but I didn’t realise it at the time. We had come to touch and say farewell to the special oak as it began its turning into autumn. In winter, this tree becomes a stark skeleton, devoid of other features. I often walk past and talk to it, telling it the spring will not be long; though it knows these things far better than I do. It’s far more in-volved than I am in the procession of the seasons.
Something made me carry on, after the special oak, and soon, we found ourselves leaving the line of the old canal, where it sits, oddly high – a line on the hillside from the 1820s, just a filled-in part of the field. Only the purposeless stone bridge – No. 178, they are all numbered – showing where it was. In parts the basin of the canal survives, as here, but you have to be several miles south to find any remaining water in it.
The early evening was so pleasant, I carried on walking, reaching the gate that leads to the road that crosses this pleasant landscape in stark contrast. The A590 is the main feeder road from the M6 motorway. It’s the place where you see the most smiles on the faces of the arriving families; as they realise their long drive is almost over. Windermere is only another 30 minutes away.
My options were narrowing. I could follow the minor road and loop back, taking in mainly agricultural land, or I could head for the raised gate, above, and enter Levens Park – ancestral home of the Bagot family. The footpaths through Levens park are open to the public, though dogs must be on a lead.
Levens Park marks the final course of the River Kent before it flows out into the northern end of Morecambe Bay. It’s not a vast estate, and you can walk around it in an hour. My main interest was to give Tess a good walk and take photographs in the golden light.
Once you’re into the park, the wide path stretches out into the distance, in a perfect straight line; though it eventually curves to follow the River Kent. At this point, the landscape falls off to the right, leading to the water, though the actual river cannot be seen from this angle. That awaited us, and I was looking forward to a few good shots of the evening light on the water.
Wildlife is abundant in Levens, with the famous Bagot Goats roaming free, as well as Muntjac Deer. Sadly, none of them were visible, so I’ve included a photo from last year, below. The goats are very tame and not bothered by passing visitors. Not so the deer…
For another fifteen minutes, we walked the straight path. Suddenly, there was a flash of gold from the right, coming from the main part of the the river: a perfect twinning of sun and reflection bounced back through the dense trees – a beautiful moment.
Many of the park’s trees are oaks. I stopped to pick up a branch that had fallen from one of them. It was a microcosm of the season’s change. There, before me, were all the colours of Autumn. A poignant image…
There is a strong identification between the English ‘soul’ and the oak. Mythically, the two have been linked throughout history.
From here, the vista of the River Kent opens in an a wide turn towards the final bridge and the sea. The sun sets to the right and makes evening shots ‘foggy’ – but good enough to give a feel of the place at this lovely time of year.
Eventually, the lines of tall and ancient trees ends, revealing the River Kent in its splendour.
The road here is the historic A6, once the main north-west ‘trunk-road’ to Scotland. The entrance, above, is to Leven’s Hall, with its amazing topiary gardens, modelled on the original Elizabethan style; one of the few such in Britain.
Once on the opposite bank, the landscape changes, and most of the walk back is away from the river. We made one final stop at the place where dogs are allowed free to drink and play.
On the return leg, the focus was very much on the sky. The sun was beginning to set and pastels of pink and blue were everywhere.
At the end of the park, we crossed over some farmland and down to the river, again, but this time the route takes you – dramatically – beneath the carriageway of the A590 (actually now the A591). Two very different aspects of the same road!
And then it’s a short climb back into the village of Sedgwick and home.
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.