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LDPs Regional Summary

Cumbria & Northumberland

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 113 main routes / 12508 miles - 22 waymarked / 1593 miles

Areas: Cumbria, Northumberland

National Parks: Northumberland, Lake District

Principal AONBs: Arnside & Silverdale, North Pennines, Northumberland Coast, Solway Coast

Heritage Coast: Northumberland: North Northumberland; Cumbria: St Bees Head

European Long Distance Paths (E-Routes): E2 variant: Stranraer to Middleton in Teesdale, E2 variant: Middleton in Teesdale to Dover, E2 variant: Middleton in Teesdale to Harwich

National Walking Trails: Pennine Way (part), Pennine Bridleway (part), Hadrian's Wall (part)

Resident population: 0.8 million

Regional Trails Summary - Cumbria & Northumberland

With some of England's best walking country and two major National Parks, these two counties have contrasting inland scenery and interesting coastlines. For walkers, the gem of Cumbria (and maybe of England) is the Lake District National Park, whose intoxicating offer of sustained ridge routes high above its many lakes is an irresistible attraction to day-walkers. Frequented perhaps more by the peakbagger counting his or her 'Wainwrights' completions (there are 214 in all), there are still some fine trails, though in keeping with traditions in the Park most are not waymarked, and so Anytime Challenges abound. While in the Lake District you may rarely walk for long alone, Northumberland, with its own sparsely populated National Park, can offer solitude in plenty, deep among its miles of rolling hills and on the remoter Cheviot tops. The Irish Sea and North Sea coastlines also contrast - Northumberland's long strands have an austere beauty, while Cumbria offers wide estuaries, with much birdlife and views to distant hills.

The varied geology of the Cumbrian Lake District includes the Skiddaw slates and the Borrowdale volcanics, and there is much evidence of past mineral industries. The Lakeland peaks rise to over 3000ft and include England's highest, Sca Fell Pike. The landscape that we see today has been shaped by glacial erosion during several ice ages over the last half a million years, carving out corries and lake basins, and leaving eroded material to form the hummocky lower ground. Surrounding the Lake District's central core of high fells is limestone country providing fine karst scenery that includes the limestone pavements of the many 'Scars'. Between the Lakeland fells and the Pennines are the pastoral, wooded lowlands of the Eden valley, with sandstone gorge exposures along the river.

Much of the Northumbrian borderlands are rolling hills covered by peat moorlands and commercial forestry, home to the major Kielder Water reservoir, and drained by the North Tyne and other Tyne tributaries. In the north these Border uplands culminate with the higher granite peaks of the Cheviot massif, remnants of an ancient volcano. The Pennines extend up into the southern part of Northumberland, with its exposed moorlands, and sheltered dales coloured by spring flower meadows. The dramatic north-facing escarpment of Whin Sill that traverses much of this area is an igneous intrusion, and Hadrian's Wall often follows this line. Whin Sill provides the remarkable features of High Cup Nick, Cauldron Snout, and England's largest waterfall, High Force (all on the Pennine Way).

The Cumbrian coastal plain provides dairy pasture in the south and rougher sheep grazing further north. It is also home to major industries including the Sellafield nuclear facility. Across the Solway Firth - the Eden's estuary - are the distant Galloway hills in Scotland, while from the Lakeland tops both the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland may also be seen.

The mostly low, soft cliffs of the Cumbian coast, with their dune grassland relics, are punctuated by the resistant red sandstone headland cliffs at St Bees. To the south are the intertidal flats of Morecambe Bay, the estuary for the Wyre, Lune, Keer, Kent and Leven, and an important habitat for birdlife. The Northumbrian coast offers long sandy beaches, dunes, tidal flats, cliffs, and headlands topped with characteristic ruined castles.

Much of the region's two coastlines have a walking route. On the Cumbrian coast the Cumbria Coastal Way that starts in Lancashire extends to the Solway Firth. Also on this coast Hadrian's Coastal Route traces the line of Roman coastal defences that extended Hadrian's Wall south. The Smugglers Route links sites associated with an illegal occupation. On the Northumbrian coast the Northumbrian Coast Path extends inland before returning seawards to Holy Island; further north the Berwickshire Coastal Path extends from Berwick across the Borders.

River valley routes include, in Northumberland, several on the Tyne rivers. These include the South Tyne Trail, the Tyne – Estuary to Source and Walking the North Tyne. The Teesdale Way starts in Cumbria, and three main routes include parts of the Eden valley: the Miller's Way, the Ravenber Way and the Cumbria Coastal Way that follows the Eden's lower reaches. The Allerdale Ramble includes part of the Derwent.

Three National Trails pass through these counties. Hadrian's Wall Path traverses from the Tyne estuary to the Solway Firth on a scenic Roman frontier that is now a World Heritage Site. A fragile environment, the heavy tourist use here is a major concern. Thus, to encourage walkers to venture out into the rewarding surrounding landscapes other trails are being developed, including the Roman Ring and the Moss Troopers' Trail. The intersecting Pennine Way wends its way northwards to cross the Scottish Borders, taking in some of Whin Sill's sites, and the Cheviots. The developing multi-user Pennine Bridleway will provide for lower level alternatives.

While Hadrian may take credit for the first of the major coast-to-coast walking routes, another iconic path that needs no introduction links the west and east coasts. Pioneered by Alfred Wainwright, his classic 'A Coast to Coast Walk' from St Bees crosses the Lakes, the Eden valley, the Dales and the Vale of York, to reach the Cleveland's Hills and coast. 'AW' intended its modest, singular name to encourage other 'CTC' routes; it has succeeded and the Alternative Coast to Coast, the Bay to Bay Walks starting from Grassington, the One Week Coast to Coast Trek and the Ravenber Way are all examples. 'AW' is also remembered in the Wainwright Memorial Walk and Wainwright's Remote Lakeland.

In the Lakes, the Cumbria Way is a popular Lakeland passes route that traverses the District from Ulverston to Carlisle. The Westmorland Way traverses this old Westmorland county and the Lake District. The Limestone Link crosses the limestone country of south Cumbria around Arnside. Two routes make a circuit of Windermere, the Windermere Way and Windermere – Walking Around the Lake. Both the Tour of the Lake District and the High Street Stroll provide lengthy Lakeland walking circuits. Covering both Cumbria and Northumbria, the Lake to Lake Walk links Windermere with Kielder Water, where the Lakeside Way circuits this reservoir. The Great English Walk finally comes to rest at Berwick after an epic 600-mile journey from Chepstow.

Figures from history are represented in the Reiver's Way – 'reivers' were raiders who operated along the Anglo-Scottish border. It heads from the Tyne Valley past Hadrian's Wall, through the rolling Northumberland hills and over the Cheviots to end on the north coast. The Miller's Way remembers a Kendal-born quaker who started a biscuit industry in Carlisle. In Northumberland, Isaac's Tea Trail remembers Isaac Holden, an Allendale Methodist and itinerant tea seller. There is a borough circuit in the Berwick Borough Boundary Walk, remembering Berwick's past as a (frequent) part of Scotland. Linking many hostelries, author Mark Reid offers two more Inn Way…routes, these heading to the Lakes and to Northumberland. The past mining industries of Furness are explored by the Haematite Trail. Three routes have religious or pilgrimage associations. St Oswald's Way in Northumbria links Holy Island with Hadrian's Wall Path; St Bega's Way, in Cumbria, links two churches dedicated to this saint; and St Cuthbert's Way crosses the border from Scotland, heading over the Cheviot Hills to the Northumbrian coast at Lindisfarne.

The challenging, and often remote, terrain of these two counties is mirrored in a good crop of Anytime Challenges, with several rated as very challenging. The Howgills have the Great Cautley Challenge. Tony Wimbush ventures to the Derwent fells with his Lakeland Mountain Heritage Trail. In the northern Lakes are Back 'O' Skidda (Joyce Sidebottom), the Old Crown Round (Mick Cooper) and the North Western Fells (George Foot). Over on the Shap side is the Three Rings of Shap and across on the Pennines is the Helm Wind Walk (both LDWA Cumbria). In the Cheviots in Northumberland are the Cheviot Hills 2,000 foot Summits, the Three Peaks of Cheviot Walk and, for those interested in ancient earthworks, the Hillfort Round (all three from LDWA Northumbria). Richard Sewell offers the Falklands Way/The Yomp, linking the Coast to Coast and Pennine Way. Arnold Underwood's Trans-Dales Trail – 3 links Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.

Version information: August 2017 Edited. Fellranger books series all published. Lakeside Way completed. LDWA Northumbria link updated.

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