A Walk along the Alleyways of Kendal

TURN right out of the Information Centre, passing the ornate entrance to the Town Hall and the historic Call Stone, Cauld Stone or Ca’ Steean with its inscribed plaques. Pause at the corner of Angel Court to read the inscription below the name plate, and turn right between the Halifax office and Barclays Bank into New Bank Yard. This passes under a building, emerges briefly into the daylight, and then passes under another building. At one time there were six of these tunnels, the last of which is encountered later in the walk.

Cross the road ahead and turn left between a wall and the offices of the South Lakeland District Council. After the path bends right continue roughly straight on, and turn left at a wine merchant’s sign into Berry’s Yard. Cross over Finkle Street, which was once part of the main road to Carlisle, and enter the New Shambles, passing under a massive beam. There are tiny shops along both sides of the road.

Turn right into the Market Place, which continues as Branthwaite Brow. On the left is one of the quaintest buildings in Kendal, the Famous Chocolate House of 1657, and on the other side of the road, in the window of Kendal Picture Frames, are some of the finest photographs that have ever been taken. They are changed from time to time.

Turn left at the cross-roads into Stramongate, and right after passing Henry Roberts’ bookshop into a passageway that opens into a little courtyard. On the right is an old pump that has lost its handle. At the end of the courtyard turn right, then left. Maidenhair spleenwort is growing on the wall on the right. This little fern is very common in Kendal and will be seen in many places on the walk. At the foot of steps the route merges with an alleyway, which becomes twice as wide in the process. When you come to a road turn right and make your way to a blue circular sign saying ‘Kirkland via Riverside’.

From this sign you can see, on the other side of the road, the entrance to the sixth archway over New Bank Yard, which was mentioned earlier. Further to the left is a fine Regency building with a curved three-storey bay. Here you are close to the River Kent, from which the name of Kendal is derived. Most of the birds on the river are mallards and black-headed gulls, but you might be lucky enough to see something unusual like a dipper or a goosander. You can also see the three graceful arches of Miller Bridge, one of which bears the date 1818 in Roman numerals.

Continue to the ‘Waterside’ signpost from which you can see ahead of you a small two-story stone building. This is one of the summer houses that were featured in the book The Summer Houses of Kendal by David Butler. The upstairs and downstairs have been incorporated into two different shops.

At the signpost turn right for a few yards, left into Gulf’s Road, and right into Tanners’ Yard. This eventually emerges onto the A 6, which runs from London to Carlisle, although nobody is likely to use it for that purpose. Cross over the road and turn left. (You may find it easier to cross the road at the traffic lights.) Then turn right between the HSBC and Ethel Austin’s into Collin Croft. After a time the road becomes cobbled. Then, when you get to the T-junction, the cobbles become larger and older. Turn right here. Then go round a left-hand bend and up some steps. This is the best part of the walk. Old doors lead off to the left, and at the top of the hill the route passes under a beautiful wooden ceiling.

When you come to a road turn left, and left again by a wooden seat into Garth Heads. From the seat you can see ahead of you part of the attractive open space called Low Beast Banks, where farm animals used to be bought and sold. Garth Heads is cobbled at first and then becomes unsurfaced. It is hard to believe that this country lane is only a hundred yards from a busy shopping street. After passing the second lamp-post on the right turn sharp right up some steps, then sharp left through woodland with outcropping rock on the right. At the top of the hill there is a fine view of the Norman motte and bailey called Castle Howe or How, with information provided on a notice board. There is also an annotated drawing of the view in the other direction which was put up in the year 2000. Much of the view hidden by trees in the summer.

Leave the area by the steps, and continue along a steeply sloping path between stone walls. Turn right into Garth Heads, and right again into Captain French Lane. At the one-way arrow you can see on the right part of the old road that led from the parish church to Castle Howe. Continue along Captain French Lane. After you pass number 96 there is a view on the left of the extraordinary pointed roof of number 80, Gillinggate.

Ignore a turning on the right, then bear right along Bankfield Road. Just before a beech tree bear right along a path which bends left. Then turn right for 15 paces, cross over the road and take the path opposite. From here you can see an interesting curiosity—a conifer growing out of a beech tree. The path heads across the open space called High Beast Banks. Like Low Beast Banks this was used for the sale of livestock. It is just like a village green but there’s no village. Ahead of you, and slightly to the right, is Beast Bank Post Office, which was the inspiration for the Postman Pat series of books, and farther to the right, at the end of the green, you can see another of David Butler’s summer houses.

Continue straight on into Queens Street, a tiny street of olde-world charm. At the end of the street is another old pump, made redundant by the introduction of piped water. Turn right here, and then left under a modern archway. The path bends right and then left. At the end of the path head for a sign saying ‘Tenterfell Court’ and turn left along the pavement. The path bends right along the side of another beautiful village green with no village. This is known as ‘High Tenterfell’ because cloth was formerly hung on tenterhooks in this area to dry, ‘Low Tenterfell’ being an old name for Kendal Green.

At the end of the path turn right along a road which leads to a junction with two turnings to the left and one to the right. Take the farther of the two turnings on the left, which is called Cliff Brow. It is very narrow, but definitely a road because there are garages off it. After a slight right-hand bend you can see through a gateway on the right the big Victorian house called Chapel Close. Twelve paces past the gateway is a clump of polypody fern high on the wall on the right. Rising from the top of the wall nearby is the chimney of a two-storey summer house that was formerly in the grounds of Chapel Close. Now it is incorporated into a house. All along the left-hand side of the lane the underlying rock is exposed.

The lower part of Cliff Brow is definitely not a road because it is stepped. On your right, at the foot of the steps, is a large plain building that is ripe for demolition and replacement by traditional stone cottages. Turn right here into Sepulchre Lane, which later becomes cobbled and descends steeply. Before 1999 this road was open to two-way traffic.

At the foot of the hill turn left. Immediately before a white building turn right down some steps, then left down some more steps, and right into another old-fashioned street called the Old Shambles. When the cobbles come to an end you can see down a turning on the right an interesting relic of a byegone age—an old wooden derrick with an iron cog-wheel.

Continue along the Old Shambles to the main road. Cross over the road and turn right. Between the Lunn Poly shop and Barclays Bank is the entrance to Yard 7, which tunnels under buildings for such a long way you can’t see daylight at the other end. For this reason it is also known as Dark Alley. Opposite here, above Millet’s shop are some old-fashioned leaded windows.

A little farther along on the left is the Information Centre where the walk began.


Produced by Chris Jesty, 24B Beast Banks, Kendal, March, 2003