I’ve often been intrigued by photographs of Hampsfell Hospice, an imposing square stone shelter on the top of Hampsfell, above the seaside town of Grange-over-Sands, and had added it to my mental checklist of places to visit if I ever got the chance.
As luck would have it, I recently spotted a guided walk to the hospice with the Morecambe Bay Partnership, an organisation which holds events throughout the year including a ‘summer-long celebration’ called the Festival of the Bay. The perfect chance to find out about two things in one visit, I went along to find out more…
Hampsfell is accessible by foot from Grange-over-Sands. I won’t provide the exact route here, as we met at a private car park for the event, but Google the Hampsfell Hospice walk for yourself and you’ll find some suggestions online (I think most routes from Grange itself will take quite a bit longer than the guided walk I undertook). One such walk in a leaflet by Cumbria County Council (pdf) is a circular route from the railway station in Grange.
On setting off, it was no time at all until we were met with an incredible panoramic view of both the estuaries of the River Kent (surrounded by Grange, Arnside and Morecambe) and the River Leven (Flookburgh, Ulverston and Barrow). To begin with, the sun came out and the views were vibrantly lit, but I have to say it was a relief when cloud set in, even if the later photos are a bit more subdued!
The nice thing about this guided walk was that there were plenty of pauses so that everyone could keep up, and we had long discussions during which we heard about the history and geology of the surrounding area.
The walk took in a mixture of a steep hill, fields, and about three wall stiles. Towards the top, you suddenly come across the fascinating Grange limestone pavements, and shortly after, the prize of the walk: Hampsfell Hospice itself.
Hampsfell Hospice was built as a shelter for travellers in the mid 1800s (depending on the source you read, the dates vary between 1830 and 1846 – and yes, I should have been listening more carefully! 🙂 ) by George Remington who was once vicar of Cartmel. In recent years a ‘viewfinder’ has been added to the top, which can be reached by some rather alarming looking stone steps to the side of the shelter, and although the views from the base of the hospice aren’t perhaps as good as those earlier in the walk, the scenery from the top is apparently spectacular.
I say ‘apparently’ because, feeling a little under the weather on reaching the hospice, I was probably the only member of the group to decline a climb to the top – the stone steps, which don’t look quite as fierce in the photos as when you’re stood at the bottom of them, just didn’t hold any appeal to me that particular day! If you want to see the view, you’re going to have to visit for yourself (or you could just cheat and Google the view like I did, even if it isn’t quite the same…). 😉
I did take a look at the inside of the shelter though…
On finishing our exploration of the hospice, we returned to the beginning of the walk the way we came, and it was surprising to see the distance we had covered. On the way up it didn’t feel very far at all.
Group walks aren’t for everyone, and this was the first time I had joined one, but I would definitely do so again. Individuals, couples and families had all come along for the event, and you could strike up a chat with someone or simply stroll in companionable silence – particularly good if you’re not confident walking on your own, and so would not explore places that are a bit more ‘out of the way’.
Of course, you can explore the Hampsfell walk for yourself at any time, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the area, which reminded me a bit of Gummer’s How to the south of Windermere. The terrain here is a lot less steep and rugged than that though!
For more information about the Festival of the Bay, further group walks, and other events that are coming up in the near future, you can visit the Morecambe Bay Partnership online. And don’t forget to sign up to their newsletter for updates while you’re there.
Have you visited Grange-over-Sands and Hampsfell Fell for yourself? What did you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below!