Gelt Woods walk in autumn

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A walk along the River Gelt in Gelt Woods in autumn, when the woods are at their colourful best

The sandstone gorge of Gelt Woods near Brampton

Beech woodlands in autumn are a fantastic place to walk and at this time of year I try to visit at least one. This year has been no exception as I made the short journey to Gelt Woods near Brampton. Come to think of it I made the same trip last year so this is possibly going to turn into an annual event.

The River Gelt rises in the Pennine hills on the Cumbria–Northumberland border and flows westwards across northern Cumbria. In the river’s lower reaches it flows through the sandstone gorge of Gelt Woods before meeting the River Irthing to the west of Brampton. The River Irthing then merges with the River Eden before reaching the coast.

The deciduous woodland of Gelt Woods is very picturesque and merits a visit at any time. For obvious reasons I tend to find a reason to go in autumn though.

Getting to Gelt Woods

There are a number of places to park, and routes to take to enter the woods. On both occasions I have been I have parked at the end of Capon Tree Road on the edge of Brampton. From there there is a signposted track into the woods.

tree lined track leading into gelt woods in autumn
Track leading into Gelt Woods

After about a mile the tree-lined track reaches the top of the wooded Gorge of Gelt Woods.

Gelt Woods walk route

There are a network of paths leading through the woods and, as a result, many Gelt Woods walks. Most paths eventually head downhill though where they invariably meet the River Gelt.

On this particular day, at the first fork in the path I headed off right, a route that contoured high above the river below.

red beech leaves on footpath leading through autumnal trees in gelt woods
Footpath leading through beech trees in Gelt Woods

This track leads to a clearing, at the centre of which stands a particularly old and impressive beech.

From this point the path curves downhill towards the bottom of the gorge and the river is soon visible.

Walking alongside the River Gelt

The next section of the walk is alongside the north bank of the River Gelt and is the most scenic. In autumn things change very quickly though and a certain amount of luck is needed to visit at the best time.

In 2017 I visited here at the start of October and took the following photo of the river in Lower Gelt.

river gelt in lower gelt woods in early autumn
River Gelt in Lower Gelt Woods in early October

Not quite enough leaves on the ground for my liking.

The following autumn I visited in late October and a photo from the same vantage point looked much better.

river gelt in lower gelt woods in mid autumn with red beech leaves on the banks
River Gelt in late October

Evidently the colours change quickly at this time of year!

Just upstream from here the channel narrows and the river becomes a set of rapids, the water in a rush to squeeze through the thin gap.

rapids in river gelt as it flows through leaf covered sandstone gorge
Sandstone gorge through which the River Gelt flows

These rapids offered an opportunity for me to get a bit arty and take an abstract photo.

abstract of river gelt rapids flowing over red sandstone
River Gelt rapids

The red colour is from the underlying sandstone that is prevalent throughout the gorge.

Walking alongside the river there were so many photo opportunities! Luckily I wasn’t in a rush so I just took plenty of breaks.

Not much further upstream I recognised the location where the year before I had taken a couple of photos and tried to see if I could improve on them. It turned out I couldn’t so here are a couple of photos from 2017!

And as the path leaves the riverbank to climb back up to the edge of the wood there was an opportunity for one last shot.

footpath alongside river gelt in colourful autumnal gelt woods
Footpath on the banks of the River Gelt

From this point the path climbs uphill, back to the junction at the entrance of the Gelt Woods. Retracing my steps back along the track I reached my car at the end of Capon Tree Road.

Annual visit to Gelt Woods

There are definitely more photographs to be had here so I’ll probably be back for my annual Gelt Woods walk in future years. Hopefully this blog will then be updated with more detail and there will be more additions to my Eden Valley photo collection. Maybe one day I’ll try visiting during a different season too!

Gelt Woods walk in autumn was last modified: March 21st, 2021 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • A walk from Dufton to High Cup Nick
    January 2019 : An eight mile walk from Dufton along the Pennine Way track to watch sunset at High Cup Nick in winter. And what a sunset it turned out to be!

  • Wild camping on Wild Boar Fell
    May 2018 : A seven mile climb up Wild Boar Fell from Cotegill Bridge for a windy, sleepless night's wild camping. The dawn made it all worthwhile though!

  • Visiting Lacy’s Caves from Little Salkeld
    November 2017 : A walk along the River Eden near Little Salkeld in Cumbria to visit Lacy's Caves - a series of small caves carved into a sandstone cliff above the river

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    4 comments on “Gelt Woods walk in autumn”

    1. Hi Gavin,

      These are fantastic photos. I’ve walked through Gelt Woods many a time and, as an exiled northerner in London, it is lovely to be reminded of my former county.

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