The Helm

The Helm, a rocky ridge and prominent landmark, dominates the skyline at Oxenholme and boasts extensive views in all directions.

The Helm pictured above Helmside Cottages.
The Helm pictured above Helmside Cottages. Photo courtesy of Mike Chapman 14 June 2019.

It is composed of Upper Silurian Kirkby Moor Flags and has been shaped and scoured by glacial activity.

3D Satellite view of The Helm looking southwards. Courtesy of Google

At the summit (185m/607ft above sea level) stands the scheduled ancient monument of Castlesteads. It is believed to be an iron-age hillfort enclosed by banks and ditches built around 800BC by the best known of the Northern tribes, the Brigantes. The Brigantes (from which we get the word ‘brigand’) were said to be ‘as wild and uncultivated as their native hills’.

Summit of the Helm. Copyright Roy Wall 30 May 2006 CCL2.0

The effort of ascent to the summit is well rewarded by panoramic views to the Lakeland Fells, the Howgills, Morecambe Bay, the Lune Valley and Farleton Fell. Download guide which details what can be seen in each direction.

All access land on the Helm is privately owned. The western side of the Helm is registered common land and responsible public access has long been accepted. Helm commoners hold the grazing rights which are let to a single farmer.

Fell ponies by the tarn on The Helm. Photo courtesy of Amy Bateman

The plot to the north-east is grazed and the bracken and gorse scrub in the south-east plot is valuable habitat for nesting birds.

Since 2007, the Friends of the Lake District have installed gates improving access on the Helm for all to enjoy. They’ve also introduced a rare breed of Fell Pony, native to Cumbria. The ponies help with conservation through their grazing as well as creating open ground in their hoof marks so that flower seeds can germinate. Volunteers are maintaining the dry stone walls that are a part of its character as well as being important to keep the Fell ponies and cows in. Over 1,500 trees have been planted, including oak, rowan, birch, wild cherry and hawthorn to create a new wood for people and wildlife to visit all year round. Download their guide to The Helm.

The Friends of the Lake District commissioned Greenlane Archaeology to carry out an Archaeological Landscape Survey. Download the Survey Report.

The Helm with a blanket of snow. Photo by Henry Adams 2019

The Helm has always been a favourite with local children, especially when it has snowed and sledging is possible.

In the nineteenth century it is understood there was a yearly ‘meet’ on The Helm. Participants are known to have included the Kendal Harriers.

Gruesome Discovery. On 31 January 1908 William Dawson, a highway superintendent for the council, was last seen leaving the Kent Tavern at Kendal. Nearly two years later, on 7 December 1909 the council’s sanitary inspector made a gruesome discovery. He found William Dawson’s decomposed body in a quarantine hut on The Helm. Details of the inquest held the following day were published by the Westmorland Gazette a few days later. Read the transcript.

Page last updated: 27 January 2021

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