After my brief visit to the pharmacy in Cockermouth and a look round the hardware shop and heritage museum I returned to the campsite to decide on the next part of my day. The first antihistamine tablet, which I’d taken as soon as I came out of the pharmacy, was already working its magic as the swelling in my arm had gone down considerably, and the previously purchased painkillers had seen off most of the pain in my foot. Not wanting to aggravate it any more than I needed to I decided to drive out to Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket; both places seemed to be fairly small so I shouldn’t have too much walking to do.
The villages had previously been suggested to me by my blogging friend Jayne and though I didn’t remember it at the time Caldbeck was actually featured in my ‘111 Places’ book. The village’s history can be traced back to before medieval times and since the Lake District was designated a National Park in 1951 Caldbeck, being very close to its northern boundary, is classed as being the last (or first) village within the Park. Looking at the photo in the book and reading the details it sounded like it was quite a picturesque little place so with sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds I was looking forward to seeing it.
From the camp site there were two different ways to get to Caldbeck so I decided to go clockwise, one way there and the other way back. My route from the site took me onto the A595 then several miles north to the B5299 heading roughly east. The narrow road seemed to go on and on and I thought at one point my usually good sense of direction had failed me and I’d somehow taken a wrong turn somewhere but eventually I arrived at Caldbeck and a sign directed me to the village car park where I was able to leave the van in the shade of some trees.
My walk started from the far end of the car park where a path led up a slope between the rear gardens of two houses and curious to know what was up there I went, coming out by an extensive village green with a large duck pond. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk all the way round the pond as the green was bisected by a couple of deep drainage gulleys with water running down them. They were only narrow but still too wide to jump across with two dogs so I had to walk quite a distance along the nearby track before I could cross the green, where I came out onto the road opposite the attractive Cornerstone Methodist Church.
Down the road and across from the car park entrance was Friar Row, a pleasant lane with a handful of detached houses on one side and stone cottages on the other. Eventually the lane turned into a track across a field and my way was barred by a field gate; it seemed to be private land from there so I retraced my steps to the bridge over the beck.
Across the bridge I skirted the rear wall of the church grounds and came out at Priest’s Mill, a restored early 18th century water mill originally built by the village rector at the time. Initially used for grinding corn, from 1933 it was used as a sawmill and joiner’s workshop until floods destroyed the mill dam in 1965. The mill was eventually restored, with the work being completed in 1985, and it now houses a couple of craft and gift shops, a cafe and a tea garden, and there’s a picnic area beside the river. The only machinery left is the 14ft diameter water wheel which has been restored to working order, and though I didn’t go inside anywhere the wheel pit area apparently displays a local collection of old rural implements.
A short walk up the track past Priest’s Mill brought me to a row of attractive cottages set sideways on to the road and a few yards along was the gate to St. Kentigern’s Church, also known as St. Mungo’s. Built on the site of a previous church dating from the 6th century the earliest parts of the current church date from the 12th and 13th centuries, with alterations made in 1512 and again in 1727 when the height of the tower was increased. In 1880 the building was restored by Carlisle architect C J Ferguson and a further restoration was carried out in 1932 by J F Martindale.
Close to the church is St. Mungo’s Well, a holy well where Christians were baptised in the 6th century, and in the churchyard is the grave of John Peel, a well known local huntsman who became the subject of the song D’ye ken JohnPeel? written by his friend John Woodcock. Also buried in the churchyard is Mary Robinson who became known as The Maid of Buttermere.
Mary was born in 1778, the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Hotel in Buttermere. At the age of 15 she caught the eye of Joseph Budworth, a soldier and writer who described her beauty in great detail in his light-hearted ramblers’ guide to the lakes and as a consequence she became quite a sensation. Five years later she married the Honourable Alexander Hope, MP for Linlithgowshire, and her wedding was reported in the London Morning Post by Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, though several people expressed their doubts about it. It turned out that they were right and the man was an imposter by the name of John Hatfield, a forger and swindler who was already married; convicted of his crimes he was hanged a year later leaving Mary heartbroken. Her popularity had grown though and she became the subject of many theatre plays, novels and poems. She went on to marry Richard Harrison, a local farmer, and they had four children together; she died in 1837 at the age of 59.
Along the road from the church I found the village store and a row of cottages with pretty gardens, and set in a triangle between three lanes was the local pub, the Oddfellows Arms. Heading back to the car park I passed another couple of rows of cottages and some more very pretty gardens separated from the road by Gill Beck, then a hundred yards or so further on I was back at the car park.
With my circuit of Caldbeck completed I headed the mile-and-a-half along the road to the neighbouring village of Hesket Newmarket and I have to admit to being totally underwhelmed. Although there wasn’t a great lot at Caldbeck it did have several interesting features and it was a very pretty place but there was hardly anything at Hesket Newmarket. Just a pub, a small chapel and a very small shop tucked away in a corner but other than that, zilch, nada, nothing, and no pretty gardens anywhere. Its one saving grace, for me at least, was the attractive view down the village green with the fields beyond, and with just one photo taken I returned to the van.
My route back to the camp site took me back through Caldbeck and towards Bassenthwaite, passing through the hamlet of Uldale before eventually reaching the A591 where a couple of miles north I reached the turn off which would take me close to the site. I’d previously only been along that particular lane just once, on my way to the site on my first day, and I hadn’t taken much notice of the surroundings but this time I did and the views were lovely.
At one point I could see Bassenthwaite Lake, which wasn’t really all that far away, so I stopped the van in a convenient place and got out to take a couple of photos. Unfortunately no amount of editing has been able to get rid of the overhead electricity cable very visible in the zoom shot but in reality it didn’t spoil the view at all.
Thinking about my afternoon out, if Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket hadn’t been suggested by Jayne, with Caldbeck also being featured in the ‘111 Places’ book, I would probably never have known about either of them or even gone there. Being a bit off the beaten track they certainly weren’t touristy places, in fact Hesket could best be described as ‘sleepy’, and though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the place I did like Caldbeck, so maybe some day in the future I’ll make a return visit.