After most of the month being cloudy and grey with a fair bit of rain we had a few days of sunshine last week so on one of the days I took Snowy and Poppie on the first really good walk of the year. At first I was reluctant to take the camera as it’s a walk I’ve done many times before and featured on here more than once but the day was too nice not to take it.
A short 7-minute drive from home took me to the Last Drop Village and leaving the van in the rear car park I set off across the adjacent fields, with the moorland of Winter Hill in the distance ahead of me. I expected a lot of the ground to be wet and muddy but a few recent very frosty nights and cold days made sure most of it was frozen and dry. The track at the far side of the fields took me through an area of scrubland to the traffic-free lane bypassing the old quarry; at one time I enjoyed wandering round the quarry and would often see rabbits scampering about in the sunshine but now it’s really overgrown and has an oppressive feel to it. Even the once pretty little pond on the top level is so overgrown and choked with weed that the one photo I took was immediately deleted.
At the end of the lane I turned right along the path running between farmland and the fenced-off forested rear edge of the quarry; if I was going to encounter any wet and muddy patches that’s where I would find them as the narrow drainage ditch running between the path and the fields often overflows in wet weather but again everything was dry. A left turn at the end of the path took me up the side of the first field to the gate onto the golf course and not far along the track I was rewarded with the sight of a small clump of early flowering bright yellow gorse, while further along the iced-over pond looked like it needed some work to clear all the overgrown reeds.
Just past the pond three golfers pushed their trolleys up a track on the left to the green at the top of the slope and out of sight on my right the sound of a small tractor indicated that some work was being undertaken somewhere. Following the track downhill I eventually came to the fence and gate separating the golf course from open grazing land and I was just about to open the gate when my eye was caught by a movement a distance ahead. Two deer were running across the field but before I could even lift up the camera they had disappeared into the trees at the far side.
Across the fields a second gate and a cattle grid took me over a small brook to the lane leading across the castellated railway bridge to the grounds of Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line; James Kay, who owned the tower and it’s grounds at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and while the second bridge is just a normal footbridge this one incorporates a viewing tower.
At the far side of the bridge a path took me through the nearby woods where I wandered along to the formal garden and lawn then round to the front of the building. Back on the lane it was just a couple of hundred yards to the main road then almost a mile-and-a-half of road walking to get back to the Last Drop Village.
Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family who once lived at Turton Tower. In 1930 William Carr, a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally, bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but over the years the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm and its land were sold.
The new owner, Carlton Walker, was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal Mr Walker’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and it’s also a very popular wedding venue.
With the sunshine just taking the edge off the coldness of the day and the bonus of seeing the deer running through the fields it had been a very enjoyable walk, now it was time to head for home and an appointment with a mug of coffee.
After what seems like weeks of constantly dull grey days and interminably wet weather culminating in storm whatever-it-was-called and a couple of days of (fortunately very short-lived) snow showers, Thursday two days ago was absolutely glorious. Now the dogs are like me, they hate wet weather and their recent walks have been relegated to ’round the block’ or even just ’round the garden’ if it’s been really bad, so Thursday’s sunshine and blue sky was a good opportunity to finally get out for a decent local walk.
Across the nearby park was Smithills Open Farm with the two farm dogs sunning themselves behind some newly installed railings, then along the lane I came to the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall, although with no leaves on the trees it isn’t exactly hidden just now. In a corner of the lawns Little Bess’s grave contained the remains of just one artificial plant and across the far side two ladies, both wearing red coats, were sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine.
There’s only one thing wrong with taking the camera on a local walk which I’ve done several times previously – the photos I take are almost the same as the ones I took before and the ones before that, but it was such a lovely day I hadn’t wanted to leave the camera behind. The path alongside what had been the old garden centre boundary wall was covered in russet coloured leaves, soggy from all the recent rain, and at the far end of the nearby field two ponies, one rugged up against the cold weather, mooched about quietly minding their own business.
Beyond the field the path crossed a narrow brook and joined up with three other paths; from there I could see across 16 miles to the city centre high rises of Manchester, including the ugly Beetham Tower, and I could even make out the red and white Printworks sign. The shortest route from there would have been straight on but I took the path on the right which meandered down and round the edge of a small area of woodland before joining up with the far end of one of the other paths.
From there it was just a 5-minute walk through the nearby farm yard and down a short lane to the main road then ten minutes down the hill and I was back in my own street. It had been good to get out into the fresh air and though it was cold the sunshine and blue sky had made it a very enjoyable walk.
After all the grey, damp and drizzly weather we had locally during October and early this month we recently had a couple of really nice sunny days so one morning I took the dogs for a walk round Rivington Terraced Gardens, somewhere I hadn’t been to for quite a while.
In 1899 local soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) and one of Bolton’s most famous and generous benefactors, bought a large parcel of land below Rivington Pike on the western slopes of Winter Hill with ideas on how it might be developed, and in 1901 a single storey prefabricated timber bungalow supplied by a firm in Manchester was erected on a level section of the hillside. Named Roynton Cottage it was designed by Lever’s old school friend Jonathan Simpson and was intended for weekend visits and shooting parties.
Four years later Lever met landscape architect Thomas Mawson and the two collaborated in the design of the terraced gardens though Lever himself influenced the actual layout and also designed Lever Bridge which crossed the main lane through the gardens. With one large arch crossed by six smaller ones it was based on a bridge Lever had seen during a trip to Nigeria and is now known locally as Seven Arch Bridge. Work on the gardens spanned a 16-year period from 1906 and in 1921 the landscape and architectural firm of James Pulham & Son were responsible for the creation of a steep rocky ravine with waterfalls and a Japanese-style garden with three pagodas, inspired by a visit Lever had made to Japan several years earlier.
In 1913 the bungalow was destroyed in an arson attack by suffragette Edith Rigby. The stone-built replacement was on a much grander scale and was a place for entertaining; along with a dining room, morning room, lounge, library, study, kitchen and servants’ quarters it also incorporated a music gallery, a circular ballroom, glass-roofed pergola and a winter garden. Following Lever’s death in 1925 the house and gardens were purchased by Bolton brewer John Magee then after his death in 1939 the site was acquired by Liverpool Corporation; in 1948 the bungalow and its entrance lodges were demolished and the gardens were opened up to the public. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 the site passed to the North West Water Authority and along with much of the surrounding land is now owned by United Utilities.
After decades of nature being allowed to take its course the gardens gradually became overgrown in many places and in 2014 the site was named by the BBC Countryfile programme as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens. In early 2016 the Rivington Heritage Trust secured £3.4million from the Heritage Lottery fund to improve, revitalise and maintain the gardens and their features and a huge repair and conservation project was soon undertaken. With non-native shrubs and self-seeded trees being cleared away, remaining stone buildings being made safe and accessible, and several original paths and stone stairways being uncovered the gardens eventually began to look how they once might have been. When I last went up there three years ago conservation work was very much ongoing, now it seems to have finished and as I walked round the gardens it was a delight to discover features I hadn’t known existed or which had previously been inaccessible.
Originally called the Dovecote Tower, the Grade II listed Pigeon Tower as it’s now known was built in 1910 by R Atkinson to a design by Thomas Mawson, commissioned by Lever as a gift to his wife, Elizabeth Ellen. A 4-storey building with a basement entrance, each storey was just one single room with the floors linked by a solid stone spiral staircase running up the spine of the building. The first and second floors housed ornamental doves and pigeons while the top floor was Lady Lever’s sewing room/music room. Above the ornate fireplace was the family motto and a circular emblem with the letters spelling out ‘WHEEL’, the initials of William Hesketh and Elizabeth Ellen Lever.
As part of the recent conservation project the Pigeon Tower has been sympathetically restored and with a new roof and windows, repairs to the stonework, new flooring and an aesthetically-pleasing security door with oak wood surround the building is now completely safe and open to visitors during special events and Open Days, although any doves and pigeons have long since disappeared. Situated on the highest level of the terraced gardens the nearby lane has far reaching views westwards across the Lancashire Plains to the coast and northwards to the hills of the south Lake District, while North Wales can be seen from the top of the tower itself.
It was just after I’d walked round the Japanese Lake that an unfortunate incident occurred. Steps took me down a steep bank from one end of the lake to the path below and as I walked up the path, and right out of the blue, a big dog came running down the bank, fell off the retaining wall, picked itself up and immediately attacked Snowy and Poppie. I’m not sure if it had seen my two from the bank and decided to attack or if it was just running along the bank and went too fast to stop before it fell off the wall but it landed almost at the side of me and so suddenly I had no time to react.
Poppie ran behind me but Snowy had a go back though it was much bigger than her and things almost developed into a full-on fight; although it wasn’t actually a pit bull it looked very much like that type of dog and I really thought Snowy was going to get hurt. There was no sign of the owners but they couldn’t have been far away so I just yelled as loud as I could for someone to call the dog then I heard a man’s voice calling it from the other side of the bank and telling someone to put it on the lead. Fortunately it ran back up the bank and I didn’t see it again, or its owners whoever they were. The whole incident only lasted a minute or two but to be attacked so suddenly like that really shook me up – thankfully Snowy was okay but it won’t have helped her dislike of other dogs.
After the dog incident the rest of the walk was fine and as I headed down the long path back towards the car park I was happy to see a squirrel running along some nearby tree branches and a robin which landed in the grass not too far away. It seemed happy to stay put while I took a couple of photos then it flew up onto a nearby fence post and posed for another quick shot before flying off into the trees.
Apart from the incident with the dog it was a very enjoyable walk and it had been good to discover parts of the terraced gardens which I hadn’t previously seen or known about. It’s a very extensive place and I know there are other paths which I haven’t yet explored so maybe next spring, once the trees get their new leaves, the three of us will go back to see what else we can find.
Going home day arrived with more blue sky and glorious sunshine making me wish I could extend my holiday but unfortunately all good things have to end sometime. After a leisurely breakfast I started on the even more leisurely packing up process and eventually left the site at 2.30pm, though as a final part of the holiday I was stopping off somewhere on the way home.
The village of Greystoke, just five miles west of Penrith, was featured in my ”111 Places” book and it sounded interesting enough for me to want to take a look, though when I got there I was disappointed to find that the castle isn’t open to the public. Surrounding a small green with an ancient market cross dating back to the early 1600s the village was a very pleasant mix of old stone cottages and more modern houses, with a small shop-cum-post office, an outdoor swimming pool, St. Andrew’s Parish Church and the Boot & Shoe public house, while on the outskirts were racehorse trainer Nicky Richards’ racing stables, breeders of two Grand National winners in 1978 and 1984 respectively.
Greystoke Castle began life as a timber pele tower built by Llyulph de Greystoke. After the Norman conquest it was replaced in 1069 with a stone built tower then in 1346 King Edward III gave permission for the building to be castellated, resulting in the creation of the castle proper. In the early 16th century the Greystokes married into the wealthy Dacre family and in the 1560s Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, met and secretly married widow Elizabeth Dacre who had inherited the castle and its land on the death of her husband, 4th Baron Dacre/Baron Greystoke. With Thomas Howard’s three sons marrying Elizabeth’s three daughters the castle and its estate passed into the hands of the Dukes of Norfolk and the subsequent Howard family.
In 1660 the castle was destroyed by Cromwell and lay dormant for a generation, with a small manor house being built on the site from reclaimed stone. The castle was later rebuilt and enlarged in the 1840s to a design by renowned Victorian architect Anthony Salvin and the extensive estate land was converted into a modern farm. In 1868 a disaster occurred when a maid left a lighted candle in a cupboard full of linen, with the resulting fire destroying large parts of the castle. It was then rebuilt by Henry Howard, with Salvin being brought in to oversee the reconstruction using labour and materials from within the estate. Henry even returned some money to his insurance company saying that he had been over-compensated for his losses.
In 1912 author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was a regular visitor to Greystoke Castle, wrote Tarzan of theApes using the little-known place as Tarzan’s ancestral home, though the work was purely fiction as all previous 18 generations of the Greystoke family had been accounted for and none of them were ever raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. In 1939 the estate was commandeered by the army and the land became a tank-drivers’ training ground, while the castle itself later became a prisoner-of-war camp largely for Polish men who had been fighting for the Germans, with the prisoners providing labour to run local farms where the men-folk were away fighting.
In 1949 the army decided that it no longer wanted to retain the Greystoke estate but by that time the damage done to the castle and the estate itself was overwhelming and the compensation fund had been exhausted. So began the long slow process of restoration and modernisation, started by Stafford Howard and which has continued in some form ever since. Of course a castle isn’t a castle without an obligatory ghost or two and Greystoke supposedly has nine, including the statutory white lady, a monk who was bricked up within the walls and a butler who likes to play tricks on people down in the wine cellar where he drowned in a huge barrel of the stuff.
Fourteen generations of the Howard family have lived in the castle so far, with the current owner being Neville Howard, and though the place isn’t open to the general public residents of the village are allowed to walk in the parkland and the grounds can be hired for charity events, concerts and off-road driver training, especially for mountain rescue teams, while some of the rooms in the castle can be hired for conferences, civil weddings and receptions.
Under the pretence of being a resident I decided to take a walk up the long driveway to see if I could get within photo distance of the castle, and not too far along was an extensive garden with several colourful beehives dotted about among the trees and bushes. Another couple of minutes and I was within sight of the castle but I could see a couple of people up ahead so not wanting to be noticed I took a quick shot from the safety of some nearby foliage then retreated back down the driveway to the road.
Across the other side of the village green was The Boot & Shoe Inn, originally an old coach house dating from 1511. According to my ‘111 Places’ book a very informative board describing the history of the village could be found on the way into the pub garden but though I looked all over I couldn’t find it anywhere. The large courtyard garden was very attractive though, with tables and seating on paved terraces and a raised grass area at the end with a couple of 3D murals between the trees.
Across the road from the pub was the village shop and post office while round the corner was the outdoor pool and small cafe, both now closed, and at the far end of the street St. Andrew’s Church. It was open to visitors so I spent quite a while looking round, though there was so much of interest it deserves a future post of its own.
Making the church the last stop on my walk round the village I headed back to the car park; time was getting on and I didn’t want to be too late back home. With no traffic delays on the roads it was a good drive back and the sun staying with me all the way made the perfect end to another enjoyable Cumbrian holiday.
After a bit of a misty start it turned into a beautiful sunny morning and for the last full day of the holiday I was going to somewhere I hadn’t previously been. Ennerdale Water is the most westerly of all the lakes and according to various sources is the least visited – with my preference for quieter places I was looking forward to a good dog walk where hopefully I wouldn’t meet too many people.
It was a nice easy drive from Cockermouth down the A5086 then round the country lanes and through Ennerdale Bridge village. With a choice of two car parks I went to Bowness Knott on the north side of the lake first but didn’t stay long. The car park itself was set among tall conifers at the edge of a large forest on the narrower part of the lake; with the sun behind the higher fells to the south quite a bit of the area was in shade so I only took a short walk before driving to the other car park, making a couple of brief photo stops on the way.
The second car park, Bleach Green, was at the south western corner of the lake where a short walk through a wooded area and along a wide pleasant path took me to the widest and more open part. A small weir allowed water from the lake to feed the River Ehen and the views down the lake itself were stunning.
When I’d first thought about going to Ennerdale I’d also thought about walking all the way round the lake – at only two-and-a-half miles long and less than a mile wide at its widest point it certainly sounded doable – but that was before I’d read some information about the area on a ‘Lakes walking’ website. It seemed that a certain section of the path on the south side involved a fair bit of scrambling and ‘hands on rock’ – not a good idea with two dogs in tow so for safety and sanity I stuck to the western end of the lake.
A path close to the weir took me through an area of small trees and bracken before emerging close to the lakeside and several times I went down to the water’s edge to let Snowy and Poppie have a paddle. At one point I came across a couple of backpacks and a coolbag on the ground and just down below the path two ladies were having a lakeside picnic; they had chosen a great spot and it looked like they were having a nice time.
As I got round to the north side of the lake the path veered away from the water and took me through an area of scrubland; a little way ahead was a gate so I used that as my turn-round point and retraced my steps. About halfway along I saw something I hadn’t noticed before as I was too busy looking at the views over the lake. In a grassy clearing set back off the path was a bench and what appeared to be a good view over the nearby fields but the bench was occupied by a couple with an off-lead dog bigger than my two so I didn’t go for a closer look.
Back at the weir I found that corner of the lake was occupied by an older teenager/young man about to set off on a stand-up paddle board. I watched him for a while as he paddled further out across the water; he was obviously on his own and with no life jacket so I hoped he would be okay if he fell in, especially as there was a “Danger – deep water – No swimming” sign close to where he’d left his things.
With the final couple of shots taken I headed back to the van for the return drive to the camp site – it had been a lovely few hours out and I’d been very impressed by the views around Ennerdale. Since getting back home I’ve found out that there’s a cafe in the nearby village so with the possibility of being able to get a coffee and a snack that area is now on my ‘must return’ list of places.
It was another lovely morning full of sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, with the nearby fells so clear they seemed to be within touching distance so I knew just what I was going to do with my day. Distance-wise, this time I was only driving the 11 miles to Keswick but making a photo stop on the way.
There aren’t many places on Bassenthwaite Lake where you can actually get to the water but the north west corner is one of them and it was on my route from the camp site to Keswick. Leaving the van in the first of two small parking areas set back off the lane I went down through the trees and walked along the lakeside until I could go no further without getting very wet feet. Heading south down the A66 a while later the views across the lake were so lovely that I pulled up briefly in a lay-by to get another couple of shots before continuing on to Keswick.
A couple of days before the start of the holiday a suggestion had been made via email that if I wanted (quote) “a nice fell walk that doesn’t involvemountaineering but gives stupendous views” I might like to consider Latrigg, so having checked it out on Google maps that’s where I was headed. Parking was on a residential road on the outskirts of Keswick where an unadopted lane ran for quite a distance, taking me over the A66 to the start of the footpath up the fell. An information board showed the various paths and bridleways around and up the fell and as the main path in front of me seemed to be quite steep and uneven I decided to take a level path through the woods instead.
All went well for quite a distance and it was a very pleasant walk but then I hit a big problem – a huge area of woodland extending almost to the top of the hillside had been felled and ripped out by machinery and any semblance of a footpath had completely disappeared. With nothing but piles of dried out branches and vegetation and the remains of tree trunks sticking up everywhere it looked like the aftermath of the apocalypse. So I had two choices – retrace my steps to the main path or try to find a way up the hillside. I suppose I should really have turned back but dogged determination made me continue, using the machinery tracks as a path.
The first hundred yards or so weren’t too bad but then the machinery tracks went vertically up the extremely steep hillside. To make matters worse some of them held pools of stinky, muddy stagnant water and I often had to walk along the top of the banked up earth in the centre – negotiating tree stumps and dead vegetation and trying not to let myself or the dogs slip into muddy water was certainly a challenge. I should really have taken a photo to show just how steep the hillside was but concentrating on getting up to the top without doing myself a mischief meant I wasn’t really in the mood to use the camera.
Just over halfway up and over to my right was a barbed wire fence and a wooden gate leading to a very pleasant looking grassy part of the hillside – if I could get to it the rest of the climb might be a bit easier. There was only one thing wrong – running down the hillside in a dip between me and the gate was a stream which needed to be crossed. Carefully picking my way down into the dip I found a very narrow bit of the stream where I could step across via a couple of flat stones then up the other side of the dip I finally reached the gate.
Unfortunately it was fastened shut but that was no problem, I just posted the dogs through the bottom of it then climbed over – and what a difference there was in the terrain. A narrow but smooth and level grassy track led through an area of russet coloured bracken, the few small trees dotted about sported their autumn berries and the views to the south and east were opening up in front of me – it all looked rather lovely. It wasn’t long though before I had to start climbing again; the hillside was just as steep as before but at least the grassy track made things a bit easier.
Finally, just over an hour after I started my epic climb, I reached the top of the hillside and the gate which took me onto the ridge of the fell. It was a joy to see some reasonably flat land and after such a steep and strenuous climb I felt like I should have planted a flag there to celebrate conquering the mountain. My climb hadn’t been without incident though – several times I’d been attacked by bits of dried out tree lying on the ground and the back of my legs had sustained several scratches which still haven’t completely disappeared.
I hadn’t been on top of the fell for long when four RAF jets came out of nowhere and flew at speed one after the other right over my head. They were very loud and very low, so low that they only just skimmed the top of the fell and the earsplitting noise terrified Snowy but fortunately they were gone in seconds, disappearing out of sight up Bassenthwaite Lake.
After spending some time taking in the views and recovering from my climb I set off on the downward journey, this time on the path that I should really have gone up. It was a fairly easy-to-walk zig-zag route which gave me some more lovely views over other nearby fells, with the last few hundred yards of the path being the steep bit which I should have gone up at the start. Eventually I was back on the unadopted lane crossing over the A66 and my last shot of the day was taken just before I reached the road where I’d left the van.
At 1,207ft Latrigg is one of the smaller fells – I’d climbed up it, walked down it, got some good photos in the process and the dogs had a good walk, now it was time to go back to the camp site and relax for the rest of the day.
While writing this post I came across a photo on the internet which I’m including here. The screen capture from Google maps shows the hillside before the Forestry Commission got their machines on it – the blue line is where I walked through the woods, the yellow shows the area of trees which have been felled and the red is my route up the hillside. The photo shows the steepness of the hillside – although the bottom of the hill is obscured the red line shows part of my route to the top, with the white spot denoting the gate I climbed over.
Would I go up Latrigg Fell again? At the moment the jury’s out on that one but I won’t deny that the views were certainly ‘stupendous’ so if I’m on another camping holiday in Cumbria and the weather is right then maybe – although if I do I’ll make sure I use the proper path to get there.
A day in which I meet one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever come across…
The middle Sunday of September saw me leaving home in drizzly rain and grey cloud for my second holiday at the Cumbrian farm site I love so much, though I hadn’t gone too far up the M6 before the rain stopped. By the time I’d got past the turn off for Lancaster and Morecambe the sun was shining, staying with me all the way to the camp site, and with just two caravans and two campervans across from the tent pitches it looked like it would be a quiet week.
Dotted about round the site are several picnic benches available for anyone to take onto their pitch and use while they are there so with the tent up and everything organised inside I’d dragged the nearest one, which was sitting in the middle of the grass at the end of the site, onto my pitch so I could fasten the dogs’ tie-out cables to the legs. There had been no-one around at the time but I was just about to make a brew later on when the guy from the caravan on the pitch diagonally opposite came across – and you’ll just have to imagine his tone of voice, which wasn’t very nice at all.
Pointing to the picnic bench he said “I was going to use that!!” Now to suddenly be spoken to like that by someone I’d never met before rather surprised and shocked me but before I could say anything he pointed to a bench further down the site and said “I suppose I’ll have to go and get that one now!!” and off he went, back into his caravan. I saw him a while later carrying another bench along the track through the site but he dumped it on the next-but-one pitch to mine and when I looked later I saw it was more of a child sized one so obviously not big enough for him.
Now I could ~ maybe ~ have understood this guy’s attitude if ‘my’ bench had been on or very close to his pitch, in which case I wouldn’t have taken it anyway, but it had been nowhere near his caravan so I didn’t know why he should decide to claim ownership of it and come over and verbally accost me. Needless to say, although I did speak to several other people on site over the course of the next ten days I kept well away from him and didn’t let the encounter spoil my holiday.
For my final holiday post I thought I would include some of the many creatures which call the camp site and farm their home. When I stayed there two years ago, aside from a large flock of sheep, 24,000 chickens and two dogs, the farm’s animal collection consisted of four pygmy goats, a small collection of hand reared/captive-bred birds in large aviaries and a few ponies which I never saw, however several changes since then have seen the addition of more birds, a couple of rheas, some alpacas and several rabbits.
The aviaries were set back in a pleasant area behind the facilities block, some of them having information plaques attached, while the ponies were in the field in front of my tent and the alpacas and rheas in paddocks to the side. A wide gravel track ran between the paddocks and down at the bottom were the goats, while the rabbits were in an enclosure at the corner of the farm track. It was all a very well thought out set up and reminded me a bit of a small-scale version of a wildlife park.
Great grey owl, native to North America, Europe and Asia
Burrowing owl, native to North and South America
Of course I couldn’t forget my own two camp site creatures, Snowy and Poppie. It was Snowy’s first holiday and while Poppie preferred to lie in the shade under the table Snowy liked to stand on the table so she could see what was going on around us, though she wasn’t happy about having to stay in her travel crate while I took the tent down on going home day.
After having lovely sunny weather for most of the holiday going home day was cloudy and grey. The rain arrived just after I left the site and it lasted until I was halfway home then the clouds cleared and the sunshine and blue sky returned, staying with me for the rest of the day – it was a perfect end to a lovely holiday.
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.
Well you might if you actually live in the countryside but not if you live in a town or the suburbs. Spending the first full day of my holiday on the camp site to rest my painful foot I was able to see things which, even though I only live ten minutes walk from local countryside and moorland, I wouldn’t normally get to see unless I just happened to be in a certain place at the right time.
Driving back from town after picking up some more painkillers I rounded a bend in the lane and had to stop to let a couple of pedestrians cross in front of me. They were in no hurry but then neither was I, and eventually they made it to the other side and disappeared through the nearby farm gate to join their companions.
Closer to the camp site I had to stop again and this time I got out of the van to take the photos. I’d just snapped the third one when I heard the sound of a car approaching the nearby bend; mother duck and her youngsters were just about to cross the lane so I stepped out and signalled the driver to stop, which fortunately he did, and the little family crossed safely, disappearing through a gate into the garden of a nearby cottage.
Later that day, sitting in the sun with my foot resting on the door pocket of the open van door, I heard the unmistakable sound of a tractor and looked up to see a John Deere and forage trailer advancing down the field in front of me. This was followed by a Krone BIG 780 forage harvester and three more tractors with trailers, then with one tractor driving alongside the harvester the previously cut grass was scooped up and chopped up for silage by the machine then deposited into the trailer, and as one trailer became full the tractor drove away and the next one took its place.
It was great watching the farm machinery at work though I have to admit that with my own previous experience of owning and driving vintage tractors I would have loved to get up in one of those modern ones. With the four tractors running in relay the whole operation was completed with no interruptions and it didn’t take long before the whole field was cleared, then once the harvester and tractors had finally gone the camp site became quiet once more and peace remained for the rest of the day.