Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District

Broughton Moor Slate

broughton moorThe window seats in the sunroom of Sykehouse Cottage is made from some truly beautiful and very local slate.

The Broughton Moor Quarry, half way between Broughton and Coniston, has been worked since the mid 19th century.  lakes slateIt gives a wonderfully rich mid-green stone with a beautiful tone and pale veins which give a distinctive and very pleasing range of irregular markings.  This makes it a favourite for stylish interiors (like ours, obviously …) and can be seen in our local merchant’s showrooms, Burlington Slate.  Their main website is

Show Time!

Held at West Park, known locally as the “Show Ground”, Millom & Broughton Show is on the last Saturday in August every year.  The field is easy to find: the first on the right running along the Coniston road and is a short walk from the holiday cottage.  If you are lucky enough to be in the area, it’s a lovely way to spend a day.

The Show Millom&broughton showis relatively small – contained in the one field – but has lots to look at and enjoy.  There are usually dog agility displays, fell racing, Cumberland wrestling and hound trailing, as well as all the livestock entrants, poultry tent and the fiercely competitive vegetable and flower competitions.

The tribe has variously entered edible necklaces, animals made out of vegetables, best handwriting of a poem and decorated wellies.  More senior members of the tribe enter marmalade, bread and photographs.

Other local shows in August 2015 are:

Duddon, Bleansey, Lickle.

duddon lickle walk Walk : Duddon, Bleansey, Lickle.

This short stroll down to the river and back up again is now called Uncle David’s Walk as we rambled around it after his funeral one fine September.

Turn right out of Sykehouse cottage and up the hill to the High Cross Inn.  Cross the busy A595 to the pavement beyond and walk down to find the signpost and gateway off to the left.  Leaving the traffic madness behiIMG_9018nd, stroll along the footpath across the River Lickle and fields down to the Duddon at a spot called The Sheep Dip.  Good bathing in the Summer.  At the river bank turn right and stroll along past the wild garlic and trees to the bridge.  Stopping for the obligatory skimming stones contest.

Then cross the road by the traffic lights at the bridge and climb up the Ulpha Road, pass the first set of houses at Bank End.  Look out for a rough track and signpost on the right leading up through some woods and out down the bottom of gorse covered Bleansley Bank.

IMG_9039At Lower Bleansley, a collection of farmhouses, turn right through the barns, down across the marshy pasturelands by the Lickle again, heading for Manor Farm.  Follow the farm road up to the Coniston Road.  Cross over to the White Gates of West Park, known by locals as the Show Field.  Stop and admire the newly dredged pond, before making you way back across the field and into Broughton Square by the Coniston Road.

Takes about 2 hrs.  One short steep climb through the woods at Bleansley Bank.

Jo McGrath : Tails of Cumbria

jo mcgrath guineapigLocal Broughton artist, McGrath, is having her first solo exhibition at Brantwood starting 11 January and going on until  9 March 2014.  Focusing on farm animals, her lively and affectionate style really brings out the character of her subjects and it is wonderful that she has landed this exhibition which hopefully will bring her wider recognition.

For guests at Sykehouse Cottage, her work can also be seen, and is for sale, at the Broughton Village Bakery.  (Look out for team Riggs’ favourite sketch of a Guinea Pig.)

For further information about Jo’s work. Please click on the link to her website or the Brantwood exhibition go to their website here.

Swill Basket Making in Broughton

swill1A swill is one of the most pleasing objects one could wish to possess.  It is a thing, complete and contained in itself, needing no explanation or props,  assured and possessed of a simple confidence – being both useful and beautiful.  As Ruskin said: ‘Nothing can be beautiful which is not true’ and a swill basket whispers “true” in a very lovely and understated way.

It is made from thin strips of woven oak and, so, is light and strong.  The closeness of the weave means that it is suitable for holding even very fine material. On the farm, these versatile baskets could be used for harvesting potatoes yet also for sowing seed. They were also used to carry coal or bobbins and, today, our family uses them as laundry baskets and, when there’s a baby, as a cradle.

The South Lakes was once a great centre for swill basket making. Bulmer’s Directory of Furness and Cartmel of 1910 showed a total of 13 swill-making shops in the area and, in Broughton, the focus of this industry was a cluster of buildings behind Cinder Hill, down by the park.

Today, there is just one man in the country who makes his living out of swill baskets. His name is Owen Jones and he lives at High Nibthwaite close to Coniston Water.  He was taught in 1988 by a retired ‘Swiller’ from Broughton called John Barker.  Owen runs workshops from his house and travels around the country attending fairs where you can see him making swills.  He has no trouble selling everything he makes.  If you would like further information about Owen and his work, click HERE for his own website.

There’s a swill in Sykehouse Cottage.  It is usually left on the stairs windowsill for guests to admire and use – if you’ve got any washing to hang out.  Carry your basket with one hand, the rim resting nicely on your hip bone.

The Duddon Mosses

© Natural England copyright 2013

Rather than going up, how about going along for a change?  Sometimes the South Lakes is so dominated by the Fells, we forget about the Estuary and looking out to sea.  The Duddon Mosses is a lowland raised peatbog just south of Broughton in Furness near the village of Foxfield.  It is one of the most important example of this type of peatbog in Britain.  Accessed via a series of boardwalks and clearly signposted, a stroll across the Mosses is a lovely contrast to climbing up and then scrambling down. (Again.)

There are information panels in Broughton Square and at Foxfield Station giving detail about the Mosses and describing a circular walk.

Here are bog plants such as Sphagnum moss, cotton grasses, bog rosemary, cranberry and the spookily carnivorous sundew.   In late spring and early summer, the fluffy heads of cotton grasses and yellow bog asphodel provide a delightful show.  There are plenty of insects and you may spot butterflies and moths as well as crickets, damselflies and dragonflies.  The Mosses are a haven for deer, adders, lizards and frogs.  Barn owls hunt over the Mosses at dusk and the temporary pools created as a result of restoration works are frequented by water birds such as teal and heron.

Steve Benn, the local Natural England officer, would like me to remind people to keep all dogs on a short lead between 1st March and 31st July when walking on the Duddon Mosses to protect the ground nesting birds during the breeding season.

And, of course, after all that fresh air, you could always stop by at the Prince of Wales in Foxfield, renowned for its selection of real ale, on your way home …

For a more detailed walking guide and map follow this link to the Natural England website.

1 Comment

Wordsworth’s The Westmorland Girl

In 1845, Wordsworth aged 75  wrote a poem to his grandchildren about a free spirited orphan girl who rescued a lamb from drowning:

“And the bleating mother’s Young-one, / Struggled with the flood in vain; / But, as chanced, a Cottage-maiden / (Ten years scarcely had she told) / Seeing, plunged into the torrent, / Clasped the Lamb and kept her hold.”

And, taking this one incident, the old man then inflated her brave and dramatic gesture to more lofty and inspiring heights for the younger members of his family:

“Watchful as a wheeling eagle, / Constant as a soaring lark, / Should the country need a heroine, / She might prove our Maid of Arc.”

This “Maid of Arc”, Sarah Davies, came to live in Broughton-in-Furness. She was buried in an unmarked grave on 4th September 1872 aged 37, a week after giving birth to a baby boy.

According to HV Koop who wrote a history of the town, a wreath was laid on her grave at the Wordsworth Centenary in 1950 and our local historian, Wal Greenhalgh, did much sleuthing to verify the facts.  A Sarah Mackereth was born in Grasmere in 1834 (or 5) and she married Samuel Davies in 1867.  The family moved to Broughton after the census of 1871 and in a town directory of 1876 there’s an entry for Samuel Davis as the farm bailiff at Eccleriggs.

When I contacted the staff at Wordworth Trust, they were delighted with this nugget of Wordsworthalia and Rebecca Turner, the Assistant Curator, added a little extra information from their collections:  in a letter of 1834, Wordsworth writes: “The little Poem which I ventured to send you lately I thought might interest you on account of the fact as exhibiting what sort of characters our mountains breed. It is truth to the Letter”. 

Fabulous! … what sort of characters our mountains breed”.

How did they know where to lay the wreath?

According to Wal Greenhalgh, the Vicar of the time wrote in the margin of the Parish Register: “Wordsworth’s Westmorland Girl” next to her name and, with great good fortune, the Barrow Record Office holds the Sexton’s notebook which details: “interred between Hancock’s tombstone of Myreside and William Fleming’s tombstone.”westmorland girl

If you would like to go and pay your respects in St Mary Magdalene’s churchyard, follow these instructions: from the South east corner of the church walk, at right angles to the church, into the graves (minding the crocuses and snowdrops!).  As you walk, keep looking to you right, soon as you come parallel to a sundial monument some graves away and half hidden by a tree, you’re at the spot. Find Jacob Knight’s tombstone (pictured), which is between Hancock’s and Fleming’s grave, and her unmarked grave is there, roughly under Jacob Knight’s.

If you would read another post about Wordsworth : Dorothy’s Daffodils :  click here.

Cumberland Sausage

Local man and ex chef, Gary McClure, caused quite a stir last August when his 11ft wide coiled sausage arrived in Broughton’s market square.  The Cumberland Sausage was cooked on portable barbecues and held by a specially made skillet in a successful attempt to break the World Record for the biggest ever continuous sausage ring.  This was filmed by Channel 5 and broadcast in January 2013.

Cumberland sausage ring

Cumberland sausage is a local speciality and each butcher has their own recipe.  No one knows how the sausage got its distinctive rope shape and spiced taste.  Though there are several speculations.  The spices maybe because of the spice ships sailing into Whitehaven during the 18th century when the town was the third largest port in the country.  It has been suggested that the coiled loops were just more practical but I prefer the possibility that they were first made by the German miners who came to Cumbria during Elizabeth 1’s reign as a reminder of their Bregenwurst from home.  Whatever the true provenance, the Cumberland sausage, it soon became a well established feature on the household menu in Cumbria.

Since 2011 the sausage has Protected Geographical Indication status under EU law and so, like Cornish clotted cream and Stilton cheese, it can only be made in Cumbria and be sold in a long coil.

So when you come and stay at Sykehouse Cottage, you should pop into Melville Tyson’s, the butchers in Broughton in Furness and buy a length of their own delicious Cumberland Sausage – a perfect teatime treat after a long walk.

Broughton Village Bakery

Wonderful display of breads, pastries and cakes at the Broughton Village Bakery

Wonderful display of breads, pastries and cakes at the Broughton Village Bakery

When Shaun & Christina Bryant took over the bakery in October 2011, the whole of Broughton held their breath.  The previous owners, Lara and Darren, had made such a good job of running the bakery and cafe that it quickly became a tourist and local favourite.  Broughton is a small town and each business is important to the welfare of the local economy so when we learnt that they were novices at the game, well, there were a lot of raised eyebrows.

We needn’t have worried.

They have just appeared in ITV’s “Britain’s Best Bakery” winning both the Lake District and the Northern Regional final.  How fantastic is that?

What’s more, it is open at 9am every day except Monday so you can walk down Church Street and have a lovely coffee and croissant for breakfast …

My personal favourite to take home is their Cheese and Herb Plait – great toasted then spread with butter and Marmite.