Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District


Smoots, Boles and Squeeze Stiles

The dry stone walls of the Lake District are such beautiful things.  Walking alongside and over them on our ramblings across the South Lakes we have become quite adept spotting various holes and ledges in these field enclosures.

Merchant-and-Makers-Dry-Stone-Walls-32-Water-smootThere’s a SMOOT which, I think, is any small hole generally ground level in the wall.  I have come across two types: a Water Smoot for drainage and a Rabbit Smoot.  I was curious as to why a farmer would take the trouble to build a rabbit tunnel until I came across this on the Ruskin Museum’s website :

 “Smoots allowed rabbits and hares to pass from the fell into the intakes (fields). Sometimes stone-lined pits were dug below the smoots having a wooden trough, above which was a counter- weighted trap door. The rabbit would fall into the pit and this could be used to supplement a countryman’s diet.”

beatrix potterOccasionally in walls beside farms, we have also come across a small recess with a slate base.  This is a BEE BOLE.  The farmer would put his straw bee hive or skep on this to protect it from rain and wind.  A Bee Bole usually faced South to South East so that the morning sun would warm up the hive.    You can see a Bole at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top though it is filled with a more modern hive.  Click here for more about Hill Top.

If you are interested in discovering more about Bee Boles there’s a delightful website run by the International Bee Research Association called the Bee Bole Register.  (What else?)   Click here for the link.

lake districtAnd a SQUEEZE STILE is just as you would imagine … instead of steps built into the wall, you must squeeze through the small gap.  Unfortunately, overweight dogs of the Team Rigg party need to be lifted over the obstacle.


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 www.burlingtonstone.co.uk


Windermere Jetty

windermereIf you read many of our posts, you will realise we are fascinated by all things industrial in the history of the Lake District and so we are thrilled about The Lakeland Arts’ new development, Windermere Jetty.  This is the new name for the Windermere Steamboat Museum and will house a unique collection of historic vessels with a working and possibly viewable (yes, please) conservation workshop.  Scanning through the publicity, it looks as though “the Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories” will be a fun and inspiring experience and a great addition to a visitors’ itinerary.

windermereThe opening of Windermere Jetty is scheduled for completion in 2016 and, in the meantime, Lakeland Arts are “Just Visiting” at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre, where you can find more information this exciting project.  Click this link through to the Lakeland Arts main website.  And this link will take you to their informative WordPress blog.


Half Term Walk from Hodge Close

hodge closeWe parked at the dramatic Hodge Close Slate Quarry near Coniston. A good spot to park the car as long as you don’t mind the terrifyingly deep  – and unfenced – excavations.  One peek over the edge is enough for me though it is a favourite of abseilers and divers.  After a hour and an half ramble over good tracks and through lovely woods and past Cathedral Cavern, we reached our destination: The Three Shires Inn.  This is a lovely traditional slate inn built in 1872 and it gets its name from a point on Wrynose Pass, close by , where the boundaries of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire used to meet.  Chips and Cumberland sausage were ordered and halves of Loweswater Gold, Cumberland Ale and Hawkshead Red consumed. Marvellous. We took a shorter return route across Stang End Farm  as the clouds had gathered: just 30 mins to the car.  This walk is about 20 minutes drive (12 miles) from Sykehouse Cottage. woods


Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Stott_Park_Bobbin_Mill_Steam_EngineThis is a fascinating mill run by English Heritage.  They fire up the Victorian Steam Engine the first weekend of every month and bank holidays from April through September (they are open from April til the end of the October half term) and there are family friendly guided tours around the mill.

It’s small, personable and even I can understand what most of the moving parts are doing!  You can really get a sense of what it must have been like for the 250 men and boys who churned out a 1/4 million bobbins a week – wading through waist deep discarded shavings to keep warm in the winter.  And it’s a great way to inspire budding engineers – or potential industrial historians!

Stott Park Bobbin Mill is about a 1/2 hour drive from the holiday cottage, just north of Newby Bridge.  For more details click here for the English Heritage website.


Norman Nicholson : The Fierce South Lakes Poet

norman nicholsonThe sun has set / Behind Black Combe and the lower hills, / But northward to the fells / Like gilded galleons on a sea of shadow / Float sunlit yet. (South Cumberland, 16 May 1943)

Norman Nicholson was born in 1914 and so I hope there will be many celebrations of his poetry and writing coming up. Apart from the two year bed rest he spent in a sanatorium, Norman lived his whole life in Millom, writing poems both about the fells and the ironworks.

His poems have a honesty and a sometimes shy, sometimes defiant, open handedness about them which makes them very appealing.

His obituary in The Times described Norman as “provincial”.  He fought against this term as a put down and defended the label as a valuable, compassionate and humane perspective on life which we all respond to.  In his most famous poem, “The Pot Geranium”,  he describes the little plant thus: ” “A pot geranium flies its bright balloon … My ways are circumscribed, confined as a limpet / To one small radius of rock; yet / I eat the equator, breathe the sky, and carry / The great white sun in the dirt of my finger nails.”  Wow.

© The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited


Duddon Iron Furnace

duddon valley blast furnaceThe restored remains of Duddon Iron Works are the most complete surviving example of  a charcoal-fired blast furnace in the country and, happily for us, are just past the Duddon Bridge outside Broughton in Furness.  It’s such a beautiful building, in a lovely setting and I marvel at the ingenuity and elegance of the Works.

In the 18th Century, blast furnaces revolutionised the way iron ore could be processed. Large furnaces were built using water power to drive bellows which could pump air into the combustion chamber to create an intense heat.  The water wheel is missing but the course of the leat (or stream) has been traced, bringing water from the river half a mile away. Higher up the hill is the charcoal store, 100 feet in length, and as high as a church.

Duddon Ironworks was established in 1736 and operated until 1866, smelting iron ore bought in by boat from Millom.  Pig iron cast here was sent to Chepstow and Bristol where it was used in the manufacture of anchors, chains and other iron work for ships.  It’s called “pig iron” because the molten metal ran out at the base of the furnace into sand moulded into a branching structure of one central runner and lots of little ingots which looked rather like a litter of piglets suckling on a sow.

The buildings are in the care of the Lake District National Park. At the site, this information panel gives a description of the various parts of the furnace and, in the drawing, you can see the ingots laid out.Duddon Iron Works

If you take the road out of Broughton, past the High Cross, towards Millom (A595), immediately after the bridge, turn right and the furnace is a short way along on the left and can be seen from the road.