“Shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal, than it is to the man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature?”
The idea of scenic pleasure touring in this country rather than abroad began in the mid C18th and with it came a new aesthetic approach which disregarded symmetry to focus more on accidental irregularity and the charm of the “rustic”. A leading thinker of this new approach was Cumbrian born, Gilpin. His writings were a direct challenge to the ideology of the Grand Tour and he showed how an exploration of rural Britain could compete with the Continent.
Gilpin was born in Scaleby, just north of Carlisle, on 4 June 1724. From an early age, he was a sketcher and collector of prints, but while his brother became a painter, William went into the church and subsequently became a headmaster. His interest in prints produced instructional writing and, in his Essay on Prints (1768), Gilpin defined picturesque as “that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture”.
Picturesque-hunters began visiting the Lakes hunting out suitable scenes to sketch using Claude Glasses – tinted mirrors to frame and darken the view, and named after the 17th century landscape painter Claude Lorrain. Of course, the Picturesque fashion was ripe for mockery and Gilpin was satirised in a comic poem, The Three Tours of Dr. Syntax, which was illustrated by Rowlandson. Here he is: “Tumbling in the Water”.
I wonder how many chasers of the Picturesque get into scrapes nowadays from concentrating on capturing that special view rather than where they are putting their feet?
We spent a glorious Easter Saturday last year walking around Eskdale, one of the most picturesque valleys in Britain. Starting at the car park by Trough House Bridge, we strolled along the banks of the River Esk then climbed up to the impressive falls of Stanley Ghyll Force. On the way we popped in to visit the beautiful little church of St Catherine’s. The building was much restored in c19th but still retains its simple charm. This beautiful valley is about half an hour’s drive from Sykehouse Cottage and you can find more information from the local website if you click here.
How marvellous! Here at Sykehouse Cottage we just love the cabinet of curiosities that is Kendal Museum. The place houses the Kendal and Westmorland Galleries, the World Wildlife Exhibition, The Lake District Natural History Gallery and The Hamer Mineral Collection.
The late John Hamer was a potholer and mineral collector. He collected one of the most superb and extensive mineral collections in the North of England. This collection exceeds 2000 pieces and includes specimens from disused mines in the Lake District, where mineral collecting is now banned, and other regions of northern England. This invaluable collection is available for research and enjoyment by both geologists and those who are just fascinated by beautiful minerals.
A spectacular display from the collection together with a complete catalogue, original note books, display charts and a map locating mine sites are featured as a new permanent display at Kendal Museum.
If you would like to know about opening times and current exhibitions, click on a click to their website HERE.
In the Personal Notes at the end of his Fourth Volume on the Southern Fells, Wainwright noted that “there had been a clamour for Book Four ever since the first in the series appeared” because these fells “just happen to be a bit of heaven fallen upon the earth.”
This orange striped volume is the one we use the most and it is dedicated to: “the hardiest of all fell walkers, The Sheep of Lakeland, the truest lovers of the mountains, their natural homes and providers of their food and shelter” … and, sheep like, the chapters scramble up and down the thirty fells of the Southern Lakes from Scafell Pike to Holme Fell. He includes the direct route to Coniston Old Man: “this is the way the crowds go”; plus the one via Boo Tarn: “a climb for … the discerning walker” and one ascent from Torver with its view of Dow Crag, “one of the grandest rock-faces in the district”.
We hope you enjoy planning your walks!
For further information about Alfred Wainwright, please follow this link to the Wainwright Society.
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.