The Lakes District : Where time stands still
As most of you will probably know, it’s only a short one hour flight from Dublin (Ireland) to Manchester (Northwest England). I was in Dublin to complete a three day training course, however had arrived one day early to attend an appointment with the Australian Embassy to arrange a new passport.
Having competed my training, I still had ten days to wait before my new passport would arrive. So I jumped on a plane to Manchester and found my way to the Lakes District tucked away in the Cumbria region of the far north-western area of England.
I had heard a lot about the Lakes District and had wanted to visit for many years. Catching a train or two from Manchester airport to Foxfield station (which is actually only a railway siding) generally takes about 2 hours. However, it was a scenic three hour train ride and once we’d passed through Lancaster and travelling along the Furness line, the countryside opened to smaller townships, before reaching Barrow-in-Furness where I needed to change trains. Then continued along the Cumbria Coast line through historic villages before arriving at the very small village of Foxfield, where my accommodation host was at the train stop to meet me. A short 3 km drive and I’d arrived in the quaint traditional village of Broughton-in-Furness.
My host graciously provides me with a number of suggested sights to see and local walking paths, before she needed to leave.
I went out to wander through the small village and took the opportunity to walk a shorter path before returning to the village just on sunset.
Then popping into the 16th century inn, known as the Old Kings Head for a wonderful meal seated beside the open fire, being late Winter.
I learn that Broughton-in-Furness is a charter town, an honour that was bestowed by Queen Elizabeth I, with the practice dating back to the 13th century. The charter permitted the village to hold fairs. As a prominent market village Broughton-in-Furness was particularly known for its wool and cattle trades, in addition to fish supplies that were caught in the nearby River Duddon.
Each year on 1 August the annual reading of the charter takes place in the elegant central Georgian style market square that was set out in 1760. A pillar erected in 1810 is located to mark the jubilee of King George III. The local village (town) hall that was once the market hall (now the local tourist information centre) is also located in the square, alongside and adjacent three story merchant houses, and two slate fish market slabs and old stocks, bringing a sense of uniqueness in the historic market village, where time appeared to stand still.
A short distance from the square in lush park lands, hidden by trees and close to Wilson Park stands Broughton Tower mansion, once home to John Gilpin Sawrey, the Lord of the Manor. The 14th century medieval style building was built to ward off attacks by the Scots who at the time carried out constant raids on England. The original structure complete with remnants of a moat was erected by the Broughton family, the original Lords of the Manor of Broughton who remained in the local village area until 1487 when Sir Thomas Broughton was killed during battle. Following his death, the British Crown relinquished the building and was given to the 1st Earl of Derby. Some years pasted through the successive Earls of Derby until 1658, when the 7th Earl of Derby was executed with Broughton Tower and the seat of power being given to the Sawrey family. During the Sawrey family ownership additions were added to the 14th century tower and the building was transformed into a manor house that is visible today. At the time of my visit I was unable to visit the once stately manor home. The lady in the information centre provided details on the various stages of change that saw the manor style home, becoming a boarding school and then a set of flats during a period of private ownership. Today the flat housing has been removed and the manor home now stands similar to its days as a boarding school.
As I was unable to visit Broughton Tower manor, I did find myself taking a delightful short walk close to the village, to see the oldest building in Broughton-in-Furness. The St Mary Magdalene’s parish church, a short 5 minutes’ walk from the village square.
The church was originally built during the Saxon times. However, over time alterations and refurbishing has taken place, including an expansion that took place during the 18th century and included a north and a south aisle and the tower that was as a result of the expanding wool trade in the district.
It’s also a very pleasant walk through Wilson Park that starts just on the outskirts of the village as you come in from the Foxfield Road.
There are a number of interesting stone and slate stairs that cross over the historic stone walls along the earthen path that open onto nearby fields.
The following day began with a slow start given the slower pace yesterday and taking time to see some of the beautiful landscapes that I have found myself in. I had anticipated taking the 3 km walk along the road to Foxfield train station and taking the train to Ulverston, only to find I took the wrong road. However, it wasn’t long before a kind local stopped and gave me a lift, and an opportunity to enjoy a drive along the small country lanes.
It’s a Thursday and I arrive in Ulverston to find, it’s also market day and the locals are out purchasing their fresh local seasonal produce. I notice a store across the street, Northern Relics and go to take a look, to find an eclectic mix of brik a brak and antique items.
A short walk away from the local outdoor market is Gillam’s Tearoom, a traditional tea house that has been in operation since 1892. Amongst a healthy choice of lunch style menu, they serve scones with jam and cream (of cause, I’m in England). Whilst enjoying a light brunch, I learn that it’s well worth visiting the small coastal village of Arnside that is located along the Furness train line a couple of stops passed Ulverston on the way to Lancaster. Note to self!
The township of Ulverston dates back to around 430 AD when the Romans departed and the Saxons arrived. The township was recorded in the Domesday Book, dated 1086, although noted as a slight variation in the spelling. As with other villages and townships in the (modern day) Cumbria region, Ulverston was awarded a Royal (Market) Charter on the 11th September, 1280 under the rule of Edward I. The charter gave authority for the town to hold a market every Thursday. As with Broughton-in-Furness, Ulverston was under threat of attacks by the Scots yet continued to thrive and prosper as a market town, despite being burnt down on two separate occasions during the early 14th century. To this day Ulverston continues to celebrate the historic date during the annual September Charter fair, now festival.
I found Ulverston to be a sweet little market town with a long history and a number of beautiful and quaint old style buildings dotted throughout the labyrinth of cobbled streets. It’s also the birthplace of infamous Stan Laurel from the TV duo Laurel and Hardy. You’ll find their statue outside the Laurel and Hardy Museum.
Time permitting; make the one hour return walk up Hoad Hill to see the 100 ft Hoad Monument, also known as the John Barrow Monument. The monument is a replica of the Eddystone Lighthouse and is in honour of Sir John Barrow for his contribution to his linguist skills and tutoring, together with his pioneering spirit with early exploration and travels . The monument is open to the public during the summer months and is accessible when the flag is flying. The Ulverston local council provides a helpful walking guide of the walks in the area.
Given the time of year of my visit (being late winter, the Monument was closed), so I decided to take a slightly further walk in the same area to Birkrigg Common to see the Druids’ (stone) Circle. The stone circle consists of two rings of stones and are recorded as dating back to 1700 – 1400 BC. “The outer (ring) measuring 26 m and consisting of 15 stones and the inner (ring) being 9 m and consisting of 10 stones”, each stone is no more than 0.6m in height.
Image and text, compliments of Wikimedia
After taking in the views across Morecambe Bay, that once served the maritime industry in Ulverston I make my way back into town to the local railway station to return to Broughton-in-Furness.
This elegant church building, formerly the Anglican Holy Trinity church caught my eye and I learnt that the original building (as a church) was built between 1829/1832 in early English style and was declared redundant on the 1 October, 1976, serving less than one hundred years as a place of worship. The buildings stained glass windows made by various artists still remain, despite the building being converted into a sports hall for a period of time and then the interior being transformed for residential use in 1996.
As with many other historic building in the area, this former church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.
Having travelled along the Furness rail line a couple of days earlier on the day I arrived in the Lakes District, I had the opportunity to briefly admire the historic train station architecture from the interior. I now had an opportunity to admire the exterior early Victorian railway station architecture. Along with the original railway Tower building that is no longer in use.
The train service has been serving the township of Ulverston since the 1850s with the construction of the railway station, including the original signalling tower constructed in 1873. It’s an impressive historical station with waiting rooms and ticket office still in the original style.
A short train ride back to Foxfield station and this time I had an opportunity to pop into the local Prince of Wales Pub, across the road from the station stop (that I should also mention is a ‘request stop’). This nondescript looking establishment is well worth a visit. If the friendly atmosphere and wonderful food doesn’t lure you in, the selection of boutique beers that is home to the Foxfield Brewery is sure too. I leave before the sun sets and walk the road and path that lead me back to the village of Broughton-in-Furness.
Following the recommendation to visit Arnside, I decide to retrace my steps and take the train the following day and continue onto Lancaster.
I’d become something of a regular with catching the train to and from Foxfield station. Built back in 1848 when the original rail line extended to Broughton-in-Furness to serve the local copper mining industry. The line continued to provide a passenger train service through Broughton-in-Furness until 1958 when a new road was built and eventually ceased all rail operations in 1962.
Looking out the window of the train and admiring the swirls of clouds in the sky while sheep graze on the open plains was calming as we passed through Kirby-in-Furness and Askam enroute to Lancaster with a train change in Barrow-in-Furness.
During my visit it was quite a unique experience catching the old trains with very little modern day comforts and needing to open the doors from the outside to step off the train. However, it was a wonderful slower pace and gazing out the window was a welcome joy as the train passed through the picturesque lakes district countryside.
Arriving in Lancaster to a bleak overcast and grey morning, I decided to walk directly from the train station along a back lane to the Lancaster Castle as it’s very close to the station (once known as the Lancaster Castle railway station).
(photo courtesy of wikimedia.org)
There’s a light drizzle as I stroll around the grounds of the Lancaster Priory Church, formerly a Benedictine priory that was built in 1094 dedicated to St. Mary. Evidence through excavation on the site also found the likelihood of a Roman building that stood on the site around 200 AD and a Saxon church is thought to have also stood on the site from the sixth century.
However, with various sections having undergone rebuilds and refurbishments during the successive century’s, today this impressive historic building is the Church of England parish church of the city of Lancaster.
The imposing 12th century Lancaster Castle and prison stands on the site of what was originally a military fortification by the Romans in 79 AD. With the threat of attack from Ireland the military defense was extended to incorporate a shore defense in 367 AD. The Normans then followed who constructed a castle style fort that brought battles with the Scots and the subsequent handing over of the castle to the Scots in return for peace with England at the Northern boarders. History has a way of rightly returning what is taken by force and the Castle was handed back to the English in the mid-13th century as part of a post war settlement. Succeeding rebuilds were carried out and included fortification in stone. The stronghold improvements withstood future attacks during the subsequent years of civil wars in 1642 and 1651.
However, what was very interesting to learn were the history records with regards to the castle being used as a prison from as early as 1196. Whilst under English rule, during 1584 – 1646 fifteen Catholics were sentenced to death and executed for the faith. The trails of the Pendle witches from the surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashire stands out amongst the most famous witch trials in English history with the ten people, including two men and a woman in her eighties being sent to the gallows for murder through the use of witchcraft in 1612.
In 1787 two of Lancaster’s youngest prisoners, Elizabeth (13 years) and George (12 years) Youngson confessed to forcible gaining entry and stealing 41 (silver) shillings and nine pence in copper. Both were convicted and duly sentenced to hang. Yet whilst waiting death, both were given a reprieve and had their sentences reduced to seven years, and transportation. In January, 1788 amongst 688 other prisoners the two young prisoners were deported to Australia on the first fleet for the crime of theft. Some 25 years later in 1812 Thomas Holden was trailed and convicted of ‘Administering and Illegal Oath’. Thomas Holden was a skilled weaver and during the time labour shortages had begun with the introduction of factory systems. During the time gangs of weavers attempted to destroy the machines; thus the beginning of the end, along with the beginning of (at the time, illegal) trade unions. His sentence was seven years in prison and transportation to Australia.
Given the rise in prisoner number from the late 18th century, Lancaster Castle was exclusively used as a prison and subsequently modified for such a purpose. The once medieval curtain walls and Great Hall were demolished and purpose built cells and a courtroom were constructed. In 1821 female only cells were added. Fast forward a few decades to 2011, to the closure of Lancaster Castle/Prison. Today, this historic building with a gruesome past and listed as a grade 1 building retains its city centre hilltop location and is described as an internationally important building by English Heritage. Tours are approx. one hour and are well worth a visit.
Another reason for wanting to visit Lancaster was to inquire about train services and costs from Foxfield to Carlisle on a weekend day. The next day would be Saturday and the train service wasn’t running on Sunday, so I bought a return ticket for the next day.
I was keen to get to Arnside, so I spent about an hour walking around Lancaster and then back to the train station to spend the afternoon in Arnside. A picturesque small village offering much natural beauty located on the estuary of the River Kent that forms part of Morecambe Bay. The village is at the foot of Arnside Knott, a natural hill that rises out of the estuary. Once a port village with boats travelling past up until 1857 when the construction of the viaduct was built, that caused the estuary to silt up.
Enjoying a leisurely stroll around the village back lanes with their high stone walls I found myself at the Arnside Methodist church, one of only two churches in the village. The original building was constructed in 1876 in honour and memory of Robert Gisbon, the owner of the Arnside Tower Farm and location of the original Methodism religious practices in 1759.
Unlike many villages and towns in the Lakes District, Arnside didn’t have its own church until 1866. Prior to this time, villagers were carried along the Coffin Route for burial in the village of Beetham approx. one hours walk.
After walking around the village lanes and then down along the waterfront past a modern take on traditional style housing towards Ashmeadow House, I stopped for a while to enjoy the scenery and the peacefulness of the environment.
The picturesque Kent estuary with open sand plains during low tide, the expansive Morecambe Bay and the railway line viaduct, together with the rolling Lakeland Mountains in the distance.
Strolling back along the Promenade that is a mix of eclectic stops and business, I stop by near the Arnside Pier and looking around for somewhere to have a bite to eat. I came across the Posh Sardine, Vintage Tea room and gift store. Such a novel store name and quaint and quirky store that has a great selection of divine sweet treats. So very delightfully English. Sitting back enjoying an afternoon treat of tea and cake, I learn more about the history of this small village and the practice of alerting villagers and travellers to the rising tides and safe passage across the miles of open sands.
Due to the small narrow opening of the River Kent at Arnside passing from the vast openness of Morecambe Bay, the tides rise very quickly. Long before the viaduct was built Monks would guide travellers across the sands of the estuary. During the changing times of the tides and carrying poles, they would check the water’s depth and when it was safe to walk across the sands, they would blow a horn to alert travellers that it was safe to cross. The same practice was used when the fast rising tides were unsafe for crossing. The noteworthy George Fox, founder of the Quakers (of friends) following who rebelled against the religious and political authorities and had proposed an uprising against the Christian faith in 1690s, was escorted across the sands by soldiers to attend trial and subsequent imprisonment in Lancaster Castle/Prison.
Today, an eight sounds of the siren is sounded to alert villagers when the high tide is approaching 2.25 meters before high tide and a follow up, twelve sounds of the siren is sounded approaching 1.25 meters before high tide.
Arnside Silver Dale aonb.org Arnside Walk, provide a helpful detailed self-guided walk.
Very grateful for the kindness of strangers and their suggestion to visit such an idyllic little village, and to appreciate an opportunity to experience the natural environment. The sun is lowering and the incoming tide is filling the estuary. It’s time to return to Broughton-in-Furness.
Having already purchased a return rail ticket, and despite being an overcast, drizzly day, I was excited about taking a five hour return journey from Foxfield to Carlisle (on the England/Scotland border).
The Cumbria Coast railway runs right alongside the coastline and travels through a number of quaint coastal villages that wake to the Irish Sea, before leaving the coast line at Maryport then travelling inland to Carlisle. Its a rugged and scenic coastline that has been victim to numerous battering storms over the years, changing the scenic landscape in sections and reducing sections of the rail to a single line only.
Passing through the coastal village of Seascale and gazing out past the grey clouds, somewhere beyond is Ireland. Before the landscape changes and the rail line runs parallel to a high wire fence running along the boundary of the large multi function nuclear site of Sellafield.
As the train neared Carlisle the land is showing signs of recent snow fall. Arriving in Carlisle, it was cold, very cold and I wasn’t wearing enough warm clothing. Walking out of the Carlisle train station I walked through what was once the city gates; the Carlisle Citadel. Standing either side of the street the impressive medieval oval towers dominate the southern entrance to the historic city. The two towers where once home to the civil courts in one and criminal courts in the other.
Once through the historic oval tower gateway, I made a beeline for the Edinburgh Wool Company store, and bought some extra layers.
Feeling warmer, I walked through the central square and made my way down Castle Street.
On the way stopping to visit Carlisle’s cathedral, known today as one of the jewels of North West England, standing on the original border with Scotland for almost 900 years.
The cathedral was once Carlisle Priory, built in 1122 by King Henry I and replacing earlier buildings on the site. The priory then become a cathedral when the first Abbot, Athelwold became the first Bishop of Carlisle in 1133.
Throughout various raids by the Scots the then cathedral underwent various rebuilds and refurbishments. Today the 15th century medieval redbrick cathedral that once stood just inside the ancient city walls, stands within the adjoining grounds, with the 16th century fratry that was the dining hall of the Cathedral priory in medieval times and the 14th century prior’s tower.
The present tower was built in the 15th century positioned just inside the ancient walls and provided a purposeful and useful lookout and place of safety during the Scottish raids.
A short walk further along Castle Street stands the imposing 12th century castle and prison with an interesting museum displaying various Roman relics. An opportunity to read and learn about the castles turbulent past, then roaming within the castle interior walls, and seeing the Wardens Tower, also later known as Queen Mary’s Tower.
Having fled from her rebellious subjects, Mary, Queen of Scots sought refuge and was ordered by her cousin Elizabeth I, who reluctantly endorsed Mary’s exile in Carlisle Castle along with a number of her royal subjects in May 1568. Following 20 years in exile on English soil and being implicated in a plot to assassinate her cousin Elizabeth I, Mary was beheaded on 8 February, 1587 under the order of Elizabeth.
The grey sky on the day of my visit cast a gloomy shadow of the tower building that ceased to be used as a royal residence following Mary’s imprisonment after her abdication.
It’s been a very cold overcast and drizzly day with sprinkles of snow. Layered up with extra clothing, it’s time to head back to Carlisle station for the return train journey along the scenic Cumbria coastline, to Foxfield station and a late afternoon chilly walk back to Broughton-in-Furness.
I certainly recommend taking this scenic train journey, either as a day trip from Carlisle or Lancaster or combining with an overnight stay in one of the many delightful small villages dotted along the Cumbria coast.
The following day I received an email that my new passport is available to be collected. Sorted returned flight to Dublin, I given myself one extra day to explore the Lakes District.
Having read some of the history about the small village of St Bees located on coastline looking out to the Irish Sea (that I had travelled past twice the previous day), I decided to catch the train and spend an afternoon exploring.
Walking on the lush green lawns dotted with pops of yellow early spring flowers, I was approached by a man and advised that I was on private property, within the grounds of the historic buildings that is the St Bees School, founded in 1583. Ooops, at the time I didn’t realise that this was a school.
Across the lane from the St Bees school, is the home to the St Bees Priory church. The church graveyard has a Viking influence with a 10th century cross shaft. Whilst, additional evidence shows pre Norman religious site.
The church plaque reads of the St Bees Priory as being a centre of Christian worship for over a thousand years. Together with St Mary and St Bega a Benedictine monastery was founded between 1120/1135 and had served for 400 years. During the 14-15th centuries the priory prospered, and continued to provide community services for much of the West Cumberland region until the 1800s.
There are a number of historic buildings located on the site and the main church entrance doors show the grandeur of its history.
I further learn that one can also walk along the Wainwright Coastal walk to Robin Hood’s Bay that starts close to the priory. However, I’ll need to take a walk here another day as I have a train to catch and a plane the following day.
The Lakes District is known to many for its lakes and fells (fjallr, an interesting word meaning mountain (usually a large, flat mountain) left over from the Normans’)). Yet there is far more in this picturesque region of Northern England with its many quaint towns and villages that are rich in history and cultural, each with their own delightful and unique character where time stands still.
On the day of my departure I experienced a number of delays and cancellations, sprinkled with snowfall in both the Cumbria, Lakes District/Manchester and arriving in Dublin. Four train service delays, four cancelled train service before reaching Manchester airport and a delayed flight departure. Maybe, I was meant to stay a little longer!
However, I was very grateful for the ease of arrival and the perfect on time bus service from Dublin airport to Dundalk and a very warm Irish welcome.
The blog is part of a series of posts about my various travel to historic and picturesque locations. I hope you enjoy and I bring you some inspiration (if needed) to visit this truly beautiful and magical part of the world, leave a comment and let me.
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