In the valleys around Hawkshead there are several small picturesque hamlets and villages, which offer the visitor, to the area, local interest off the beaten track.
Quaker Friends’ Meeting House Colthouse
On the opposite side of the valley from Hawkshead is the small hamlet of Colthouse. The Quaker Friends’ Meeting House, probably built soon after John Fox himself visited Furness, was founded before 1658, and is one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses in the “Birthplace of Quakerism”. Well preserved and maintained, it is set in its own walled gated grounds.
‘A mile further on we begin to ascend into the Vale of Hawkshead having from the high ground a sight of the upper part of Windermere stretching to the left. In the first cluster of houses we come to, named Hawkshead Hill, stands a meeting house by the road side belonging to a congregation of Anabaptists called by the Country people who are not of their persuasion Whigs.’ (From Wordsworth’s Description of the Lakes (unpublished drafts) 1807 – 1809)
Situated between Hawkshead and Coniston, Hawkshead Hill has changed since the early 1800’s. Today the meeting house referred to by Wordsworth is a Baptist Chapel, and is the only public building on the Hill. However, we know that in bygone days it was very different. In the first half of the nineteenth century The High Cross Inn was to be found just below the chapel. During the first half of the twentieth century the hamlet also boasted a Post Office, and by the middle of the century it also had a café. This would have been a welcome stopping off point for walkers en route to Tarn Hows, a famous beauty spot. Today the tarn is still highly accessible, with parking nearby and paths suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Although most visitors to the Hill will find their way to Tarn Hows, there are other walks to be enjoyed. The gate opposite the telephone box leads to a walk across fields. As you start to descend the view opens out to provide a wonderful distant glimpse of Wansfell and Red Screes. There are also a number of footpaths that take you through the many wooded and forested areas on the Hill
Tarn Hows isn’t the only tarn on the Hill. Wharton Tarn can be found by taking the footpath that lies to the left of the steep road up to Tarn Hows. It can also be reached via a stile, which is found on the right as you start to descend from High Cross towards Coniston on the B5285.
Today Hawkshead Hill is a hamlet comprising a number of homes, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation neatly tucked away in individually picturesque locations across the Hill. Nowadays it has no pub or post office but there are a couple of tearooms. The various routes to Tarn Hows take the visitor through this hamlet, which may seem sleepy, but the local residents enjoy a warm and active sense of community. This was strengthened around the Millennium when we worked together to produce our own local history.
For information on the history of Hawkshead Hill, and details of local accommodation, you are invited to visit Hawkshead Hill Chapel, which is always open to visitors.
This small hamlet straddles the Ambleside Hawkshead road, and is about 1.5 miles north of Hawkshead. There are many houses, whitewashed in local tradition, hidden away around Outgate. There is a local inn (Outgate Inn) that serves food, and during the season has local live Jazz on a Friday evening. There are several nice walks from Outgate, past Blelham Tarn to Wray Castle, or back across the field to Hawkshead. There is a small amount of off road parking Hawkshead side of Outgate.
SatterthwaiteThe village of Satterthwaite was first mentioned in records dating back to the 14th century, but its name comes from the Old Norse language and means ‘summer pasture in a clearing’. Furness Abbey sited its early iron furnaces, called bloomeries, in the woodlands around Satterthwaite, whose coppice trees continued to provide charcoal through to the eighteenth century when the larger blast furnaces consumed vast quantities.
Just south of the village, the fast flowing waters of Force Falls once provided power for the bobbin mills of High and Low Force Forge. These mills were among several in High Furness, which supplied the Lancashire cotton industry with wooden bobbins and were an important source of employment for Satterthwaite residents during the nineteenth century.
The Ainslie family, who owned the Grizedale Estate, chiefly instigated the foresting of Grizedale, which began around 1780. Tree planting was further developed during the early 1900s when Harold Brocklebank took over and began to manage Grizedale Forest in the form we recognise today. The Forestry Commission acquired the entire estate in 1937.
Today, Satterthwaite, with its fifty or so dwellings, has a small but friendly community with its own website, a church (All Saints) which stands on the site of an early chapel and a Parish Room which can be hired for various functions. The village lies in the centre of the Forestry Commission’s Grizedale Forest Park, an increasingly popular attraction for visitors seeking outdoor activities such as walking and mountain biking.
Near & Far Sawrey (pic above)
St Peter’s is a large Victorian Church located in Far Sawrey and was completed in the mid 1800s designed by Robert Brass. Also in Far Sawrey is The Sawrey Hotel incorporating the Claife Crier Bar, named after a local ghost. The legend is that the ghost is that of a monk from Furness Abbey whose mission was the rescue of fallen women. He apparently fell in love with one who rejected him, and went mad, dying, crying his anguish on the heights of Claife, which his ghost has haunted ever since. On one occasion, the ferryman mistook his cry for a call, and he went out for his fare. When he returned, his hair had turned white and he never spoke again.
Situated in the village is The Braithwaite Hall, which is available for hire for functions, meetings etc.
Hill Top, owned by The National Trust, is the former home of Beatrix Potter and is a Mecca for thousands of fans who come each year to view the house as she left it. The National Trust also owns the village inn, The Tower Bank Arms. There is access from the village onto Claife heights, which with its many footpaths and bridleways has some delightful walks. Fishing is available on Moss Eccles Tarn, with permits obtainable from the Tower Bank Arms, or on Esthwaite Water with permits, rods and boat hire from Hawkshead Trout Farm.
Low & High Wray
The hamlets of Low and High Wray are to be found along the quiet and secluded back road from Hawkshead and nearby Colthouse, nestling below Latterbarrow, at the northern end of Claife Heights.
The Old Norse word Vra, from which the name Wray eventually evolved, means ‘nook or corner of good land between stretches of bog or useless moorland’ or ‘a remote and secluded place’. Either description fits well.
One of the treasures of Low Wray is the imposing edifice of Wray Castle, found in its spacious
grounds (open all year to the public – castle is seasonal) beside the western shore of Windermere. Entrance is gained through arched gateway of its impressive lodge house.
Built in the Gothic Revival style in 1840 for a Dr. James Dawson, a retired surgeon from Liverpool, its imposing towers and buttresses make it difficult to identify this wonderful pile with anything other than a real castle, but it was only ever built as a private house, albeit one of the largest and grandest private residence in the North West of England. The Lakeland poet William Wordsworth said that Wray Castle ‘added a dignified feature to the interesting scenery in the midst of which it stands’. The castle commands one of the most magnificent countryside views in the Lake District (and possibly in Britain), taking in all the South Lakeland Fells that surround the northern-most tip of Windermere eastwards to the Langdale Pikes.
At Low Wray, too, can be found another secluded treasure, the church of St. Margaret’s of Antioch (now, sadly, no longer open to worship). The church was built in 1856 by James Dawson of Wray Castle, next door to it, and he intended the Church as ‘a chapel for ‘the spiritual benefit of his family, retainers, estate workers, servants and friends’. It was consecrated in 1861. The young Beatrix Potter, whose family rented Wray Castle for their lengthy summer holidays, in the early 1880s, would have been no stranger to St. Margaret’s Church, and, in her mid-teens, to the wildlife of the area.
Also nearby can be found National Trust Low Wray Camp Site, one of the best sites in the whole of the North West of England, and which has catered for families and organised groups for a generation. An N.T. tenanted farm at Low Wray farms the estates that at one time were part of the Wray Castle Estate, which was finally bequeathed to the National Trust.
A half mile or so from Low Wray is High Wray, and obvious from their names are at different elevations from each other. Here is to be found a tranquil mixture of private homes, N.T. cottages and N.T. tenanted High Wray Farm, and just on the outskirts of the village Tock Howe Farm, both of which offer excellent farmhouse accommodation. ‘The Wrays are an integrated and neighbourly community, High Wray Village Hall hosting local groups and activities, as well as providing a popular venue for ‘camping-barn’ style accommodation for small groups throughout the year.
The Wrays are indeed ‘a remote and secluded place’, as the Norse locals of a thousand years ago called this place. The gently rolling hills and lanes of High and Low Wray are strikingly beautiful at any season through the year, with some of the most breathtaking views to be found anywhere in the region. Footpaths and bridleways will take on peaceful adventures at every turn, from the Heights of Claife and Latterbarrow to the shores of the nearby Blelham Tarn, or to Windermere itself.
Images copyright A2A Advertising Ltd