Hawkshead Brewery

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Before driving over to Kentmere we called into the Hawkshead Brewery at Staveley. It’s a real brewery where they brew there own ales, but they also have a beer hall where they serve their beer as well as food. It’s open lunch times and also during the evening on Friday and Saturday (food only served until 3 pm, though).

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Visitors can look over the brewery from a viewing gallery at the back of the building

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and they have 2 large storage tanks next to the beer hall.

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They also run brewery tours at 2 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

It might seem odd that they’re called Hawkshead Brewery when they’re a few miles and across the other side of Windermere from the village of that name. However, that is where they started. But they outgrew their original premises after four years and moved to the present site, in the Mill Yard, beside the River Kent, in Staveley. Their range of craft beers are rather excellent (you can buy bottles to take away so no need to try them all at once!).

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Next door there’s a rather excellent craft bakery that sells scrumptious bread and cakes, and they have a café too.

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So two yeast based production facilities next door to each other.

There’s a number of other manufacturing, commercial and retail businesses based in the mill yard, including a shop that makes and sells chutney’s sauces and relishes and the UK’s largest cycle store.

It’s worth pulling off the fast road between Kendal and Windermere for a visit.

Kentmere Tarn circular

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The weather forecast for the last day of our break in the Lake District wasn’t promising and when I got up it was raining heavily. So time to chill out, relax and do some reading. However, by midday the rain had eased off so, despite the grey skies and low cloud up the valley, I decided to go out for a short walk. It ended up being a little longer than intended!

From the front windows of our cottage we could see the small tarn  a little way down the valley, so I decided to walk over and have a closer look.

The original Kentmere Tarn was a larger body of water that was drained in the 1830’s to provide reclaimed farm land, but it was of poor quality. However, deposits of diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth, were found in the former lake bed – the only source of the material in the UK –  and were mined for use in the production of insulation products. The mine was originally owned by Kentmere Diatomite, an independent company which was taken over by Cape Insulation. The process involved drying off the earth in a kiln which burnt off the vegetable matter. The resultant powder was then mixed with several minerals including asbestos. Production finished in the 1970’s but the old insulation factory is still there, and is now used by a company manufacturing packaging. (There’s some good information about the diatomite mining in this document). The present Kentmere Tarn was formed due to the flooding of the workings.

I set out after midday. Visibility was poor down the valley due to the cloud and mist.

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I headed past Kentmere Hall and then set off down a muddy path toward the Tarn.

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15 minutes later I reached the Tarn. Access to the banks is restricted to fishermen and the path was a little way above the water line.

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After passing the Tarn the path goes through the factory yard – watch out for fork lift trucks!

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A little further along down a quiet lane, near confluence of the River Kent and Park Beck, there’s the old mill where Kentmere Pottery is now based

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The confluence of the two rivers

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Cutting inland along the path which heads up towards the moors

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I passed this old abandoned building. A shepherd’s hut?

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Heading further up towards the moor. Looked like there was some rain ahead.

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Good views, though, if a little misty.

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The path turned back down towards the valley

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Some sections of the route were very  “slutchy” (a Lancashire term for wet mud)

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Further along I got a good view down towards the Tarn

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and Kentmere village came into view

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The path back down to Kentmere Hall

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Heading back to the church, a nice, warm, dry cottage and a brew!

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Kentmere Hall

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This is Kentmere Hall. It’s a 14th century tunnel-vaulted pele tower which had an extension built on the side during the 15th or 16th century. Today it’s used as a farmhouse.

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Pele towers were defensive structure to protect the local population from marauding Scots and Border Reivers.

They were small stone buildings with walls from 3 to 10 feet thick, square or oblong in shape. Most were on the outskirts of the Lake District, but a few were within its boundaries. Designed to withstand short sieges, they usually consisted of three storeys – a tunnel-vaulted ground floor which had no windows which was used as a storage area, and which could accommodate animals. (source)

Today some, like the one at Arnside, are in ruins, others, like at Sizergh and Muncaster, were extended and incoprorated into grand houses while the one at Kentmere was extended to become part of the residence of the local big wigs, the Gilpins.

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There’s a good paper about the Hall published by the Staveley and District History Society.

Today the Hall is part of a working farm. Returning along the road back towards the church and Capplerigg, we passed a large barn full of sheep – obviously a lambing shed with the ewes brought down from the fells ready to give birth. Hearing a loud high pitched bleating we peeped inside to see a new born lamb.

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(Unfortunately not a perfect picture but I hope you like it Barbara Winking smile )

A walk up Yoke and Ill Bell

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The second full day of our stay in Kentmere and we’d planned a walk up to the top of Ill Bell via the Garburn Pass and Yoke. We’d had a good view of the two mountains from across the alley during our walk up Nan Gield pass the previous day.There was low cloud on the fells, so there was risk we’d finish in fog and miss the views from on the fells, but we set out anyway as we knew we’d still enjoy the walk.

The start of the walk – the road from the village leading to the Garburn Pass

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We passed Shepherd’s Nook

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and shortly afterwards we began to climb the path up the pass.

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Passing the crags on our right

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Reaching the top of the pass we took the path towards Yoke. There was low cloud on the fells restricting visibility but the top of Yoke looked clear.

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Looking over the Kirkstone Pass we could make out Red Screes but visibility was poor restricting the view of mountains further away. But on a good day the views are stunning.

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Reaching the top of Yoke (2316 feet) , In the distance, the summit of Ill Bell was shrouded in cloud.

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Looking over to the fells on the other side of the valley, the Nan Bield Pass was visible through a gap in the cloud. It was a little like a science fiction film – looking through a portal to another world!

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Carrying on along the ridge there was a good view down to the reservoir

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A short, sharp climb and we reached our final objective, the summit of Ill Bell (2483 feet)

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Looking along the ridge to Frostwick, the next peak, and High Street. We were tempted to carry on but decided to stick to our plan. But, all being well, one day we’ll be back to walk the horseshoe!

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This is the view over the valley to Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell.

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Looking back towards Yoke

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Visibility was improving, and walking back along Yoke we could make out the whole length of Windermere

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and looking to the north west we had a decent view of Rred Screes on the other side of the Kirkstone Pass and over towards Helvelyn

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We retraced our steps down the Garburn Pass. The sun lighting up the crags

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Looking down on Kentmere village

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It was a sunny afternoon when we got back to our cottage – and there were some new neighbours!

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The Nan Bield Pass

Today Kentmere is a quiet, isolated spot. This wasn’t always the case. There are three passes that lead out of the valley (besides the road from Staveley) one to Mardale in the north, another to Troutbeck to the west and the third to Longsleddale in the east. So at one time, many years ago, the valley would have been a relatively busy crossroads for people and, in many cases, their animals, travelling between the Lakeland valleys. There was also industry in valley with slate mines to the north of the village and although they’ve been closed for many years now there is still evidence of the mining activity on the hillsides.

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On Tuesday, the first full day of our stay in Kentmere, the weather forecast was for intermittent rain and we’d planned a low level circular walk up along the river to the reservoir at the head of the valley and back. But one thing we learned during our break was not to trust the weather forecast. It was raining heavily when I got up but by 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the cloud was clearing. By 11 we had sun and blue skies. It was windy, though, and I expected that the wind would be much stronger on the exposed ridges of the high fells. So we set out with a plan to start out on the low level walk but if conditions looked promising to cut up the Nan Bield Pass at the north end of the valley and then loop back along Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. For various reasons this changed plan didn’t work out but we did manage to climb to the top of the pass.

Setting out at about 11:30, we crossed the river and walked through the village, making our way along the road until we reached the well defined footpath which ran along the floor of the valley parallel to the river. There had been a lot of rain during previous weeks so the path was wet and frequently quite muddy.

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We were soon into more open country with the high fells appearing on the horizon

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Eventually we could see most of the high fells comprising the Kentmere Horseshoe

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We had to cross numerous becks (the Cumbrian term for a stream) – only one of them was bridged so our boots got wet – not a bad thing as it washed at least some of the mud off them!

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The path started to climb gradually. We passed Kentmere Pike

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We spotted several old mine workings such as this one, high up on the side of the fell. What must it have been like to work here? P3140705

The workers would have lived in huts near tot he mines, making there way down the valley to spend their wages in the local pub on their day off. The mine workers were so rowdy that the local magistrates withdrew the licence for the pub in Kentmere  and the village has been “dry” ever since . The nearest pub is in Staveley.

Carrying on climbing steadily up the path. To our left the reservoir constructed 1848 to regulate the flow of the river which powered mills further down the valley. Ill Bell and Frostwick can be seen towering over the lake. The steep flank of the former plunging down into the small man-made lake.

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Looking further up the valley towards High Street – it’s hard to believe that there was a Roman Road up on the fells.

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The top of the pass was becoming ever closer, but still some way to go. So far the path had been a relatively easy gradient as height was gained gradually, but we could see that there would be a much steeper climb to come.

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We eventually made it to the top where there were views down into Mardale, the next valley to the north. This had been flooded during the 1930’s creating a large reservoir – Haweswater – to supply Manchester with water. The small settlement of Mardale Green was submerged in the process.

Zooming in

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It was extremely windy at the top as the wind funnels through the gap, making it difficult to stand up. We’d only made a the late morning start and the the sun would start setting at 6 o’clock. It had taken longer than anticipated to reach the top. So discretion being the better part of valour we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk walking in strong winds on an exposed ridge with a chance of not making it back down before it went dark.

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Harter Fell and Kentmere would be there another day! In any case, it had been a good walk through some dramatic countryside, and as the top of the pass is just over 2,000 feet high, it was a decent enough climb!

Kentmere

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It didn’t take long to drive from Blackwell over to Staveley, the village at the bottom of the Kentmere Valley. 3 miles further up the valley driving down a single carriage road we arrived at Kentmere village where we had booked into a cottage for four nights. The road is a dead end – you can’t drive any further.

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Although we’re regular visitors to the Lake District, we’ve never been to Kentmere before. In fact we only visited Staveley for the first time last summer when a relative was staying there and we visited a couple of times. We normally rush past on the by-pass between Kendal and Windermere on the way further into the National Park. But during that visit we went for a walk on the hills just outside Staveley and when we decided to have a break during March we thought it might be a good idea to stay further down the valley. And it certainly was.

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Kentmere, is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District (which is saying something!) and yet is one of the least visited. Although only about 20 or 30 minutes drive from Kendal (and about an hour and a half from home) it’s about as secluded as you can get. Car parking is extremely limited (so if you don’t arrive early in the morning you’ll have to turn around and drive back down that single carriage road). There’s no public transport – the nearest train station and bus stop being in Staveley- and there’s no pub or shops. Consequently it’s not overrun with visitors.

It’s surrounded by hills and fells and a little further up the valley there’s a ring of high fells which form the basis of a classic walk – the Kentmere Horseshoe (also known as the Kentmere Round).

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St. Cuthbert’s Church was substantially modified by the Victorians but has ancient roots, with roof beams which date from the sixteenth century. There’s an ancient yew tree in the church yard which is around 1000 years old

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The exterior is plain and restrained especially given the Victorian renovation – they usually liked to add on mock Gothic “twirly bits”.

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The surrounding countryside is exceptionally lovely.

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We stayed in this building, Capplerigg which is the former Rectory. We were told it was built in the early Victorian period but it has the look of a Georgian house. It would have taken some time for new Victorian styles to percolate up the valley.

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It looks like it was originally smaller with a large extension added to the right hand side of the building.

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It’s divided into two cottages we had Pengennet, the larger of the two. It was an exceptional property beautifully fitted out and furnished.

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There was an Aga in the kitchen (which we had to learn how to use!)

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Great views out of the front windows.

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A good place to relax in quiet, peaceful, beautiful countryside with some great walks starting from the doorstep.

A weekend in (a foggy) London

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It’s become a tradition that we have a “family day” before Christmas. This year, I had to be in London the Monday before Christmas and would have to travel down on Sunday. So we decided to extend the stay, travel down on Saturday and have a family weekend down in the big smoke.

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It was a foggy weekend – flights had been cancelled at Heathrow and Gatwick – so it wasn’t great for trying out my new camera, but we had an enjoyable break.

We stayed just south of Tower Bridge so the first afternoon, after we’d dropped our bags at the hotel, headed along the south bank where there was a Christmas Market

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We crossed London Bridge, passed the Monument to the Great Fire of London

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and caught a bus to Somerset House to visit the Courtauld Gallery.

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There’s a skating rink in the central courtyard and after visiting the Gallery we stopped a while to watch the skaters

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and then went for coffee and cakes in a rather nice café in the east wing

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After looking round the book shop next to the café we headed back to our hotel to check in and freshen up before setting out for a meal in a bust restaurant  in Katherine’s Dock.

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Heading back to our hotel afterwards, we stopped to take in the views as we crossed Tower bridge. The fog was still lingering.

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