"The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.” ―Alfred Wainwright, The Western Fells
Welcome to The Tree House!
Well, it’s more of a tree in a house than a tree house but we do hope you will enjoy your stay at our quirky bolthole in Cumbria.
The Tree House was built in the Victorian times in 1850, and for many years was used as the police house in Beckermet – in fact you can still see the marks where the police badge was fixed to the wall. The house is set in an area of protected ancient woodland with a semi-wild garden containing what could possibly be ancient standing stones (or possibly not!). A more recent addition to the house is the tree, which was introduced to the staircase in 2004 by a previous owner – we’re not sure how!
Nearby are some of the most beautiful but lesser known areas of the Lake District. With secluded beaches, tranquil lakes and rugged mountains, the Western Lakes is home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike and its deepest lake – Wastwater. All this is just a short drive from The Tree House, as is the green and picturesque villages of Eskdale, the quiet shores of Ennerdale, forests of Loweswater and the hidden valley of Nannycatch.
On the other hand, for a complete contrast of scenery, you may want to view the dramatic sandstone cliffs at St Bee’s Head designated the National Heritage Coast,' marvel at the smugglers' caves at Fleswick Bay or visit the characterful town of Whitehaven - a gem of Georgian architecture.
Places to visit …
We haven’t included any of the more strenuous fell walking or cycling routes here because you probably have your own plans, but if you’re stuck for ideas, you’ll find some excellent guides, maps and books on the sideboard in the house.
Wasdale, beloved by Lake District connoisseurs is (arguably) its most beautiful and remote destination. It’s most probable that Wasdale Head will be one of your first ports of call. Many of the Lake District’s finest mountains can be traversed from here including its highest peak of Scafell Pike, Great Gable as well as the less well-known Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow and Pillar. Wasdale is the starting point of the Three Peak Challenge and home to England’s deepest lake - Wastwater, its smallest church (St Olaf’s), and its biggest self-proclaimed liar, the former landlord Will Ritson (who’s tall tales included the claim that his dog had given birth to winged hounds after an encounter with an eagle). Today it’s the home of one of Cumbria’s legendary heroes – Joss Naylor MBE, the record breaking fell runner whose record for the 72 peak Lakeland Circuit in under 21 hours was unbroken for 13 years.
The more strenuous climbs from Wasdale are well documented including the mammoth seven summit Netherbeck Horseshoe – you can find routes for most of these walks in books on the dresser. However, if you’re feeling less intrepid, our suggestions for shorter ambles in Wasdale are as follows:
Take the path from the Beer Garden at the back of the Wasdale Head Inn for a gentle stroll alongside the river across the quaint old pack horse bridge and up the valley where you’ll find Ritson’s Force waterfalls on the right in about half a mile.
Visit to St Olaf’s church to see the graves of climbers who met their death on the surrounding mountains. There is also a window pane etching of Napes Needle on Great Gable commemorating theclimbers killed in the war.
A simple lakeside walk is one of the best ways to appreciate the valley. Park the car as soon as the road turns alongside Wastwater and walk back alongside the lake where there are lovely vistas, trees and pebble shores where you can picnic away from the road.
Beckermet – Obviously, you won’t have to go far to discover the delights of Beckermet. The name derives from “the meeting of the becks”. Beckermet is a very old settlement and its church, St John’s, dates from Norman times. Following the Conquest, the hamlet was on the route of plundering Scots for 200 years and the site of an ancient castle stands on two small hills above Ker Beck on Mill Lane.
A short stroll out of the village in a south westerly direction takes you to the lonely St Bridget’s church that dates from the 13th century. The graveyard is the bearer of no less than two National Monuments – an Anglican and Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft which are pre-Norman with an inscription that numerous learned scholars have failed to translate.
Gosforth has a gift shop, bakery and several pubs. It also boasts many walks. There is a lovely walk which begins in the ancient church with its Anglo-Saxon Cross. For further details look in the book on the dresser called Walks through History.
Eskdale Green(25 min) is a delightful hamlet at the beginning of Eskdale, there are low level walks around here which travel past the river and the narrow-gauge railway. The Bower House inn is a great pub and restaurant as is the King George IV.
Ravenglass (15 min) This small coastal village with a natural harbour is not only worth a visit in itself but it is also home to The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – one of the oldest and longest narrow-gauge railways in England complete with its famous engine, Old Ratty. https://ravenglass-railway.co.uk/about-us/
Muncaster Castle Five minutes south of Ravenglass this historic haunted castle set in 77 acres of woodlands and gardens has some great attractions which include:
Himalayan gardens, Bluebell woods, Hawk & Owl Centre, exhilarating flying displays, bird of prey experiences, Enchanted Trail, Meadowvole Maze plus adventure playgrounds, cafes, gift-shops and accommodation http://www.muncaster.co.uk/
Ennerdale Bridge Another nearby area not to miss is Ennerdale Bridge village (18 min) and Ennerdale Water, a traditional Lakeland village with an old Church and pub, plus great walks around the village and the lake, including a stretch of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk.
The Duddon Valley (Also called Dunnerdale) Offers unrivalled walking with spectacular views on the Dunnerdale Fells, in the woodlands and by riverside. The tiny villages of Seathwaite and Ulpha are the focal points of the valley, while the 16th century Newfield Inn near the end of the Walna Scar road offers a fine welcome and roaring log fires. (46 mins). Nearby (41 mins) is the market town of Broughton in Furness with high quality food shops, tearooms, restaurant and pubs.
Loweswater A little further north is Loweswater. (35 min) Nestled in a wooded valley in the far west of the Lake District, Loweswater is a peaceful lake at approximately 1 mile in length, 1/2 a mile wide and 60 feet deep and is often bypassed. A lovely circuit walk (4km or 2.5 miles) starts at Maggie's Bridge car park - grid ref. NY 134210 and takes you round the lake, bypassing the Kirkstile Inn if you’re in need of refreshment. The walk is a specially upgraded accessible footpath as part of the Miles Without Stiles project and is therefore suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
St Bees The most westerly point of Cumbria, St Bees (4 miles) marks the start of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. The village is set on the only Heritage Coast from Wales to Scotland, dominated by the towering sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head and the clifftop path takes you to the lovely sandy beaches at Fleswick Bay and RSPB Nature Reserve. St Bees also boasts a 900-year-old Norman Priory, a promenade and exceedingly good icecream!
Egremont The nearest town of Egremont has been hit by several shop and pub closures recently and has a rather abandoned look at one end of the main street, but nevertheless is well worth a visit. There are lovely riverside walks and the views from Egremont Castle are beautiful. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egremont_Castle
Whitehaven Whitehaven is the closest large town to The Tree House (20 mins). This Georgian town was one of the first post-renaissance planned towns in the country. Built on shipping and mining, both industries have now declined, but Whitehaven is never-the-less an attractive place and is one of the 40 Gem Towns in England (the only other in Cumbria being Cockermouth).
Do not miss the magnificent Georgian Harbour, once a thriving port now a very smart marina or The Rum Story (Lowther Street) www.rumstory.co.uk/ which tells the story of the UK rum trade which originally centred on Whitehaven’s port. The trail, set in the original shop, courtyards, cellars and bonded warehouses of the Jefferson family business, begins in a Caribbean rainforest.
Longlands Lake Longlands Lake (10 mins) is popular with local people for walks with children or dogs. A scenic area with woodland and free parking. On the A5086 just before Cleator.
Cockermouth A little further away is the other ‘Gem Town’ of Cockemouth (35 mins) which is a small bustling market town on the north west edge of the Lake District, famous for being the birthplace of William Wordsworth. The centre has a wonderful array of independent shops and cafes and there are lovely walks by the river. Also, a great choice of pubs and restaurants (see recommended pubs). http://www.cockermouth.org.uk/
Drigg A wilder beach setting, great for letting the dogs and children run free or for a quiet stroll is at Drigg (20 mins) Drive past the station, if you reach sand you’ve gone too far! The Victoria pub here has a good reputation for food although we haven’t been yet.
A bit further afield … Less than an hour’s drive away is Buttermere Valley, encompassing three lakes, famous for its dramatic views and woodlands. The lake at Buttermere offers one of the best round-the-lake walks in the Lake District. Here’s a link to some other routes suggested by The National Trust. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/buttermere-valley
Keswick Should you be able to tear yourself away from the tranquil Western Lakes, Keswick is 50 mins away and is a major tourism centre with a range of visitor attractions and boating on Lake Derwentwater.
Silloth This popular Victorian resort is set on the Solway Firth, a designated area of Natural Beauty, a bird-watchers’ and Anglers’ paradise with what has been the best flat fish fishing in the country. The Solway Music Festival, Cumbria’s biggest music event spread over four days. Glorious sea views and sunsets, across to the hills of Scotland. (1 hour and 14 mins).
Bassenthwaite Bassenthwaite Lake is known for its pike angling as well as its serene beauty. Anglers may buy permits for their own boat which can be launched from the public slipway near the sailing club on the A66 (38 mins).
Coniston Coniston Water (1 hour) is probably the best lake for public boating. There’s a steam yacht gondola with group bookings and charters available or you can hire canoes, motor boats, row boats, kayaks etc to sail out to Peel Island, famous for being the one of the locations for Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books, or cruise past Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin.
Recommended scenic drives
An excellent drive with views of the both fells and the sea is the high road between Calder Bridge and Ennerdale Bridge, plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery and of course two lovely villages at each end. It’s also a popular cycling route. https://goo.gl/maps/sTzgKbHfWp22
A drive up the coast to Silloth on the West Coast Road offers spectacular views over the Solway Firth through an Area of Outstanding Beauty to see (if you time it right) spectacular west coast sunsets.
For those who want to test their driving skills the road over Hardknott and Wrynose Pass crosses the larger Western peaks with a 30% gradient, ascending some of the highest peaks accessible by road. The views are awe inspiring.