Beauty blooms in the Lake District as the winter melts away. MELANIE CLARKSON has these ideas to put a spring in your step.
The snow’s melting on the peaks, attractions and stately homes are throwing open their doors after the winter break and out come the merry display of daffodils. The Lake District bursts into life in the spring – and despite its popularity with tourists the world over, there are still corners of Cumbria where you can wander lonely as a cloud.
For magnificent views on a clear day, Haweswater, in the Eden Valley, is the most easterly of the lakes and offers a choice of walks from a low circuit to a heady climb up to High Street. In 1929 a bill was passed by Parliament authorising the use of Haweswater as a reservoir for Manchester. All the farms and houses of Mardale and Measand were pulled down, coffins were removed from the graveyard and buried elsewhere, and Mardale church was demolished. Today, when the water levels are low, you can still make out the eerie remains of these two villages.
Over in the western Lakes, Ennerdale also offers peace, quiet and views to lift the soul. The lake can be circuited in a morning’s walk and followed by a pint of real ale at the cosy Shepherd’s Inn, a romantic spot where Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary back in his student days.
Daffodils provide glorious splashes of colour all across the county at this time of year but if you want to cast your eyes on the same landscape that inspired the poet Wordsworth you’ll need to head to Aira Force at Ullswater. It was on a walk up here with his sister Dorothy that the poet was moved to compose his ode to the flower.
The waterfall remains one of the prettiest and most romantic sights in the Lakes, and at this time of the year the wild daffodils still grow with abandon. Look out too for the endangered red squirrels on the walk up to the stone footbridge that spans the 70-foot drop. Also worth visiting are the former homes of the Lake District’s most famous poet: Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Rydal Mount at Rydal and Dove Cottage in Grasmere. Just next to Rydal Church in Rydal you can also see Dora’s Field where the daffodils planted by Wordsworth and his wife Elizabeth after their daughter Dora died still grow.
The damson orchards are also at their finest now. Just as in Japan the flowering of the frothy white blossom is a cause for national celebration, here in the Lyth Valley in the southern Lakes they also use it as an excuse for a party.
On Saturday April 22, Low Farm near Kendal hosts Damson Day to celebrate the orchards with entertainment, food and drink and stalls selling everything from damson gin to damson chocolates.
The county is enjoying a real food explosion at the moment and is fast becoming known as the food capital of the north. Recent additions to the dining menu include the Punchbowl Inn at Crosthwaite – a worthy new arrival from the people behind the award-winning Drunken Duck Inn. Here you’ll find comfort food with a modern twist like fish pie with a Lancashire cheese glaze or whole-roasted pheasant with a root vegetable casserole and thyme gravy. Check out too the divine damson and vanilla pannacotta for pudding. It’s the perfect end to a spring day in this poetic county.
Reasons to visit Cumbria this spring
The most famous couple in the Lake District are expected to return to Bassenthwaite Lake in the spring. The pair – who have visited the same spot for the past five years – can be viewed from a platform in Dodd Wood.
Ambleside Daffodil and Spring Flower Show
There are competitive classes for all of the prettiest spring flowers including daffodils. It’s a lovely local event and makes a great way to spend an afternoon.
A celebration of all things damson takes place in the Lyth Valley in April each year.
Keswick Jazz Festival
One of the musical highlights of the year takes place in Keswick between May 11-14 with more than 90 traditional and modern jazz events plus street performances. Book early.