by John Moss
The Southern Lakes of Cumbria
The two peninsulas of Furness and Cartmel are
a worthwhile visit for any tour of the South Lakeland District. They
contrast considerably with the more stark and dramatic beauty of the
northern lakes in that they are much more rural and gentle in character,
and close to the stereotypical image which many foreign visitors have
of England at its best.
Aerial Photograph of Cartmel courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk Copyright
The Cartmel Peninsular forms part of the far eastern
corner of Cumbria, known as South Lakeland, and for the most-part it
lies within the National Park, except for its extreme southern tip.
It originally formed part of the County of Lancashire before border
changes in the 1970s, and was traditionally known as "Lancashire Beyond
the Sands", due, no doubt, to its proximity to Lancashire by the sands
of the Leven Estuary of Morecambe Bay across which it lies, and can
still be accessed when the tide is out.
This oversands route dates back as far in time as the first men inhabited
it. This antiquity is reflected in the name : once known by the Celts
as "Mare Cymry", the ancient
Cumbrian Sea, from which the name Morecambe derives. These ever shifting
sands were first recorded by Tacitus, the emperor Agricola's historian,
during the latter's campaign against the Brigantian tribes of Northern
Left to Right: Furness Abbey; Cartmel Priory; The Laurel & Hardy
Museum, Ulverston; The village of Cartmel
The Furness Peninsular is the most southerly part
of Cumbria and includes Coniston, Hawkshead, Newby Bridge and the southern
shores of Lake Windermere, and the Grizedale Forest. The name Furness
is translated to mean " the Country of the Far Headland " from the old
English "fur" (meaning "far") and "ness"
(meaning "promontory" or peninsular). Extensively settled by Vikings,
the peninsular abounds in ancient settlements and villages and retains
vestiges of its old copper and iron smelting history, practices which
survived in Barrow until the mid-20th century in its iron and steel
works and shipbuilding.
Cartmel is a charmingly pretty village, easily
approached from Junction 36 on the M6 Motorway, along the A591 and
A590, well signposted, though the narrow approach lanes are high-hedged
and in places require careful driving to avoid oncoming traffic.
It lies just 3 miles inland from Grange-over-Sands, and is famed
for its Norman priory, a late 12th century monastic church which
was fortunate in surviving the dissolution of monasteries ordered
under King Henry VIII, and for further damages committed by Parliamentarian
forces in the Civil War in the early 17th century.
Little is known of Cartmel's history before the foundation of the
Priory. In 1185 the land of Cartmel was granted to William Marshall,
later the Earl of Pembroke, and later regent of England. Royal permission
was granted for the establishment of a monastery in 1189, under
the Order of St Augustine.
The original priory encompassed most of the present village, and
the Gatehouse Arch, now a National Trust property, some 300 yards
away gives an impression of the original size of the Priory. In
the Main Square there remains a standing post, the remnant of an
earlier cross, and curious stone benches which were used in medieval
times to display fish on market days.
It is also renowned for its racecourse. The Priory itself is of
cathedral proportions, with a large part still being pure Norman,
and other additions later including the large perpendicular Gothic
stained glass window over the alter at the eastern end of the building.
After the Dissolution of 1537, most of the monastery buildings disappeared,
and only the church building remained, though it stood for some
80 years without a roof, as evidenced by the severe wear and weathering
on the medieval choir stalls, which, despite this maltreatment,
remain superb examples of medieval woodcraft.
The village centre can get very busy at peak holiday times, though
there is ample parking through the village on the race course.
There are several pub-restaurants in the village offering conventional
pub fare, as well as a teashop at the village approach. There is
a small, but well-stocked gift and souvenir shop at the race course
end of the village, which also sells post-cards, tourist videos
and lakeland goods of various kinds.
Ulverston is named in the Domesday Book of 1086
and has a market charter dating back to 1280 and still operates a
major cattle market for the region every Thursday, as well as a regular
Saturday street market, where traditional local specialities like
Cumberland Sausage are still sold, and where the local shops seem
to have lost none of the old-worldliness and courtesy of former times.
The town's name probably derives from Ulph, one of its early Viking
settlers, of whom many plagued this coastal region after the withdrawal
of Roman legions from Britain in the 5th century AD. In some ways
a charmingly different town by Lake District standards. First, it
is large, and not overly developed for tourism. Second, it is notable
for its many back street alleyways (known as "ginnels"),
which still abound with shops and studios of traditional artists,
craftsmen and women.
"Heritage First!" has now replaced the former Museum & Heritage
Centre - see the website at: www.rootsweb.com/~ukuhc.
Down one of the town's ginnels lies the Laurel & Hardy Museum; Ulverston
being the birthplace of Stan Laurel, the Museum commemorates their
lives, their work and films, and is open to the public. Unfortunately,
the former home of the Classic Bikes Working Museum on Victoria Road
is now a vetinary Surgery and the Museum is no more.
The disused Ulverston Canal, built by the engineer John Rennie in
1796, once boasted being "the shortest,
widest, deepest and straightest canal in the world".
It could carry large vessels of up to 350 tons the mile or so inland
to the town, helping make Ulverston a major commercial port in the
early 1800s. It carried iron ore, slate, stone, gunpowder and bobbins,
amongst other various types of freight, until the opening of the Furness
Railway in 1857, after which time its usage declined rapidly - the
last boat sailed through in 1916.
Barrrow, once renowned for its great ship building
has, in recent years, thrown off its industrial past and readjusted
well to the needs of modern tourism. It is the site of one of the
most important Cistercian Abbeys in Britain at Furness Abbey, hosts
the South Lakeland Wildlife Oasis Park and the Dock Museum which celebrates
the history of ship-building in the region.
Please check times and prices
for yourself before setting out as they may have changes since this
entry was written.
COLONY COUNTRY STORE CANDLEMAKERS
Colony Gift Corporation Ltd, Lindal-in-Furness, Ulverston. Tel:
Open 9.00-500 Mon-Sat and from 12noon on Sundays. Open Bank Holidays
except Christmas & Boxing Day. Entrance free. Groups catered for
by prior arrangement. Britains leading candlemakers and the largest
supplier of scented candles in Europe. Using traditional techniques.
THE DOCK MUSEUM, BARROW
North Road, Barrow-in-Furness Cumbria LA14 2PU. Tel: 01229-894444.
Exciting audio-visual presentations and displays of Barrow history,
with its connections with iron, steel and ship-building. Facilities
include a landscaped dockside walkway, outdoor exhibitions and performances,
adventure playground, wet dock area, souvenir shop and caf�. Lifts
to all floors, and complete wheelchair accessibility. Ample car
and coach parking. Groups welcomed. Guided tours available. Open
in summer from Good Friday to end of October from Wednesday-Sunday,
10.00am-5.00pm (later opening and closing on Sundays). Open in winter
from November to end of March, Wednesday to Saturday 10.30am-4.00pm,
and Sundays from 12noon-4.00pm. Last entry 3.15pm. Open on Bank
Holiday Mondays. Free admission.
Website: www.dockmuseum.org.uk. Email: email@example.com
DALTON LEISURE CENTRE
Chapel Street, Dalton-in-Furness. Tel: 01229-463125.
A complete day's recreation and entertainment under one covered facility,
including a warm water 20 metre family pool with water slide, Solarium,
Gymnasium and Sauna facilities. Cafe facilities serving hot and cold
light refreshments. Pool table, video games and kiddie rides.
ULVERSTON LEISURE CENTRE
Lower Brook Street, Ulverston. Tel: 01229-580820.
Open all year round from Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm. Closed
Wednesdays, Christmas and Easter. A large collective exhibition of
photographs and artefacts of Ulverston's past heritage from its first
record in the Domesday Book in 1087 to Victorian and Edwardian times.
Interesting to the casual visitor and to the serious researcher alike.
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. Tel: 01229-823420.
The dramatic ruins of Furness Abbey, set in the "Vale of Deadly Nightshade"
is a worthwhile visit while touring the peninsula. Maintained and
run by English Heritage, there is a Museum which contains an introductory
exhibition and a collection of stone carvings. Admission includes
the option of use of a free audio tape to guide you through the abbey.
Open Summer Season (1 April or Good Friday - whichever is earliest,
to 30th September, 10.00am to 6.00pm daily. Winter Season (1st October
- 31st March) open Wednesday to Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm. Closed Christmas
and New Year. Admission : about �2.50 with concessions for senior
citizens and children. Children under 5 go free.
CLASSIC BIKES WORKING MUSEUM
Victoria Road, Ulverston. Tel: 01229-586099.
A unique museum dedicated to Motorcycles, some of which are offered
for sale! A collection of British, Italian, Japanese and German bikes
from the classic to the standard and from the mundane to the exotic.
Full restoration of motorcycles on display. Also a collection of memorabilia
and books. Open from Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am-4.30pm. Closed Sunday
& Monday. Open Bank Holidays except Christmas and New Year. Admission
under �3.00 with concessions for senior citizens and children. Under
5 year olds go free.
FELL FOOT PARK
Newby Bridge, Ulverston. Accessed via the A592.
An 18 acre park and garden owned by the National Trust, almost fully
restored to its former Victorian beauty, on the southern edge of Lake
Windermere at Newby Bridge. Large displays of daffodils and rhododendrons.
The park offers magnificent views of the Langdales and of Scafell,
the highest peak in England. Boat launches and rowing boats for hire
from April to October (inclusive). Open all year round from 10.00am
to 8.00pm or dusk if sooner. Boathouse Caf�. Car Park charge (free
to NT members). Picnic sites and WCs available in the park. Disabled
facilities included designated parking spaces, and a powered buggy
is available to tour the park.
GLEASTON WATER MILL
Gleaston, Ulverston. Tel: 01229-869244.
An imposing water driven corn mill with a history dating back 400
years. Near the ruins of Gleaston Castle, the mill's wooden gearing
dates back to the early 1700s, and has been completely restored into
full working order so that it can be seen in operations most days.
Guided tours and talks are offered for those who wish to take them.
Dusty Millers licenced restaurant -caf� adjoins the mill, where a
wide variety of local delicacies are on offer as well as a more general
menu. Open : Summer (April to September) from 11.00am to 5.00pm. Closed
Mondays, except Bank Holidays. Winter open 11.00am to 4.00pm, closed
Mondays and Tuesdays.
LAKELAND MOTOR MUSEUM
Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel. Tel: 015395-58509.
Situated in the surroundings of Holker Hall, this is an extensive collection
of vintage and classic cars, motorcycles, tractors, cycles and automobilia
which is well worth seeing. Exhibits include a 1920s recreation of a
garage, the Esso Historical Exhibition, and a Classic Motor Boat Collection.
Open from 2nd April-31st October daily except Saturdays, from 10.30am
to 5.00pm. An "all-in-one" ticket is available for the Museum and other
attractions at Holker Hall.
STOTT PARK BOBBIN MILL
Newby Bridge, Cumbria. Tel: 015395-31087.
Set amongst beautiful south Windermere scenery, this mill is a tribute
to an essential, though often overlooked technology of the Industrial
Revolution. Built in 1835 to supply bobbins and cotton reels to the
Lancashire textiles mills, it was still in use commercially until 1971.
It is still a full working mill museum, where the steam driven engines
still operate to demonstrate the whole bobbin-making process. Steam
days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Guided tours available.
English Heritage property. Open from April to September inclusive, daily
from 10.00am to 6.00pm. Limited opening in October. Admission charge
payable - about �2.75 per adult, with concessions for children and senior