D’ye Ken John Peel
Caldbeck is a small village with a population of around 900 or so people. It isn’t easy to get to from the West (Penrith end) but it is well worth a visit. As with many small Lakeland villages that aren’t actually near a lake it has to work hard for it’s visitors but, on the plus side, it is one of the least “touristy” places you can visit. It has a couple of shops, a decent pub, The Oddfellows, which serves good wholesome pub grub and a large selection of well kept ales, it is one of the few pubs left that has two teams entered into the Penrith & District 5’s & 3’s league (interesting fact one).
The church, St. Kentigerns, which dates from the 12th century is worth a visit, as is the graveyard which is the resting place of the great and renowned local huntsman John Peel. The Cald Beck ( the river after which the village takes its name) runs behind the church and on past the lovely Watermill Cafe which is ideal for cake and tea or coffee. It also sells meals but be warned, if you want a drink it isn’t licensed. In the yard where the Watermill stands there are a couple of shops which are unashamedly local, selling crafts and quirky artworks.
The reason we go to Caldbeck at least a couple of times a year is to walk up the Howk, a limestone gorge which has been carved out by the beck. It’s easy enough to find the start of the walk from the free car park. On the way you will pass the village pond, the nearest thing Caldbeck has to a lake. The Howk doesn’t change much geographically but, dependent on the season, the water course can be quite spectacular and is never less than stunning. At this time of year, or maybe a little later you will probably notice, as you walk up the first section, a faint onion smell. You won’t be imagining it. From mid March onwards the banks are carpeted in wild garlic. The young softer leaves make an excellent addition to a salad bowl and the larger leaves can be converted, with a little bit of imagination, into a lovely soup or a pesto with a difference. I generally pick a couple of carrier bags full but it doesn’t keep well once picked so, unless you plan on making lots of soup, it’s best to take just what you need. Who doesn’t like free food?
The Bobbin Mill
You don’t have to walk far to reach what for many will be a surprise and a delight. Here, on the Howk at Caldbeck, stands the well preserved ruins of a bobbin mill. Timber from the gorge was worked, using the power provided by the beck, into bobbins for the textile industry. During times of slow demand the mill also produced other wooden implements but if I tell you the whole story it won’t be worth reading the information placard. The mill is built from local stone and was, for a long time, a major employer in the area. This is a lovely area to have a break, either on the way up or the way back down (or both). Just beyond the mill is where the series of waterfalls and rapids starts. By rapids I mean English rapids and by waterfalls I mean English waterfalls, so don’t go expecting to see Angel Falls, however I believe you will be suitably impressed.
Walking up from the mill there is a bit of a climb which allows excellent views of the river. There are steps cut into the side of the gorge and railings but, with care, its possible to get closer to the water course if you feel adventurous and you’re looking for a special shot. After walking above the river for a few hundred yards the path leads out into rough open meadow where the river becomes more meandering. Livestock wanders in these pastures so if you have a dog with you it’ll need to be on a leash. The ground along this stretch can be a little muddy but, with care and a good eye for the boggy sections, you can generally find a way around the worst of it. There are one or two scattered farms on the far side of the river and several bridges which will allow you to look up and down the river. There are also one or two ramshackle little sheds which, at this time of year can hold a surprise or two.
Diversity in Action
I had intended just to take a picture of the old tin and wood shed, it being “interesting” in an “arty” sort of way but I hadn’t bargained on what we found. Not that remarkable in reality, although it is a bit early for lambs this far north but what was surprising was the colour make up of them. There were two ewes and four lambs, two white and two completely black. The first impression was that the two white ones belonged to one ewe and vice versa but after watching them for a short while it was obvious that each ewe had one lamb of each colour. Not unknown but certainly not common place either. A welcome diversion and one more photo opportunity. At this point in the walk (about 1.5 miles or so in) there is a stile that leads into the next meadow and you can follow the river further or this is also a handy place to turn back and walk along the bank, seeing the watercourse from a different perspective.
If you are visiting the lake district or if you live within striking distance and want an interesting walk which doesn’t take in any of the higher fells or the touristy towns and areas then Caldbeck is the perfect spot. Picturesque, unspoiled and very English. I hope you enjoy it.
© Coloniescross 2018