20 Intriguing Facts about the Lake District
Are you thinking about a peaceful, picturesque holiday or a weekend retreat in the Lake District this season? Perhaps you are eager to explore the waters, or have you already been? The Lake District is one of the most beloved tourist traps in England, and rightly so: the rolling hills, quaint little market towns, and landscapes straight out of Impressionist art make it a little piece of Heaven right here on Earth. But how much do you know about this enchanting place?
Here are a few Lake District facts you may not have heard of.
It is, in fact, a national park.
The rural majesty that Wordsworth was so entranced by back in the day is still largely preserved in the vast majority of the region. Out of its 885 square miles, 25% is owned by the National Trust, 8% by United Utilities, and another 3.9% by the Lake District National Park Authority, which all invest significant effort in retaining the natural charms of the Lakelands. With the exceptions of Kendal and the Peninsulas, the Lake District was designated a national park in 1951, which has successfully kept it safe from industrial and commercial alterations.
The highest mountain in England is found there.
Standing at the impressive height of 978 metres above sea level, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, as well as the third highest in the whole of the United Kingdom, right behind Snowdon (towering at 1,085 metres) and Ben Nevis (a whopping1,345 metres). Walkers and hikers are drawn to Scafell Pike in swarms, and it is also part of the widely famous Three Peaks Challenge. On a clear day, the top of the Pike offers a view of the other peaks in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man.
It is also the home of the longest lake in England.
Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. This excitingly long and surprisingly narrow body of water boasts an impressive length of more than eleven miles. Dotted along it are a total of 18 islands. The largest of these is Belle Island, where discoveries of Roman artefacts have been made.
As well as the deepest lake in England.
Right up there with Lake Windermere among spots with impressive statistics, Wastwater proudly bears the title of the deepest lake in England. It is nearly 80 metres deep, and its surface dimensions are not insignificant either – it is a good three miles long by over half a mile wide.
There is only one official lake in the whole Lake District.
Considering that the region is known as the Lake District and the Lakelands, it is quite strange to think that there is, in fact, only one official lake in it. This shocking label goes to Bassenthwaite Lake, for two reasons.
Firstly, it is the only body of water in the area that officially has “lake” in its name –all the others, like Lake Windermere, use the word in order to distinguish between the given body of water and its neighbouring town.
Secondly, all the other supposed lakes in the region are officially classified as either a tarn, mere, or water.
It took over two million years of glacial erosion to create it.
The geological make up of the Lake District is quite characteristic in its composition. It consists of an upland massif of a roughly circular shape, with deep valleys arranged in a radial pattern. These valleys often feature narrow lakes with more or less flat ground at their heads.
The U-shaped cross-section which makes for so many perfect holiday photographs is typical of glacial erosion, and it was these glaciations that kept repeating over the last approximately two million years to create the Lake District as we know it today.
Lake District has its own castle.
At Claife in the English county of Cumbria stands a thick and intimidating Victorian neo-gothic structure with several crosses etched into its façade. Those are fake arrow slits, a typical gothic architectural feature. The building in question is Wray Castle, which was built in 1840 for one James Dawson, a retired surgeon from Liverpool.
The nearby Wray Church was built along with it, both financed by his wife’s fortune. The house and grounds belong to the National Trust since 1929, and the house is open to the public for tourist visits all year round.
It also has the most well-preserved Roman fort in the United Kingdom.
Hardknott Fort is the single best preserved Roman fort ruin in the UK, covering an area of approximately three acres. It was established under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, sometime in the second century AD. The troops that were stationed here were a detachment of 500 cavalry, of the 6thCohort of Dalmatians (from the Dalmatian coast, a region mostly within the borders of modern-day Croatia).
Hardknott Fort was abandoned sometime in the late 130s AD, and served for another while as a temporary shelter travellers and passing patrols.
There are six times more sheep than people in Cumbria.
Although the county of Cumbria has a population of nearly 500,000 people, the Lake District itself has a mere forty five people per square mile. The rest of the District population is made up of sheep – more than three million sheep. The widely renowned Herdwich breed is famous for being resilient to harsh weather conditions, even cruel winters, and overall being a very hardy animal.
They are a major factor in the region’s agricultural economy, which is its second largest source of income, after tourism. The farmers of Lake District still use traditional methods to manage their sheep, letting them wander about freely across the unfenced terrain, what is called leaving them “heafed to the fell”.
The sheep actually lend a tooth to the tourism business: their grazing keeps the grass even and keeps the shrub and bracken away.
The national park is a safe haven for very rare wildlife.
Some of the rarest wildlife in Britain found a home in the Lake District, most notably the adorable British Red Squirrel, native to the area. It is currently considered to be an endangered species, and the Lake District is one of the few remaining places in Britain where they can still be found in the wild.
The national park also houses several other species, either protected or rare, some of which are Peregrine falcons, barn owls, red deer, Natterjack toads, as well as Britain’s only nesting pairs of Ospreys and Golden Eagles.
It used to be possible to walk on the lake.
Even though it is the most popular summer holiday destination in the Lake District, Lake Windermere was, in fact, frozen over several times, and it was truly possible to walk right over it. The most notable time this happened was back in 1895, when the lake was frozen over for a whole of six weeks.
This phenomenon occurred once before, in 1864, and another two times later on, in 1946 and 1963.
There was a famous slave owner resident.
Storrs Hall is a beautiful Georgian mansion on the banks of Windermere, which now serves as a hotel, having previously been a youth hostel and a girls’ school. It was built in the 1970s by Sir John Legard, a landowner from Yorkshire.
Due to his declining health, he sold it in 1804 and it became the property of one John Bolton, who had made his fortune in the slave trade. He used it as an entertainment site, holding extravagant regattas on the lake. His guests included Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott, among others.
It is the home of Britain’s 44thprotected food.
In 2011, the Cumberland Sausage was granted protected status. The coil-shaped pork snack is renowned for its distinctive, spicy, peppery taste, owing to a blend of white and black pepper in its seasoning. Being made from chopped, rather than minced, meat, they have a somewhat chunky trademark texture, and each of them is two feet long!
It hosts the highest war memorial in Britain.
Aside from being England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike is also its largest war memorial. Namely, in 1919, it was donated along with twelve other mountains to the National Trust as part of the “Great Gift”, to commemorate those who died in the war.
The landowner, Charles Wyndham, 3rd Baron of Leconfield, said he wanted it to be “…in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War of 1914-1918”.
There is a holiday for liars.
Although Cumbrians are renowned for being very honest, down-to-earth folk, there is one day in November when being a little more flexible with the truth is okay. This is the annual contest to find “the biggest liar in the world”. It celebrates a 9th-century publican named Will Ritson who was famed for the tall tales with which he entertained his guests.
One of the lakes is a tomb of two villages.
In 1929 Parliament granted the Manchester Corporation permission to build a reservoir in the Mardale valley to provide drinking water for the inhabitants of north-western towns. For that purpose, the villages of Mardale Green and Measand were evacuated and flattened, and their dead reburied elsewhere. The valley was flooded in 1935 and is now Haweswater, the easternmost lake.
This is the birthplace of the pencil.
The graphite mine at Seathwaite, which was first discovered in the 1550s, provided the material for the very first pencil. Nowadays, the complete history of the utensil is displayed at the Keswick Pencil Museum.
Sticky toffee pudding was invented here.
Francis Coulson cited Ullswater as his inspiration for the sticky toffee pudding he came up with in the 1970s. it is known to be made from fig and light sponge smothered in toffee sauce, but the original recipe is still kept secret.
There was a mass protest before the Mass Protest.
The fame of Kinder Scout notwithstanding, there was a similar display of rebellion in Keswick, in 1887. Landowners were closing paths, and when the owner of Latrigg, Miss Spedding, closed the only paths on the fell and barred the way by planting trees, it broke the camel’s back. Henry Irwin Jenkinson led a 2,000-strong crowd on October 1st 1887 which resulted in landowners having to grant access to footpaths on private property.
It has its own Stonehenge
Castlerigg stone circle is the Lake District’s very own Neolithic monument, one of nearly 300 in England. Comprised of 38 stones, it was constructed about 3000 BC and spans more than 30 metres in diameter.
What is your favourite Lake District Fact?
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