Moor cottage with 360° view

IMG_3897 It didn’t register much with me at first as I was making for the top of Blaeberry Fell. A cold wind soon brought thick whirling snowflakes. By my return an hour later in the dusk the fallen snow was revealing the pile of stones, which I had hurried past, to be the ruins of a substantial rectangular construction about 30 x 20 feet in size with two dressed sandstone upright door posts. (See photo opposite).

Could this really be a sheepfold – almost invariably circular – as the OS map indicates? Intrigued by its location (Grid Ref: NY 279209) I found an old 1865 OS map, which showed a similar building and description, running on a NW-SE axis.

A visit to the site this last week without snow convinced me I was right – slate tiles with punched holes, part of a broken sink, a glazed roof ridge section and remains of a well rendered NW wall showed this was certainly a bolt hole for humans not sheep!

“Oh yes it was a shepherd’s cottage alright,” said Frank Richardson owner of the Junk and Bric-a-Bac shop on Keswick’s Central Park Road (Open after Easter 10.30 am – 2.00 pm), when I saw him at the weekend. “I used to go laiking about up there when I was a lad 60 years ago. There was more of it standing then.”

And what a position it has! The photo below looking north-east is a spectacular view of Clough Head and the Helvellyn range still covered with snow. Other magnificent views from here of Skiddaw, Eel Crags and Robinson can be found in our Rooftops of the World Photo Gallery.

Built over 150 years ago, Brockle Beck cottage provides fascinating insights into farming life in the 19th century and helps show what living conditions were like for earlier generations in mountain areas.

It would be a great project to determine its layout through excavation and at least partially restore the building as an attraction for visitors. It could also open the way to creating an interesting high level green route for walkers from Keswick to Watendlath, avoiding the Borrowdale traffic.

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The hole and the rabbit

We’ve seen them occasionally, but rabbits generally are not frequent visitors in Seldom Seen. However this last week we’ve had several sightings round the cottage. We’re not sure if it is one or two of them – and it’s an important point. Maybe they have been driven to higher ground following the winter floods.

We soon found the reason though. A pile of earth and slate chips (see foreground of the photos below) had been heaped up into the small herb garden – dug out from a hole, which dived deep under the newly created south lawn. It didn’t take long to find who was responsible as our Peter Rabbit was on shift duty all afternoon, collecting moss for a new comfortable burrow.

The pictures tell the story and now we are left with a problem. Rabbits and vegetable growing don’t go well together and planting is due to start this week in the new raised bed.

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POSTSCRIPT – 17th March: The hole and the rabbit mystery deepens
Less than 24 hours after taking the photos above we returned today to the rabbit hole to discover that it had been completely filled in with a layer of moss placed on top covering the earth. Does anyone know what has happened here? It was not the work of any humans we are sure. We assume that yesterday was the work of a female rabbit – Petra not Peter! – creating a nest for her expected litter. Did she cover the hole in because the site was too busy or is she in the burrow, having been covered in by a mate? There is no obvious alternative exit that we can see. Let us have your answers and ideas on this.

Kit for winter walking

IMG_4018 It’s been a year for winter walking in the Lake District – storms and heavy snowfalls have left frozen tarns, iced up becks and transformed landscapes. A covering of snow paradoxically both conceals and reveals. A drumlin (see photo opposite) on the route to Sergeant Man above Easedale showed off its profile last week far more clearly than would be seen on a summer’s day.

Once you’re hooked on the excitement of these wintry fells, it’s hard to resist the urge to get up there. Several times recently I’ve been on the tops and met people just up for the day from Tyneside, Manchester and Edinburgh – making the best of the ten hours of daylight to get magnificent rooftop views across the fells (see two photos below).

But you have to be well equipped as the weather can change quickly, turning a pleasant summer walk into a difficult and dangerous undertaking. The local papers have been reporting this year both heavy demands on the mountain rescue teams and several serious accidents and deaths.

Keswick, billed as the ‘mountain capital of England’ is a good place to find the right equipment; and if you want advice the two best shops are Needle Sports and George Fisher. I find a system of layers works best for keeping warm – and cooling down after heavy exertion.

I wear two light weight woollen ‘base layers’ (Icebreaker or Patagonia), a zipped fleece, a heavy duty hooded and breathable cagoule (Patagonia), neck warmer, winter trousers, walking boots with vibram soles, wool socks, Velcro-fastened gaiters (Black Diamond), wool hat and inner and outer gloves.

You’ll need a good rucksack and remember also to take a map, compass (or GPS device), whistle, torch and some basic First Aid equipment. If the conditions are severe with freezing temperatures, I’ll also take an ice axe, crampons and a down or synthetic puffa jacket – which packs down very small. For extra protection I sometimes take a Goretex bivvy bag – ideal for keeping a casualty warm even in freezing conditions with icy winds. A mobile phone may be useful in emergencies, but do not rely on this as there may be no coverage.

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