Tag Archive: lake district


Our recent Lake District break culminated in a visit to the wondeful arts and crafts house, Blackwell, on the eastern shores of Windermere. We had been here about 20 years ago, and had a memory of it as a fabulous example of the work of Scottish architect H.M. Baillee Scott..but I wasn’t prepared to be bowled over.

It was built 1898–1900, as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy Manchester brewer. It is situated near the town of Bowness with views looking over Lake Windermere and across to the Coniston Fells.

Blackwell has survived with almost all its original decorative features intact, and is listed Grade 1 as an outstanding example of British domestic architecture. The house is furnished with original furniture and objects from the period. The gardens were designed by Thomas Mawson in a series of terraces, though today I suspect they are rather more simple than the original design- I was itching to see a formal herbaceous border ona the large grassed terrace that overlooks the lake! Today a few flowers and herbs border the terraces, which form sun traps on the south side of the house. Here’s a short video from the Blackwell website to give you the flavour of the place…

What is most impressive is the attention to detail to ensure a strong sense of unity from the structure and detailing of the house through to the decorations, furnishing and internal structures- several small ‘nooks’ alongside fireplaces and/or views of the surrounding landscape (with delightful stained glass) are a key feature. Here’s my own photo show of the house…

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And of the gardens…

Definitely the epitome of all that’s good about arts and crafts style, though perhaps more could be made of the outside? The house is run by the Lakeland Arts Trust, who also provide a very good cafe on site.

Further information: Blackwell website

Old School Gardener

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Our second trip to a notable Lake District house and garden was Sizergh Castle, an imposing house standing proud at the gateway to the Lake District. Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The exceptional wood panelling culminates in the Inlaid Chamber, returned here in 1999 from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

‘A true patchwork of styles, taking a stroll through the House will lead you from the base of the medieval solar tower, through the Elizabethan interiors, into the French regency-styled Drawing Room and beyond. Cherished family photos sit alongside precious antiques, linking the past with the present day. In a house full of contrasts, fine craftsmanship can be seen throughout, from the impressive collection of Gillows furniture, to the stunning Italian-designed ceilings. They all have stories to tell, not least of all the splendid Victorian dining table, which awaits your uncovering of its tales and secrets. From the Battle of Agincourt, to the fight for Malta during the Second World War, the Strickland’s involvement in over 700 years of national history can be uncovered first-hand at Sizergh. ‘

The 647-hectare (1,600-acre) estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and semi-natural woodland. Its rich and beautiful garden includes a pond, lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a superb limestone rock garden.

Unfortunately an urgent medical need meant my visit was shortened, so some areas of the gardens I will need to return to. But I managed to meet the Head Gardener and compliment her on the quality of the planting in the herbaceous borders (with some clever twiggy supports) and the ‘square foot gardening’ in the kitchen garden. I also loved the Stumpery which shows off the ferns to great effect.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

A week in the Lake District is always a treat, especially if you have some fine weather. On a recent trip we had a rather mixed bag, meteorologically speaking, but we had great company ( a group of ex college friends) and plenty of places to visit as well as some fell walking. Our first really wet day we spent exploring Keswick and especially the famous Derwent Pencil Museum (the home of ‘Lakeland Pencils’). At first glance this seems like a rather modest museum, but upon closer inspection- and there was plenty of that- I found it delightful. The wall-size information panels and engaging videos; especially the one telling the story of the Keswick Pencil company’s involvement in a project to create a pencil that  could be used by war time airmen not only to plot their route, but to escape enemy hands should they be shot down- it concealed a small, fine silk map of Europe and a minute compass.

Our way home took in the splendid former home of the poet Wordsworth, Rydal Mount alongside Grasmere. Though the rain continued off and on, we had an interesting look round this humble home with many interesting exhibits on the famous poet and his family. The gardens, cascading down the hill towards the lake, were also wonderful, even in damp weather. A flowing plan of mixed borders and woodland gardens seemed just right for this spot.

Further information:

Derwent Pencil Museum

Rydal Mount

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Lakeland sunset

Coniston Old Man via the National Trust

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