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A walk around Derwentwater

A walk around Derwentwater
Cross the bridge to Portinscale, a village where hotels and large houses testify to its popularity with visitors. In 1829, what was known as the Blucher Hotel had pleasure grounds and an aviary containing, among other 'valuable birds', two golden eagles. (In the eighteenth century, this species had bred wild in Borrowdale.) Walk to a T-junction and turn left, passing the gates to the Derwentwater Marina. A fine beech hedge fringes the grounds of Derwent Bank (Holiday Fellowship).

At the end of this hedge, a finger post points left to Nichol End. The drive, which in winter contains a row of laid up sailing craft, ends at a marina, complete with shop and cafe. Your path lies to the right of this building. Before entering a wooded area, you might enjoy a view across Derwentwater to the vast bulk of Skiddaw, which in winter has an orangey tinge from low sunlight and expanses of dead bracken.Derwent Island, the most prominent in view, is one of the many local possessions of the National Trust. You will glimpse a mansion dating from the latter part of the eighteenth century. Joseph Pocklington, who had the house built, ensured that he would be remembered by organizing regattas on the lake.

Cannons were fired during mock naval battles. Your path crosses a drive leading to Fawe Park (indicated by a gate marked private). The Potter family, who rented this property in summer, were Londoners who are well remembered in the Lake District, their daughter, Beatrix, becoming celebrated as the author of little books about animals dressed up as humans. Beatrix remembered this area and also the lake when writing The Tale on Peter Rabbit. An imposing oak tree in the grounds of Fade Park was a model for Old Brown's Oak in The Tale oj Squirrel Nut kin; the squirrels sailed on Derwentwater.

A prominent notice beside Lingholm (another fine property rented by the Potters) indicates 'Public Footpath to Cat Bells'. Beyond, a gate which closes with a clunk (notice the heavy stone weight attached to a chain) is flanked by woodland. You emerge from cover onto meadowland, grandly known as the Park, which offers a view of two notable peaks, being the high spots of the Cat Bells ridge (walk 14). Wintering sheep are Herdwicks, the distinctive white-faced Lakeland breed. Lambs are dark in the body.

Heed the sign marked Hawes End, passing on the low side of a prominent outdoor centre of that name and, shortly, using a metal kissing gate in a fence (left) to gain access to a well made path. This terminates on the shore of Derwentwater, where there is a landing stage for the motor craft that run a regular passenger service during the tourist season. Just north of Hawes End Landing is Copperhead Bay, where copper from the Newlands mines was shipped to Keswick to be smelted.

When in doubt about the path, choose one that is within easy distance of the lake. More wooden gates close through the drag effect of a rock dangling from a chain. The walk south of Hawes End through Brandelhow Woods is notable for its fine specimens of pine, oak and larch. Watch for wintering bands of small birds titmice, tree creepers and gold crests. Even with its distinctive black edged golden yellow crown, the small, restless gold crest is not easy to spot as it feeds among the treetops. Wintering waterfowl include golden eye, characterized by a white blob between eye and beak on an otherwise dark, high peaked head; pochard, with a chestnut head and grey body; and the ubiquitous mallard. The drake mallard is worth a second glance in spring, when its bottle green head is lustrous.

At Low Brandelhow, where there is another landing stage, a simple wooden seat bears the dedication 'JV and the dogs', and a plank seat has a wooden adornment as if a hard pillow had been provided for weary walkers. The spoil heaps of the Brandelhow Mine testify to the relentless quest for copper that began in the days of the first Elizabeth when, there being an urgent need for copper for the hulls of warships, the queen arranged for German miners to be recruited.

A wooded promontory is the enviable setting for white painted Abbots Bay House, which has evolved from a modest house built in 1902 by Percy Withers, a minor poet. In the year 2000 it came on the market at an asking price of £1.2S million. Near the gate at the entrance to the drive is a tree bedecked with pieces of fabric, mostly bleached, evidence of a Buddhist tradition, the ribbons being attached in prayerful observance. The walk continues to a slate cottage known as the Warren, at which point turn left to walk through the delightful Majesty Woods, walking for much of the time on the exposed roots of conifers.

Pass through a gate set in a mossy wall and continue on a good path before cross-ing a quarter of a mile (400m) of moss land, with a higharched bridge to carry you dry-shod over the River Derwent. This stretch, which should not be undertaken after excessive rain, is walked partly on plank ways provided by the National Trust, owner of the ground. These 'duck boards' lift you above the sodden (sometimes flooded) terrain that fringes Great Bay, a resort of waterfowl, including graylag geese.From the bridge, a broad path (on which an inch or two of water might lie in wet periods) leads to the BS289 Borrowdale road.

Turn left towards Keswick. A signpost just before the big hotel is reached indicates the approach to Lodore Falls. A small charge is made for admission. Thomas West (1778) gave the falls the grand title of 'Niagara of the lake'. Not far beyond the hotel, walkers are advised to use a path (to the right of the road) through Strutta Wood, avoiding close contact with motor traffic. This is mainly an oak wood, and at times you will crunch acorns underfoot.

From the Kettle well car park, a shore route may be followed back to Keswick. You will be inclined to avoid the more difficult stretches by using a pathway beside the road. This is easily possible where a flight of slate steps leads up from a boat landing. Eventually, just short of Calf close Bay, you should make a careful descent to the beach; henceforth it is level walking, beside a bay which, when sheltered from the wind, is appealing to waterfowl and usually has a company of mallard.

The promontory beyond the bay now has a fine iron seat set on cobbles a gift to the locality in millennium year by the Keswick Lions. The path heads north for Stable Hills, with wellwooded Lords Island within easy view. Now you walk on a broad path in park like country. Just beyond the short drive leading to a group of buildings (left), you will see;: path to a small wooden gate that gives access to Dirty Wood. (A well made path separates you from the dirt.) It is a resort of such woodland birds as the nuthatch blue-grey above, buff beneath, with white cheeks and throat which is able to scutter about a tree trunk in any direction because of its special claws.

On Friars Crag is a tall slate memorial to John Ruskin, the nineteenth century philosopher, author and artist. There is also a seat which (like the other) offhs a splendid view of the lake in its setting and of the imposing Jaws of Borrowable. Walk into Keswick and, having crossed the river bridge on the BS271, turn immediately left, then right to follow a conspicuous footpath across fields to where you left the car.

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