When travelling as a passenger in a car or on public transport, there are all sorts of unusual landmarks and intriguing features to be spotted around the Lakes. For some time now, I’ve been searching to gather the explanations behind some of them, and so here are a few Lake District curiosities, and their stories, which I hope you will find of interest…
1. The AA box, Dunmail Raise, between Keswick and Grasmere
If you’ve ever stopped in the lay-by on Dunmail Raise (on your left-hand side as you come down the hill from Keswick towards Grasmere) you may have noticed the distinctive black and yellow AA box perched above you on the grassy slope there.
According to the Lakeland Motor Museum in Backbarrow, the first of the Automobile Association boxes was installed in 1912 in Surrey, and they were originally created as shelters for road patrols, containing useful supplies for motorists. Later on, sentries could sometimes be found at the boxes, and AA members were issued with their own keys in 1920. The museum displays a similar AA box, which was originally situated in Newby Bridge.
March 2022: If you’ve travelled along the A591 at Dunmail Raise recently you may have noticed that the AA box has disappeared. According to the Keswick Reminder, the box, which is Grade II listed, was damaged during the recent bad weather.
2. The Drinking Fountain, opposite the Jerwood Centre at the mini-roundabout, Grasmere
Whenever I’ve been a passenger in a car travelling past Grasmere, I’ve noticed this small stone structure, not far from the mini-roundabout, and often wondered what it is. Whilst photographing the village one day, I set out on foot to take a look, and wondering how it came to be there, contacted the Wordsworth Trust, who put me in touch with the Grasmere Village Society.
According to articles written for the society by Peter Coward, the Drinking Fountain was built in 1889 at the request of Miss Caroline Richardson, and was placed there in memory of William Wordsworth, and Caroline’s sister, whose initials are also inscribed on the fountain. It was built with tiers at different heights, so appears to have been designed for thirsty travellers with four legs as well as two, including horses and dogs. The fountain was originally built further into Stock Lane, but was then apparently dismantled and rebuilt when widening work took place on the A591 in around 1960.
3. Bridge House, Ambleside
One of the Lake District’s best-known buildings, the tiny Bridge House, spans Stock Beck, a small river running through the centre of Ambleside. Historically it has had many lives, including as a weaving shed, a counting house for the mills, and a family home for eight people! I’ve previously written about Bridge House for the blog, where you can see photos of this adorable building on the inside…
4. Marker stone, Ambleside
For something a little less well-known, you only need look at this intriguing marker stone, which can be found on the opposite side of the road to Bridge House, mentioned above. For several months I actually walked past this twice a day to and from work, and it was only on reading Stuart Holmes’s Photographing the Lake District that I thought, ‘well I’ve never noticed that before!’.
As I understand it, Above Stock and Below Stock relate to Ambleside historically straddling two parish boundaries, but without the adequate local historic knowledge to explain it all competently, I’m not even going to try! (For fans of Lake District history there’s some further context on this in John M. Carnie’s book about the history of Ambleside, At Lakeland’s Heart, but if you’ve come across other good explanations, do please leave a comment below).
5. The three roadside wells, Troutbeck
Continuing on the theme of roadside wells, these lovely wells can be found in the stone walls along the narrow road running through Troutbeck. There are three of them, each dating back to the 1800s and named after members of the family who built them, and you’ll spot many more around the Lake District’s towns and villages, including Windermere and Ambleside.
6. The Elba Monument, A591 near Burneside
As a car passenger, you may notice this monument near to the junction for Hollin’s Lane, a side-road off the A591 which leads to Burneside (it’s on your left as you head towards Kendal, just before reaching the Plumgarth’s roundabout).
The monument is a Grade II listed building which was constructed in 1814, and, from what I can gather, is on private land. A plaque, widely photographed online, was finally placed on the monument in 1914 to read:
In honour of WILLIAM PITT “the pilot that weathered the storm” ELBA
James Bateman of Tolson Hall intended to inscribe these words on this monument when he built it in 1814 but owing to Napoleon’s escape from Elba the inscription was not engraved
A century later this tablet was placed here in 1914 by Charles Cropper of Ellergreen
7. The Baddeley Clock, Windermere
This small and ornate clock tower can be spotted on Lake Road leading from the village of Windermere to nearby Bowness-on-Windermere, and marks the division between the two. The tower was built as a memorial to the highly regarded local guide writer, Mountford John Byrde Baddeley, who died in 1906. To find out more, here’s a post I wrote about the Baddeley Clock a little while ago…
8. The old Second World War Mine, Bowness-on-Windermere
It’s funny what you don’t notice, however many times you pass something, so when this old Second World War Mine became the obscure answer (with equally obscure clues) to a quiz on the former radio station Lakeland Radio*, it became one of those quizzes that went on for a very long time…
So the next time I was walking on the Glebe, I had to find it, just to figure out how I’d not noticed it in all that time. Here it is…
*(Lakeland Radio was taken over by the national station Smooth FM in 2018, so if you’ve been trying to find it during a recent break to the Lakes and wondered what happened to it, no, your radio isn’t malfunctioning…).
I’m sure that there are many, many more wonderful curiosities I’ve missed while writing this post. If you have a favourite of your own, I’d love to hear about it – and if you know the story behind it, even better! You can share your thoughts with other readers of the blog by leaving a comment below.