Postcard 3 from Coniston – The Billy Nine Mates Tour

Today is a slow day. We have a five miler planned, it’s mostly flat although we will discover that there is a bit of ‘up’ this will achieve our aerobic targets – not that we have any but it’s good for us anyway.

We’re walking to Hawkshead along the shore of Coniston then over the appropriately named Hawkshead Hill and into the tiny village not too far from Esthwaite Water. It also has a smaller mass of water which is privately owned and has been the subject of scientific study by Oxford University. It’s called Priest Pot and whilst it attracts a series of ribald comments it does have a history and the reason for the scientific interest is that it has been unaffected by humans for two or three centuries.

Part of the walk is along a footpath as the side of the road but we’re lucky in that there is only intermittent traffic whilst I know from personal experience that this same road through the summer months would not be as enjoyable as it is today.

We pass numerous fields of sheep and lambs gambolling like excited children. They run across the field and jump almost vertically as if their legs are pogo sticks. There’s a pause before they challenge each other to races and they stampede across the grass en-mass before the game suddenly stops almost as quickly as it started and they butt under their mothers as they trigger the milk to make them grow. It’s a great spring sight and a joy to watch.

The middle part of the walk is through trees with crows, rooks and ravens all caw cawing and a flash of something moving at speed that turns out to be a red squirrel. It makes my day and we’re now all on high alert, it’s the only one we see today but we’re certainly ready for the next one. And I’m thrilled.

Hawkshead is a little more ’touristy’ than Coniston with plenty of cafes and the odd outdoor clothing shop together with a church that sits imposingly at the highest point. We take the opportunity for a meal and a walk around the village and I discover some information on the Priest Pot. Apparently, it was established as a discrete pool cum tarn by the monks at Furness Abbey who allowed the reeds and other plants to establish themselves and cut the tarn off from Esthwaite Water. The result was an easily accessible larder of food not too far from the abbey. It was victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution and was closed in 1537. It has remained quite untouched since hence Oxford University’s interest above.

Hawkshead must have been quite an important place because it had its own courthouse, gallows and a field area called Gibbet Moss where the corpses of the victims of the gallows were hung as an example to others.

It’s a lovely walk but the lift back to Coniston in Graham’s car is welcome and relaxation in the garden for the rest of the afternoon gives leg muscles a chance of recovery.

Enjoy the snaps. G x

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