The Lure of Lakeland


This post was intended to be my piece of extra information to accompany my story for FFfAW (here). As it became rather long (although it’s more pictures than information -some photos my own, others from Wikipedia) I’ve made it into a separate post. It’s about an area of England I’ve loved since I was a child – the Lake District. The information includes a little about the area today, and a little about it in the days when it was part of the old Celtic kingdom of Rheged, where my story takes place. 

The Lake District – also known as The English Lakes or just Lakeland – is one of England’s most popular holiday destinations. It is one of the 13 National Parks of England and Wales (No. 2 on the first map below) which today is situated entirely in the county of Cumbria:

National Parks of England and Wales. Author: Keith Edkins. Creative Commons.
Map of The Lake District National Park. Source: Office of National Statistics and Geography OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Commons

People are drawn to this area by the natural beauty of its mountains (fells), forests and many lakes. The highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, lies within the Park’s boundaries . . .

cafell massif showing Scafell Pike. Author: Doug Sim Commons
Scafell massif showing Scafell Pike. Author: Doug Sim. Commons

. . . as does the longest and largest lake, Windermere . . .

Windermere, lake district, from hill. Author: Abbasi 1111. Commons
Windermere, Lake District, from hill. Author: Abbasi 1111. Commons

. . . and the deepest lake, Waswater (also shown on my first photo):


Unfortunately for the many holidaymakers, it does rain a lot up there! Seathwaite, in the Borrowdale area, holds the record for being the wettest inhabited place in England (130 inches of rain per year). But the many old towns tend to have lots going on, as we noted when we were in Keswick a couple of months ago:


Evidence of glaciation during the last Ice Age, can be seen all over the Lake District. I won’t go into the many features other than those of the lakes. As the great glaciers moved out from the centre of the upland region, it gouged out the existing V-shaped valleys into the familiar U-shaped valleys with the ‘ribbon’ lakes we see today – as clearly shown on this O.S. map of Lake Windermere and the picture of Thirlmere below it:

Windermere2cropped3. Public Domain.
Public Domain.
A Herdwick sheep grazing above Thirlmere. Author: Sara Blaxkova. Commons
A Herdwick sheep grazing above Thirlmere. Author: Sara Blazkova. Commons

In the Lake District, the lakes radiate out from the central upland like the spokes of a wheel – which you can see in the second map on my post.

The area around Lake Windermere is one of the most popular tourist areas of the Lake District. Steam vessels of the late 19th century carried tourists the length of the lake . . .

Windermere Steam Ferry, Lake District, circa 1895. Author: The Library of Congress@Flickr Commons. Public Domain

. . . and nowadays modern ferries run continuously, many tourists heading for the town of Bowness (where we got off) halfway along the lake, or to Ambleside in the north.

MV Swan on Lake Windermere, 2006. Creative Commons
MV Swan on Lake Windermere, 2006. Creative Commons

There’s plenty to see along the route: there are 18 islands, various old buildings and private villas, and lots of yachts and other craft moored along private jetties. And motor boats and water skiers provide plenty of entertainment.

Other tourists visit The Lake District simply to see the land so loved by poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, and the children’s author, Beatrix Potter. Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere, Dove Cottage, is a honeypot for tourists:

Dove Cottage at Grasmere, home of poet, William Wordsworth, now a museum. Author: Christine Hasman. Commons
Dove Cottage at Grasmere, home of poet, William Wordsworth, now a museum. Author: Christine Hasman. Commons

So many other books have been set in this wonderful place – Swallows and Amazons for one – and many contemporary ones.

Cumbria, along with parts of what is now Southern Scotland and further south, the English county of Lancashire, were thought to have once been what was the the Celtic Kingdom of Rheged, although its exact location and extent are still uncertain.

Yr Hen Ogledd 550 650 Koch by myself. Creative Commons
Yr Hen Ogledd 550 650 Koch by myself. Creative Commons

I won’t go into detail about this kingdom, except to say that it survived well into the 7th, possibly 8th century, when it was annexed by the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Rheged had been a powerful kingdom in its time.  King Urien in particular (c 530-590) is well known, having been written about by his bard, Taliesin. Both Urien and his son, Owain, became heroes in the stories about King Arthur and his fight against the invading Anglo Saxons. The Brynaich and Deifr on the map above became the A.S. kingdoms of  Bernicia and Deira – which both became a part of Northumbria.


Finally, below is another of the the Lake District’s attractions – the Neolithic stone circle at Castlerigg – about which I have a post to do sometime soon.


Leaving Rheged – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise:


And this is my story – which is very late this week:

Leaving Rheged

A low mist hung over the lake, the small craft moored along the bank materialising only as she crept closer. In the pre-dawn gloom the lakeside village still slept. By the time her people rose, Brietta would have long since gone.

She feared her trembling legs would betray her, that she’d collapse before she reached the boat. Yet she must reach the man she loved…

But Cynric was Prince of the hated Bernicians, and her unforgiving father, King Urien of Rheged, would kill them both if he knew.

A dark shape suddenly loomed and panic struck.

‘It’s only me,’ Owain whispered, hugging her tight. ‘Don’t worry, sister. I’ll make up some story about where you’ve gone to delay anyone searching for you.’

Brietta choked back a sob of gratitude. ‘I’ll come back to see you once –’

‘Once Father is dead and can’t make you marry the loathsome Hueil. I know. Go! Cynric’s waiting.’

Cynric rowed out into the mist-shrouded lake, the pain of Brietta’s loss diminished by being with the man she loved.

Word Count: 174


If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:

Just a note:

Rheged was one of the ancient Celtic kingdoms of Britain, located in the area of present day Cumbria (Lake District area, where Louise took the prompt photo) and spreading out quite extensively to both north and south.  It survived until the beginning of the 8th century when it was assimilated into the Angle kingdom of Northumbria.

Bernicia – where I have Cynric coming from – was one of two earlier, independent Angle kingdoms (the other being Deira) which became part of Northumbria in the 7th century, well before Rheged was was also ‘consumed’.

I have set my story during the reign of King Urien (c 530-590) when Bernicia and Deira were still kingdoms in their own right. Needless to say, the Celtic kingdoms fought hard against the invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes, as the stories about King Arthur well illustrate. King Urien and his son, Owain, are included in some of those tales.

Information about this Celtic kingdom can be found at The Rheged Discovery Centre at Penrith. We went when it first opened in 2000, and were quite disappointed with what was on offer, but I believe it’s quite different today. However, reviews are still very mixed.

Entrance to the Rheged Discovery Centre, Penrith, Cumbria. Named after the ancient nation of Rheged, it is built in a disused limestone quarry. Author: R. Hawarth. Public Domain
Entrance to the Rheged Discovery Centre, Penrith, Cumbria. Named after the ancient nation of Rheged, it is built in a disused limestone quarry. Author: R. Hawarth. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

For anyone interested, I have written a post about The Lake District to accompany this one. It can can be found here.