Aerial view of fields in Wasdale copyright Cumbria Soaring Club>

Uniquely Lake District

A special corner of England

The cultural heritage of the Lake District is as unique as its geography. Visitors today can indulge in local treats like Cumberland sausage and enjoy centuries old traditions such as hound trailing and rushbearing. The area has also inspired many famous writers.

And if you've ever wondered why the Lake District looks the way it does, here are some answers:

Cottage window at Hesket Newmarket copyright Michael Turner

Why are so many cottages painted white?

Houses and farms used to be treated with red lead and then limewashed, which whitens, to keep out the damp. Many of today’s homeowners have continued this look by painting their houses white.

Why are there so many dry stone walls?

Dry stone walls are used to divide up the farming landscape and clear the fields of stones. The fields around farm in the valleys are known as in-bye fields, but the fields up the fellside have been 'taken' from the fell and are known as in-take fields. The land above the highest wall is the open fell.

Why are there old fireplaces in fields and walls?

Although some may belong to ruined cottages, many are lime kilns. The chemical compound lime is made from heating limestone. When mixed into soil it sweetens acidic soils and helps improve farmland fertility. Farm and field kilns were built close to where lime was needed. Find out more in Learning - Lime kilns.

Why are some of the sheep grey?

These are hardy Herdwick sheep, reputedly brought in by the Vikings. They cope especially well with the Lake District's extreme conditions. Without their grazing, the fells would be covered in trees and scrub.

Why is a stream called a beck?

Many Lake District names come from the Norse settlers in the tenth century for example: beck (stream), dale (valley), gill (gorge), tarn (lake) and thwaite (clearing).

Where are Cumberland and Westmorland?

These are the names of the old counties which contained the Lake District. They were merged with parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire to become Cumbria in 1974. The names still live on in Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, Cumberland sausage and local names such as the Westmorland Gazette newspaper.

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Cottage near Coniston - copyright Charlie Hedley

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