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50 Gems of Cumbria
50 Gems of Cumbria
Beth & Steve Pipe
Famous for the Lake District, one of the country's most astounding areas of natural beauty, Cumbria is a county with huge appeal. From the wild and windswept Irish Sea coast to the towering Scafell Peak, England's highest point, this book takes the reader on fascinating journey through timeless villages, vast landscapes and special places of historic interest.
Boats and beaches, castles and museums and those magnificent mountains - they're all here in a lovingly painted picture of Cumbria today. '50 Gems of Cumbria' explores some of the places that make the county special.
Paperback; 234 x 165mm
80 Colour Photographs
Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
50 Gems of Cumbria by Beth & Steve Pipe. Amberley. £14.99
There's Friar's Crag, of course. John Ruskin, no less, considered it "one of the three most beautiful scenes in Europe". Beth and Steve Pipe write that: "The beauty of Friar's Crag is that everyone can get there; it's wheelchair friendly and it's only half a mile from the centre of Keswick." But they do have a photograph of that most sat-upon of all benches and they do know about the Millennium Falcon swooping down over Derwentwater in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
And there's Ashness Bridge - with a stunning view across Derwentwater to a snow-capped Skiddaw - and there's Lodore Falls , which is something of a disappointment after its glorification by Romantic poets. And there's those white rocks above Bassenthwaite where a gambling Bishop of Derry lost his life and his bet when his horse stumbled after he'd insisted he could ride straight up from the Swan Inn to the summit of Lord's Seat.
And then there's Honister Pass - the list seems endless and predictable. The gems are obvious and there at every turn - readily described and a superb photograph or two for each one.
But the Beth and Steve Pipe are finding fifty gems in Cumbria and not in the Lakes area only. They venture out on the Solway Coast to Bowness - "a quiet little village that enjoys huge views across the Solway Firth to Scotland". They tell the story of the ill-fated railway bridge that carried the iron ore trains across the Firth, a railway bridge that "was badly damaged by icebergs in 1881 when the rivers Eden and Esk froze then thawed". And they tell of the "few folks", returning to Scotland after a Sunday drink, "sadly fell from the bridge and drowned".
They visit Long Meg and her Daughters. One photograph catches a brilliant sun setting behind the mystic pillar of Long Meg herself. They are much taken with the ghost stories that attach to the stones.
They also go to nearby Lacy's Caves - they suggest that the two sites can be visited on a circular walk. The five caves may well have been carved for Colonel Lacy in the 1790s for him to entertain his guests.
That spectacular "glaciated U-shaped valley" of High Cup Nick towards the eastern borders of Cumbria is one of their fifty.
In the south, they choose the secluded Smardale Gill with its perfect little eye of a bridge and Foulshaw Moss, which, on a sunny day in June is a great place to sea the White-Faced Darter Dragonfly. They also have room for Arnside Knott, the Devils' Bridge in Kirby Lonsdale and, oddly, the Kendal Mountain Festival.
But then, the word "gem" is such a good, all inclusive term of approval that it allows you to include anything that you really like. Gems such as "the smiling face of a Herdwick sheep or two greeting you as you wander round the fells".
One place in Cumbria which they do single out as "one of their absolute favourite gems" is The Howk, near Caldbeck. The bobbin mill, which was opened in 1857, "was powered by a 13-metre waterwheel, said to be the second-largest waterwheel in the country at the time". The area proved to be a good place to see red squirrels.
Choosing fifty gems is a brave venture. I wonder which ones John Ruskin would have chosen. Beth and Steve Pipe have made a bold selection and with their enthusiastic prose and their enticing photographs this book will encourage many people to find new gems of their own to visit. After all, in Cumbria we're fortunate enough to have gems wherever we turn.
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