15. Around Coniston - Lake District Photoguide Plus

Around Coniston

Much of the history of Coniston is connected with mining, particularly of slate and copper. Just above the village to the west is the appropriately named Coppermines Valley, one of the most intensively mined areas in the Lake District. Copper mining probably first started here in Roman times, but began on a large scale in the 16th Century under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I. It continued until the 1950s, at which point many of the buildings were simply abandoned and left to go to ruin, but a recent lottery-funded project has repaired and restored many of the best examples.

Hawkshead sits between the lakes of Windermere and Coniston, with its own lake of Esthwaite Water nearby. The village is one of the prettiest in Lakeland, with its black and white painted buildings, all overlooked by the church which stands on a little hill.

The lake and village were well-known to the poet William Wordsworth as he attended the Grammar School here, from 1778 to 1787. Perhaps more than anywhere else, it was during his time at Hawkshead that he discovered his love of nature, often walking around the lake before school started. The school building can be found tucked in below the church; the building is well-preserved and is open to visitors.

Literary worlds overlap at Hawkshead as the valley is also famous for its many connections with Beatrix Potter. As part of her purchase of the Monk Coniston Estate, she came into the possession of one of Lakeland’s most famous little lakes, Tarn Hows, which is located between Hawkshead and Coniston. Although very pretty, the landscape here is not entirely natural; originally there was a group of small tarns here but in 1865 a dam was built to raise the water level, and create a single larger lake. It was also at this time that the trees were planted around the tarn on what had previously been grassy hillsides. Today, there is an excellent path around the tarn; the distance for the full circuit is just 2 miles, making this one of the easiest and most beautiful short walks in The Lakes.

The landscape around Hawkshead and Esthwaite Water is much gentler than most of the Lake District; there are no mountains here, instead there are low, rolling hills, often thickly wooded. To the south and west of Hawkshead is Grizedale Forest Park which covers almost 10 square miles, making it the largest forest in the National Park. The forest is still a source of timber, and is now famous for its sculpture trail and a wide range of visitor activities, including some of the best mountain-biking trails in the country.