Bursting with glorious scenery, beautiful wildlife and intriguing history, The Lake District has it all.
It’s a magical corner of the world that provides a getaway from the stresses of modern life with its array of postcard panoramas, impressive craggy fells and glistening lakes. And it’s not just us who think that. Lakeland legend and renowned fell walker Alfred Wainwright always said: “The Lake District is the loveliest part of England and Borrowdale is the fairest of its valleys”.
The typically stone buildings that have stood their ground for centuries have witnessed thriving industries and seasonal challenges, but are still as characterful and charming as ever.
Perched above the Borrowdale Valley with dramatic views of the neighbouring fells, Hazel Bank Country House has been an evident part of the local architecture since 1859. Built by businessman Thomas Simpson on his arrival back from making his fortune in the USA, the materials and design of the building reflects the rugged nature of the geology around it.
The buildings within the Lake District’s towns and villages also play a vital part in shaping the landscape. There is a strong visual connection between settlements and the surrounding countryside which can be seen in the dry stone walls, hedgerows and the footpaths running between the patchwork of lanes and fields. From scattered farms in remote valleys, cottages nestled into the valley sides to large country houses – the subtle relationship of the man-made and natural environment is essential to this area’s beauty.
As there are so many interesting stories contained within Hazel Bank’s four stone walls, we thought that we’d share a few fascinating facts with you that you might, or might not know, about our beloved Victorian country house and its surroundings.
Photography by Andrew Locking
1. William Wordsworth often had afternoon tea on our lawns
Back in the 18th century, the owner of Hazel Bank, William Simpson, was good friends with Mary Barker, the landlady of nearby Scafell Hotel. It is believed that along with William Wordsworth and Robert Southey, they often had afternoon tea on the lawns of Hazel Bank.
The land also inspired Wordsworth to write some of his most beautiful and famous poetry.
2. William Simpson built Simpson’s Bridge over Langstrath Beck after a family member drowned
After a night at the local pub, it was not a good end for one member of the Simpson family. Whilst walking home and trying to cross the ford, he either drowned or slipped and knocked his head on a rock. To this day there is a still a memorial plaque there to remember him.
3. Owner Donna MacRae is one of the last ‘Borrowdale Cuckoos’
This means that Donna is one of the last few people to have been born and raised in a home in the valley. She was born at Chapel Farm next to St Andrew’s Church and the farm was owned by her grandparents, Mr and Mrs Joe Weir.
4. The Simpson family of Hazel Bank were the first to have a horseless carriage in the Borrowdale Valley
Certainly a sign of their wealth, the fact that the Simpson family were the first to own the earliest automobile could also be perceived as a sign of their innovative nature.
5. We cook over 7000 eggs for breakfast over the 10 month season
Scrambled, fried, poached or boiled – how do you like yours? Whatever your preference, you can guarantee that our breakfasts have been eggspertly cooked and assembled!
6. BBC Bake Off love our sticky toffee pudding!
The winner of the 2014 Grest British Bake Off series, Nancy Birtwistle, visited Hazel Bank a few years ago. Not only was she complimentary of our guest house, she also said that our sticky toffee pudding was the best she’d every tasted! Donna, the chef, had to sit down for a while.
The recipe took many years to perfect and Donna took her inspiration from a number of secret sources. If we told you…
7. Hugh Walpole referred to the house as ‘the house with raised eyebrows’
We’ve mentioned previously on this site that Hazel Bank was used by acclaimed author Hugh Walpole as the setting for his famous ‘Herries Chronicles’. But did you know that Walpole affectionately referred to the building as ‘the house with raised eyebrows’?
The established 20th Century novelist lived nearby on the other side of Derwentwater at Brackenburn and was a regular visitor to Hazel Bank. He referred to it as ‘the house with raised eyebrows’ because of how the dormers on the two upstairs rooms at the front look like the eyebrows on a face!
The wonderful lawns of Hazel Bank
So there we are, a few fascinating facts about Hazel Bank which will hopefully brighten your day and make your next stay with us a little more special.