Banner

Back to the English Counties Page
Facts

CUMBRIA

Owlbut

Owlbut

Break
FUN FACTS

Cumbria is the 4th largest county or metropolitan borough in England.
Cumbria has the 41st highest population in England.
Cumbria is in 50th place for density of population.

  1. The Royal Connection
  2. Edward I was King of England from 1272 until 1307. He died on his way for yet another battle with the Scots at Burgh by Sands in Cumbria after an attack of dysentry. As you can see there is now a memorial, it is said, at the very spot where he died. At the time he was 68 years old and not in good health. The story goes that his servants went in to wake him in the morning, tried to lift him up so he could eat and he died in their arms.

    He had spent several years trying to bring the Scots under English rule having previously achieved this with the Welsh. One of his legacies is the number of castles he had built in Wales. He was known as Edward Longshanks because he was over 6ft 2in tall, which in those days was very tall. There are several stories about his deathbed scene although if the above story is true I'm not sure he would have had one. One story said he wanted his heart carried to the Holy Land along with an army to defeat the non-Christians that the crusaders had been fighting. Edward had been on such a crusade in 1272 when his father died and it took him 2 years to get home to be crowned. Another story, a bit too similar for my liking, said he wanted his bones carried along on future battles against the Scots.

    Edward married twice and had at least sixteen children with his first wife (yes, read it again) and three more with his second. Most of the children died shortly after birth and only one son from his first marriage survived Edward. He was also called Edward and amazingly became Edward II.

  3. Cumbria Eats
  4. I had several choices here. Kendall Mint Cake is a sugar-based sweet, made in Kendall, which was originally marketed as an energy source, and Grasmere Gingerbread which was invented by a cook called Sarah Nelson who lived at Church Cottage in Grasmere where she sold her spicy, sweet, chewy concoction from a table outside her front door to any passers-by. That cottage is now the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. Feel free to check these out but, as a type-2 diabetic I decided to curl up with a Cumberland sausage.

    The Cumberland sausage, Cumberland was a large part of what has become Cumbria, is a very long sausage which is either sold in a flat, circular coil. or in long curved lengths. They have been around for over 500 years and in the past it was more highly seasoned which may have been due to the spices unloaded from the ships at the port of Whitehaven.

    The sausage is made with chopped pork rather than minced and so the sausage has a chunkier appearance. In March 2011 Protected Geographical Status was granted to the name Traditional Cumberland Sausage. To gain the PGI award the sausage must be produced, processed and prepared in Cumbria and have a meat content of at least 80%. It must include seasoning and be sold in a long coil. Sausages not meeting these rules can still be sold as Cumberland sausages but can not used the word traditional.

    Black pepper is the traditional spice added to the pork with a mixture of thyme, sage, nutmeg and rusk. Individual butchers have their own recipes within that basic criteria. The traditional sausage will have a fairly spicy taste.

  5. Cumbria VIPs
  6. Seven random people who were born in Cumbria in the last 100 years:-
    Helen Skelton (TV Presenter/Actor), the late Emlyn Hughes (International Footballer), Christine McVie (singer), Eddie Stobart (Businessman), Bunty James (TV Presenter), Mark Cueto (International Rugby Player) and Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg (Author/Broadcaster)

  7. Now That's Weird
  8. Cumbria is probably most famous for being the home of the Lake District. There are sixteen lakes..........except only one of them is actually called a lake. That one is Bassenthwaite Lake which is the fourth largest by surface area. That is the one you can see in the picture. The others are all officially meres or waters. In order of size they are:
    Windermere, Ullswater, Derwent Water, then Bassenthwaite, followed by Coniston Water, Haweswater, Thirlmere, Ennerdale Water, Wastwater, Crummock Water, Esthwaite Water, Buttermere, Grasmere, Loweswater, Rydal Water and Elterwater.

    You can see the confusion extends further because some of the "waters" are part of the name while for others "water" is a separate word. What is more there are also some tarns which can be bigger than the smallest of the 16 "lakes" while there are also other stretches of enclosed water so small they haven't even got a name.

    Regardless of the weird naming factor, the whole area is one of incredible beauty and I would really recommend you go and take a look at some time in your life. Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Derwentwater have steamer and ferry services. They are also the only ones on which you can use a powered craft.

  9. It Happened Here
  10. On 17 October 1956 Her Majesty the Queen opened the world's very first full-scale nuclear power station at Calder Hall in Cumberland (now Cumbria). Her Majesty said in her opening speech that "This new power, which has proved itself such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community." Workington, 15 miles (24 km) along the coast was the first town in the world to receive light, heat and power from nuclear energy. A further nine nuclear power stations were built across Britain over the next 10 years. The technology came to supply about a quarter of Britain's electricity needs. Calder Hall, which had gone through several name changes and finished as Sellafield, closed in 2003 although the site is still used to reprocess nuclear waste.

    At a time when most of us, or at least the aware ones, know that we are actually destroying our planet, our only home, the question of how we provide ourselves with the power we need is very relevant. There are many ways of making electricity. We can, and have for years, used coal fired power stations but they produce gases that harm our atmosphere. Coal mining is also dangerous for the people who work the mines. We can use hydro-power, the power of water, but while hydropower can generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gasses, it can also cause environmental and social threats, such as damaged wildlife habitats, harmed water quality, obstructed fish migration, and diminished recreational benefits of rivers. We can use wind power, another renewable source but some people say the large turbines are a blot on our land or sea, the blades can kill birds and wildlife and, whereas with hydropower we can divert the rivers, it is not possible to divert the wind, yet.

    However, back in 1956, many thought nuclear power stations were the way forward. The problem here has always been that many people have an inbuilt fear of anything termed nuclear and, indeed, there have been some disasters around the world with nuclear power. Oh, and on my second trip around the coast I was taken around a nuclear power station, the one at Bradwell in Essex which was decommissioned in 2002 although there is now talk of the site being used for a new nuclear power station.

    As you may know by now many things scientific go over my head or maye round it but I do remember being told that the water from the North Sea they pumped in to cool the nuclear reactors was then pumped out again a little further up the ocast by which time it was some ten degrees centigrade hotter. I wondered what the fish made of this as they swam a few hundred metres into tropical waters. Didn't sound good to me.

    Just to finish this piece, there is another way that all of us can help our planet; just use less electricity to heat and light our homes.

  11. Richard Remembers
  12. All three of my previous trips around England were basically coastal journeys but, in Cumbria, I could not, on any of them, avoid going inland to see the beauty of the Lake District. Let's leave my memories of that for a while and first take you through what I remember about the coast.

    For the first miles of this coastline you are travelling along the southern side of the Solway Firth and can see across the water to the coast of Scotland. It was here that Edward I died (see royalty story above) and also at Bowness-on-Solway where Hadrian's Wall came to its western end. It was, by then, just a grass rampart and so nothing much remains. A little further along this coast, made up of salt marshes, the monks at Abbeytown made a living out of producing salt or so my memory says.

    Then you turn south and the coast is officially the Irish Sea. The towns of Maryport, Workington and Whitehaven were major ports, primarily for exporting locally mined coal abroad and around England. Whitehaven has a little bit of history as it was one of the last places where a foreign country, or was it, landed on our shores. During the American War of Independence in 1778 an American Naval Commander, John Paul Jones (he was born in Scotland), landed at Whitehaven, captured a small fort defending the harbour and planned to set fire to the merchant fleet moored there. However, some of his crew got drunk, the local people were awakened by a member of the crew who disagreed with the plan, and only a single coal ship caught fire. In the end Jones and his men fled, the locals put out the fire and all was well again in Whitehaven.

    On another naval link, Fletcher Christian, who led the mutiny on the Bounty (go and read about that) was born near Maryport. Moving on, the cliffs at St Bees Head are the only cliffs on the Cumbrian coast and, as you turn south east, you follow a long stretch of sand and shingle beaches until you get to the wide estuary at the River Duddon. Before that you will pass that first nuclear power station site but also, at Ravenglass, there is, or was as I hope it's still there, the Ravenglass to Eskdale railway. A narrow-guage miniature steam railway built in 1875 to carry iron ore from the Eskdale Valley to the coast. Nowadays, or when I was last there in 2001, it takes people on a 7 mile journey up to the Eskdale Valley.

    Barrow-in-Furness was famous both as a steel works and a naval dockyard but beyond those docks lies the Isle of Walney, which isn't actually an island as it is connected to the mainland. However, at the southern end of the non-island Isle of Walney is Piel island, upon which stands a ruined castle. It is a ridiculously small island but ideally placed to defend Barrow Harbour. In 1486 supporters of Lambert Simnel (read about him here), landed on Piel Island in an attempt to place Simnel on the English throne. What I remember of this stretch of coast is that in the bay where Piel Island sits I saw, on my first trip in 1985, my first ever wind surfers, lots of them. I have no idea when the past time started but I feel this may have been fairly early days. After this, until you reach the county border with Lancashire, the coast goes alongside Morecambe Bay. On that first trip we spent a week at Ulverston and it was here, I remember being told, that the old London mail coach would cut across the sandy bay at low tide to save miles of pounding over rough roads.

    But let my memories finish with the actual lakes. I have actually now seen all sixteen but my favourite is Buttermere, simply because in 1985, one night driving back to our accommodation, we came over a hill and there it was. Moonlight reflecting off the amazingly calm water, very still and very quiet. I went back next day to see it in daylight and it didn't change my opinion. It was a beautiful spot. I've been back on each subsequent trip which means I've now seen it in autumn (trip 1), winter (trip 2) and summer (trip 3). I've spotted something is missing. It must soon be time to put that right. Very soon. 2022 would seem to be the first chance.

    Talking of that winter time reminds me that you came very close to not reading these memories. Not surprisingly it snowed in the winter of 1995 in the Lake District. However we still had to go out and make our visits. We listened to the traffic reports one day and decided to press on. I should point out that the Lake District is not just lakes, there are mountains and hills. The eleven highest mountains or peaks in England are in Cumbria. For the journey we wanted to make we would need to drive over one of two mountain passes in the area. We planned to go over the Whinlatter Pass but when we got there it said it was closed due to the bad weather, snow. We then went to the Honister Pass which didn't have any sign saying it was closed. Apparently they had closed one end of it but not yet got round to putting up a notice at the other end. We began to drive up it but after only half a mile or so it became so steep and icy that the car began to slip back. If we had slipped another 20 yards or so, with no steering, we would have gone over the edge. My son and a friend of his who were on the trip were in the back and I, with some urgency, told them to leap out and push the back of the car into the snow bank on the non-open side of the road. This stopped us sliding and, once everyone was out, I let the front of the car slide round through 180 degrees, everyone got back in, and we headed down the pass. When we got to the bottom, workers were just putting up the "Pass Closed" sign. It was a close thing. Sometimes in life you don't actually have time to think, you just react but I also believe it is important to think of what might happen in the event of many different scenarios. I had done just that. I'll leave you there while I go and have a lie down.

  13. Owlbut's Birdwatch
  14. The curlew is the largest European wading bird and you can spot it immediately by its downcurved bill or beak, which is black, brown and red and thin and long. Its feathers are brown, cream, buff, grey and white and they have long, blue legs, probably through standing in cold water. No, I made that up.

    They can be found around the whole UK coastline with large concentrations found at Morecambe Bay and on the Solway Firth, both in Cumbria. See how clever I am? They can also be seen on farmland, grassland and moors, anywhere near water. They eat worms, shellfish and shrimps.

    They are about 55 cms in length, have a wingspan of between 80 and 100 cms and can weigh anything between 600 grams and one kilogram. The females are usually heavier than the males. There are about 66,000 breeding pairs in the UK. You can see them in their breeding habitat from April to July while the greatest number of birds in coastal areas is during January and February..

We have asked the local Tourist Board(s) for a small contribution (50 pounds) to the cost of running this project and, in anticipation of their agreement, we are providing a link to their site(s) for the next five years. I can assure you we won't see anywhere near everything when we are there, so, if you fancy taking a trip into Cumbria check it (them) out for some great information. Apart from anything else it will get you out in the fresh air, walking around and one day you might be over 70 and still enthusiastically mobile.

All figures the latest available as at July 2020