One of the great perks of being a librarian is getting to look at lots of lovely books. This isn't always so thrilling when you're an agricultural librarian like me - the joys of Mechanised Vegetable Production and Field Drainage Methods can be limited. But every now and then a gem falls into my hands that completely captures my imagination. And so it was last week when I came across Ancient Interesting and Unusual Trees of Cumbria written by Amy Bradshaw. It's a very small book lisiting 15 trees of interest in the county. I've got to be honest and say to the untrained eye some are slightly less interesting than others. But some are absolutely fascinating. We went to look at Number 13 -The Giant Tree today, chosen purely for its Enid Blyton-esque pleasing name.
The Giant Tree is a Silver Fir which was planted at the Armboth estate on the far shores of Thirlmere in 1821. Amy tells us that in 1994 it was 43 metres tall (141ft), and we're betting that it's lots biggger now. The walk to the tree was lovely, perfect for small people as it's only about a mile round trip. Park at the Thirlmere Armboth car park then follow the yellow spots for the Giant Tree through a very deep dark wood, with fairie steps, tumbling waterfalls and lots of trip trap bridges. The tree itself is huge, it's impossible to get a sense of scale in the photos. We lay on the ground and imagined how long it would take a squirrel to hop to the top!
On the way back down from the tree there is a ring of seven beech trees called the Cockpit where the sport of cockfighting used to take place before it was banned in 1835. Amy suggests that this flat, shadey spot would make a nice place for a summer picnic, but we thought that picnicking on the site of former brutality might feel a wee bit creepy. And speaking of which if anyone likes to be scared witless whilst in a deep dark wood you could tell them all about the ghostly goings on at Armboth House.
The house which has laid beneath the waters of Thirlmere, since October 1894, when the reservoir was completed, was claimed to he the most haunted house in Cumberland. Legend has it that two centuries ago the daughter of the family of the house was about to get married on Halloween, but in the midst of the preparations a stranger rushed into the house to tell the family that the bride had been pushed violently into the water and drowned. No one knew who had murdered the girl, but the bridegroom was suspected for some time. Afterwards on Halloweens strange happenings occurred. Bells would ring, furniture would move across the floor without human assistance, plates would crash to the floor, lights would appear and disappear, and even a strange ghostly form of a dog was seen swimming in the water. People say that even now on Halloween wedding bells can be heard tolling under the water. Yikes, get me out of the forest!