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Friday, 29 October 2010

Bowled over by the Bowder Stone

The Bowder Stone has been a tourist attraction in Cumbria for hundreds of years. The huge boulder, the biggest in Cumbria, can be found in Borrowdale just over 7km south of Keswick. Throughout the ages people have come to marvel at the huge rock seemingly precariously balanced on one small corner. Some tourist sites say that the rock arrived in the ice-age from Scotland but there is compelling evidence in Alan Smith's 2003 book The story of the Bowder Stone that it is actually a local stone that fell from above. Whatever the truth it's a great spot, and lots of fun for kids to climb to the top.

Today it is free to visit, apart from the price of the nearby National Trust car park. Back in the 1700s it was a more costly affair. Wealthy Nottinghamshire man Joesph Pocklington - the guy who built the house on the island on Derwentwater, saw pound signs when he bought the land around the stone. He was the one who first installed the ladder up to the top of the stone, he also built the little cottage next to the stone to house a lady guide and tea room, and enlarged a hole in the base of the stone where visitors could shake hands (for a small charge) with his guide to "improve their luck"!
These days it can be fairly quiet and you might even get the place to yourselves - if you do you should try to imagine the hulabaloo over New Year in 1878 where according to the local newspaper of the time the English lakes Visitor and Keswick Guardian "The Derwentwater Fife and Drum Band were allowed to go on the top of the Bowder Stone, and when they were all comfortably seated they played "John Peel" (listen to it here) to the delight of the old lady who has charge of the stone". Now why can't we do stuff like that any more??
Information taken gratefully from Smith, A. (2003) The story of the Bowder Stone. Kewwick, Rigg Side Publications

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