It’s a strange time here in the Lake District. We have had crystal clear blue skies, the Easter holidays, and the arrival of the spring flowers, including the beautiful bluebells that crop up all over our woodlands. Normally at this time of year we would be welcoming thousands of tourists into our hotels, cottages, and campsites and we had a whole raft of wonderful events planned to coincide with the tourist season. Sadly, the 2020 tourist season is looking decidedly different to those that have come before it, thanks to Covid-19.

Now, instead of welcoming visitors, we’re asking them to stay away. Car parks at popular beauty spots, such as Buttermere ,have had the entrances blocked to deter visitors. Accommodation providers have cancelled bookings. Cafes, pubs, and restaurants have shut. The police are watching the M6 and turning away any suspected tourists, and Mountain Rescue are pleading with the public to stay away from the fells. Thanks to the Coronavirus, something unprecedented has happened. The Lake District has closed.

It’s a difficult time for everyone. Our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by the virus, with the wonderful NHS staff who are working tirelessly to fight this invisible enemy, and with the thousands of keyworkers who are ensuring we have access to essential goods and services. Our thoughts are also with the hundreds of businesses here in Cumbria who are faced with an uncertain future as a result of lockdown, many of which are small, family owned operations that depend entirely on the tourist season. And finally, our thoughts are with our lovely readers who are yearning to visit but must stay confined at home. We miss you, and we hope you will be able to return soon.

In the meantime, we have come up with some ideas about how you can bring a little bit of the Lake District into your home whilst in lockdown, and we hope you enjoy them!

1. Check Out a Lake District Webcam

Webcam Lake District

There are several webcams dotted around the Lake District that stream live images onto the Internet for anyone to take a look at. The Lake District National Park Association has links to several on its website here. In addition, there’s this lovely shot of Bassenthwaite from Armathwaite Hall here, a view of Derwent Water from Castlerigg Hall here, a glimpse of the Langdale Fells from the Three Shires Inn here and the view of Great Gable from the Wasdale Head Inn here.

2. Listen to Some Lake District Songs & Stories

Taffy Thomas website

Cumbria has been producing talented poets and story tellers for hundreds of years, and this tradition has continued into the 21st century. One of the most famous modern story tellers in Cumbria is Taffy Thomas who can often be found telling stories at the story teller’s garden in Grasmere. You can learn more about Taffy Thomas on his website and there are a few examples of his work on YouTube.

Another talented performer is Steve Wharton who hails from West Cumbria. He mixes spoken word with song and is unashamedly Cumbrian in his performances. You can learn more about him on his website and listen to some of the poems and songs he has created.

3. Climb the Lake District Fells on Your Stairs

Home staircase

Feeling like you are missing out on climbing the fells? Join hundreds of others across the country who are taking on the staircase challenge and conquering the great indoors. The idea is simple: You spend a few hours during the lockdown going up and down your stairs enough times to cover the height of your chosen mountain. To calculate how many times you need to go up your stairs, first measure the height of your staircase. If you can’t do that, then use the average of 2.5 metres for one flight of stairs.

Then find out the height of your chosen mountain (there’s a handy list here). Divide the height of the mountain, for example, Scafell Pike’s 978 metres, by the height of your stairs (e.g. 2.5 metres) and the answer (391.2) is the number of times you will need to ascend your staircase.

For the full Cumbrian mountaineering experience, dress up in all of your outdoor clothing and pack a 40 litre rucksack with all the supplies you would normally take. If you want to go the whole hog, get someone to throw a few buckets of water over you as you climb to recreate the wonderful Cumbrian weather.

Although we jest, there is a serious side to all of this, and that is the recognition of the need to stay active during these difficult times. Staying fit and healthy through exercise will boost your immune system, which is more important than ever, and it also has considerable benefits to your mental health. Perhaps you could ask your friends to sponsor you on this task to raise money for organisations working to beat Covid-19.

4. Recreate Your Favourite Lake District Spot with Household Objects

Monumental Building Challenge

The National Trust, who own a significant amount of land within the Lake District National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have launched a challenge for people staying at home to recreate one of the World Heritage Sites that they look after with objects found in your home.

The monumental building challenge can be completed with anything you might find at home, such as an old blue sheet to create a lake, cotton wool pieces to make Herdwick sheep on a landscape, and sticks from the garden to create a steamer landing stage. Alternatively, you could try painting or drawing your favourite Lake District view from memory or from a photograph.

5. Follow Max, Paddy, & Harry On Facebook

Max, Paddy & Harry on Facebook

Max, Paddy, and Harry are three spaniels who are perhaps the most famous dogs in the UK. Their owner, Kerry, charts their daily adventures in the Lake District on Facebook and has built up a huge following of fans who love their flappy eared adventures. Kerry and the pups live in the Keswick area and so for their daily exercise they are able to visit Derwent Water.

Luckily, for all of their followers they have been posting live videos of their walks so that viewers can see the wonderful views and get a glimpse of a much quieter Lake District. You can find their Facebook page here.

6. Make Yourself a Cumbrian Treat

Baking concept

With more hours to spend at home, we have more time to get into the kitchen and get baking. One popular cake that is found in most cafes in the Lake District is Borrowdale Tea Bread. This simple fruit cake is served sliced, spread with butter, and is perfect with a cup of tea. It’s also very easy to make.

Borrowdale Tea Bread Recipe

Ingredients

  • 450g of sultanas, raisins, or currants
  • 500ml of strong tea
  • 350g of plain flour
  • 175g of soft brown sugar
  • 25g of melted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Make up 500ml of strong tea by soaking 4 tea bags in the liquid for 20 minutes or so and squeeze out any liquid in the teabags when you remove them. Ideally, soak the fruit overnight in the tea to get the best results. Alternatively, soak for around 3 hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  3. Do not strain the fruit. Instead, simply add the sugar, butter, and egg straight into the bowl where the fruit has been soaking. Then stir in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Mix the ingredients together.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and cook for around an hour. The cake is cooked when a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. If it starts to burn on the outside before the inside is cooked you can cover it with foil.
  5. Once cooked, leave in the tin for around ten minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool. Best served sliced and spread with butter. It will normally keep well for a couple of weeks, but it probably won’t be left uneaten that long as it’s too delicious.

7. Read a Lake District Book

Lake District books

Step away from the news and use your downtime to read a book or two instead. If you have children, you could consider sharing with them some of Beatrix Potter’s classic tales and see if you can identify any of the Lake District landmarks that can be found in her books. Or your children may enjoy Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series in which children find adventure in a landscape based on the Lake District.

Fans of crime fiction may enjoy The Lake District Series by Martin Edwards, a set of crime novels featuring the characters DCI Hannah Scarlett, who heads Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team, and Oxford historian Daniel Kind. Alternatively, The Fell Walker and its sequel, The Fell Walker’s Legacy, by Michael Wood, are fast moving thrillers firmly set in the Cumbrian landscapes.

If crime isn’t really your cup of tea, then check out Melvyn Bragg’s The Maid of Buttermere, which is inspired by the legend of the Buttermere maiden and has since been adapted into a play. Of course, you could always try some of Wordsworth’s works, and his Lyrical Ballards collection is probably the best place to start.

For non-fiction, The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebank is a beautifully crafted account of a year on a Lake District farm that will really challenge your perspective on how we see the landscape. Finally, if you haven’t dipped into some of Alfred Wainwright’s guide books then we would certainly recommend them. His devotion to the fells is revealed through the incredible attention to detail that can be found in his hand-drawn maps that accompany his walking guides.