The Secret Valley

A trip to the Lakes and a rare visit to the Western Fells. The village of Buttermere is sited between two lakes, Crummock Water and a lake also called Buttermere. In prehistory there was only one lake but sediments deposited over the millennia from Sail Beck and Sourmilk Gill has created an alluvial plain on the valley bottom.

The valley of Buttermere is often referred to as The Secret Valley, from the title of a book by Nicholas Size published in 1930. Although a work of fiction the events it describes are accurate. Size was a local historian and landlord of the Bridge Inn in Buttermere. The book tells the story of Boethar, chief the Norse settlers, who, fearing Norman attacks chose Buttermere as his base as he considered it easy to defend. Viewed from the bottom of Crummock Water the settlement was hidden out of sight and access by mountain cols were easily defended (there being no low lying route in those days along the steep shores of Crummock Water). From this fortress Boethar carried out what today would be called a guerrilla war against the Normans convoys travelling up the Lonsdale and Eden valleys.

As the Normans became established in Keswick to the east Boethar expected Norman retaliation, so he devised a plan to protect his base at Buttermere. He disguised a route into the valley over Buttermere Hause, a relatively low level col, and built a dummy road up Rannerdale, a narrow valley ending in steep craggy sides from which it was easy to ambush. The Normans took the bait and were defeated in the Battle of Rannerdale.

Link to map.

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