Hawkshead rings the changes

PUBLISHED: 12:58 30 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:07 20 February 2013

Hawkshead rings the changes

Hawkshead rings the changes

Millions of tourists throng through the streets of this pretty Lakeland village every year. But there is far more to Hawkshead than its honey pot reputation. Emma Mayoh reports<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Visit in summer and Hawkshead is filled with crowds. But out of season it is a different story and the area takes on a new charm. There is no doubting the villages pulling power and, although tourists are thinner on the ground in the colder months, this does not mean the community goes into hibernation. At Hawksheads core are passionate and dedicated residents who see beyond the tourist attraction.

At St Michaels and All Angels Church, a small group of villagers
keep centuries of tradition alive. The Hawkshead (Change) Bell Ringers
are carrying out the same routine as their predecessors in the 1700s as the ring-of-eight bells swing into action every Sunday morning and again in the evening.

Its a wondrous noise made by just a handful of people, including two youngsters who are learning the skills so this tradition can continue down the generations. John Gunner, the tower captain, decided to join after he moved to Hawkshead several years ago. He was keen to revive an interest first developed when he was a schoolboy.

It is something that takes hard work and dedication but we do get a lot of enjoyment from it, he says. Its something that is important to keep going in the village because it is a part of Hawksheads history.

Its also exciting to see younger people interested in learning too because it means we have a chance of safeguarding bell ringing in the future.

Although the bell-ringers started in 1765 the church is much older. There has been a chapel on the site since the 12th century.

The current church, which commands some of the best views, has been there since the early 16th century. It was an outlying chapel of the Monks of nearby Furness Abbey and it is now the job of Reverend John Dixon to lead the parish.

He grew up in the Lake District and, after a period living away, was delighted to be back in a place that holds so many happy memories for him.

It is a wonderful community to be a part of, he says. The church is absolutely beautiful and we get a lot of people coming in just to have a look around. Wordsworth also used to sit on the bench outside the church talking to some of the locals and enjoying the views.

It is also at this time of year that the community prepares itself for the busy months ahead. David Warren has been busy spring cleaning and brushing up on his local history for the reopening of Hawkshead Grammar School this month.

The curator of the museum spends the winter months travelling around India with wife Karen but when April arrives work takes over.

It is well-known that William Wordsworth was taught here - in fact you can see his name carved into one of the desks. But hidden behind the doors of museum, once referred to as the Eton of the north, are some priceless treasures. On display are original documents showing the schools rules and regulations - including the fact that cock-fighting was permitted.

But away from view, in the schools library, are prized possessions that date back to the schools early days. Two copies of the bible owned by the schools founder, the Archbishop of York, Edwin Sandys, whose family have held land in Cumbria since the 13th century, are kept, as are original art work and the schools official seal. These artefacts are made available to research students and historians but are not on show.

David, who lives next in what was the schools sports hall, says: These are very precious items that need to be shared with people but also protected as they are so important.

We have been in touch with the Bodleian Library for them to keep in their collection but they told us they are far too important to the building and should be kept here. Education wasnt easy back then. The boys would study nothing but Greek, maths and Latin for 11 hours a day, six days a week. But the school had a tremendous reputation. It is still owned by the Sandys family and Im very proud to show people around this school.

Another local walking the walk for Hawkshead - quite literally - is Graham Patten. The former professional athlete used to compete in fell races and trail running around the world was keen to start an event that catered for all interests and abilities. The first Lakeland Trails event took place in 2004 in Staveley. After a few years additional trails were launched, including in Hawkshead. This years event, being held on Saturday, May 7th, is on a 15km course through the beautiful countryside that surrounds the village. They have become so popular that international athletes from around the world now want to take part.

He said: It started because I used to get bored watching my dad run when I was little. There was so little to do that it put other members of my family off running altogether. I wanted to change it. I didnt just want it to be for professionals, I wanted everyone to be able to have a go. But there is plenty going on back at the start of the race too and fun trails for children.

I cant believe how popular they have become. Thousands of people take part and Im really pleased. Hopefully, it will encourage more young people to get involved with sport too.

A retiring time

July will be an emotional month for Coral Davies. The 69-year-old, one of the founders and conductor of Hawkshead Wind Band, will hang up her baton after a decade of service.

The former music education lecturer at Durham University founded the group with the Gallagher and Fordham families in 2001. The band performs a handful of their own concerts a year as well as appearing at some of the regions popular events including the Damson Day celebrations, Langdale Gala, Hawkshead Rose Queen and Sawrey May Queen. There will be celebrations at the end of this year to mark its 10 year anniversary. They are now keen to find someone to take over Corals role.

Helen Jones, chairperson, said: It will not be the same without Coral. She has been responsible for making the band what it is today. We want to get a new conductor who will be as committed as she has been and keep the band thriving.

If you are interested please contact Helen on 015394 41940.

A show of strength

Plans are already well underway for this years Hawkshead Agricultural Show on Tuesday, August 23rd. This years event will feature Shaun Raywoods Dog Display Team as well as other agricultural activities. Show secretary Sue Todd used to bunk off school to go to the show as a child. She said: Ive always loved the show and got so much enjoyment from it. When I got older I wanted to be able to give back and to help in my own way. It is a fantastic day.

Hawkshead resident Edward Miller fulfilled a long-tern dream when he moved to the Lake District. The former journalist, who also owns a Blackpool gun dealership, runs a bed and breakfast in the village. He has also written a book, Full English: How to run a bed and breakfast and keep your sense of humour, available from Merlin Unwin Books, priced 7.99.

Hawkshead Youth Hostel could be forced to close its doors at the end of the summer. This and two other Lake District hostels have been put on the open market by the Youth Hostel Association to raise money. A campaign has been launched on Facebook urging the association to reconsider its decision.

All about Hawkshead

Where is Hawkshead? This pretty Lakeland village is located in the heart of the Lake District between Windermere, Coniston and Ambleside. Type LA22 0NT in your sat nav to get you there.

Where can I park? There is a large car park in the village, just off the main B5285 road that is reached via Coniston or Ambleside.

What can I do?
There is plenty to fill your day in Hawkshead. Browse the local shops, soak up the history at Hawkshead Grammar School or at St Michaels and All Angels Church. Here you can also make the most of the wonderful views over the village and across to the fells. Its also a great base to start one of the many walking trails around the village including in the nearby Grizedale Forest.

Refreshments? No end of choice. Plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from. You can still get Hawkshead Brewery ales in the village you can take home tasty treats made there try Hawkshead Relish.

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