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Nichol, J.M. (1903) The Opening Of Brandelhow Park, Derwentwater. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 2 Number 5: pp24-27. Leeds: YRC

The Opening Of Brandelhow Park, Derwentwater.

By J. M. Nicol.

As many of the members of the Club both subscribed personally and induced others to contribute towards the   purchase of Brandelhow Park, they may be interested to have a short account of its opening to the public from a member who was present on the occasion.

The Brandelhow Park forms the Western shore of Derwentwater for about a mile, stretching from near Hause End to the Brandelhow Lead Mines; and extending in a westerly direction from the shore of the Lake to the road skirting the unenclosed common of Catbells. lt consists of about 108 acres of lovely woodland and meadow intermixed, and can be easily reached from Keswick by road, a brisk four mile walk along the highway leading  to it. A pleasant mode of approach however, and one which enables the visitor to get a good view of the Park, is to row across Derwentwater from the boat landing at Keswick.

Derwentwater, From Above Keswick: showing bounds of Brandelhow Park by G.P. Abraham, Keswick. © Yorkshire Ramblers' Club
Derwentwater, From Above Keswick: showing bounds of Brandelhow Park by G.P. Abraham, Keswick

One of the great benefits which this purchase has conferred on the public is the right of access to the Lake for ever. Heretofore this has only been enjoyed by the courtesy and goodwill of the proprietors, and although they have always been generous in allowing free access to the Lake, still the privilege might have been withdrawn at any time, and the public would have had no redress.

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty, under  whose management and organisation subscriptions were collected for the purchase of Brandelhow, felt, that as this was by far the most important work they  had yet accomplished, its completion ought to be signalised by a formal ceremony.  H.R.H. The Princess Louise  (Duchess of Argyll)  graciously consented to be present and formally declare the Park open for public use, and Thursday 16th October, 1902 was fixed for the eventful  day.

Those who arrived in Keswick on the Wednesday evening must have had dismal forebodings as to the prospects for the morrow, as they found rain pouring in torrents and  a furious gale blowing, and were informed by the inhabitants that the weather had been like this for some days; but in the Lake District all things in the shape of sudden changes of weather are possible, so the visitors went to bed not altogether without hope, and found on getting up next morning that matters had decidedly improved, and that there was actually sunshine.

It is a treat to the blasé dwellers in cities to visit a place like "the ancient and loyal town of Keswick" when it decks itself for a festivity. As each one of its 3,000 inhabitants seemed to feel responsible for the success of  the day, nearly every house in the town was decorated long before the time fixed for the commencement of the formal proceedings.

It was arranged that the Princess and party should drive by road from Keswick Station to Brandelhow, stopping on the way at the quaint Town Hall in the Market Place to receive a loyal address from the Local Council, and also at the Keswick School of Industrial Art, which was established by Canon and Mrs. Rawnsley to provide employment during the winter for coach drivers and others whose ordinary work only occupies them during the summer time. This School has become famous all over England for its wood-carving and wrought metal work, and has no difficulty in disposing of as much as it can turn out. From the School the drive was continued till Brandelhow was reached.

It was impossible to be present at all the "functions," therefore l strolled leisurely round to Brandelhow in good time, so as to witness the principal event of the day.

It was typical October weather, and changed in the most rapid manner from clouds and heavy rain to bright sunshine, and back again. The wind had lost none of its vigour during the night, and early in the forenoon had uprooted and carried away bodily the large marquee erected to shelter the guests; however, as the rain held off during the ceremony, and for about an hour before and after, this did not matter.

A small platform had been erected on a convenient  knoll at the North end of the Park, and round this the  visitors gathered, and  whiled away the time by chatting with one another and admiring the wonderful view seen under such attractive conditions.

On the North side of the Lake, Skiddaw reared his mighty sides, and further in the distance the scarred slopes of Saddleback could be seen, while round to the East the Helvellyn range dominated the background, with the densely wooded Walla and Falcon Crags in the front of the scene. Towards the head of the Lake a silvery streak amongst the trees marked where the Lodore Falls came thundering down in a turmoil of foaming water after the heavy rain, and to the right of this was the Borrowdale Valley with Castle Crag standing sentinel at the entrance, and the hills on either side of it rising as they receded to be lost in the distance amongst the cloud-capped tops of the Scafell range and its offshoots.

The effects of sunlight, shadow, and colouring were quite kaleidoscopic in the rapidity with which they took place. One moment the rain clouds would bank up in huge solid masses and go sweeping along obscuring all the hill tops; then suddenly a shaft of sunlight would pierce through the clouds and travelling rapidly athwart the slopes of Skiddaw, and broadening and brightening as it travelled, would light up and bring out the glorious golden tints of the bracken, the more sombre browns of the oak and beech leaves, and the dark purple of the hazel and birch, and of an occasional patch of late-blooming heather. The light would spread as the clouds were driven before it till the whole sky was a vault of deepest blue with just here and there a shred of mist trailing across the mountain tops ; then the rain clouds as if envious of so much beauty would come scurrying up again to destroy it ; and so on da capo; but ever with new variations introduced into the original harmony. When added to all this beauty of sky, mountain, and forest, we had the whole moving panorama reproduced in the mirror of the lake lying at our feet, it will be easily understood that it would require the pen of a Ruskin to do justice to the scene, and that those who were fortunate enough to be present did not find time hang heavy on their hands while waiting.

In due time the mounted policemen who formed the advance guard of the procession appeared, and presently the three carriages conveying the Royal party were seen winding along the road at the base of Catbells. The Princess was the guest of Lord Lonsdale, whose postilions and "tigers" in their canary-coloured liveries lent a picturesque and old-world appearance to the cavalcade which was quite in keeping with all the surroundings and the purpose for which we were assembled.

The opening ceremony was of the simplest. After the presentation to the Princess of an address from the National Trust, and an Album of Views of the Lake District from the Chairmen of the Local Committees, for which the Duke of Argyll returned thanks on her behalf in an eloquent speech, Her Royal Highness declared "the Brandelhow estate open for the enjoyment of the public, under the keeping and direction of the National Trust." A verse of the National Anthem, sung with great heartiness, followed; then came the customary vote of thanks, in connection with which interesting speeches were delivered by Sir Robert Hunter (Chairman of the Trust), Lord Muncaster, Lord Lonsdale, and others; finally memorial trees were planted by the Princess, the Duke of Argyll, Miss Octavia Hill, Canon Rawnsley, and Sir ]ohn Hibbert.

So ended a very memorable day, when one of the most beautiful spots in all England was put in charge of those who will keep it in all its native beauty and simplicity, and guard it through all time as the precious heritage of the people of England.

But for the labours of Canon Rawnsley in all probability the work would never have been accomplished. It requires no small amount of courage to start out to obtain £ 7,500 in six months for an entirely new object, and one towards which many people are not only apathetic but antagonistic. Canon Rawnsley spared neither time, labour, nor money to promote the success of the scheme, and he most thoroughly deserves our hearty and ungrudging thanks and congratulations on the completion of his labour of love. May he live to see many more such undertakings launched and successfully carried through!