GLW1303: To Sweden and Back

Tuesday 12th March 2013

I thought we had done this walk previously as a GLW.  Indeed we have done it before, in February 2009, but somehow it was not written up as such and is merely referred to as an "Unrelated Snippet" to a Keswick section [CW09] of the Cumbria Way.

Ambleside, not Keswick, is the start and finish.  The route is very simple.  Up past the back of the Training College, over Low Sweden Bridge, up to High Sweden Bridge and back down on the eastern side.  Or the other way round, which Margaret thinks might offer better views.  

A feature on the way down is the pretentiously named Tower of Beauty and Friendship. This is what the now related Unrelated Snippet was all about.  The text is reproduced below.

Another feature, one that with hindsight I should have anticipated, was evidence of the Thirlmere Pipeline; something referred to in BB1309 and to be explored in more detail in the not too distant future.

My excuse for going clockwise is that it offered opportunities to extend into the Stock Ghyll valley and come down via the waterfall.  But we didn't.  Next time, we will do it the other way round.

Don, 12th March 2013



Distance: 3.7 miles;     Height climbed:  904 feet


Related Unrelated Snippet:

The day before this walk [CW09], we undertook a training exercise from Ambleside via Low Sweden Bridge to High Sweden Bridge then down the other side of the valley. On reaching the outskirts of Ambleside we saw a strange ruin, pictured here. It seemed to be in the grounds of a rather fine house called Eller How but we could not find out any more.

I was going to ask if you could identify the building or its purpose but first thought I should google for it and immediately discovered that it is for sale, if you have a spare £2.25m.

Tower of Beauty and Friendship

Here is the story of Eller How, as per the estate agents.

Originally built by local builders as a small country house, Eller How has a distinguished history. It was purchased in 1851 by the Clough family. Arthur Hugh Clough, the English romantic poet, lived here and his sister Anne Jemima Clough, first principal of Newman College Cambridge, established a small school for girls at Eller How. The school introduced progressive ideas on teaching and learning and became significant in the development of child-centred education in Britain. Signs of the school can still be evidenced today in the boot-room and through the shape of a door in the present garden room.

The house was purchased by the Boyle family in 1862. The Boyles were prominent figures in the Potteries where John Boyle was a partner in the then 'Wedgwood and Boyle' factory. His son Henry, a typical Victorian dilettante and eccentric, was a keen botanist with a passion for landscape gardening. It was his ambitious schemes that gave the gardens at Eller How their present day character. He specialised in rockeries and tropical plants obtained from friends at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He built egg-timer ponds, rustic bridges, flights of stone steps, a fernery, where tree ferns and orchids grew inside an impressive glass house, kept crocodiles in heated ponds, dug underground caves and built what has become known locally as the 'Tower of Beauty and Friendship'. Built on a high mound at the top of the garden, the tower stands as an elaborate 19th century visitors' book. The names of friends who stayed at Eller How, including the Wordsworths, the Arnolds, Harriet Martineau and other womens' suffrage supporters were carved into bricks built into the face of the tower and can be clearly seen today.

Henry's son Harry Boyle became a significant figure in the late 19th and early 20th century British Diplomatic Service, and his biography, 'A Servant of the Empire,' written by his wife Clara and published in 1936 by Methuen, provides much more detail about the house and garden in the two chapters devoted to the Boyles life at Eller How. The family owned the house until Clara's death in 1962.

In the year 2000 Channel 4 Television produced a one hour documentary, presented by Monty Don, in their 'Lost Gardens' series, where the fernery, the underground caves, additional ponds and an ancient home-made water heating boiler were re-discovered. A video of the programme can be obtained from Channel 4 and account of its making found in Jennifer Potter's book of the series.

Feb 2009


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