Millerground – on the shore of Lake Windermere
By The Millerground Enhancement Group (Windermere & Bowness Civic Society)
The Millerground area is an idyllic location of about 40 acres situated on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere. Approximately 2km north of Bowness, it is one of the few remaining places where the public can gain free access to the natural lakeshore. It includes 1km of woodland walks at the edge of the lake, public jetties, shingle beaches and wonderful viewpoints – especially from Queen Adelaide Hill. There is also the Wynlass Beck stream and waterfalls, Rayrigg Meadow recreation field, the public carpark and toilets, a picnic area and a children’s small playground together with Jubilee Field grazing meadow. These all combine to make the Millerground area a wonderful place for a family day out at the edge of the lake. All of this is only a few minutes’ walk from Windermere village and the railway station.
Prior to 1913 the whole area was in private ownership. The woodlands produced bark and charcoal in the 18th century. There was a corn mill on Wynlass Beck, the stream running into the Lake at this point. Contrary to common belief there does not seem to ever have been a public ferry crossing from Millerground, but only boat access for visitors and goods to the mill.
Queen Adelaide Hill is a natural geological feature called a ‘drumlin’. During the ice age a glacier came this way from the high fells. As it travelled the glacier eroded and collected stone, mud and gravel from the landscape. When the ice melted, the eroded material was deposited here. We are aiming to improve the slippery path up the hill by re-clearing away some of the top layer of mud and grass to reveal this natural gravel underneath. The path should then be firm and dry – but still equally as steep! The hill has been renowned as a viewpoint for many years and was also noted as a ‘viewing station’ in 1783 by Peter Crosthwaite.
This hill used to be known as Rayrigg Bank. It was renamed ‘Adelaide Hill’ or ‘Queen Adelaide Hill’ in 1840. At this time, 3 years into Queen Victoria’s reign, Queen Adelaide was the widow of William IV (Queen Victoria’s uncle) who had been on the throne immediately before Victoria. She also gave her name to the city of Adelaide in Australia. On July 26th 1840 Queen Adelaide and her entourage arrived by boat and climbed the steep bank to the summit, to admire the view.
For many years a brass plaque near the shore commemorated her visit, but it was stolen some years ago. We would like to replace the plaque. Text of plaque: “Queen Adelaide and suite landed here July 26th 1840 and ascended Rayrigg Bank attended by the Rev Fletcher & Mrs Fleming”
In 1913 Queen Adelaide Hill, including Wynlass Beck and the lakeshore, was purchased by the National Trust for £5000, partly with funds from local subscriptions, HD Rawnsley, then Hon Sec. National Trust, said at the opening ceremony:
“We believe that the public very much appreciate the use of the hill and lakeshore, and the increased facilities for boating, and we are confident that these benefits will be more and more valued as time passes”
A map dated 1926 shows a flagstaff at the summit of Queen Adelaide Hill. One day perhaps it would be great to have a Union Flag flying here again, at least during the summer months.
In 1937 a committee was formed with the object of providing a suitable memorial to celebrate the coronation of His Majesty King George VI. The Committee included representatives from the National Trust, Windermere Council, The Lake District Association, Friends of the Lake District and several other local dignitaries. After considering several schemes they decided to raise funds by public subscription to purchase about 17.5 acres of land south of Queen Adelaide Hill.
The Committee stated that together with the land already owned by Windermere Council and the National Trust –
“With the addition of the land proposed to be purchased the public would be privileged to enjoy for ever about 40 acres of land with about ½ mile of lake frontage. …Although Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District there is little foreshore available for the use of the public and, for this reason alone, the proposed purchase is commendable. The amenities of Queen Adelaide’s Hill and the public park adjoining will also be preserved for ever by the acquisition of the land and the opportunity to do this is worthy of generous support”
The Appeal was successful and in 1937 the land to the south of Adelaide Hill (“Rayrigg Meadow”) was bought by public subscription for £4000 to be used as a public park and playing field. 15 ½ acres were then given in ownership to Windermere UDC, and 2 acres of foreshore to the National Trust.
There is still a brass plaque set into the wall behind the footpath fingerpost near Rayrigg Hall:
“This land and the adjoining foreshore was purchased by public subscription for the use of the public to commemorate the coronation of HRH King George VI”
The purchase enabled the footpath to be extended from Wynlass Beck to Rayrigg Hall and … “it will be one of the most picturesque and delightful beauty spots in the Lake District with unrivalled views of the north end of Lake Windermere and the delectable mountains beyond”
Finally the Millerground Area became a reality for the public to enjoy forever.
During WW2 the home guard patrolled the lakeshore and had a machine gun emplacement above the beach. They were protecting the Short’s Sunderland sea-plane factory at White Cross Bay from potential attack by enemy fighter planes and bombers.
The lakeshore at Millerground was traditionally the place where local families spent their summer leisure time, and many local people learnt to swim here before the advent of an indoor pool in 1965. There was a swimming area marked out near the stone boathouse and a high diving board for the adventurous. Apparently jumping off the diving board would bury your feet into the mud of the lakebed. How deep you could get was a challenge undertaken by several, now elderly, residents of Windermere! The wooden huts on the lakeshore were originally built as changing rooms for the swimmers.
In recent years Millerground has become run down and dilapidated, with paths eroded and overgrown with shrubbery and tree roots, steps damaged and washed away, viewpoints obscured by foliage, overgrown hedges, woodland swamped by brambles and self-seeded beech and holly saplings. The condition of the footpaths makes it difficult for anyone who is elderly to access the area. It is impossible for wheelchair users, and even pushchairs need to be carried at several points.
The Millerground Enhancement Group was set up in 2014 by the Windermere & Bowness Civic Society. We are aiming to restore the area to its former beauty, encourage its use by families and make it welcoming for all ages and abilities. We are working with the National Trust, South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), Windermere Town Council, The Lake District National Park Authority, GoLakes, Cumbria Police community officers, local schools and Age Concern.
We have volunteer working parties every couple of weeks from February to November, mainly working under the guidance of our National Trust Ranger. So far we have repaired footpaths, fences and gates, cleared undergrowth and planted over 2000 native bluebells (provided with support of Ben Berry).
Local businesses and residents have given us small donations for which we are very grateful. We have also been very pleased to be awarded significant grant funding from SLDC and Nurture Lakeland. This has helped to pay for arboricultural work to improve historic views, and buy tools, wildlife habitat boxes and wildflowers for the woodland areas.
Amazingly, out of many applicants, we reached the finals of the 2014 round of ITV Peoples Millions Lottery Fund with an application “Windermere RePlay”. This was to restore and improve the childrens’ playground. We did not win the funding on this occasion, but were very pleased with the enormous support we received from everyone in Windermere and Bowness.
We are currently working with SLDC to restore the viewpoint from Rayrigg Meadow. Meanwhile our working parties of community volunteers and school students continue to work with the National Trust Rangers to tackle the overwhelming undergrowth, maintain the woodland and improve other footpaths
There is still a huge amount of work to be done requiring many thousands of man hours from volunteers. Each small step makes the area feel more welcoming and cared for. We look forward to seeing more wild flowers now that some dappled sunshine reaches the woodland floor. Within a few years we would love to welcome red squirrels back to the woods. It will be several years before we can feel we have fully restored the area.
Our aspirations include a new childrens’ playground and a family picnic area overlooking the recently cleared viewpoint. Substantial landscaping is required to make the beach area accessible to all, provide seating and wheelchair accessible routes. The majority of the paths need substantial maintenance to restore the walking routes. There are drainage issues which cause erosion. Woodlands need to be managed. Signage both to and on the site needs to be designed and installed. Cycle racks need to be provided.
Looking forward it would be ideal to include the Millerground jetties in a round-the lake ferry service for pedestrians and cyclists, linking with Brockhole, Waterhead, Bark Barn , the new Steamboat museum etc. There is space for electric car charging points. Cycle and bus routes along Rayrigg Road to improve ‘green’ access would be fantastic.
There is huge potential for this area as a natural resource for locals and tourists, whilst still maintaining its ‘unspoilt’ ambiance.
The more ambitious plans for the project will require substantial funding to be found over the next few years to achieve all these aims for Millerground. Meanwhile, new volunteers to help on the working groups are always welcome. If you’d like further details of this project or to get involved in any way then please…
Email : email@example.com
or tel: John Saunders on 015394 43164
www.windermerebowness civic society.org.uk