A writer friend recently remarked that this county never ceased to amaze him – he’d lived here for years, studied its history, and yet still he could discover new, forgotten corners. And on Friday, that happened to us.
We were being naughty. After a bad week for both of us we decided to skip work and head out for the day. After much head-scratching and poring over maps, we decided to aim for Gleaston Water Mill, a place we’d seen signposted but never visited before. It’s about half way between Ulverston and Barrow-in-Furness, but hidden away in the sort of maze of old-fashioned country lanes that you’d be forgiven for thinking no longer existed in this day and age.
And what a lovely surprise. When we arrived we found the mill nestled in a lush valley, with a network of little streams to feed the mill wheel, and buildings that dated back to the early 18th century – although the site of the mill is believed to be a lot older. We had a nice chat to the woman who helps run the place, rummaged around the main mill building – which includes lots of informative signs about the machinery, the water sources, various archaeological digs/finds, and the milling process; and thousands of farming, milling and general ‘rural’ artefacts and memorabilia. Then we had a really nice lunch in the attached ‘Dusty Millers’ café.
Lastly, a short walk back up one of the afore-mentioned country lanes brought us to Gleaston Castle, an impressive ruin comprising four towers, various bits of wall, what looked suspiciously like a motte or castle mound, and an 1850s farmhouse plonked in the middle. According to the guides, the castle was poorly constructed and only ever intended to be a fortified manor house. However, this is something of a mystery, since it’s about four times the size of most manors, fortified or otherwise, and there’s that motte to throw into the equation. A puzzle that, thanks to an almost complete absence of written records about the place, may never really be solved.
But what fun to drive no more than a couple of miles off the main Ulverston to Barrow coast road and find not one, but two hidden gems tucked into the countryside, one of which (the castle) we’d never even heard of before!