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The real village of Boot

Alan Cleaver
bootvill 300x200 The real village of Boot

The tiny village of Boot in Eskdale, Cumbria

Living two doors away from the notorious taxi rank where Derrick Bird’s shootings first became public, you can understand why I would want to get away from it all. What might surprise you is that my partner and I headed for the village of Boot.

Boot is where Bird ended his shooting spree by taking his own life but for all its bad connotations it is still one of the most beautiful spots in the country. Indeed, any visitors to our Whitehaven home are always treated to Boot and the ‘lost’ valley of Eskdale. It’s not really lost of course. It’s south of Whitehaven on the A595, turn left and it’s 20 minutes down a winding country lane. But few Lake District tourists visit this corner as it has no lake and is on the far western edge of the national park.

The best way to get into Eskdale is to drive onto Ravenglass and catch the Ratty – our very own steam train first used in the late 19th century to transport iron ore from the mines in Eskdale. Half an hour later you arrive at Dalegarth station next to Boot in a world of tranquility where you’re more likely to see a deer, red squirrel or buzzard than you are another tourist.

boot 196x300 The real village of Boot

A tourist postcard for the village of Boot dating from the 1920s

Given the solitude of the place, there’s a surprising amount to see in Eskdale. A walk down to St Catherine’s Church along the River Esk with its packhorse bridges is favourite. There’s also the Stanley Ghyll waterfall nearby and the recently rediscovered St Catherine’s holy well. But as an amateur photographer my favourite stop-off point is the village itself. There are two pubs, a sub post-office, art gallery and a few houses and Boot mill – the last remaining working mill in the Lake District. It’s a mill that has avoided the ‘laminated preservation’ put on many old buildings by national conservation bodies. It is run by the Eskdale Mill and Heritage Trust and retains a rustic charm. Dave King, the miller, lives next to the mill and must have the best job in the world! He’s usually there to show people around but if not you can wander round yourself and leave any money for the souvenirs in an honesty pot by the door. Stanley the mill’s cat is usually ‘on guard’! It’s not always clear where the mill ends and the mill garden starts but an icecream in the garden on the banks of Whillan Beck is a nice way to end the day before heading home on the Ratty.

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