(Images: Alexandra Smith, all rights reserved)
On an isolated, blustery hill known as ‘Pepperpot Hill’ in the Lake District, a chimney, complete with flue, fireplace and stone surround has been built into the rock outcrop of an old quarry near Torpenhow (a village whose name, meaning ‘hill, hill, hill’ in Old English, Welsh and Danish respectively, is a tautology). In front of the mysterious hearth stands a wrought iron ceiling support and above the mantelpiece are red bricks, which have been laid using early cement or clay.
The cottage in the rock may have been a hunting lodge or shepherd’s dwelling and can be navigated via a branch road off the A591 towards Torpenhow (pronounced locally as Treh-pen-a). This road reveals a bridleway gate which is signposted ‘High Houses, 1 mile’ and leads to a beautiful 17th Century bed and breakfast. Scrawled in faded pen onto the gate is the foreboding sentence ‘ALL DOGS TO BE ON A LEAD OR WILL BE SHOT’ – presumably written by a landowner concerned for the well-being of the sheep grazing in this steep, rocky field.
As the bridleway track weaves up past the ruin, its chimney may easily be overlooked or mistaken for a cairn, while the cottage below is hidden from view. Notably, this hill and its neighbours are popular for hang gliding and it’s not hard to see why when, on leaving the safety of the path, the wind suddenly picks up in gusts.
While the drystone walls of this cave-like chic residence do provide some shelter from the howling gale, it would clearly have taken a brave hermit to choose to live here. (Read this report for more information on the history of the Whittas Park area, including its cairns and stone circles.)