National Trust gives Victorian-era tourist attraction a new lease of life

A Victorian-era tourist attraction that once drew crowds from across the country has been given a new lease of life thanks to the National Trust.

The giant boulder of Bowder Stone in Keswick, Cumbria, became a famous stop off for thrill-seekers when a flimsy wooden ladder was first installed by eccentric local landowner Joseph Pocklington in 1798.

Such was its fame that John Atkinson Grimshaw, recognised as one of the most popular artists at the time, painted it at some point between 1863 and 1868 standing prominently in the valley.

The National Trust, which cares for the stone, has installed a new nine-metre metal ladder to allow tourists to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.

The Bowder Stone is approximately nine metres high and 15 metres wide, and is estimated to weigh 1,253 tonnes.

It is thought to have fallen from the crags above after the last ice age, coming to rest at its current improbable angle.

Two hundred years on, it is partially hidden by important woodland which has grown around it.

National Trust curator Harvey Wilkinson said: “This is about restoring the excitement of a visit to one of the strangest and at one time the most famous Lake District attraction.

“The Bowder Stone is a powerful reminder of change in the landscape, viewed through the eyes of the painters, poets and writers who portrayed it.

“The once visible landmark is now very much a hidden treasure, part of the evolving story of this landscape.

Jessie Binns, National Trust visitor experience and engagement manager, said: “When the Victorians stood on the top of the stone they would have been able to clearly see the high and central fells.

“However, today’s visitor will instead find themselves surrounded by tree tops, mostly birch and oak. And depending on the time of the year they may also see and hear woodpeckers, tawny owls and large dragonflies like the spectacular golden-ringed dragonfly hunting for insects in the tree canopy.”

The National Trust bought the Bowder Stone in 1910, as part of the purchase of 310 acres of Grange Fell and Borrowdale Birches.