Rannerdale

Bluebells and a crab apple tree on the flanks of a fell

Situated between Buttermere and Crummock Water lies Rannerdale Knotts. It has everything you could wish for in a Lake District fell - panoramic views as well as peace and quiet that is often difficult to find these days - plus a picturesque 'secret' valley. It needs special care at bluebell time, please play your part in looking after this beautiful display and stick to the paths.

One of three abandonned villages

Rannerdale (the sheiling at the pass of the raven in old Norse) was once the site of a settlement that shows continuous habitation from stone-age times up to medieval times, when it was abandoned. Two other settlements in the valley were abandoned at the same time, one at Scales, near Scale Force, and one at Peele Place.

A very special bluebell collection

Today the valley needs special care at bluebell time. Rannerdale’s bluebells are renowned as a natural wonder, beloved of visitors and photographers; however, they are being ‘loved to death’.  Bluebells are slow growing; if their leaves are crushed by trampling they cannot photosynthesise the energy they need and it can take plants years to recover. 

They exist as they do, in part, because of the sensitive management by our amazing farm tenants over many generations who are keen conservationists and farm with nature. Over the past 10 years we have seen more and more visitors come to view the bluebells, unfortunately the increased footfall has resulted in many plants being crushed underfoot and we’ve seen a dramatic loss of plants throughout the valley.

New paths trample the bluebells, we are asking visitors to fight the urge to get in amongst the flowers and stick to the existing paths
A path created through the bluebells
New paths trample the bluebells, we are asking visitors to fight the urge to get in amongst the flowers and stick to the existing paths

Visiting the blubells

We want everyone to be able to enjoy the bluebells for generations to come, we may need to restrict access to certain vulnerable parts of the valley at times but we will make sure it is always open for responsible visits. By sticking to the paths you are ensuring the spectacle will be there for future generations.

We have used hand made oak posts which are rather randomly shaped, to mark out the footpaths, these are from a nearby woodland as part of our ongoing woodland management plans. We believe this is sympathetic to the site and may resemble what was there generations ago when the valley was inhabited, signs of human settlement can still be seen through the valley.

There are other places to see bluebells in the Lake District and our neighbouring woodlands have a fantastic showing of flowers, some believe they are better viewed in the dappled woodland light of their natural environment.

" We are asking people to fight the urge to ‘get in’ amongst these flowers and simply stick to the path. On average, and by my estimation, each time a person steps on the bluebells they crush seven to 10 plants. Let’s all be responsible for protecting the wildlife and the landscape for future generations"
- Paul Delaney, Ranger

Why are the Rannerdale Bluebells important?

Over half the world’s populations of these iconic wildflowers grow in the UK. At Rannerdale they are an indicator of an ancient woodland which once occupied the valley. Bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If you dig up a wild bluebell you can be heavily fined. Folklore tells us that If you pick a wild bluebell, you will be led astray by fairies, and lost forever.

How long does it take for a bluebell to grow?

It takes several years for a native bluebell seed to grow into a bulb & subsequently flower. Ants help to spread bluebell seeds, so if you live near a bluebell wood you may find them popping up in your garden. Bees enjoy bluebell’s pollen & nectar. Sometimes they ‘steal’ it by biting a hole in the top of the flower, you might spot this on your walk.

We work closely with our farm tenant to ensure sheep are removed well before flowering season, our Ranger teams spend time making the boundary wall stockproof but some resilient woolies still get in, they cause very little trampling damage in comparison with human feet.

Where bluebells used for anything in the past?

Bluebell bulbs contain a starch that in Elizabethan times was used to stiffen ruffs. Gum from the roots was used to glue feathers to arrows & in bookbinding. Bluebell juice was said to cure snake bites but is chemically very potent & can be toxic in large doses.

Ridge with a view

From the top of rannerdale Knotts, you can see three lakes and many higher and more famous peaks, notably Haystacks, described by Alfred Wainwright as: 'the best fell top of all'. Despite this he left it out of his 'best half dozen walks' due to it’s comparative lack of height at only 597m.
 
Usually climbed from Buttermere, Haystacks can also be accessed from Honister via the old quarry tramway.

The tallest waterfall around

Hause Point, the lakeside crag near Rannerdale, was where Victorian tourists embarked upon boats to take them across Crummock Water to the narrow gorge of Scale Beck where it enters the lake. This lead them to Scale Force, the tallest waterfall in the Lake District at 51.8m
 
Scale Force was one of the required sites to see in Victorian times. Wordsworth described it as: 'a fine chasm with a lofty but slender fall'.