Threlkeld & Scales

History from hunting to mining and back

Blencathra, known locally as Saddleback, overlooks this traditional and pretty village. There are also views towards Clough Head and the Helvellyn range. Threlkeld is, I gather, Norse for ‘the spring of the thrall’ – thrall being a bonded servant. Zinc, lead and granite were mined during the last century until the last of the granite miners hung up their shovels and picks in the mid-80s.

At one time more than a hundred men

were employed in the mines and at the quarry there is a museum with an impressive mineral collection, mining artefacts and touching reminders of how things used to be.

A table top relief map of the Lake District and a pictorial history of Threlkeld are also on display. There was once a TB isolation hospital which is now a field centre for biologists and geographers.

Since the Dark Ages and the days of Sir Lancelot de Threlkeld, hunting has been an integral part of local life; this is the home of the Blencathra Hunt, the Lakeland pack that traditionally hunts on foot rather than on horseback and claims that its dogs are descended from those used by John Peel of song fame. The Threlkeld sheepdog trials are a highlight of the year and feature foxhound and terrier shows, as well as hound training.

All of these rural pursuits are, one presumes, finding life tougher these days.