Stephenson Ground is a perfect base from which to explore the Lake District, either on foot or by car. Many beautiful walks of varying length and difficulty are accessible right from the front door as the house is situated at the junction of two fell tracks – one leading to the Walna Scar trail (and the Old Man of Coniston) and one that leads to the famous Duddon Valley. Lowland walks along the quiet lanes and the many forestry footpaths provide gentler walking.
Bird watchers can simply enjoy watching the enormous variety of birds that visit the bird table outside the house: chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, siskin, yellow hammer, greenfinch, wagtails, robin and wren and a resident pair of greater spotted woodpeckers, plus some of the rarer visitors including goldfinch and nuthatch. The barns provide summer nesting sites to many swallows, a barn owl is a occasional resident and kestrels, buzzards, sparrow hawks and even more exotic birds of prey are all regularly spotted near the house. Nearby Duddon Sands offers the chance to see a huge variety of sea and esturine birds, including (depending on the time of year), tern, curlew, pintail, redshank, plover, sanderling, dunlin, lapwing, eider and shelduck.
For those with more energy, some of the wider fell tracks are suitable for mountain biking (but please respect the fells and the land, and always give way to walkers). A 10-year archaeological dig took place on nearby Stephenson Ground Scale (a half hour’s walk up the valley); it’s now mostly covered up but five distinct sites were investigated and artifacts discovered during the dig are on display in the Information Centre in Broughton-in-Furness.
Coniston Water is 8 miles away and Lake Windermere, Wastwater and Tarn Hows are all within a hour’s drive. Outdoor activities available in Coniston village include pony trekking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, fishing, climbing, gorge walking, and mountain biking. Those who enjoy history mustn’t miss a visit to John Ruskin’s former home, Brantwood on the shores of the lake. The excellent Ruskin Museum includes fascinating exhibits on Donald Campbell’s famous Bluebird. Or take a trip on the meticulously restored Victorian steam yacht Gondola and enjoy the stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains from its elegant saloon. The nearby beautiful Duddon valley has literary connections with both Wordsworth and local poet Norman Nicholson.
Other tourist attractions within a hour’s drive include the Aquarium of the Lakes (Windermere), the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Miniature Steam Railway (L’il Ratty) and Beatrix Potter exhibitions.
Useful local websites for tourist information:
Visit Cumbria – http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/coniston-water/
For those who want to simply walk during the day and relax in a friendly pub during the evening, there are several excellent pubs offering home-cooked locally sourced food and guest ales within a 10 minute drive, including ‘The Blacksmith’s Arms’ in Broughton Mills, ‘Newfield Inn’ at Seathwaite and ‘Wilson Arms’ in Torver. Other good pubs can be found in Coniston and Broughton-in-Furness.
BROUGHTON MILLS: 2 miles away, has arguably the best pub in the world, The Blacksmiths Arms, serving excellent locally sourced food (not Mondays) and guest ales, a payphone and a postbox
BROUGHTON: 5 miles away, has a post office, butcher selling local meat, grocer, award-winning baker, garage, several cafes and pubs and a good restaurant ‘Beswicks’. Cattle/sheep market fortnightly on Tuesdays
TORVER: 3 miles away, has a good pub, The Wilson Arms, plus a well-stocked (though somewhat pricey) deli selling local and speciality foods (please check for opening times).
CONISTON: 8 miles away, has a selection of local shops, cafes and pubs, including a post office, Co-op store, butcher, hairdresser, bank, local crafts, gifts, walking and outdoor supplies, hardware, tourist information etc.
ULVERSTON: 15 miles, a good shopping area with Street and Cattle markets every Thursday. Also Booths supermarket
MILLOM: 10 miles, medium sized Tesco. There are several large supermakets at BARROW, approx. 25 miles (45 mins) away