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FORCE MILL, PENRITH, CUMBRIA
Nothing had prepared us for Force Mill. Not the soft-focus picture in the brochure, not the cleverly compiled description beneath it. And certainly not the reputation of the weather usually associated with the northern reaches of the Lake District. We turned up at the beautiful 18th-century stone farmhouse in waterproofs, jumpers and gumboots: it never occurred to us that Cumbria, in the summer, could be as hot and dry as Umbria.
The house is positioned close to the River Eden, on the edge of a vast natural waterfall – which once powered a working mill – and each night we were lulled to sleep by the constant noise of the falls, which only stops, apparently, when the temperature slips so low that the white flow freezes.
You can’t see Force Mill from the road. The farmhouse is at least half a mile from the nearest dirt track. You make your own way through bleating sheep down a sharp hill towards the river. The whitewashed house is surrounded by an array of ramshackle barns and outhouses. Its extraordinary light – reflected off the falls – and picturesque beauty remind you of the location of a big-budget TV costume drama.
Our days were spent lazing in the sun and paddling in the shallow reaches of the river. And trips to Ullswater and Penrith Castle enchanted the whole family, as did our daily walks around the neighbouring countryside filled, as it was, with the kind of wildlife (kingfishers, herons, jumping salmon) that are as mythical beasts to our urban children.
Feature from The Mail on Sunday
Sunday, 6th February 2000
Picture by Dan Williams