Thursday 21 April 2016

Folklore of Bassenthwaite Lake

The romantic and much visited Lake District of northern England has many legends and folkloric tales to tell. To celebrate the release of my book Spirit Chaser as an audio book, I have delved  into my archives to have another look at some of the folklore from the Bassenthwaite Lake area  that is featured in the book.

Folklore of Bassenthwaite
by Alex Langstone
Bassenthwaite Lake, a portal of psychic activity? Pic: Alex Langstone

Bassenthwaite Lake is a magical place in all seasons. Home to the only breeding pair of Ospreys in England, it has gained an excellent reputation for ornithologists and other natural history enthusiasts. Less known however, are some of the areas more mysterious creatures.

Hidden in the murky depths of Bassenthwaite Lake maybe a creature from an
other time or place? This slimy amphibious creature known as the Bassenthwaite Eachy has scared many visitors over the centuries.

                                                             Is this the Eachy of Bassenthwaite? 

An Eachy is a name given to a species of lake monster from a variety of locations in northern England and Scotland. An Eachy was typically a large humanoid being of gruesome and slimy appearance seen to occasionally emerge from the lake. An Eachy was reported from Windermere in 1873 and at Bassenthwaite Lake as late as 1973, when a Mr. Stavenglass reported seeing something strange i n the water. The following photograph was taken, which seems to show a creature in the lake, however it looks more like "Nessie" from Loch Ness or "Mawgawr" from Falmouth Bay than the Bassenthwaite Eachy?

The eye witness at the time is reported saying: "Resting near to Bassenthwaite Lake I saw something that made me both exited and intrigued at the same time. Something strange was swimming in the lake. It ducked below the surface and reappeared some distance away. The speed that the animal moved was amazing. I have never been able to find out what it was I saw, and my story has been met with some ridicule."

Close to Bassenthwaite Lake are two reputed fairy sites. The first, Castle How Fort (NY202 308) stands just off the main A66, on the banks of the lake itself but the second, Elva Hill (NY 177 317) is by far the more impressive. The hill itself is reputed to be a fairy hill and, according to some, hides a secret gateway into the otherworld, which only opens at certain times of the year. The name, like that of King Eveling, may be of Viking origin, meaning the home of elves, though this is not certain. On the southern slopes of the hill stands a Late Neolithic stone circle, an almost perfect ring some 125ft in diameter, though today comprising around half of the original 30 stones. In reality, the site was almost certainly associated with the trade in stone tools produced locally and taken through Borrowdale and over the hills to the east. This may go some way towards explaining the connection with fairies; the Stone Age flints found in the area passed into folklore as "elf arrows" which were supposedly crafted by the fairies and subsequently often used by later generations of witches as powerful magical charms.

Elva Plain stone circle, gateway to another world?

Rising above the southern end of the lake is The Dodd a small heavily wooded fell of 502 meters. The summit is reputed to be haunted and discarnate voices have been heard at the summit at dusk and shadowy figures have been seen after dark amongst the trees on the summer solstice.

All of these stories packed into a very small geographical area may point to Bassenthwaite Lake being seen as a "thin place" - a spot in the landscape where the veil is easy to penetrate through to other existences. The area is very beautiful and is worth a visit, especially if you are looking for magic and mystery.

For more of the strange and mystical goings on in the Bassenthwaite Lake area see my book Spirit Chaser out now as an audio book from Circle of Spears

Eachy picture copyright Gunnar Jacobsen Used with permission.

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