Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme ran from March 2019 to February 2024. Its vision was to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. 

Download the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme Summary Report for an overview of the Scheme's successes.


Welcome …

… to the Westmorland Dales website.

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme aimed to unlock and reveal the hidden heritage of the Westmorland Dales, enabling more people to connect with, enjoy and benefit from this inspirational landscape. Specifically, its objectives were to:

  • Reveal the area’s hidden heritage.
  • Conserve what makes the area special.
  • Engage people in enjoying and benefitting from their heritage.
  • Sustain the benefits of the scheme in the long-term.

This was achieved through a programme of projects developed and delivered through the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and mainly funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It ran over a five-year period from March 2019 to February 2024.

Here you can discover what makes the area so special, find out about the scheme’s projects, and view and download resources produced.

The Westmorland Dales

The Westmorland Dales is a beautiful area of Cumbria lying  north of the Howgill Fells and within the north-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It stretches from Tebay in the south-west to Kirkby Stephen in the east and to Maulds Meaburn in the north-west. At its heart are the limestone fells above Orton and Asby, rich in natural and cultural heritage, and with magnificent views to the Pennines, the Howgills and the Lakeland fells. It drains into the Lune river catchment to the south and the Eden river catchment to the north. Relatively overlooked compared with its better-known neighbours, our projects have aimed to reveal its heritage for more to enjoy without detracting from its unique qualities. (Click on map for larger image)

Contact information

Friends of the Lake District
Murley Moss, Oxenholme Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 7SS
Main Telephone:  01539 720788
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
Yoredale, Bainbridge, Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 3EL
Main Telephone:  01969 652300

An important strand of the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme is about engaging local people and visitors in understanding and appreciating the Westmorland Dales. In the autumn of 2022, we explored the local folklore and legends associated with the area.

Storyteller Emily Hennessey, who is based in southern Lakeland, was commissioned firstly to re-work some of the traditional folklore associated with places and people in the Westmorland Dales, and set them in the landscape.

Folklore content and ideas had been gleaned from researching people and places in the area for other aspects of the interpretation project, and also suggestions and recommendations from our stakeholders and partners. There are also close links with the ‘A Way Through’ research undertaken by Karen Griffith at the Yorkshire Dales National Park and her volunteers, exploring routeways and travel through the area. Emily skilfully managed to weave several story strands together to create three distinctive tales that would appeal to everyone, especially children.

Firstly we have ‘Tales of Pendragon Castle’, one of the iconic monuments of the project area, set in dramatic Mallerstang beside the River Eden. Many of the tales linked with King Uther Pendragon are well known and widely celebrated, but Emily has managed to convey a sense of Pendragon Castle’s strategic importance, guarding a well-used routeway along the valley, frequented by war bands in turbulent bygone ages. We also sense that the valley was once a wilder, wooded place, frequented by wild boars and other dangerous creatures!

Our second tale takes us to the 19th century and the tragic story of Thomas Hunter, a carrier, who was murdered as he travelled home from Kendal to Archer Hill in the Parish of Orton. We explore the way his unsolved murder was linked to the phenomena of the Orton Dobbie, another 19th century news ‘sensation’ linked to the parish.

Pictured: One school child’s imagining of the Orton Dobbie overturning a table. The Dobbie caused ‘wonderful disturbances’ at Cowper House, Orton, including throwing furniture around, and became a national sensation!

Dobbies, or Boggles, were shapeshifting, occasionally malevolent spirits blamed for strange phenomena and accidents at home or on journeys, bridges or water crossings. Finally, we have re-imagined the story of the much-maligned Mary Baines, witch of Tebay, who supposedly foresaw the coming of the railways ‘carriages driven by fire’.

Pictured: The hare leading the Hunt a merry dance across Loupsfell and down the Tebay Gorge, past the burial place of The Mighty Bo where the fairies dance by the light of the moon – from the story of Mary Baines, witch of Tebay.

The resulting three tales have been performed for our local primary school children, along with creative writing and performance workshops and follow-on art workshops in which the schoolchildren can pass on the stories in their own words and images. It has been a privilege to observe the compelling impact a well-told story, even one from a time long gone, has for a group of children. The tales certainly caught their imaginations!

We’ve also noticed that many of these stories still resonate in the local community. Tebay residents have told us about houses associated with Mary Baines, and the strangely shaped limestone wall tops that supposedly ward off evil. One schoolchild from Kirkby Stephen remarked that a place mentioned in the story, associated with a child-eating giant, was on his family farm!

We hope to publish the children’s own versions of the three stories via films which will be made available from our website, and a printed publication featuring their work. A celebration event is also planned for January 2023. We hope that part of the legacy of this project will be to ensure these stories can be passed on to future generations.