On The Road: For a true taste of spring, try the Lakeland damsons

David Atkinson in Cumbria

Spring has come to Cumbria's Lyth Valley. The rural enclave between Kendal and Windermere is transformed for a fortnight each year by an explosion of snow-white damson blossom. I've timed my visit perfectly. In a field outside the village of Crosthwaite on a crisp spring morning, the blossom cascades around me like the first flakes of winter. Daffodils and primroses add splashes of colour. Beyond the farm lies Underbarrow, verdant and alive, while Kentmere sports a heavy frost on the tops of its fells.

"It's like a snowstorm," says John Holmes, vice chairman of the Westmorland Damson Association. "Short lived, but glorious."

Local folklore suggests either the Romans first brought damsons to the valley from Damascus in AD200, or monks coming to establish Furness Abbey from Ireland in the 12th century. Either way, the hardy, plum-like fruit took to the tough conditions of the Lakeland fells, and the first ever records of damsons sold at Kendal market date from 1780.

Today, some 100 acres of the valley are under orchard, producing 20 tons of damsons each year during the September harvest. Westmorland damsons have, say locals, a distinct, nuttier flavour.

The damson orchards fell into decline after the Second World War, but the Westmorland Damson Association (lythdamsons. org.uk) revived traditional cultivation in 1996, establishing the Damson Day festival soon after.

The annual event is, I find, part community fair, part country show. At the festival showground at Low Farm I peruse the damson-inspired goodies from local producers, chutneys, beers and even gin, before taking a walk through the orchards.

Later that evening at Crosthwaite's Punch Bowl Inn (the-punchbowl.co.uk), I tuck into a dinner of slow-roast pork with black pudding and damson purée, followed by a damson soufflé, washed down with damson gin.

"I like the tartness and the versatility of the damson for cooking," says the head chef, Scott Fairweather, recently voted Cumbria Young Chef of the Year. "They're ideal for pork and game, plus preserving as jams and chutneys."

I knew nothing about damsons until my stay in the Lyth Valley. But, from this day on, I will always think of damsons as the true taste of spring.

Footprint's Lake District with Kids is available now, £13.99.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments