Kendal – Serpentine Woods
Serpentine Woods is sited at the top of Beast Banks, and looks over Kendal towards the town and the castle. The woods were originally grazing land and part of Kendal Fell. The area was historically called Dob Frear, which is Scandinavian for Free Land. In 1790, the land was planted with trees. During the 1820’s, economic prosperity in the area was on a downward turn, unemployment was high, and to counter this in 1824, the woods were set out as walks, flower beds were created and planted and a cottage was built that could be rented. Labourers were set to work to maintain this new park for the people of Kendal, so creating a kind of job creation scheme. However, so high were the numbers of visitors, that the woods began to suffer.
The walks were therefore closed off to everyone other than those who could afford to pay for the privilege of using the woodland. The Summer House was built in 1833, and a small charge of sixpence was charged for its use and as an admission for the woods. In 1849, the walks were once again opened to the public for free. It was found that damage was once again being done to the flower beds and to the trees. Two Wellington trees were planted to commemorate the marriage of The Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra in 1863. However, such was the damage done by the numbers of visitors, that only one of these trees remains today. The Summer house was in a poor state of repair by the early 1900’s, and in 1985 Kendal Civic Society restored it. The park is now maintained by South Lakeland District Council.
The woods are home to a wide range of bird species, foxes and squirrels. The trees and shrubs grow over a bed of Lime Stone pavement that shows through its layer of foliage in several places. There are a number of paths that can be taken through the woods, with walks totalling around 3 miles in all. The woods have a nature trail with ten stops, each demonstrating a different environment within the woods.
Photos and article by Matthew Emmott.
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