Welcome to the Parish of Crosthwaite & Lyth

The Damson Valley

The Parish of Crosthwaite and Lyth border lies 5 miles west of Kendal, 5 miles north of Grange-over-Sands and 3 miles south of Bowness-on-Windermere. The M6 motorway is 5 miles from the parish. Manchester Airport is 82 miles to the south. The equivalent distances from Crosthwaite village are 5½ miles to Kendal, 11 miles to Grange, 6 miles to Bowness and 11 miles to the M6.

Crosthwaite derives its name from the old Scandinavian word, "thwaite", meaning a clearing in a forest or a piece of land, which has been enclosed. This was blended with "Cross", which may reflect the earlier Christian connections with the Irish or Angle missionaries of the sixth or seventh century. The Norsemen also gave the Lyth Valley its name; "hlith" means sloping hillside.


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Damson blossom

Damson blossom

The Westmorland damson is a lovely local food, grown in the picturesque orchards of the Lyth Valley. It is used to make a wide range of items such as jam, chutney, puddings and gin – it is great in Eton Mess. It is a member of the plum family and is thought to be a type of Shropshire prune (possibly the Blue Violet) but improved by the unique conditions in Westmorland and pollination by the wild Bullace and Sloe. There are damsons in other parts of the British Isles but the flavour of the smaller Westmorland damson is said to be second to none.

Westmorland damsons grow mainly in and around the Lyth and Winster valleys, south-west of Kendal in the English Lake District. The orchards of the Lyth Valley are unique, surrounding each small farmstead and growing along every hedgerow in the valley.

At some time in April, exactly when depending on the weather, the orchards and hedgerows become snow white with blossom - a wonderful sight to see. The fruit ripens in September and is sold from roadside stalls and in local shops.

Originally damsons came from the area around Damascus, hence the name. Some say the Crusaders brought back damson stones to try in England. Damson trees are often found around sites of Roman camps - perhaps the Romans introduced them to Britain. Damson stones were found in a bag round the waist of a 4000 year-old 'Ice Man' uncovered recently in the Alps. Damson stones have been excavated at the Viking Yorvick centre at York.