The Lakes in May

I write this blog in such strange times. The Lake District has been amazingly beautiful during the last few months as the weather has been so fabulous, but obviously very quiet. Left alone to reflect on its own beauty in the lakes themselves, as we all live in lock down. So what have we been up to at Maple Bank?

Well, the Head Gardener has been extremely busy in the garden. We haven’t really had any rain for about seven weeks, so She has been in Her complete element. Out for several hours every day. Pottering, potting and re-potting. We have loads of bulbs in the garden and in our many pots, so we’ve really enjoyed having the flowers in the House throughout March and April. Once finished, all the spring bulbs in pots have been replanted into the back garden for next year.

We then got the wonderful news that one of the Head Gardener’s favourite nurseries was happy to deliver, which produced a HUGE smile. As a result we have had several deliveries over the last few weeks, as have a few folk in the village as well. This has included some fabulous plants to fill up the garden for years to come: holly-hocks, delphiniums, and granny bonnets to name just a few (and I now know what they look like too!). I’ve also been able to squeeze in some Hebe’s, which I love.

But my truly favourite purchases have been the geraniums. And we now have lots and lots and LOTS of pots of these and I can’t wait to see them all come into bloom over the next week or so. A cheerful happy flower which I fell in love with straight from the pages of one of my favourite childhood books: The Little White Horse.

And what have I been up to? Well the early good weather meant that I painted the garden shed – am really pleased to have got to this – as well as lugging endless watering cans up the garden for the aforementioned newly planted flowers …. and then we bought a hose extension – whoop whoop!!!. Also relocated some paving stones, fiddled with a few pots, and seemed to have dug endless holes for relocating plants…. I’ve also decorated my own room, as well as acquainting myself with some really exciting woodwork around the house… One huge bonus has been that I’ve also been able to spend some time decorating the kitchen which we have both found very satisfying. Quite a bit of my time has also been spent volunteering at our local village shop, so it could remain open for those at -risk groups in the village, as the owner is in an at-risk group herself.

And finally, some new cake-baking recipes have been well and truly researched by both of us. I initially tried to stick to the healthy oats-based recipes, but this didn’t last long as my waistline can show. We have found some really scrummy recipes to share with you. But when will this be?

So as of today, it seems as if we might be able to reopen in early July. We will only be opening up half the rooms so that we can rotate room occupancy to manage our cleaning regimes and social distancing in the dining room.

For group bookings, we will shut the house for three rooms or more.

Best to phone direct to find out availability – and to get the best prices.

If you want to read more about what we are doing to ensure that you have a relaxing and safe holiday with us at Maple Bank, then please do read our COVID-19 page and also During Your Stay page for more details.

We are really looking forward to welcoming you back to Maple Bank and the Lake District. But for now, stay safe, and look after ‘you and yours’.

See you son

Kate, Ann and wee Tara

Pure Lakes – handmade, natural skincare products

I’m very excited to announce that we are now stocking Pure Lakes natural skincare products in our rooms for our guests to use – and our first few guests of 2020 have absolutely loved it!

Pure Lakes was founded by Sandra and Iain Blackburn and has been producing award-winning, natural skincare for 10 years.

In search of a product that worked for sensitive skin Sandra, a trained chemist, combined her knowledge of science with pure, plant-based ingredients to formulate her own skincare products.

Claire & Gareth McKeever were among Pure Lakes’s earliest customers. Gareth and Claire bought the business in 2016 and continue to work closely with Iain and Sandra in ensuring the founding principles of the company are fundamental in every decision. For more on their values please see here.

Claire says, “Gareth and I had both used Pure Lakes products for many years and effective plant-based skincare is something we are passionate about.” 

“We are excited to have the opportunity to build on the high quality, sustainable and eco-friendly foundations laid by Iain and Sandra over the past decade”.

My mum, Ann, and I are really excited about using Pure Lakes in our guest bedrooms as their products are excellent. In addition, the products are made in the Lakes and they have a very strong sustainable policy throughout their production and packaging processes. As someone who has always had quite sensitive skin, I have find their approach to sensitive skin very refreshing and effective.

We stock the Heritage Range here at Maple Bank for our guests to use in their bathrooms. I chose this range as the fragrances are lovely for all genders. The packaging artwork is also particularly charming as it uses landscape scenes of the Lakes painted by Claire’s Granny. Whilst my guests won’t be able to see the packaging in their rooms, they can see them – and other Pure Lakes products – at ‘Love the Lakes’ in Keswick and ‘The Linden Tree’ in Cockermouth.

We also have the insect repellent, after-sun lotion and foot gel available for our guests to use.

You can also buy online at

Some specific details about their production process.

Ingredients – Pure Lakes make all of their products using natural, bio-degradable raw ingredients.  

Packaging – the packaging is either from recycled material or is recyclable/reusable in itself.

Where possible, Pure Lakes try to use glass jars, but where these are not appropriate they use plastic made from a biopolymer, one that is also fully recyclable and which is a by-product of making sugar, used in place of ethylene or oil.

Waste Generation and Disposal – Pure Lakes recycle or reuse all cardboard, paper, glass and plastic. 

Pure Lakes offer a Bulk Refill Scheme to the Hospitality Industry to enable them to re-use bottles thereby cutting down on waste. This is why we at Maple Bank have the larger 250ml bottles in your bathroom for your complimentary use and we ask that you leave the bottles behind for the next guest.

All Pure Lakes’ finished products are bio-degradable.

Product Miles and Impact of Transport – where possible Pure Lakes use of UK suppliers for all of their raw materials and packaging.

Energy requirement – this is relatively low and they are continually investigate energy sources that have a positive effect on the environment.

Theatre by the Lake

Theatre by the Lake – Keswick

One of the most amazing things about living in Keswick is the Theatre by the Lake.

Some returning guests to Maple Bank were booked in to see several productions in one week and encouraged us to go. Mum and I have now been to two productions and they were absolutely amazing.

In December 2018 we went to see the thriller – Beauty and the The Beast – yes a thriller! And this year we’ve seen Educating Rita with Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson – which was just fabulous. So lucky to see this touring show with such amazing stars. Stephen Tompkinson is up there with the greats as far as I’m concerned anyway, and so is Jessica Johnson. She had big shoes to fill – for those of us who have only seen the film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters – and boy did she fill them. She absolutely nailed it.

Following our wonderful trips we have now signed up Maple Bank to be Ambassadors of the theatre. This means that Maple Bank guests can get £3 off each ticket when you book at the theatre* – after you’ve booked to stay with us. On receiving a confirmed room booking, I will give you a code which you can quote online or on the telephone when booking your tickets direct with the theatre.

There is also a lovely restaurant by the Lake – Lakeside Cafe Restaurant – where you can enjoy a pre-theatre supper. We’ve eaten there several times now for lunch, coffee and cake, as well as for pre-theatre supper – and the food is lovely. For our last visit, I had the most amazing beef burger and Mum had a lovely starter of mushrooms on bruschetta. If you want to have a table looking out to the Lake then best to book in advance. Either way, the service is fast as they know you’re there for the show.

* Not applicable to some shows; terms and conditions apply – for details.

Bit more about the Theatre

The theatre, hailed by The Independent as “the most beautifully located and friendly theatre in Britain”, opened in 1999. It’s set a short stroll from Derwentwater on the edge of Keswick, amid the magnificent western fells of the Lake District. It was a permanent replacement for the Blue Box, an mobile theatre created after the Second World War to take plays to towns and cities with no active theatres.

Theatre by the Lake was the last theatre to be built in Britain in the old millennium and the first to be built with the help of money from the national lottery. It has since staged more than 100 plays, commissioned new work, established a reputation for high production values and found a loyal all-year-round audience in the people of Cumbria and visitors to the Lake District.

They have two stages, a 400-seat Main House and 100-seat Studio and present up to nine of their own productions of classic, modern and new plays throughout the year. The theatre also hosts a variety of festivals and visiting companies and is open 52 weeks each year.

Paradise Garden & Sun Terrace

Here’s to Monty Don!

There are many things that I have learnt over the last few months since we’ve been at Maple Bank, but I never thought that would include how to build a terrace and create a Paradise Garden. And for that I have both my mum, Ann, and Monty Don to thank.

When we took over Maple Bank, my mum was most definitely our self-appointed Head Gardener. My only requests have been that it is as low maintenance as possible, that someone else mows the lawn – particularly the top of the back garden, thank you Stephen – and that we have lots of red geraniums – flowers I fell in love with whilst reading ‘Little White Horse‘ by Elizabeth Goodge as a small girl.

Our catch-phrase each day seems to have become “I’ve been thinking….” and little did I expect “I’ve been thinking about the decking” would lead to such a wonderful creation. After watching Monty Don enjoy the Paradise Gardens in Iran, Mum had decided that she wanted to create her own Cumbrian Paradise Garden at Maple Bank. And what a transformation!!!

Thankfully we were enable to enlist the help of some wonderful folk – Colin, Binki and Stephen – to help with the heavy lifting, as well as Leon to build a retaining wall for us at very short notice. A few car loads to the local dump offloaded all sorts of things found under the decking, as well as several bonfires that got rid of the actual decking itself. The final touches were the multiple bags of rose granite from Oakhurst Nurseries in Cockermouth, also in multiple car trips as we kept needing “one more bag…

And finally we have our own sun terrace and Paradise Garden for our guests to sit out and enjoy the evening sunshine. Now I just need to be patient and wait for confirmation that the frosts have definitely ended and then we can add in the final touches with the geraniums.

Spring at Maple Bank

I look back on the last 12 months and I can’t believe that I’m now sitting here at Maple Bank writing my first blog.  We’ve been the very proud caretakers of Maple Bank for six months now and its certainly been busy.
Arriving on September 7 2018 – same day as the Tour of Britain – was a slight challenge for our removal lorries but we managed to greet our guests, produce my first breakfast the next day and unload everything over two days.  Fortunately I had an amazing training session and handover from Tommy and Rhona, the previous owners, having stayed with them for a few days in August, so I stuck rigidly to their advice on the basis that “if it’s not broken then don’t change it”.  In our research before starting on this venture, I heard several horror stories about other hand overs and I can’t thank Tommy, Rhona and Amy enough for their amazing advice, help and friendship.  I consider myself very fortunate that they still own and let Maple Bank Cottage next door so we get to see them each week – and I think my endless questions have now stopped too!

Every new owner to a bed and breakfast wants to put their own stamp on the place, but I also didn’t want to change too much as this was the place I fell in love with.  We’ve had some paint pots out in January and my mum, Ann, is Chief Gardener, so she’s having a great time planning a new patio and pond to replace the decking.  Mum is also a great lover of birds so it’s really lovely to see all the different birds coming to the back patio at the back of the house to feed – three robins at one point sitting along the fence.  And that includes pheasants stalking around the car park and grazing in the garden.  At one point we had over twenty pheasants in our garden and Maple Bank Cottage’s – just amazing for me to see as a city-girl. 

So I think the main change here is that our personal pictures are everywhere.  Mum and I have been fortunate enough to have travelled all over the place, and my parents lived in Hong Kong for a few years, which means that we have collected lots of paintings, pictures and postcards over the years, which now fill the house and rooms.  This also includes pictures of those subjects close to our hearts of the mountains, the beach, the sea, sailing, horse-riding and different art styles.

Now that the paint brush is down, and our new website is launched, I can turn my attentions to enjoying the surrounding Lake District.  Primarily doing some more walking with my beloved Tara, resident Border Terrier, as well as ‘researching’ all the different places to eat – it’s a tough job!  Although I do need to be careful and make sure there is a good balance between walking and eating as there is a definite theme developing on the ‘Things to Do’ page: cake, scones, lunch, dinner and more cake!!

So what does March hold for us at Maple Bank?  Well all the bulbs are about to burst out so we are should have our own ‘host of golden daffodils’ shortly, along with some tulips – having already enjoyed the snowdrops.  Hopefully the patio will be finished over the next few weeks, and then we can start to plant the pots and pond up for the summer, can’t wait to sit out there in the sunshine or at the end of the day with a wee glass of something.  We’ve also got some Bee Bombs to dig in and I’m really excited about seeing those come to flower.  I’ve got a few bits and bobs to tidy up in the private bathroom so that folk can enjoy a bath after a long day out walking.  Hopefully I’ll get to walk up a few more Wainwrights – although nothing with a scary ridge as I’m not a fan of heights whatsoever (hint hint to my brother/guide!!!!).  And then I want to get some more information on the Events page of our website so we all know what is up-and-coming in and around Keswick this year.  And of course, enjoying Mum’s baking!!