Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What to do in the Lake District on a Wet Day:

The clue is in the name, if you go to the Lake District then you have to expect rain.  Which means taking decent raingear, even in the Summer.  That is not to say that you won’t get sun, far from it. But, Lakes, Water, Rain, it’s kind of obvious. 

For comparison here in Cambridge we would expect an annual rainfall of around 580mm, whilst the Lakes can expect more than 2,0000mm almost four times as much. However the mountainous geography also means that there is widespread variation in the Lake District area from 5,000mm (Sprinkling Tarn) to 1,470mm in Keswick.

The sensible thing to do is have some rainy day plans, especially if you have kids (with you).  The good thing is that the Lake District has lots to do for all ages.  It has been a popular Tourist destination from the end of the 18th Century apparently.  So as well as the National Park, with mountains and lakes there many other things to see with themes ranging from Beatrix Potter to Nuclear Power. Correction it would seem that the popularity of the Sellafield visitor centre declined and it is now a Business Centre!

One of our wet-day outings with the kids was to take the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway to Lakeside and then catch a boat up to Bowness or Ambleside.  There we would look around, perhaps visit the Beatrix Potter Exhibition, get something to eat, buy some chocolates and then head back on the boat and the railway engine.

I rather like riding on Steam Trains, although just to be clear I am not and have never been a trainspotter. However there is something about Steam Trains that is evocative of my early childhood. I was around before Steam Trains were discontinued (1968) and have memories of being in a Railway Station with a mix of Steam Trains and Diesels. Mind you we also had coal fires at home when I was a boy and perhaps it is the smell of coal burning in the fireplace that I am reminded of. Open coal fires do tend to blow the smoke the wrong way every so often.

This time we didn’t have to worry about the kids so we just played things by ear. So we had a relatively leisurely breakfast – although I find bacon, eggs, sausage and black pudding a bit much after a day or two.   I then popped out and took some pictures with my longer (100mm – 300mm) lens, which works out as equivalent to 200mm to 600mm on my digital camera compared with a standard 35mm film camera.

Here is a view looking up Lake Windermere. There is a small harbour for yachts and just above is an old building. It was a viewing room and is called Claife Viewing Station. It was built in 1790 as a viewpoint for tourists and there was different coloured glass in each of the windows to enhance the experience.

Ash Landing and Claife Viewing Station, Lake Windermere

We set off without checking whether the trains and boats were running, although we had seen a (large) boat in the water the previous day so it was a reasonable bet. We also found our way to the Railway Station at Haverthwaite without the need for the SatNav.  No sooner had we parked than we saw a train laden with a couple of coachloads of tourists puff slowly out of the station…

A very nice volunteer in the car park told us we would have to wait about an hour. So we popped to a local shop to buy a paper I also tried to buy some Kendal Mint Cake, but they had run out. I like the chocolate coated version. We then headed back to the Station and had a look around. .

There was a chap from an Owl Sanctuary on the platform with three rescued owls – none native species and so we had a chat with him.

Bengali Owl – Haverthwaite Railway Station

The last picture was taken with my Phone as I had the long lens on my camera, you have to be quite far from the subject with lots of zoom! You can tell which is the more used track.

Haverthwaite Railway Station – looking towards Newby Bridge

The view in the other direction.  The line was closed to passengers in 1965 and to all traffic in 1967. It was a former branch line of the Furness Railway and was opened in 1869.  Due to road building/widening only 3.5 miles of track were preserved.  This bit still serves its original purpose of being a link to the boats on Windermere though.

As you might expect as steam trains need water there has to be a supply of water somewhere. Here is a Water Crane – here is a picture of an engine getting some water at Haverthwaite.

Haverthwaite Railway Station – looking towards Greenodd

I got a bit fed up with the long lens on my Panasonic and so swapped if for the 14mm-140mm lens instead. It is a bit more versatile.  The other platform seems to be grass!

Haverthwaite Railway Station

I know this looks almost the same as the last picture – it was taken with my Phone camera though, and I used a filter to give it a dated look. I then tried to send it as an MMS but Vodafone’s network didn’t seem to have made it to this neck of the woods. Or perhaps in keeping with the times (of the steam railways) there was no cellular network in the area.

The ticket office only opened briefly, around 10 or 15 minutes before the train was due to leave and the challenge was working out which train/boat combination would make most sense. We wanted to be able to spend some time in either Bowness or Ambleside and still get back to the car. In the end we settled for a round trip to Bowness, which allowed us a reasonable time to get lunch and have a look around and do some shopping! The boat goes from Lakeside to Ambleside calling in at Bowness on the way up and the way back so we wouldn’t have had as much time in Ambleside.   The constraint was the last train rather than the last boat.

Haverthwaite Railway Station

We had a cup of tea (well I had coffee) in the Station café to pass the time. There is a clock set high up on one wall which you can’t really see from inside – it is the mechanism for the outward facing station clock for travellers.  Eventually the train pulled into the station and we settled into a carriage and waited for the engine to swap ends. As you might imagine I also took a few pictures of the engine, but I’ve rationed myself to just one picture in the email. Perhaps I ought to have cut down on the number of station pictures as well. Oh well too late now.

Although it is only a short distance to Lakeside  there is a stop in the middle at Newby Bridge before you reach Lakeside.  According to the timetable it takes 18 minutes.  Much longer and it would have lulled me to sleep. I find rumbling along on a slow train being pulled by a steam engine to be incredibly soporific.  I have slept on a night train travelling across Europe, sleep came pretty easy then as well.  Apparently this is a 1245 Barclay, but known informally as Thomas. It was built in 1911 in Kilmarnock and after a busy life languished in Kirkaldy for 30 years until 2004 when it was purchased for restoration. Nineteen months later and it was puffing away.

The Engine swapping ends – Lakeside Station

It wasn’t long and and we were called to queue for the boat taking us to Bowness on the lake, which is a public highway.  There is also a Motor Museum nearby that we could have visited – Lakeland Motor Museum. It has been around since 1978, but only recently located to Backbarrow in 2010. I approve of them using a bicycle to advertise it. Motor cars – are a thing of the past after all – the price of fuel will be going through the roof.

Tricycle - Lakeside

The water was still and the boat came in at a fair lick. I guess they get pretty used to the docking manoeuvre.  Our boat to Bowness was to be Teal. Teal was launched in 1936, having built by Vickers Armstrong of Barrow-in-Furness.  Apparently her moment of glory came in 1956 when the Her Majesty the Queen was carried from Ambleside to Bowness.

Windermere Lake Cruises – Teal

It didn’t take long for the passengers to disembark and our lot to embark.  There was rain about, but I wanted to be upstairs which was sheltered by canopies and open to the air. I prefer not to take pictures through glass if I can help it.  As the boat moved some of the canopies emptied their stores of water, we were lucky to have chosen a seat without extra shower benefits.  Lake Windermere is the largest lake in England, and is 10.5 miles long and has maximum depth of just over 60m. The right bank (heading up towards Bowness has loads of houses and hotels along the banks, the left bank is more sparsely populated, due in thanks to chunks of it being owned by the National Trust.  It seems to us that the number of houses is growing as well. As you drive on the road alongside there are building works going on in several places.  I rather liked this Huf house with matching boat house.

Huf Haus on Lake Windermere

A little way down was another new house – this one is still under construction, it has an American feel to it.

Slate and Timber House – Lake Windermere

Don’t worry I didn’t spend all my time taking pictures of the new houses along the shore.  Although be warned, some Boat houses do feature later on.

Halfway along Lake Windermere is the chain ferry that forms part of the B5285, the alternative is a 15 mile drive. It can take up to 18 cars and 100 passengers (the ferry not the detour).

Windermere Chain Ferry – Mallard


clip_image014We got off at Bowness and strolled through the town.  For a change we had our lunch at a restaurant serving “Mediterranean food” – Amore, although some might consider it to have Italian influences.  (It is strange that we go from a situation where “I don’t buy pasta when I can cook it myself” to nothing but Italian meals.)  Many years (10+) ago we once enjoyed delicious Rosti there, although I was planning on a Pizza, as the Rosti disappeared off the menu some years. We were very pleasantly surprised to see that Rosti were now back on the menu by popular demand.  So we both had delicious Rosti, it would have been rude not too.

When you visit a foreign country with unfamiliar cuisine it is quite easy to order odd combinations of food. Once in The Netherlands (pre-kids, honeymoon, tents and bicycles) my we were enjoying a Rijsttafel (Dutch-Indonesian) which came with many dishes and candle-powered food-warmers.  When we emptied one dish I popped another on to the warmer and the Waitress, with a perfect English accent informed us that they “don’t usually warm their salads, but if that is how we preferred it…”

When we were in Amore a small group of Japanese tourists were trying out what looked like a random selection of menu items, some of which they took a mouthful or two off and then pushed to one side.  The point is, in England we are used to ordering from the menu in a linear fashion, but that is just a custom. In Japan it is not unusual to order a dish, share it and then order something else. I rather like the Japanese way.

As we walked though Bowness we popped into some of the Art Galleries, but nothing took our fancy (we do have two pictures from the Lakes). The CD shop at the top of town has disappeared, however by and large much of it was the same as the last time we visited (nearly ten years ago).  It was a wet day and then rain kept coming and going. A good job we were prepared for it. The highlight for my wife  was popping into Helen’s Chocolate Shop, still there after all these years and in the same family, but handed down to a new generation.  Choosing took quite a long time (for me) but my wifre had her usual Orange flavoured “thins”.  As you can see from this link the choice is mount-watering. I had two of four different types of chocolates.

After that excitement we went down to wait for the boat back to Lakeside and had a cup of coffee in the café next to the Ferry Terminal. That makes it sound rather industrial – it isn’t at all.  We were on a different boat for the journey back – the M.V. Tern, built in 1891 and originally a steamer it was converted to diesel in 1957. (At least I think it was the Tern, I will check – yep we both thank it was the Tern  - T e r n.)

On the way down we had joined with a coach load of Japanese tourists, one thing I have realised in my travels is the Japanese people seem to like their “gadgets”. Partly because such things are made and designed in Japan and partly peer pressure is strong there. A while ago I was sitting in a Japanese friend’s car (in Japan) and as we drove I admired his TV on a stalk. I asked him how often he used it and whether his wife used it when he was driving.  No, they never used it, but all the neighbours had one so they “had” to get one.   Well on this boat a young Japanese couple were carrying a camera tripod, which they set up on deck. At this point I expected some large camera or video camera to be mounted on it.  Instead a small pocket camera, about 1cm thick and 10x7cm was fastened on.   It looked a little incongruous, the miniature marvel of the camera on a hulking big stand, but they were able to record the entire journey back to Lakeside for posterity.

I just took a few pictures.

Autumn Leaves starting to appear on the shores of Lake Windermere

Windermere Chain Ferry – lightly laden but ready to … chain

Your starter for ten – what was this building?

These two cyclists were on the other side to the ferry hurrying down to catch it. They would have no problems.

Cyclists on their way to the Windermere Ferry

This is the hotel – Beech Hill Hotel where we were staying.  Given how strict planning rules can be you do wonder how they got away with a rather functional set of expansions.  Their gardens do go down to the Lake though.

Beech Hill Hotel – Lake Windermere

This tree needed some space!

A Tree – alone - on the shores of Lake Windermere

The YMCA has a National Centre at Lakeside, one of the largest outdoor activity facilities in the country.  Which is why this lot appear to be out on a jolly during term-time.  Interesting that all the kids have helmets but not the adults. Don’t do as I do, do as I say. All I can say is that when I used to cycle with my kids when they were younger we all wore helmets, even though I am personally not that keen on them. 

Helmets seem to act as permission for motorists to cut up cyclists. Whilst cyclists are sold on the guilt trip of taking ownership of your safety.  It is funny how the Dutch seem to remain safe, although they predominantly cycle without helmets.

Paddling on Lake Windermere

Beware a couple of boathouses coming up – this one has a portcullis.

Boathouse with a Portcullis – Lake Windermere

Boathouse with a Balcony – Lake Windermere

Boat – no house – Lake Windermere

It was a restful trip back down the Lake and Lakeside soon came into view.  Here is a test of your GSCE physics – what are these called?

Interference Patterns on Lake Windermere

It wasn’t long and we were back on the train for the slow rumble back down the valley. We broke out the chocolates early!

We popped back to the hotel and then after a rest went out for dinner. The menu in the hotel looked fine – but for some reason the MapBearer was determined to be on an Italian diet during our stay in the Lakes (N’owt so strange as folk eh!). So we headed back to Rastellis again. This time my wife had Lasagne – which I reckon was one of the best - having extensively sampled Lasagne up and down the UK when I cycled from Land’s End to John O’ Groats many moons ago. I had a Calzone, a folded pizza, which was accompanied by Bolognese sauce – so I didn’t feel left out. When I first got a proper job near Northampton  there was an excellent Italian Restaurant in the town where you could sit at the “bar” and watch your pizza or calzone being cooked in the oven behind.

Talking of bicycles there was a Brompton locked up next to Rastelli.

A Brompton in Bowness

When we got back to our room a further sampling of Helen’s Chocolates took place

These aren’t Helen’s Chocolates – they are mine

Coming Next: The burdens of the MapBearer continue to grow

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