Postcard From Cumbria (A Week in the Lake District) Part 2

View from Claife

Monday 22/09 Wray Castle-Hawkshead-Claife Viewing Station

We’d a full day planned for Monday so it was an early start for us, initially to Ambleside for breakfast at “Kysty Café”. Kysty is Cumbrian dialect for fussy, as in “He’s kysty about what he eats”, its got something of a bohemian feel about it but they bake their own beans and serve them on sourdough toast. If you ask nicely they’ll put a couple of rashers of Cumbrian bacon and a free range egg on top too.

Kysty (not kysty) Breakfast

From Ambleside we travelled on, rather circuitously as it turned out, to Wray Castle. The single track road that leads to the driveway of the castle had a “Road Closed Follow Diversion” sign which I followed, although gut instinct told me to ignore it. I was right, after meeting oncoming traffic, following a five mile or so detour, we were informed that the closure was beyond the castle entrance. United Utilities obviously didn’t think that it was important enough to let unwary drivers know though.  Built in the early 18th century by an eccentric Liverpool surgeon and lived in by several families up until the 1920’s,  the castle has been home to several government agencies throughout the war years and beyond. The National Trust have now taken it on and in time I would suggest it will be well worth a long visit. It does have panoramic views of Windermere and the arboretum, once fully restored to its original glory, will be a sight to see. There are activity rooms for younger visitors in the castle, although there is no furniture or art as yet. There are paths down to the waters edge which offer rarely seen views, a cycle trail and access to a ferry landing point, which makes a visit by water possible.

The Arboretum at Wray Castle

We left Wray Castle just after one and continued on with a short drive to Hawkshead. Two things were on the agenda here, a visit to The Beatrix Potter Galley, which Mrs C. was eager to visit but which I found fascinating too and an ice cream from “The Little Ice Cream Shop”, which was voted Ice Cream Shop of the year in 2018. The last time we’d visited it had been closed, but we were determined to try at least two of it’s over 30 flavours of gelato, all made locally, using local milk and ingredients. I settled on a double scoop of Hawkshead Gingerbread,  which seemed appropriate. Very tasty it was, too.

Ice Cream time

The Beatrix Potter Gallery is housed in the small office of the solicitor that Beatrix Potter married and is currently exhibiting lots of her original drawings. This exhibition is likely to finish in November when many of the exhibits will be going back into storage and will probably never be seen again, in this format, as the exhibited works change annually. If you’re visiting it’s best to check the NT website for opening times and current exhibitions. Ms Potter did a great deal for the Lake District and was much more than an author of children’s book. She was a renowned mycologist, a breeder of champion Herdwick Sheep, a conservationist and a farmer, when she died she left much of her estate to The National Trust. A great woman, in all respects.

Beatrix Potters Gallery

A short drive from Hawksead, past Esthwaite Water and through the village of Far Sawrey, where Beatrix Potter lived, is Claife Viewing Station. It was built in the 1790’s and was said to command the best views of Windermere and the surrounding fells. During the 19th century many parties were held there for the middle class tourists who were by then starting to visit The Lake District in increasing numbers, but by the end of the century it had fallen out of favour and into disrepair.

Claife Viewing Station

The windows were originally of different coloured tinted glass which was said to give the visitor an idea of what the view would be like at different times of the year. Well worth a visit, the views are panoramic, if not spectacular. We headed home from Claife, via the White Horse at Scales, where we drank a well earned pint.

Tuesday 23/09 

Some of you may remember that I recently wrote an article about a Cumbrian woman called Sara Losh. We’d originally learned about her almost by accident but research for the article had revealed something called “The Sara Losh Heritage Trail”. This is a short walk around the village of Wreay which takes in the buildings and other aspects of the area that came about as a result of Sara’s altruism. Although it was raining when we arrived at the starting point we’d come prepared for the eventuality. The start and finish point of the (almost) circular walk is the Mortuary Chapel which now houses lots of interesting information about Sara, the village of Wreay itself and a histography timeline which makes for good reading. It also contains a copy of a marble bust that is believed to be of Sara.

Bust of Sara Losh

I really enjoyed this second visit to Wreay, although not strictly in “The Lakes” there are lots of little hidden treasures to look out for including the village pump, the original sandstone arch that held the bell on the church that Sara rebuilt and the Pompeian Cottage that she had built for the School Master.

Pompeian Cottage

If you’re interested in rural history, Victorian altruism or just want to do something different, that isn’t very taxing, I’d recommend a visit to Wreay. Be aware though, as we found out to our disappointment, the village pub is closed on Tuesdays. They obviously don’t have a domino team, but my local does and, as it was the first match of the season that night (we won BTW) we headed home. Wednesday was going to be another very full day.

Wednesday 24/09

I’d really been looking forward to this day out. We were going to take the train along the Cumbrian Coast from Carlisle to Arnside. The excitement was tempered by the fact that the loco’s which had been pulling the trains on this route have now all been replaced by the more modern, far less comfortable, noisy,  electrically powered bone rattlers that now run on many local services.  I was further miffed to find that the door windows didn’t open, so any photo opportunities there may have been would be lost. There are 30 stops along the route, I won’t name them all, but they include Aspatria, Corkickle, Sellafield (yes, that one) and Kents Bank. Fascinatingly, between many of these small towns and villages there are small settlements of dwellings at various intervals. I imagine that they’re inhabited by people who want to get as far off the grid as possible. Good Luck to them, I say.

A Bone Rattler

We arrived in Arnside, after a journey lasting over 3 hours, just in time to partake of a sit down fish and chip meal at The Arnside Chippie, the kind of place that makes you really glad to be British, because this type of eatery is unique to our nation. The fish was excellent with light crispy batter, the chips weren’t frozen, the tea was hot and the bread had real butter on it. By the time we’d eaten we’d forgotten all about how crap the train was and we were ready to walk it all off with a bracing stroll along the front before hiking up Arnside Knott. This is a bit of a climb, with part of the start of the walk through a built up area, but it really is worth it. Fantastic panoramic views of The Southern Fells, Kent Viaduct, Grange over Sands and the spectacular (despite the bloody windmills) Morecambe Bay.

Morecambe Bay

We’d thought about a pint before getting back on the train but the walk, around 2.5 miles with a bit of an ascent, had taken us a bit longer than we’d anticipated so it was back to the station for the return journey. I would have liked to have taken some pictures of the coastline. It’s bleak and the view over the Irish sea seems almost to be endless. It brings home just how big a place the Earth is, and just how much space there is. We saw one ship, off in the distance and a couple of smaller fishing boats and that was it. We arrived back in Carlisle just as it was getting dark and headed home. Thursday, which we’d planned to spend at home doing jobs around the garden and greenhouse was a washout, but I wouldn’t have been writing about it anyway. Friday had been earmarked for a return to Smardale Gill, but it rained all day.

Still to come, A Postcard from Zakynthos, I bet you can hardly wait……..

© Colin Cross 2019

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