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

Some of you may remember that back in 2017 Mrs. C and I (it was all her plan really) made it our business to do 40 things together to celebrate having been married for 40 years. Many of them were centred on doing things in The Lake District so, after a little consideration and Mrs C having some holiday due, we decided to book our own house, Air B&B style, and have a weeks holiday composed of a series of days out to places and for walks that were on the original list. Unusually for these occasional travelogues of mine I’m only going to offer an overview about the places we visited. You never know, you might find yourself up here one day and want to have a look for yourself.

Friday  20/09 Windermere Jetty

The Osprey Steam Yacht

The drive to Windermere from our house is scenic, to say the least. It takes the A592 alongside Lake Ullswater, through Gleridding, over Kirkstone Pass and through Ambleside before arriving in Windermere. The Jetty itself houses a Museum dedicated to the boats that have plied their trade on the lake over the last 300 years or so. Originally founded by George Pattinson in 1977 it has evolved into an excellent place to delve into the history of the lake and to marvel at the quality and depth of the work being undertaken to restore vessels back to their original state, including, where possible, many examples of working Victorian (and later) small steam engines.

Ospreys Engine

There are informative talks talking place on most days and visitors can observe the work being carried out to return boats to their original (or as close as possible) state. I was particularly interested in the surviving superstructure of a late 18th century ferry which it is hoped will be restored over the coming months and years. It would have originally been rowed by two men and will have carried, goods, people and livestock across a narrow section of the lake.

Superstructure of the 18th Century Ferry

Although the main braces of the rowing boat are mostly in very good condition some of the ironwork, especially around the rear of the keel and rowlocks is going to need to be sympathetically replaced.

Original Bolts & Plates

A couple of the smaller steam yachts, including The Osprey, are used to take visitors for trips on the lake. The trips are shorter than those offered by the larger boats that travel up and down but there is something a bit special about travelling in a small steam powered yacht, where you’re closer to the water and can indulge in a bit of welcome nostalgia. A great place to visit and another one ticked off the list. We’d taken a picnic with us so we left the Jetty behind us and headed back into Windermere itself to take a walk up to Orrest Head. This small fell has the distinction of being the first hill that Wainwright climbed in the Lake District. It isn’t a hard walk, although steep in places but the panoramic views are spectacular and well worth the effort. It was busy, but we managed to secure a bench to enjoy our picnic on. It’s clear to me that the Lake District is becoming a “must visit” destination for people from all over the world, including both Chinese and Japanese. Personally I can never tell the difference.

I Can’t Tell The Difference

We made our way home via Keswick, which took us past Rydal Water, Grasmere and Thirlmere, a pleasant drive but deserving of full concentration and had a quit night back at our “digs”.

Saturday 21/09 Larch Cottage

A day out at a Garden Centre isn’t everyone’s idea of how to spend a Saturday morning, but Larch Cottage is no ordinary Garden Centre. Hiding in the hamlet of Melkinthorpe, a couple of miles outside Penrith, it styles itself as being a little bit of “Umbria in Cumbria”, which isn’t far wrong. Although September isn’t probably the best time to visit it’s still a riot of colour and Romanesque/Italian architecture thrown together with hundreds of statues, a restaurant, gallery and ubiquitous gift shop in what I can only describe as the best example of organised chaos I’ve ever seen.

Larch Cottage Archway

There’s little set pattern to how the plants are laid out, meaning that turning any of the many corners can reveal unusual and interesting things. Everywhere walls and arches have been built to give the feel of a “forgotten” space. I’d heard about it but this first time visit really opened my eyes to what a little bit of imagination and a certain amount of artistry can produce.

Round A Corner

The restaurant, which opens for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea is called, aptly but a little unimaginatively, “Le Casa Verde”, we had plans for eating later, so only had  coffee and cake, which were excellent. I’ve promised myself a lunch there sometime this year. Needless to say the menu is Italian inspired and driven by seasonal availability. Everything is fresh cooked and the staff, at least the ones we met, are friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.

We’d planned a late lunch at The Yard in Penrith (another one on the list) but opted instead to change venues and  eat at the recently opened “Chopping Bock” which is a butcher/deli/café that specialises in high quality meats of all kinds. I had a steak sandwich, which was decent, the quality of the meat was excellent, but the staff could have done with a bit of a gee up. Penrith, once a bustling market town, is suffering the malaise of many places of it’s type. I hope The Chopping Block is a success, it may well help to drive footfall into this recently developed area which is just off the old Market Square.

Sunday, which we’d set aside to do some tidying up in the Village Hall following some redecoration and other small works didn’t really work out as we’d planned. We had a late breakfast at home, visited a relative in hospital and spent a quiet evening with a bottle of wine, readying ourselves for the coming weeks adventures……

To Be Continued…

© Colin Cross 2019

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