A boatiful new museum?

Sorry about the pun – I couldn’t resist. It’s true though – there’s a new museum right here in Windermere that is both beautiful and full of boats!

This is Windermere Jetty (full name Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories), which has appeared on the site of the old Steamboat Museum like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a sparrow. And we were lucky enough to get invited to the premier launch yesterday.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We’d seen some of the construction work going on, and it all looked very large and very modern. I was worried that it might be too big and much too brash for its location, nestled right on the shore of (Lake) Windermere and in the middle of the national park. But I needn’t have worried at all, because it’s pretty much perfect. Yes, there’s a lot of black cladding and the individual buildings are colossal, but the architects have done a super job of making them look like boat sheds so they don’t dominate the surrounding landscape.

And inside was a revelation. There are around forty different boats, which doesn’t sound like much until you see them all together, when the effect is overwhelming. Many of them are really unusual or important in some way – the oldest steam yacht in Britain, a boat that Beatrix Potter used to row about in, the houseboat that inspired Captain Flint’s houseboat in Swallows and Amazons… It’s all really fascinating, and quite exciting. And I found myself getting quite emotional when I spotted two small, rather plain yachts in the main boat shed, and realised that they are Swallow and Amazon themselves.

Not only do the public get to see the “finished” boats, but there’s also a conservation shed which is fully open to stroll about in, so you can get close to the boats as they’re being worked on. At the moment, star of that particular show is a swish-looking motorboat donated by one of our neighbours, which we watched being hitched up and towed away a few days ago.

The museum opens to the public tomorrow (Saturday) and will no doubt be crammed to the rafters, but once it quietens down a little we plan on going back and having a longer look round, because all of the exhibits deserve to be studied at length. And on top of that, there’s an absolutely amazing view of the lake, and there will be boat tours on Osprey (seen in my photo above) as well.

My only niggle is that name, which is longer than the lake itself and sounds a wee bit pretentious. But good luck to Lakeland Arts, who have taken on this venture, rebuilt the museum and are obviously going to turn it into a major new attraction.


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