We discovered at the weekend that Rheged was open again. This is a venue near Penrith which has a few posh shops, a cafe doing artisan food, a cinema, and an exhibition space. It’s a slightly odd mix (especially in what looks like a cross between an underground bunker and a motorway service station) but the food is good and some of the exhibitions are excellent.
One of our favourites is a gallery of art prints (screen printing, lino cuts and the like) which they hold every year. So we were delighted to discover that it’s on right now and free to visit (with a few restrictions due to the virus, of course). We chose a time-slot, booked tickets online, and bowled over on Sunday morning. And what a wild and spectacular drive we had.
The most direct route is ‘up and over’ – pretty much due north over the Kirkstone Pass and along the side of Ullswater and the River Eamont to the A66. It’s a slow road so we save it for times when we’re not in a hurry, and that included Sunday. Kirkstone is dramatic at the best of times. The highest of the Lakeland passes, the road rises in a series of gentle swoops to a height of 1500 feet above sea level – and then plummets back down between the fells on the other side! On Sunday, the cloud was down to around 1400 feet… so we did the last few swoops in thick, swirling mist, which opened up occasionally to show sweeping vistas of Herdwick-studded fellsides and waterfalls.
And waterfalls there were, in spades. It’s been pretty wet here for days now and the whole landscape was simply flowing, with water pouring off and out of every available gap. The road past Ullswater gets pretty close to the lake edge in places and we watched as the water levels crept ever closer… and then, right at the far end, near the turn to Pooley Bridge, we found the lake had sloshed right over the road.
Luckily, we have a 4×4, and we needed it. The water wasn’t particularly deep (inches rather than feet) but it was being blown onto the road by a stiff breeze, and it was absolutely chock full of debris, with tree trunks, fence posts and branches littering the tarmac. We picked our way rather gingerly through the mess and survived, but we were surprised the road wasn’t closed as it really wasn’t safe.
The exhibition was lovely, and we were sorely tempted by a couple of the prints, one by artist Colin Blanchard and another by Jenny McCabe. Sadly, both had sold out. The story of our life! But at the moment it’s still a rare treat to be able to get out and do stuff like this, and the wild journey was an added bonus. Although we wimped out and came home via the motorway…