In all the years we’ve lived in the Lake District, we’d never been to the national park visitor centre before. Until yesterday, when we met friends of ours for lunch on the terrace overlooking Windermere, followed by a mooch round an exhibition in the main house.
The visitor centre is housed in a large Arts & Crafts style ‘big house’ on the shores of Windermere called Brockhole. The house was built in 1897 as a ‘summer house’ for Manchester silk merchant William Gaddum and was designed by the architect Dan Gibson, who specialised in Arts & Crafts. Similarly, the local Arts & Crafts garden designer Thomas Mawson was brought in to give the house the garden it deserved, and the design mostly survives to this day.
We had a pleasant wander round the gardens, which include a sweet little pavilion designed to match the house and surprise views of the lake. Given how many people were visiting the centre it was surprisingly quiet – but most of the tourists seemed to prefer the Tree Top Trek aerial ropeway, the grassy areas sloping down to the lake shore, the archery, the bug hunts and the various other activities.
The exhibition, about the local Lakeland Horticultural Society based at Holehird gardens a couple of miles down the road, was small but beautifully displayed with paintings, collages and other artworks by both members of the LHS and the local artists’ cooperative Green Door Artists, based in Kendal. We were sorely tempted by a couple of the paintings but decided to be good this time and not spend any more money!
It was lovely to finally see what this place has to offer, and it really is something for everyone, whether it’s vast grounds, lake shore, fun for the kids, or a more sedate stroll around the house and gardens. We’ll almost certainly be back, but we might wait until later in the season when everything is a little quieter.