Category Archives: Local stuff

Arts & Crafts

Bank holiday weekends in the Lakes can be a tad hectic, especially when the weather is as nice as it was last weekend.  So we tend to try to get ‘off the beaten track’ and steer clear of the main tourist hot-spots.  Luckily, there are still plenty of places to choose from.

P1020630One we keep for just these occasions is Blackwell, an amazing Arts & Crafts house just a couple of miles south of Bowness.  Built as a holiday home for the Manchester brewing family the Holts in 1901, it was designed by the well-known architect M H Baillie Scott in a [ ] Arts & Crafts style where everything from the structure to the interior décor and furnishings adds to the overall design.  The result is stunning.

The house sits on a terrace overlooking Lake Windermere, but unusually the main rooms face south, away from the best views, in order to catch the sun.  There are odd glimpses of the fells from some of the windows, making sudden dramatic ‘statements’ as you move around the house.  And if you like Arts & Crafts, then the interiors are to die for.  The main living room resembles a medieval great hall complete with vast inglenook fireplace and minstrels’ gallery, while the smaller drawing or sitting room is a confection of delicate white pillars and foliage, more like some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic designs.

And although most if not all the original furniture has vanished, the new owners Lakeland Arts have done an amazing job of filling the house with appropriate and complementary pieces by the likes of Knox, Voysey and Benson, as well as furniture designed by Baillie Scott himself, and other pieces by local Arts & Crafts designer Arthur Simpson of Kendal.  It all fits remarkably well and gives a good indication of how the house would have looked in its heyday, while still giving plenty of free space for visitors to wander about.

My own favourite bits are the fireplaces in the main rooms, all built as inglenooks with stained glass windows overlooking the garden, and beautiful tiles.  The garden, although comparatively small, is pretty, and then there are those amazing views.  It must have been a stunning place to live (even for part of the year) and it’s still a lovely place for a mooch.

Here’s a selection of photos I took on Saturday including the windows in the main reception hall, the impressive south-facing “back” of the house, a detail of the garden, and the spectacular view across the lake.

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Filed under Architecture, History, Local stuff

Damson Day fun

P1020621The Damson Day festival is yet another event we’ve kept missing, not helped by the fact that the last two years it’s been cancelled due to bad weather and the after-effects of the Storm Desmond flooding.

The festival is held at one of the historic farms in the Lyth (pronounced ‘lithe’) Valley just south of Bowness-on-Windermere, a lovely area famous for its damson orchards.  I can remember my parents stopping off at the farm years ago for Mum to buy ten pounds of the fruit to make jam, and unlike many other local products, this one has not only survived but is now celebrated with the annual festival.

This year, it was back, and the weather was great, and we were determined to go.  And it was lovely.  Quite a small event but packed with entertainments, stalls, goodies damson-related and not, orchard walks, and a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.

We mooched around the various tents, marquees and stalls, had a coffee, listened to a local band (Jim Beans, surprisingly good), watching a hilarious dog agility display, tried one of the walks only to be beaten back by a vicious stile, mooched some more, had some delicious locally-made snacks for lunch, and even tried our hand at the archery.  This was a first for both of us and something I’ve long wanted to try but been nervous about given my bad wrist.  However, with some assistance and tuition I managed to hit the target with one out of my three arrows and felt quite proud of myself!

Pretty much the only thing the Damson Day didn’t have was… damsons, but they come later, in the autumn.  This event is very much about celebrating their birth – the blossom, the pollination, the crop to come.  It was a revelation.  We came home in the afternoon sun-burned and armed with damson pork pies and damson beer, and determined to go again next year.

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Bookshop Trail

The other day I picked up a leaflet somewhere about a bookshop trail.  Not just any bookshop trail, but specifically the ‘Dales & Lakes Bookshop Trail’, which is a collective of secondhand bookshops in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks and their surroundings.

I’d never come across this before, and was delighted to find that there are twenty-six participating stores, including several in the small “book town” of Sedbergh, which is situated roughly half way between Kendal and Yorkshire.  We visited the town for the first time last year and I was amazed at the number of book shops lining the streets.  Now, apparently, there are six – not bad for a town of around 3,000 people!

And it’s not just Sedbergh.  The shops listed cover a vast area from Hawes and Hebden Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, to Keswick and Penrith in northern Cumbria, Whitehaven on the far west coast, and Cartmel and Grange-over-Sands in the south.

It’s an impressive cooperative project.  And I’m really looking forward to trying to visit every bookshop on the list!

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Ja Windermere!

Dave and I haven’t been particularly well lately – all kinds of winter bugs at work – but last Saturday we shuffled up the hill to Windermere town centre to see the “German” Christmas market.

Ja Windermere is a brand new venture which has never been run before.  And it was very sweet.  Hardly in the same league as Birmingham’s famous Frankfurt Christmas Market, but it featured around 40 stalls selling food, drink and gifts, and was large enough to have closed two of the roads in the town centre (with parking for reindeer behind the Tourist Information Centre!).

The main difference to other Christmas markets is that it was only German in name and style, not in content.  There were a couple of stalls selling gluhwein, and one doing Frankfurters and German sausages, but apart from that all the produce was local, and the whole event was sponsored by Made In Cumbria, a local trade cooperative organisation.

Even so, it was great fun and had really drawn in the crowds.  We spent an enjoyable 20 minutes strolling round the stalls, bought a handful of bits and bobs (including some Herdwick cards to frame) and then shuffled home again.

I’ve since read in the local papers that it was a roaring success, so hopefully we can expect a bigger and better Ja Windermere here next year.

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Coppermines in the sleet

Tuesday was Dave’s birthday and although the weather wasn’t great we decided to take the day off and go out somewhere.  ‘Somewhere’ proved to be Coniston, after an interesting drive avoiding fallen trees.  We hadn’t been for over a year (even though it’s only about 12 miles away) so it was great to see the place again.  First stop was a coffee in front of a roaring (and very welcome) log fire in the Meadowdore Café – an old favourite from days of yore when I visited the area with my parents.  And then we donned boots and waterproofs and set off for a walk up the famous Coppermines Valley.

The weather at valley level wasn’t great – cold, windy and spattering with rain – but as we climbed it deteriorated.  Coppermines (a hanging valley) isn’t all that far above sea level but as soon as we got up and over the lip, we met the wind.  In spades.  Howling straight off the snow-covered fells above, and bringing curtains of horizontal sleet with it.  You might say it was bracing.  It was also freezing, wet, and difficult to stand upright.  We struggled along the miners’ track for a few hundred yards, took some photos of a sheep (those Herdies are tough), and decided enough was enough.

We thawed out soon enough over a pub lunch at the Black Bull, but it does make you wonder how the miners managed – not only having to walk further in bad weather, but then putting in a twelve hour shift of hard work afterwards, in clothes that were quite probably soaked right through.

Here’s a couple of photos to show what it was like.  The blobs show how hard it was to keep the sleet off the camera lens!

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Autumn colours – and snow!

I got cabin fever this afternoon so set off for a walk round the local streets – and because we’d had the first proper snowfall of the winter overnight, I took my camera with me.

It wasn’t sunny, but there were odd brighter gleams amongst the dark clouds, just enough to light up some of the last remaining autumn colours, and the snowy fells.

Here’s a couple of photos to show you the general effect.  Both are in/around Windermere, though neither show our house!

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Fireworks!

For some reason we’ve kept missing all the good firework displays the last few years.  Either we’ve been travelling, or we’ve been double-booked to do something else, or we’ve missed seeing that they were on.

So we were really pleased on Saturday to be in the right place at the right time to head to Windermere rugby club for their annual display, which has a reputation for being good.  And boy, good it certainly was.  We arrived just after 6.30 pm (along with half the rest of south Cumbria by the looks of it) to find a huge bonfire blazing merrily in one corner of the site, as well as stalls doing food, hot drinks, sparklers, and plastic flashy things for the kids.

Dave had hoped to sneak a sausage from the barbecue but the queue was half way round the pitch (and never did seem to go down) so as we’d already eaten he showed great fortitude and managed without.

The fireworks were due to start at 7 pm but there was quite a lengthy delay, possibly because they were still trying to let people in through the main gate.  We reckon there could easily have been several thousand attending – quite amazing for a small rugby club in a very small town.  It was worth the wait, though, because the display was spectacular.  Not quite Madeira at New Year, perhaps, but then few places are.  And we more than got our money’s worth with fifteen to twenty minutes of colour, light, and above all noise.  Definitely better than scurrying around trying to light Roman Candles and Catherine Wheels one by one with a taper in the back yard!

The only slight fly in the evening’s entertainment was getting back out again.  Several thousand people converged on the main gate at once, and the lane outside was completely unlit and partly blocked with cars.  One lass had already tripped up and hurt herself, and the scene had all the makings of a nasty stampede.  Luckily we got through with nothing worse than a few accidental bruises, but we’re hoping they sort that out for next year because it would be a shame to see such an enjoyable event cancelled as so many others have been.

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