Windermere Jetty museum held a science festival over the weekend. Possibly as part of it, or possibly as a bonus, they were also hosting a display by the replica seaplane Waterbird, so on Saturday morning we strolled down for a look.
Waterbird is, I believe, the very first seaplane to have taken off from water in the UK. Its first flight was from Windermere in 1911. Recently a team of engineers and enthusiasts have rebuilt her from scratch and have been holding a series of flight trials over the lake to try to recreate that first flight.
It hasn’t been easy as there were few blueprints for the design, but the end result featured in an episode of Warplane Workshop on Channel 4. We watched that last year and were fascinated, and seeing it in real life was every bit as good.
Sadly, we couldn’t see it in flight as the engine had blown a fuse (or more accurately, a piston) the previous day. But it was moored at the end of one of the museum’s many jetties and we got a good look at it. It looks so frail and unwieldy that it’s hard to believe it would ever fly, but the pilot has got it into the air above Windermere several times. We also had a chat with a couple of the team who were a mine of information and anecdotes.
With the added bonus of coffee with a stunning view of the lake, a quick dart round the rest of the museum, and some ducklings, it made a lovely morning out.
Saturday might have been the day of the Coronation but it was also warm and sunny and much too nice to spend the whole day sat in front of the television.
Instead we popped up the road to Holehird Gardens, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, for a mooch round in the sun. And it was lovely. There were lambs frisking about in the nearby fields and the whole garden was simply awash with spring colour, mostly in the form of swathes of tulips.
We had a lovely stroll around the various areas of the garden – walled garden, rockery, high level paths, stream and pool, woodland garden – enjoying the flowers and the spectacular views out across Windermere to the fells. And then the visitor reception opened up so we grabbed a cuppa each and drank that sitting on a bench in the walled garden in the sun, which was much nicer than being stuck indoors!
Did any of you do anything nice over the Easter weekend? The bank holiday traffic here in the Lake District is always terrible, but on Saturday we braved it in order to go to Wray Castle.
This huge Victorian folly perched on Windermere’s western shore is now owned by the National Trust and a great place for a walk on a sunny day. Lots of other people clearly thought the same thing and it was very crowded, but we set off walking northwards along the lake shore which seemed quieter and gave us some spectacular views towards Ambleside and the higher fells.
The journey home again was horrendous (nearly an hour to go about 15 miles) but worth it for a breath of fresh air, lovely scenery and lots of lambs and daffodils.
We managed another quick trip out at the weekend, this time to Blackwell, an Arts and Crafts house on the outskirts of Bowness. It’s very beautiful, and a favourite location to chill for a couple of hours if we’re reading high on the stressometer.
The weather wasn’t particularly kind with low cloud over the mountains and a shrill, chill breeze blowing across the countryside, but there were daffodils dancing in the garden and the interior of the house was as lovely as ever. And as an added bonus there was an exhibition in a couple of the upstairs rooms by local artist Amy Williams. Called Unearthed, it consisted of giant paper versions of the flowers featured in the furniture and fixtures of the house (stained glass, murals, carvings etc). The result was slightly surreal but also very beautiful, as you can see from the above photo. The picture doesn’t really show the scale – these things are well over six feet tall and oddly menacing, in a cheerful and cartoonish way!
Afterwards we settled down in the cafe with tea and some scrummy local cake. A really nice interlude from work!
Like most of the UK we’ve been having a sudden, severe cold snap here in Cumbria. Overnight temperatures have plummeted (it was minus 10c the night before last, which is cold enough to freeze moving water!) and even during the day it’s barely got above freezing for almost a week now.
The downsides are icy pavements and a house that seems to need re-heating every five minutes – not to mention numb fingers when I come to type! The upside in an area like this, though, is that when we do get out the views are incredible.
On Tuesday we’d arranged to have lunch with some good friends of ours at the Windermere Jetty museum cafe. It’s a good standby at the best of times as it has a large car park (free if you visit the museum) and the food is lovely. That was very much the case on Tuesday (I had arrancini which were delicious) and the added bonus was spectacular views across a very wintry Windermere.
The little boating lake had frozen over but there was no sign of ice on the lake itself, just frost, pale winter skies and snow on the distant fells. It looked quite magical, and was worth risking frostbite in my fingers to get a photograph. Someone’s addition of a cute snowman was just the, er, frosting on the cake!
The cold snap is due to end over the weekend but not before another dollop of snow is forecast, right when we’re supposed to be travelling to a Christmas party. Hey ho, better luck next year…
We had an absolute treat on Thursday evening in the shape of a concert at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness by taiko drumming group Mugenkyo.
According to their own website, http://www.taiko.co.uk, the group are the longest established UK taiko drumming ensemble and Europe’s only professional touring company – quite some achievement for a non-native-Japanese group. However, the group’s master Neil Mackie had formal taiko training in Japan and has passed on that knowledge to the other group members.
We’ve seen Mugenkyo a total of six times now, starting quite by accident when they were performing in a trailer at Loughborough market soon after they formed and we happened to be walking past. We were mesmerised by the rhythmic drumming and the way they can get the volumes to rise and fall, and we’ve never lost that captivation.
I can honestly say this was the best concert/performance we’ve seen so far. They’d brought six drummers along (we’ve seen at least one concert where there were only four) so the volumes, levels of energy and weaving of performances were quite incredible. An excellent evening’s entertainment and one we were lucky to catch as they’re still working up to a full touring schedule after the pandemic and this was one of the few concerts they’re giving this year.
I’m still re-discovering my legs after Covid but this morning’s weather was too nice to just hang about indoors. So we set off into the countryside at the back of Windermere (town) which is surprisingly secret and surprisingly scenic, with lumpy bumpy fields, woods and occasional views of Windermere (lake). Ravens nest there – you can here them ‘coughing’ at certain times of the year – and there are often lambs and always an abundance of flowers, as well as a sprinkling of historic farms.
Today’s lambs were in shorter supply than usual but there were spring flowers everywhere and a wonderful sweet scent on the air. As well as a few daffodils still hanging on in there, we saw blackthorn, violets, wood anemones and even a solitary early bluebell.
The terrain is hilly without being challenging so it made a great circuit to test out the lungs and legs. I didn’t go quite as far – or as fast – as I usually would, and my legs were jelly on the way back, but it was smashing to get out into the fresh air.
And as an added bonus, on the way up I found a charm that had dropped off my handbag several weeks ago!
The main photo above shows the view from near Helm Farm, looking across to Brant Fell in the distance. Below are a couple of shots of some of the lovely flowers: blackthorn, the first violets, and a wood anemone.
A couple of weeks ago we met my good friend and fellow writer Angela King (The Blood of Kings) and her husband for coffee. We chose the Windermere Jetty museum cafe, which has one of the best views across Windermere lake in the whole area, and is also spacious and does really good food.
We had a lovely time catching up on writerly gossip and spent far longer chatting than we realised. By the time the ‘party’ had broken up it was almost lunch time, so Dave and I decided to stay on and had lunch looking out at this view (above).
Then a few days later we’d arranged to meet some different friends for lunch. It was all set for the cafe at Blackwell, an Arts & Crafts house on the outskirts of Bowness, but when we turned up it was to find that the cafe was in meltdown and only serving coffee and cake. All four of us jumped back in various cars and headed for the Jetty again, since that was one of the nearest places that might still have space.
Luckily we got one of the last two tables and had another lovely meal and another great chat in front of the same amazing view. It brings it home to us how lucky we are to live in an area like this, and have such stunning scenery within walking distance.
The photo shows the view from right outside the cafe, looking north up Windermere to one of the small islands that dot the waters, the western or Claife shore, and the fells to the north and west of Ambleside. The lower hill picked out in the sunshine is Loughrigg, a 1,000 foot high summit that rises above Windermere’s northern-most shores. There are lovely walks along its flanks (through sheets of bluebells in the spring) and more steeply to its surprisingly wild and confusing top.
Let’s go to Ambleside for our daily walk, we said. It’s quiet, the weather’s not too bad, it’ll be nice, we said.
So off we toddled. By the time we’d got a mile up the road, it had clouded over. By the time we were parking up in the main car park, it had started to spit. And by the time we got a ticket, put our coats on and were ready to set off, it was heaving it down.
Never mind, we said. It’s just a shower, we said. Let’s go through the park and along Under Loughrigg, we said. But the further we went, the heavier it got, with sheets of sleet that rattled on my umbrella and stung if they hit skin. In the distance, we could see the fells rapidly turning white, and even at valley level it was cold and thoroughly miserable.
Walking really wasn’t much fun, so we chose a path that looped back towards the town and trudged round the shops instead. I found a nice purple dream-catcher keyring in the Handicrafts Shop and we treated ourselves to tea and wonderfully sticky cake (warm, in my case) in the blissful warmth of Mr H’s Tearoom. And by the time we got out onto the pavement again, the sleet had stopped, the clouds were blowing over and the sun was peeking out. Just in time for our parking ticket to run out so we had to come home again!
Never mind, we enjoyed it really and the cake was an added bonus, as were views across a choppy Windermere on the way up. I only managed one photo while we were walking as it was just too wet. It shows the view north towards Rydal from the footpath heading east from Miller’s Bridge – and you can see how dramatic and stormy it was!
Earlier this week we met up with our best friends from Birmingham days, who were staying in the north-west for a few days.
It was a damp, drizzly day, not particularly conducive to walking or even to sitting around outside, so we decided to go for a pub lunch instead. The first place we tried wasn’t doing food (there’s a current shortage of chefs) but they recommended the oldest pub in Bowness, the wonderfully named Hole in’t Wall.
And it was lovely. We sat near a roaring log fire watching the diagonal drizzle through ancient mullioned windows, while eating really good homemade food. It was so warm and welcoming that we didn’t really want to leave!
The pub’s “proper” name is the New Hall Inn but nobody ever calls it that. The story goes that it used to have a blacksmith’s forge next door, and the smiths got so hot and thirsty that they needed to drink copious amounts of beer. So a hole was knocked through the wall to the bar, and tankards of ale passed through whenever they needed refreshment!
This time round we spotted that they had a new feature in the front garden – a rather nifty set of either stocks or pillory. I think it’s the latter, as stocks would have a seat and only two holes, for the miscreant’s feet to poke through, while this has a central space for the head. The holes are covered by Perspex so there’s no chance of customers getting stuck in them!