A week in The Lake District

The start of the summer holiday that marks the boundary between the end of one academic year and the start of the next saw the Bagnall family decide to take a week break before the football season starts and daddy gets busy at work.  We decided to go somewhere new to the family and so headed north rather than south, which is our usual wont for our UK based holidays.  A caravan park in Flookburgh, Cumbria was the destination.  Situated on the Cartmel peninsular on the Northern shore of Morecambe bay Lakeland Caravan Park lies just outside of the largest National Park in England and Wales: The Lake District and thus made it an ideal base to explore the area.

It is quite a journey from Staines Upon Thames to South Cumbria, and the direct route via the M6 motorway takes us passed Nanny Fran’s.  Fortuitously the girls’ schools both broke up early on the Friday and our caravan wasn’t booked until Saturday afternoon therefore it seemed like a non-brainer to get ahead of the traffic and spend the night in West Bromwich.  The Baguettes could therefore spend some time with Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and we could cut the journey into a more manageable chunk.

After taking advantage of Nanny Fran’s hospitality we headed north on the M6.  A couple of stops for convenience breaks and a bite to eat and we arrived in good time to pick up the keys to the caravan.  The caravan was not quite as luxurious as our previous caravan hires, however it did have 3 bedrooms so that Ezra could have a bedroom of his own.  The trouble with the third bedroom was the space that it inevitably takes from the footprint of the living space.  However this was no excuse for the size of the television that they had decided to supply in the lounge area, I have seen laptop screens that are bigger!

The caravan site was pleasant with a 350 metre long lake however there was no easy path to the sea.  This is in no small part to the £4 million pounds that has been spend on sea defences to protect the caravan park from flooding.  On balance I would rather have my path to the sea blocked than wake up floating across the caravan park.

We woke up on the first day, Sunday, and decided to take it easy.  We stopped off at a local car boot sale before popping out to the ‘local’ supermarket for supplies.  When I say local it was in Barrow-in-Furness and was a 30 minute car drive away!  At least we decided to take the scenic route along the coast road to Barrow and enjoy the trip out.  We also took a bit of time to explore the area and popped in to Haverthwaite train station to inquire about train times for a trip to Lakeside (not the big shopping complex in Essex) and a boat journey across Windermere.  We were told that the first train in the morning was looking quite empty but you could only books tickets on the day of travel so best to come back 30 minutes before departure tomorrow morning.

We, therefore, had a plan for our first day trip.  We were among the first to arrive at Haverthwaite station.  We booked a return ticket on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway and combined it with a return ticket to Bowness onboard a Windermere Steamer.  Since we were a little early we could have a look around (and take photos of) some of the stock that they have.  Interestingly there were two engines out on the track, one was called Princess and the other Victor and they were both made by W.G. Bagnall, so it seemed apt to visit and enjoy the ride.  Éowyn had brought her camera along and enjoyed taking photos of the stock, including steam rollers (and diesel rollers), there are a number of her photos on our Flickr site and see what you think of her first efforts.

Ezra was quite excited about going on a choo-choo train and couldn’t wait to climb onboard, however was a little nervous sitting in the carriage before the journey began.  Lucinda and I sat with Ezra while the girls sat at another table so that they could feel a little independence and Éowyn could take some photos through the window.  However Amélie came running to us as the train went through a tunnel.  The darkness and the fact that the steam swirled around the carriage windows freaked her out a little and she needed the comfort of her parents to tell her that everything was going to be fine.

The train pulled into Lakeside and we jumped off the train and onto the steamer Swan for our trip across Windermere.  Windermere is the largest natural lake in England formed after the glacial retreat at the end of the last ice age.  Technically it is not a lake but a mere.  Indeed there is only one lake in the Lake District: Bassenthwaite Lake, now don’t say I never teach you anything.

We got off the Swan at Bowness-on-Windermere and straight into a heavy downpour.  The Lake District isn’t a green and pleasant land without help from the plentiful rain that falls in this corner of the land.  Except for the first couple of days in July (when the warmest July day was recorded) the weather in the UK hasn’t been very good, with some parts of the country receiving 2.5 times of the average rainfall and temperatures below normal throughout the land, indeed by the end of the month the record had been broken for the coldest July night!

Therefore it wasn’t a surprise that it was raining, however in fairness it was the only time that we got caught in the rain.  Indeed some of the days were quite pleasant and although sun block wasn’t required neither were heavy coats.  The weather at Bowness-on-Windermere however curtailed our exploration of the town and we decided to return after a couple of hours.

So after a trip that was more interesting for Mommy and Daddy than the children we decided on a different venue for our next trip.  We headed west along the A590 toward Dalton-in-Furness and the South Lakes Safari Zoo.  Not sure what to expect of a zoo away from major population centres, we were pleasantly surprised.  For a little extra money you were given a bad of feed and allowed to join in with all the feeding times.  We used the feed for the ducks and geese, the wallabies and the Emus (one of which gave Éowyn a little nip when she wasn’t quick enough with the food) and then were allowed to feed lemurs and giraffes at the organised feeding times but gave feeding the penguins a miss.

The zoo holds many of the Bagnalls’ favourite animals.  Éowyn loves jaguars and they had two.  Amélie likes Snow Leopards and they do have a breeding pair, however the female hasn’t ventured out with her progeny leaving the male to amuse the visitors.  Unfortunately there were no Ooo-wees for little Ezra.  What is a 000-wee I hear you ask, it is an elephant of course.  It is the sound an elephant makes when you are 2 years old especially while you pretend to use your right arm as an elephant truck while you are making the sound.  However they did have tortoises, which probably edge the ooo-wees ever so slightly.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the South Lake Safari Zoo, it is a magnificent zoo and would recommend it to anyone in the area.  It is not that often that you can get so close to so many animals as you do there.

The next day we decided to return to Bowness-on-Windermere, this time by road, to further explore the area and primarily to visit a tribute to the Lake District’s most famous daughter.  The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction is, as the name suggests, an attraction based around the books of Beatrix Potter.  Sadly, and perhaps somewhat ashamedly, we have none read the works of Beatrix Potter, I think I read some them as a child but we haven’t read any to the children.  Nevertheless there is still something about her work that naturally appeals to all children and our three were no exception.

Since we were the east side of Windermere we decided to go for a drive and headed as far as Grasmere, marking the furthest North the Baguettes have ever travelled, not that they were too impressed with that.  To finish the day off we decided to go for cream tea at one of the country’s finest tea-houses:  Gilliam’s tearoom in Ulverstone.  Well, we were on holiday!

The following day we ventured further into the national park and came across Muncaster Castle.  It was one of the attractions that we had considered but we weren’t specifically heading there.  However, when we saw the castle from the road we decided that was going to be the destination for the day.  There was so much to do at the castle that we didn’t have to time to do all of it.  Muncastle Castle isn’t just a castle, it has a hawk and owl centre, with daily bird of prey shows, has a meadow vole maze and a children’s playground.

We enjoyed the bird of prey display.  Éowyn and Amélie sat at the front to get a better view while Lucinda and I sat with Ezra somewhere near the back.  Unfortunately Ezra was a little tired and so he wanted the display to be over quite quickly and quite loudly kept repeating “Good night owls, good-bye!”  Éowyn and Amélie enjoyed the show though, with Éowyn taking photos throughout.  Indeed it wasn’t until the hooded vultures were released and one decided to sit next to her that she decided that she wanted to sit with mommy and daddy.

In addition to the bird of prey display there was also the feeding of the herons.  With Scarfell as the backdrop wild herons head for a snack by the castle’s cannons at 4pm each day and as Éowyn’s new class when she returns to school in September will be Herons we decided to stick around and watch them fly in.

The meadow vole maze was an attraction were you had to pretend that you were a meadow vole avoiding all their many predators.  Every dead end ran into another predator in the shape of a floor to ceiling face of the predator with glowing eyes.  This freaked out poor little Ezra who squeezed me tight saying, ‘Daddy, I’m scared!‘ The poor little mite.

With so much to explore in the grounds (and the baguettes got their money’s worth just on the playground!) we never got a chance to explore the castle itself.  Lucinda and Éowyn had a quick look around, but we will have to go back to explore it properly.  it is claimed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the UK and to take advantage of this claim they often run all night vigils, perhaps the Baguettes are a little young for that!

This update is a little belated due to a medical affliction that stuck me down at the end of the holiday.  On the drive back from Muncaster Castle my eyes started to feel a little itchy and I put it down to the air conditioning in the car and thought not a lot about it.  When we got back to the caravan I thought that perhaps I was succumbing to the conjunctivitis that was going through the family and that would be it.  Friday morning however, I woke up and physically couldn’t open my eyes, they were glued together with discharge.  I washed it out but still couldn’t open my eyes wide, they felt extremely painful and were constantly watering.  Lucinda took the kids to their usual swimming lesson that they had had all week and on return saw how painful they were looking.  As she said there was no white left of my eyes they were just red.  I was now having problems opening my eyes and the refraction caused by the water in my eyes was causing me problems with light. So Lucinda drove off to the nearest pharmacy to see if she could get some drops for me.

The pharmacist wouldn’t sell Lucinda drops without seeing me, which is fair enough however this being the country they were going to close at 12:30 on Friday for a couple of hours for lunch.  So Lucinda drove back to the caravan picked me up and we headed back to the pharmacy with only seconds to spare.  The pharmacist took one look at me and her eyes started to water with sympathy.  She quickly diagnosed acute bacterial conjunctivitis, indeed more accurately acute bacterial keratoconjunctivitis (conjunctivitis with keratitis – inflammation of the cornea) and said that it was probably the worst case she had seen and gave me some antibiotic eye-drops to be taken every 2 hours while awake and some cream to use at night.  Not a pleasant experience and one that prevented me from not only driving back the next day (poor Lucinda had to drive the whole way back) but even returning to work on the following Monday.  If you want to see a photo click here.  Thankfully the drops and cream did their job and all is back to normal.

Apart from the above we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Lake District and will be returning.  If you want to see photographic evidence of our holiday there are just shy of five hundred photos here.

Until the next time

Peace and love