Return to the Lake District

Avid, regular readers may recall that the Bagnalls headed north to Flookburgh at the start of the school holidays last year for a week in Lake District.  We thoroughly enjoyed that week in the North and decided that there was so much of the area that we didn’t have a chance to explore that we thought that we would head back this year.  Although the leisure park in Flookburgh was a great site and had plenty for the kids to do, it was a little too out of the way (indeed, it was not actually in the Lake District National Park) and any trip involved getting the car.  So, for our return, we headed further in to the Lake District National Park and one of the venues of our last trip: Bowness on Windermere.  Bowness on Windermere is quite a large town (for the Lake District at least) on the East coast of Windermere (the largest natural lake in England) and home to the Beatrix Potter attraction, which is one of the reasons that we visited the town last year.  While we were there we saw a holiday park a couple of minutes walk north of the town and decided that would be a great place to base ourselves for this year’s holiday.

Fallbarrow Holiday Park (and Marina) hugs the shore of Windermere and its proximity to Bowness on Windermere made up for the lack of entertainment facilities that one usually expects with such parks.  While we were browsing the site (website that is) looking to book a caravan or lodge we noticed that they also had two cottages for holiday let.  Much more substantial than a caravan and not that much more expensive, they also slept nine.  It seemed a shame not to let the cottage and it also seemed a shame to let the extra beds go to waste so we asked Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary if they would like to join us.  Amazingly they said yes.

We hired the cottage Monday to Monday so on the Sunday we drove to Nanny Fran’s to break the journey up a little and be 120 miles closer to the goal.  We left after the morning rush hour and headed north on the M6, with Nanny Fran a few minutes behind us.  Any of you that are familiar with the M6 will know how often there is heavy traffic and although that was true for us the traffic kept moving and we arrived at Fallbarrow Holiday Park at 13:31 (one whole minute after we were allowed to check in).  Nanny Fran wasn’t so lucky.  A caravan had overturned blocking all three lanes, while we were the right side of the accident, Nanny Fran was not.  Stuck in traffic she crawled half a mile in two hours and so did not arrive at the Cottage until late afternoon, thoroughly exhausted.  So while Nanny Fran sat down, had a cup of tea and then unpacked Lucinda, the Baguettes and I explored the Holiday Park taking in the beautiful views of Windermere that the park had to offer.

We had all had enough of driving (especially Nanny Fran) and so, to keep ourselves fresh for the next day, we decided to take it easy and just have a nose around Bowness on Windermere, have a pub meal then try one of the many flavours of ice-cream in the local ice-cream parlour and sit on the lakeside watching the sun go down.  Not a bad start to the holiday.

We woke to a gloriously sunny day the next morning, indeed it was a hotter day in the Lake District than any of our days during our May holiday to Italy – most unusual.  Being National Trust members certainly reaps benefit on a holiday to the Lake District, as there are so many place to visit.  Tuesday we decided to visit one of the newer attractions.  Not newer in the age of the building, nor in how long the National Trust have owned the building, but newer in the sense that it has only been open to the public since 2011 and it has only been since 2014 the use of the building has been ‘visitor attraction’.  Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building built in the 1840’s for a retired surgeon James Dawson who used his wife’s fortune, that she inherited from a Gin making empire, to build his dream home.  Acquired by the National Trust in 1929 it had been stripped of his internal beauty and so it’s value was seen more as a rental property and so it was rented from then until the early 21st century.  Because it has been stripped of all internal decor it is very child friendly and you are allowed to touch everything.  There is a dressing up room; a room with large soft building block and, tying in with the fact that Beatrix Potter stayed at Wray Castle when she was 16, a Peter Rabbit themed area.  Outside there is a large adventure playground and a path that leads down to Windermere.  As you can see from the photos here, it is a very beautiful building and well worth the visit if you are in the area.

If Tuesday saw a beautifully glorious morning, Wednesday could not have been much different.  Heavy rain and thunder and lightning greeting us on our 9th Wedding anniversary.  Somehow it seemed fitting as our Wedding Day saw one of the heaviest downfalls of rain on record, something one would not expect for mid-July.  Not that you can tell from our Wedding pictures and so it was this 20th July.  So we stayed inside while the thunder echoed around the mountains but the rain was the least of our worries.  Ezra woke covered with spots:  Chicken Pox to be exact.  The girls had both been fortunate with very mild cases, Ezra was not that fortunate.  He was plastered.  A trip to the pharmacy was called for, but it would have to wait for the rain to stop.

The thunderstorm was just what was needed to clear the air after the extremely hot day the day before and by 1100 the sun was out and so we headed out for another adventure.  Coniston Water is the third largest lake in England and the scene of many attempts to break the Water Speed record, including Donald Campbell’s ill-fated attempt in Bluebird K7, which saw him average 320 miles per hour before he lost control and Bluebird somersaulted killing him instantly.

Our trip on Coniston Water was a little more sedate as we took a leisurely cruise down the lake as far as Peel Island and its secret harbour that was used by Arthur Ransome to set his children’s novel, Swallows and Amazons.  It was very relaxing just watching the beauty of the Lake District roll past from stillness of the water and as we passed the secret harbour there was a modern-day Walkers family de-embarking from their Swallow.

Returning to the cottage on Wednesday evening Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz offered to babysit so that we could celebrate our Wedding Anniversary with a romantic meal.  We took them up on this offer and heading to the Angel Inn that from its vantage point looked down over Bowness on Windermere and the lake itself.  It was nice to sit and enjoy a meal for ourselves rather than encouraging the children to eat theirs while ours goes cold.

Auntie Mary was unable to join us until Thursday so Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz met her at Windermere train stations while we headed to another National Trust venue: Fell Foot at the southern tip of Windermere.  Fell Foot is a lakeshore park with an adventure park, meadows and boats to hire.  Unfortunately the Baguettes are a little too young at the moment to fully appreciate hiring a rowing boat or kayak, so after exploring the park and having a spot of lunch we headed back to Bowness on Windermere and sought out a cream tea – we were on holiday after all.

We travelled a little further on Friday, back to somewhere we had visited last year: South Lakes Safari Zoo.  I do have a dichotomic relationship with zoos.  Animals should be in the wild and locking them in cages and enclosures is wrong.  However humans are slaughtering animals and destroying their habitats and if a zoo can a) save animals from extinction and b) educate then they can’t be wrong.  It is with the goal to educate that I like to take the Baguettes and the South Lakes Safari Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with many of the animals, including feeding giraffes, lemurs and well as a host of waterfowl.

Nanny Fran was heading back to West Bromwich on Sunday and so we didn’t want to travel too far on Saturday and so decided to head to another National Trust venue.  Hill Top was the home of Beatrix Potter.  It also lies on the opposite shore of Windermere to Bowness on Windermere so we walked down to the car ferry and paid our 50p to cross the lake.

Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey is a 17th century farmhouse that was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1906.  She left it to the National Trust when she died and it is open to the public as Beatrix Potter herself would have known it.  Indeed many of her illustrations that can be found in her books depict the house and the National Trust hand out copies of the books as you walk around the house so that you can see where the action was set.  The gardens were smaller than we thought they would be so it didn’t take look to walk around the house and gardens before the Baguettes got a little bored.  2016 sees the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth so it was fitting that we visited Hill Top this year.

We said good-bye to Nanny Fran on Sunday morning and hello to the first rain since Wednesday.  We decided to head to the South West corner of the Lake District and Ravenglass to catch the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway.  Ravenglass is the only coastal town in the Lake District and the reputed birthplace of St Patrick.  It is also the terminus of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway a 15 inch minimum gauge heritage railway that runs 7 miles to Dalegarth near Boot in the Eskdale valley.  Ezra enjoys his choo-choos and so do Mommy and Daddy, even the rain didn’t dampen the day for the Baguettes.  The only concession that we made was to ride in a covered carriage to Dalegarth.

We disembarked at the terminus at Dalegarth, watched the engineers turn the engine around via the turntable before walking the short distance into Boot.  After a fantastic Sunday lunch at the Boot Inn we headed back to Dalegarth and with a break in the clouds braved an open carriage for the return journey to Ravenglass.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week in the Lake District and despite Wednesday’s thunderstorm and Sunday’s dismal rain were very lucky with the weather.  We all like the Lake District and there is plenty more to explore for the Bagnalls however we think we need to visit a few more areas of our land before returning.  So we have decided that it will be a few years before we head back to Cumbria.  The Baguettes will be a little bigger and be able to enjoy some of the more adventurous sports that the Lake District has to offer.

I intended to bring this update to you as we left the Lake District but as with all the great plans at the moment work is extremely busy and thus family time is valuable so this website, among other things, has to be put on the back burner, hence why it comes to you over a fortnight after the holiday ended.  So please enjoy the photos and I hope to get another update to you before the end of August.  There is a slight change to the website but it might not be immediately noticeable.  If you click on one of the photos below it will now open all the photos below into a full frame gallery, hope that you enjoy it.

Peace and Love


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