Ambles from Ambleside

North Cottage, Ambleside

Above is the Lake District home-from-home in which we spent a week at the beginning of June. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, parked the car and didn’t move it again until we left a week later! This wasn’t what we originally intended, but we discovered that there were plenty of walks which we could do straight from the door, or using the efficient open-topped buses and, on one day, the Windermere ferries. So forgive the cheesy title, which I couldn’t resist: here are our ambles from Ambleside.

Sunday – Loughrigg Fell

It’s possible to do a circular walk from Ambleside taking in Loughrigg Fell. At only 335 metres / 1099 feet it’s not a very big hill, but the ascent is steep – however, if this was meant to be a warm-up for greater things it didn’t quite work out that way.

Monday – Wray Castle and Claife Heights

Windermere at Ambleside

On Monday, we purchased Walkers’ Tickets from the pier at Ambleside – three ferries with a walk in between ferries one and two. The first boat took us to Wray Castle which we’ve visited before. There have been improvements such as an upgraded café (whoop!) and new displays.

Wray Castle

The neo-Gothic “castle” was built in the 1830s as a retirement home for just two people, James and Margaret Dawson, using Margaret’s inheritance from her father’s gin business. Until recently it was assumed, given that marital law at the time gave a husband control over his wife and her property, that James was the driver behind this. However, research in Wray’s archives turned up proof that Margaret inherited as feme sole (sic), in other words had legal control over her own inheritance. It’s likely, therefore, that she had a much bigger role in building the new house than was previously thought.

Artworks and information panels throughout the house illustrated this. For example, I enjoyed a game on the giant Silk Stockings and Social Ladders board, a variant on Snakes and Ladders based on the prizes and pitfalls facing a respectable young woman of Margaret’s time. Staff insisted this should be played wearing a silly bonnet, which you can see I have whipped off in time for the photograph. Purse of Power considers the powers available to Margaret – or not. The trumpet banners represent the vote, which she did not have, and the juniper berries refer to her father’s gin fortune, which she did.

After the castle, we set off on a four mile walk to our next ferry. Well, it was probably longer than that because we chose an alternative route via Claife Heights. Actually, we’d have been better sticking to the lakeside as far as the views were concerned – with the trees in full leaf (not complaining) we only caught occasional glimpses through the gaps.

The path ended at the remains of an old viewing station, built in the 1790s for early tourists to the Lakes. In the 19th century it was also used for parties and dances, and the path from the courtyard below was lit by Chinese lanterns and coloured lamps. The small cottage in the courtyard was, at that time, the home of an old woman who welcomed visitors and escorted them to the station – including one of the Lakes’ most famous residents, William Wordsworth. Today, it houses a café where we had probably the best lunch of the week, albeit a late lunch at 3pm. (Don’t worry about us expiring, we had partaken of brownies at Wray Castle and we also have plenty of fat reserves.)

From here it was a short step to Ferry House where we caught a launch to Bowness, and from there a larger boat back to Ambleside.

Tuesday – Grasmere

The previous day, my ankle had started to hurt. I’d bashed it on something a couple of weeks before, and it seemed to have recovered, but obviously walking boots were applying pressure in just the wrong place, and when I took them off my ankle was bruised and swollen. An easier day was called for, so we caught the bus to Grasmere.

We know the village well, having stayed there on all our visits to the Lakes over the past 15 years. We started out in the Grasmere Tea Gardens, just visible to the left of the bridge above, which were established in 1889. In those days, visitors had to get out while their carriages crossed the River Rothay by ford and  the owner of the house, Mrs Dodgeson, served refreshments from her kitchen table.

After a riverside walk, we headed up to Allan Bank, a National Trust property. It was too nice to spend much time inside, so we mostly strolled its grounds and took its Woodland Trail. Great views from the Viewing Seat of the fells we wouldn’t be climbing!

For lunch, we headed to Lancrigg, the hotel we used to stay in. It used to be exclusively vegetarian ( a rare treat for me) but since our last visit three years ago it has been sold and now has a mixed menu. It still has great veggie choices though! After a final walk through Lancrigg’s woods and the lower reaches of Easdale we hopped back on the bus to Ambleside.

Wednesday – viewpoints over Windermere

On Wednesday, we were back on the bus, this time in the opposite direction to Bowness-on-Windermere. From here, we took a 3-4 hour circular walk to three viewpoints over the lake: Post Knott, School Knott and Biskey Howe.

Thursday – Brockhole

Brockhole – Lake District National Park Visitor Centre

By Thursday, my ankle was starting to feel better – and John’s knee was sore. What a pair of old crocks! We took the bus a few stops to Brockhole, built in 1899 as a family home. Since 1966, after a stint as a convalescent home for Merseyside ladies, it has been owned by the Lake District National Park Authority, opening as a Visitor Centre three years later.

We started on the café terrace (no surprise there) which you can see John is enjoying hugely. I had my eye on the couple at the far end who, it seemed to me, had the best seat in the house. As soon as they moved, I shot into their place – and proved myself right.

The grounds were being prepared for a big event at the weekend, so we didn’t linger. Crossing the main road, we climbed through farmland and forest to a path that took us back to Ambleside, looking down on the lake the whole way.

Friday – Rydal Park

Rydal Hall

By Friday, John’s knee was really hurting (the doctor has since told him it’s probably arthritis 😦 ) We chose another easy, circular walk, of which the route notes said: “This is a really soft walk with virtually no ascent. It is ideally suited to those recuperating from heart attacks, violent hangovers or loss of a leg.” Even so, for the first time in living memory it was John asking me not to go so fast.

The walk took us to Rydal Hall, these days a religious conference centre, so you can’t visit the house, but are free to wander the grounds. The sculpture in the gallery below, The Angel, was created in 2007-09 by Shawn Williamson from a piece of limestone from York Minster. The little “Grot” dates from 1688 and was deliberately built to provide a window to frame the view of the lower Rydal Beck waterfall.

The Hall does have a café, but we spurned that and headed off past Rydal Mount (Wordsworth’s home for many years and open to visit) and Rydal St Mary’s Church – both also spurned. We had a destination in mind – the Badger Bar where we have enjoyed lunch and a pint (or two) many times over the years, usually on a longer and tougher walk, but, hey – medicinal purposes!

After lunch, we took an alternative route back to Ambleside for the last night of a wonderful holiday.

Ambleside and its surrounds also featured in two of my posts for Becky’s recent roof challenge – if you missed them, see #RoofSquares 9-15 and #RoofSquares 16-22.

This post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walk, where this week she is in Krakow.

#RoofSquares 16-22: Lake District continued

Welcome to my next batch of RoofSquares, once again chosen from our recent Lake District holiday. This time we had a cottage in Ambleside, but for old times’ sake we visited Grasmere where we stayed on our last few visits. I’ve always liked this row of cottages on the way up to Allan Bank – to me, the roof looks as though it has been sliced off prematurely.

Here’s Allan Bank itself (National Trust property), looking down on its roof from the Woodland Trail. The small building on the right is the Billiard Room – as a bonus picture, I’ve included its roof from the inside looking up.

Also in Grasmere is St Oswald’s Church. When we last visited three years ago the tower and the church were the same colour. Since then the tower has been restored, including re-roofing and repair of the gutters, castellations and roof pinnacles. Doesn’t it look splendid?

Another day, our walk took us to three different viewpoints over Windermere. This is the lowest and offers a good roofscape of Bowness-on-Windermere.

During the walk, we passed this cottage – Old Droomer. I loved the mossy porch roof over the red door, all surrounded by a wonderful flower display.

This dinky Clock Tower has a castellated roof complete with weathervane. It marks the boundary between the towns of Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere. I got confused by these names when travelling with my sister and my oldest friend in our early twenties. I assumed the town of Windermere would be right next to the lake and booked accommodation accordingly, not knowing that Bowness was in between. It was a mile uphill from the lake back to our B&B! (By the way, never refer to Lake Windermere – it’s a tautology. Mere means lake.)

Finally, I give you the gloriously neo-Gothic Wray Castle which I’ve written about before and no doubt will again!

My last batch of roofs next Friday will be closer to home, and a non-roof account of our Lakes trip will follow in due course.

No definite news on the Art School yet – the experts have started planning, but there is still a large exclusion zone with residents and businesses displaced. Take a look at this BBC article for pictures of two very roofless buildings – Glasgow School of Art and the ABC venue behind it.

To end on a happier note – I’ve cracked 500 posts! Here’s to the next 500.

Lake District walks: Silver How

Looking back from Silver How
Easdale from Silver How

Silver How (325m) is another walk we can do straight from our Grasmere hotel, and have done several times. It’s a steep, grassy climb but looking back at the views over Easdale (above) is a good excuse to stop for a rest. Then it’s on with the slog to the top –

– where your heroes were rewarded with magnificent views. In the panorama, there are four lakes – Grasmere is on the left with Rydal Water behind it. In the distance you can just see Windermere, and Elterwater is on the right.

We continued along the ridge from the summit, descending to Loughrigg Terrace at the opposite end of Grasmere from where we started.

From there, we walked on to Rydal where we knew the Badger Bar would provide a warming lunch and a good beer. It didn’t fail us. The bar also makes a feature of its “rockin’ loos” – go on, take a peek! You know you want to….

What did fail us was the weather. Our walk back to Grasmere took us via the old Coffin Road (so called as it was the route used to take the dead of Rydal to the church in Grasmere for burial), but we got so drenched that we didn’t stop to take any pictures. Another time.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Lake District walks: Easdale Tarn

Easdale Tarn
Easdale Tarn
We do this walk every time we visit the Lake District, and have therefore seen Easdale Tarn in all weathers – and this was not the best: late March, cold and wet. The big advantage is that we can more or less fall out of bed and straight onto the trail from Lancrigg, our favoured Grasmere hotel (and what a bed we had this time!)

The path winds uphill alongside Easdale Beck, with views of Helm Crag to the right and Sourmilk Ghyll ahead.

From the Ghyll, the views back down to Easdale are very pretty.

After climbing 650 feet, the tarn appears, as pictured at the top of this post. From here, there are options. Normally, we cross the beck and go back down the other side, but there had been so much rain that the stepping stones were well under water. In the past we’ve climbed high above the tarn and returned by another route. Rather than tamely go back the way we came, we thought we’d give it a go again and set off along this path:

Before long, the weather took a turn for the worse – horizontal sleet and hail – and we decided to call it a day, turned around and went back the way we came after all. This is what we should have seen – taken in 2010, not much later in the year but in much better conditions:

Never mind! We passed the rest of the afternoon sampling the very good beer in the Lamb in Grasmere before wending our way back to Lancrigg for dinner.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. Visit her blog to see where she’s taking us this week, and a selection from other walkers too.

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 3

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is to “post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph, and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge”.

My five photos are from our recent Lake District holiday. The weather wasn’t very good so we visited a lot of houses. I’m taking them in chronological order and asking “Who lived there?”

Allan Bank – who lived there?

Allan Bank, Grasmere

Allan Bank in Grasmere was built in 1805/6 by John Gregory Crump. In 1808, he let it out to some very famous tenants – William Wordsworth and his family who lived there until 1811. This was despite William having referred to it as “a temple of abomination” during construction! The house was bought by Thomas Dawson in 1834 and then by Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust in 1915. He died in 1920 and left it to the Trust with a lifelong interest for his wife, Eleanor, who lived until 1959. After that, there were more tenants (including a 1970s commune) until 2011 when a fire damaged part of the house. It has now been partially restored and opened to the public in 2012. It hasn’t been decorated yet, and there is no original furniture, which makes it a very relaxed place to visit – you can sit anywhere with a cup of tea and read something from the library, create a painting in the art room, or just watch the world go round and admire the view. I loved it.

As before, I’m not making a specific nomination, but if you’d like to do 5 Photos 5 Stories let me know in the comments.

Today’s featured blogger is Jessica at Diverting Journeys. She’s an American living in London who loves visiting museums – and reports on them in, well, a highly diverting way. I love her irreverent style. Her latest is Montacute House – head over to her blog for the low-down on that.

Benches with a view

Elterwater
Elterwater

Jude is looking for benches with a view for April’s Bench Series challenge. Having just come back from the Lake District, I could supply them in abundance – although I think the view of Elterwater above has to be the star. Just a few more, one from Holehird Gardens and two from Grasmere.

You can tell by my smile that a) I was enjoying myself despite b) the firmly zipped up anorak hinting at the cold, wet weather we had for most of the week. The trip will, I’m sure, produce much more blogging – but not till after the A to Z Challenge is over!

Grasmere

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I’ve known the Lake District since childhood, but John had never been till he went with me in around 1984. We took our bikes and stayed in Keswick and, looking back, I marvel at what we did. We cycled to Dove Cottage in Grasmere and back one day, and another we went down through Borrowdale, over the Honister Pass to Buttermere and back over the Whinlatter pass. Two passes on a bike! I can’t believe I was ever capable of such a thing. In the late 80s we had a couple of stays in Borrowdale and then nothing till 2004 when we visited Grasmere again and have been back almost every year since. We always stay at Lancrigg, a beautiful country house (above) with Wordsworth connections. Not only that, it is also a completely vegetarian hotel – the only time I ever go anywhere where I can choose from the entire menu!

I think every time we have been, we have done the walk past Sourmilk Ghyll (waterfall) up to Easdale Tarn. However, a weekend in early December is the latest we have ever visited so it was unusual to see it in snow. It was icy and cold at the top so we didn’t linger.

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The other walk we did was a circular one from Grasmere through part of the Langdale Valley to Elterwater and back. The beauty of the Lake District is that it is so compact that you can nearly always arrange your walking to pass near a good pub at lunchtime, and there are many good, local beers to try. In this case, we were happy to stop for good, warming soup and a pint at the Britannia Inn.

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Days aren’t long at this time of year, especially when you have lingered over a Lancrigg breakfast, so we were happy to spend the late afternoons pottering around Grasmere, purchasing items such as the famous gingerbread and a Tubular Fells poster. This shows all the Wainwrights set out as in the London Underground map and is very clever, not least in its double-punning title. We got this in the National Trust shop where I met Chris whom I had preciously chatted to on Twitter (@GrasmereVillage). Eventually, we had to leave the bright lights of downtown Grasmere and head back to our hotel for another delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep before heading home the next morning. I’m very certain we’ll be back.

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