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.

#RoofSquares 9-15: Lake District Edition

We spent last week in the Lake District and it proved fertile ground for attractive roofs. We rented a cottage in Ambleside which was up 30+ steps from the street: a long way to climb with your luggage or after a hard day’s walking! From our patio we looked out almost at roof level to the Churchill Inn across the road. The picture above was taken the afternoon we arrived – but don’t worry about the grey skies. By the next morning, they had disappeared and we had glorious weather for the entire week.

The view above was taken from one of the cottage’s skylights, so that’s our roof and chimney in the foreground. To the right is the Churchill Inn again, and the whole scene is backed by Black Fell. I can’t get enough of these grey slate roofs! One more view from this perspective:

This time, we were across the road in a top floor café. The spire is St Mary’s Parish Church and it’s unusual amongst the grey slate roofs – it’s sandstone. Not sure I approve!

A few more Ambleside roofs – this house has very unusual chimneys.

The old Market Hall has a distinctive pointy roof and is now a popular Thai restaurant (very good, we tried it).

Coming back down into Ambleside one afternoon, I couldn’t work out what the round structure below us was, then as we got nearer I realised it was the roof of the local garden centre.

Finally, walking out of Ambleside on the other side of town you come to Rydal Park and Rydal Hall. I like this shot of the Hall’s roof peeking out behind the garden wall (which has another little roof  on the summer-house built into the staircase).

I’ll have more lovely Cumbrian roofs for you next week. In the meantime, pop over to Becky’s Roof Squares challenge for all the fun of the fair and to see what everyone else has found.

Lake District grounds and gardens

This is my final post on the Lake District houses we visited in March / April. I showed the interiors of the houses a few weeks ago, and now it’s the turn of the gardens, grounds and views.

Sizergh Castle

Sizergh had the best display of daffodils we saw all week! I’m not so keen on the topiary, but I liked the rock garden.

Allan Bank

There was a lovely woodland trail at Allan Bank, leading to a spectacular viewing seat.

Wray Castle

Wray Castle lies on the shores of Windermere and has no fewer than four boathouses. St Margaret’s Church was built for the original owners in 1856, but is not now open to the public.

Blackwell

Blackwell’s grounds would also have run down to Windermere originally, but no longer. You still get the view though – spectacular!

Holehird Gardens

We also visited Holehird Gardens, just outside the town of Windermere, which belong to the Lakeland Horticultural Society. Splendid – until I slipped in the mud round the pond. Oh well, it was our last day. It didn’t matter too much that I had run out of clean trousers.

A to Z Road Trip

A family bereavement meant I had to pull over on my A to Z Road Trip. I hope to be back en route soon.

Lake District walks: Elterwater circle

Britannia Inn, Elterwater
Britannia Inn, Elterwater

We had one completely dry day on our recent Lake District holiday and we used it to do a beautiful circular walk starting in Elterwater village. First, we walked alongside Elterwater itself, with views across it to the Langdale Pikes.

Elterwater
Elterwater

The route then took us through fields and woodlands via two beautiful waterfalls, Skelwith Force –

– and Colwith Force.

Next to Colwith is this wishing tree, studded with small coins. Is this a peculiarly British practice? I know I’ve seen it before, but can’t remember if it was at home or abroad.

Coin wishing tree
Coin wishing tree

Continuing through more fields, our next discovery was the oasis that is High Park Farm. We were not expecting to come across a tea garden on our walk, but we were glad to enjoy a delicious lunch overlooking Little Langdale and the company of fellow hikers – and some beautiful Dutch Bantams. The farm is also a B&B and right on the Cumbria Way for anyone (not me!) considering a long-distance footpath.

After lunch, the walk descended past the spoil heaps of the disused Little Langdale Quarry. A pair of tunnels allows you to access part of it – Cathedral Cavern.

On the final part of the walk, we crossed the River Brathay by the 17th century pack-horse bridge – Slater Bridge – before climbing up the other side of  Little Langdale from where we took a bridle path back down into Elterwater.

The walk is 7.8 miles with about 1200 feet of ascent – the route is on the excellent WalkLakes site – and I’m linking it to Jo’s Monday Walks. Why not pop along there to see where everyone else has been walking this week?

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 interiors

Last week, I showed the exteriors of five Lakeland houses and asked who lived there. This week, I’m taking a peek into their interiors. The first two have very fine woodwork, but consequently are dark and not very photogenic so the best is saved to last. (Click on the title links if you want to see the outside.)

Sizergh Castle

Townend

Allan Bank

Allan Bank is unrestored and allows all sorts of creative activities (we were particularly taken by the dragon) as well as having a large board for visitors to write their suggestions. I hadn’t visited anywhere quite like it – until we went to Wray Castle a couple of days later.

Wray Castle

Unrestored, like Allan Bank, with opportunities to write on walls! The ship’s wheel remains from the house’s time as a naval college and the Peter Rabbit room for children is a nod towards Beatrix Potter who was once a holiday tenant.

Blackwell

As I said – the best is saved to last. Blackwell is an Arts and Crafts house which reminds me so much of Mackintosh’s work.

Which house would you rather live in?

This week on the Road Trip

I’ve met a few new (to me) bloggers on the A to Z Road Trip this week. So far so good. My featured choice is Eunice at A tent, a caravan, 4 wheels and me. Eunice is from Bolton in Lancashire and solo-camps with her two dogs. Although I’m fairly sure I’ll never go camping again, I enjoy reading about her experiences and the photos of her recent Welsh trips are lovely.

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 5

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is quite simply 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’ve taken them in chronological order and asked “Who lived there?”

Blackwell – who lived there?

Blackwell

Blackwell is a beautiful Arts and Crafts house which was completed in 1901 as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer who was twice Lord Mayor of Manchester, his wife Elizabeth, and their five children. (No doubt it would not be much of a holiday home for the six or seven servants required to look after them!) After their eldest son died in the First World War, the Holts used Blackwell less and less and, like some of the other properties I’ve written about, it has had a variety of uses – for example, during the Second World War it became a school. It’s the only one of my five houses not to be owned by the National Trust – it was bought by the Lakeland Arts Trust in 1999 and opened to the public two years later. I’ve been here several times (the great café is an added attraction) and it reminds me very much of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh. Perhaps I’ll give you a peek at the interiors another time….

So that’s the last of my Lake District houses – Sizergh, Townend, Allan Bank, Wray and now Blackwell. Which is my favourite? Aesthetically, it has to be Blackwell, but to get a real sense of the people who lived there I would vote for the modest little farmhouse, Townend. Which would you like to visit?

For the final day I’m featuring Helen of Travels With Benches who has recently started blogging to document her walk along the Pennine Way. I so admire that! And of course, last but not least, Jude herself who nominated me for this challenge. Her link has been at the top of every post so you might already have investigated Travel Words – but she has another blog of beautiful flowers and gardens The Earth Laughs in Flowers. Jude also runs a monthly Bench Challenge which, given Helen’s title, she might be interested in. On that note of blogging matchmaking I end my Five Photos, Five Stories challenge! Many thanks, Jude, I’ve enjoyed it.

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 4

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is quite simply 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?”

Wray Castle – who lived there?

Wray Castle

This neo-Gothic pile, believe it or not, was built in the 1830s as a retirement home for just two people, James and Margaret Dawson, a wealthy couple from Liverpool – and their army of servants, of course. Although very different from Allan Bank, Wray Castle has several things in common with it – famous tenants (after the Dawsons died it became a holiday let and was rented by Beatrix Potter’s family); acquisition by the National Trust (1929) followed by a chequered pattern of use; and being opened to the public without contents or period decoration. My favourite part was the old servants’ quarters where I learned that the laurel hedge outside was built to screen the formal lawns so that James and Margaret and their guests could not be seen by mere servants, and the windows in the maidservants’ bedrooms were originally only 3 or 4 inches wide for the same reason. I don’t think I’d have liked James and Margaret very much.

As before, if you’d like to do 5 Photos 5 Stories let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an “official” nomination.

I’m continuing to feature other British-based bloggers instead of nominations: two today, both newish and both writing about Scotland. Paul at Through the Lens seems to visit the same places that I do. One of these days, we’ll walk past each other. Maybe we already have! The same goes for Scott at Great Glasgow Architecture – if I ever do another A-Z Challenge on Glasgow his posts will be a source of inspiration.

Last day tomorrow!