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 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 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.

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!