Friday, 28 May 2010

what we did on our holidays.....

If you were getting curious about the long silence, fear not. It wasn't a crisis.  We've been away. With volcanic ash and the threat of strikes disrupting air travel, we decided on a "staycation" and made our first (and I hope not last) visit to the Lake District.  As it turned out, the timing was perfect - the weather was good and the lakes and fells had yet to be thronged by visitors.

The journey became part of the trip; we travelled out via Bristol to visit Steve's mum and stayed over with our son Jack the night before setting out north the next morning. The call of National Trust tearooms lured us into Mosely Old Hall for lunch, then again later into Little Moreton Hall for tea and cakes before we finally reached the Lake District.  

The nice computer lady on the sat-nav told us to "take the ferry" (first time we had heard that instruction!) and before long we had arrived at our base for the week in Sawrey, within strolling distance of Hill Top Farm, Beatrice Potter's home. As we settled into our new home, Steve saw a rabbit in the field opposite our house - a descendent of Benjamin Bunny perhaps? 

In the days that followed we toured the area, starting at Hawkshead where we were entertained (and impressed by) by runners in the Ambleside marathon and visited the Beatrix Potter Gallery.  At Conniston Water in the afternoon, we watched the steamer Gondola chug over the lake rather more sedately than Donald Campbell's Bluebird going for the water speed records in the 50s and 60s which ended so tragically.

Later that day,we did the steep climb up Tom Ghyll to reach Tarn Hows, where we had a leisurely stroll around the lake before making our way back home. 

We headed further north the next day, back across Windermere, up to Ambleside, passed Rydal Water and on to Grassmere, where we stopped to stretch our legs and found ourselves looking at Wordsworth's grave, where the last of the daffodils were still blooming. Lunch in Keswick, still buzzing from the Jazz Festival that had just finished, followed by a visit to Derwent Water in the afternoon.  

We headed back over Dunmail Pass via Thirlmere which supplies water for Manchester, on a road constructed by the Water Board in the 1890s for carriages to circumnavigate the new lake created by damming two smaller lakes to make a reservoir.

We were a bit more adventurous the following day, heading out along Great Langdale and on up to Tarn Blea, where the blue sky was reflected perfectly in the still water.  This was followed by one of the most thrilling (scary!) drives we have had in a long time - over Wrynose Pass, down into the Duddon Valley then up and over the snaking hairpins of Hardnott Pass, descending into Eskdale and on to the coast.

After lunch and under clear blue skies, we walked the harbour walls at Whitehaven and looked out over the sea from the site of the former Wellington mine, now sensitively landscaped, to the off-shore wind farms and the Isle of Man. On our way back, we diverted to Waswater, stunning and still under a warm sun.

Mid-week, we had a National Trust day - walked to Near Sawrey to visit Beatrice Potters House, followed by a ferry crossing of Windermere and on to the Troutbeck Valley to visit Townend - a traditional Cumbrian farmhouse lived in by the same family for 400 years - a little gem.  A complete contrast in the afternoon, with a visit to Sizergh Castle and garden (and more tea and cakes!).

Steve had recovered enough from one scary drive to do another the following day, so we headed north east, up and over Kirkstone Pass in the cloud, which cleared on our descent to Deepdale and a stop at Brothers Water, before traveling on to Ullswater. A short detour took us to Aira Force, the most famous Lake District waterfall in the woods (and a convenient NT tearoom for lunch!) then on to Penrith for a wander round the town and castle before heading home.  

By the time we reached Kirkstone Pass the cloud had dispersed and we stopped to watch the mountain rescue team's dogs practice finding "lost" people scattered on the fell side, which they do every Thursday.  

Our last whole day in the Lake District was spend on the southern peninsulas, via Lakeside and Grange-over-Sands (or more accurately Grange over grass, as the shore is actually mud flats which have been colonised by vegetation) where the hot sun justified treating ourselves to ice creams before heading on the Ulverston for lunch and a walkabout.  

Managed to persuade Steve to have his photo taken next to the statue of Laurel and Hardy (the former was born there).

We then followed the coastal route north passed Barrow in Furness to take in the splendid views across the sands of Morecambe Bay, ending up at Roa Island (nature reserve) and Peel Island, which offered some good photo shoots with a wreck, life boat station and ferry.  

To make the most of the return trip, we stopped off at Crosby Beach to see Gormley's 100 men scattered along the sands (Another Place, to use its proper title) then on for lunch at Speke Hall, a little oasis right next to John Lennon Airport!
We arrived home late last Saturday, with over a 1000 miles on the clock, a little bit of colour in our faces and lots of dirty washing!  Looking back, it's amazing how much you can fit into a week when not flopping by a pool or splashing in the sea.  Steve did all the driving (as usual) and took it all in his stride, often literally.  However, with a week's worth of emails and post to go through and  many photos to process, it's taken a while to get round to writing the blog. 

But how wonderful to find that 11 months post-diagnosis, Steve is still going strong and able to enjoy such trips.  Can't wait for the next one!

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