cavendish’s, sequel 3…stockport, stockport, stockport…

it’s friday: the last day of our holidays. after a nice breakfast we check out, browse through the patchwork direct shop that’s adjacent to the rutland arms hotel — lots and lots of patchwork kits, fascinating fabrics, and tools — acquire a new edition of the guardian newspaper, and then make our way by car to…yes, chatsworth once more! this time we take the northern route, which is much quicker. we have about two-and-a-half hours until we have to start on our way back to manchester picadilly to return our car, and intend to do a short walk followed by an early lunch at the carriage house.

the weather is mixed but still on the friendly side. having park easy-merc, we go for a walk: first in the direction of the farm yard (hmm, just a deluxe edition of a kid’s pet zoo, not really our ally) then off to the right into the woods and up the hill…where we find the artificial waterfall feeding into the pond that we saw yesterday, apparently originating in victorian times: a rivulet carried over a viaduct about 50m away from the hill side and then just cascading down…quite nice 😉

we stroll back to the carriage house, grab something to eat and have an early lunch.

shortly after 12:00 we are on our way back to manchester, having had a very enjoyable morning at chatsworth…initially we make rather good progress and by 12:30 we reach stockport on the outskirts of manchester — easy sailing and we figure that we might even be too early for the car return…well, from stockport it really is just one long stretch of stop-and-go, stop-and-go, stop-and-go…dorothee, trying to make out on our street atlas whether and how much we making any progress (the scale of the map is a bit lacking and “detailed” is not exactly an attribute that was destined for this map, so it is a bit of a challenge) — having trouble matching the streets to the map we operate under the impression that we are in stockport…stockport…stockport…did we mention that we are still in stockport? then all of a sudden the area we drive through looks rather familiar: it’s the petrol station we used on our way out to the lake district! only three minutes from the national car park (ncp) in grant street! and: it’s only 13:15! pheeew! we find our way back, park easy-merc, unload our luggage, and return the keys to the easycar people — just before i can mention that we didn’t clean the car, one of the easycar people has grabbed the keys, disappeared to check easy-merc, and returns a couple of minutes later to delcare it clean!…hmm…okay…we say goodbye and are on our way back to manchester airport by train from picadilly station.

from the lakes to the peaks…or: cavendish’s, take 2

almost our last day of vacation today: after breakfast we go by easy-merc to bakewell and thence to chatsworth. the weather is once again just fine: sunny and lots of blue sky…shortly after kendal we make a pit-stop at a petrol station for 10l more — just to be on the safe side…the traffic on the a591 later on the various m6* is getting thicker the closer we get to manchester.

our plan is to circumvent manchester on the ring road and make off to the south east into the direction of bakewell. as on the map the road system in and around manchester look like a veritable “maze of twisty little passages, all alike” i had downloaded and printed instructions from map24 to find our way through the maze (a cheat sheet for the real world in a way)…

well-laid plans sometimes happen to have a mind of their own and get up, wander around, and — in short — become adventurous: our well-laid plan is one of those restless folks: we get royally lost. dorothee tries to match the printed instructions with the road signs…it’s a hopeless endeavour — as last resort we try and match village and town names appearing on some of the signs with the downloaded instructions: that at least helps us in staying on the rough course towards our destination. east of manchester the motorways quickly peter out and turn into a mixture of A roads with aspirations and A roads that have seen better days (probably back in the 1950s or so). in the end we stop, dig out the old street atlas from my suitcase — and find out that by following our hunches we’ve ended up about three miles west of bakewell and just need to continue in the direction we were travelling to get straight to our hotel…well.

landscape-wise the peak district is very interesting: breathtaking views, winding valleys, old viaducts — quite different in character from the lake district but charming and enticing in its own way. our hotel, the rutland arms hotel in bakewell. the pictures on the internet at a bit misleading, as is the text on their website:

The hotel offers a timeless elegance and the opportunity to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

— which led us to expect a hotel in a quiet location…the photographer must have gotten up quite early on a sunday morning to catch the square as empty and void of traffic as he did for the picture of the hotel on their home page. the square in front of the hotel is part of the traffic artery called A6…luckily traffic peters out the later it gets and we do have a quiet night against all initial fears. the room is normal size UK room size; the bed, though it’s cursed with a mattress that one could charge entry for at a fun fair (very bouncy) is also blessed with a good duvet (better than the flimsy stuff at the four star rothay manor house hotel…).

having dropped of our stuff we are on our way again to our final destination and reason why we came here in the first place: chatsworth house!

we take the a6 going east from bakewell: after about 15min we reach the turn-off to chatsworth, about 10min later we encounter the first chatsworth outpost: the garden center…being from the hinterland we mistakenly think that this is the real stuff (well, it is a pretty nice looking garden center, really)…it turns out that the real chatsworth experience starts about 5min further down the road. the chatsworth estate is located in the a medium wide valley that on one side slowly rises up while its eastern counterpart is a bit more eager in its ascent. all is rather green and lush — it helps that the weather has turned more sunny than cloudy again.

we buy a parking ticket, carefully thread our way through the car park area — taking care not to overrun any of the countless chicken parading the car park — and park easy-merc.

first stop is the carriage house for a late lunch: two ploughman’s plates and tea for two! quite nice. after a stroll through the adjoining shop area (lots of stuff we absolutely need…not) we make our way towards the main house itself. having been to blenheim palace last year, i’m struck by how friendly the staff are and how accessible everything is. when i inquire whether i can take pictures, i’m almost encouraged to, please, do so! we just make it in time to view the scottish rooms as well and generally enjoy the house very much! the alcove bedroom, turned into a nursery exhibition, contains a rather unexpected exhibit: a genuine firebolt riding boom (presented by jk rowlings to chatsworth house in 2002, it seems) doing “0-150mph in 10sec”

from the main house we escape through the shop area on the ground floor where the tour ends into the garden…into the very impressive garden, i’ve to say. we only have about one-and-a-half hour left until closing time, so we pick a few areas to look at: first a stroll down along the back of the house with a row of funnily twisted topiary trees on the right hand side, then up towards the “water feature”: a long water cascade coming down the eastern side of the valley — and there are kids playing in the water, adults trying to balance on the cascade’s steps! the only sign visible asks to be careful…we climb up the hill towards the top of the water cascade and from there explore more of the garden: we find another very interesting water feature called revelation — and it is in the truest sense of the word! — a little pond, and a rather interesting sculpture in a little formal walled garden part.

as it’s getting close to 18:00 we finish by walking past the lake with the impressive fountain south of the house and slowly make our way back to the car park and our easy-merc. clearly, we’ve just touched on what there is to see — we definitely will come back!

dinner is at the four seasons restaurant at the rutland arms hotel…the atmosphere is relaxed, we share the large victorian dining room with only a few other guests; service is really nice, not too fastidious or intruding and the food excels as well…an, admittedly, unexpected find and we enjoy it very much!

when we retreat to our room, we notice with relief that the traffic on the a6 (passing in front of the hotel) has quieted down and there’s only the occasional car or motor-bike coming past — nice (and typical of the english countryside: very rarely is there any traffic after 23:00, usually the nights are quiet, even in small towns — london is a different story, though).

a very nice day with some excitement in the first part and a fantastic afternoon at chatsworth!

holker hall…or: cavendish’s, take 1

it’s wednesday, our last full day in the lake district. the weather is still holding out on us: blue skys with the occassional cloud action and quite warm still. after breakfast we take our car and drive via coniston (that is, the western route) southwards: holker hall is our destination for today. the route via conniston takes a bit longer than going via windermere & bowness (the eastern route), but we know that route already, and i fancied driving somewhere “new” — and it turns out to be a rather pleasant drive.

holker hall is a nice “little” hall (as compared to chatsworth or blenheim palace), one wing of the hall is open to the public and is rather interesting — and does feel lived in. dorothee quite likes the color scheme they use in the bedrooms and decides to switch to white bed linen with a red shawl across the foot end…most impressive, though, are the gardens: several parts, ranging from rather formal to rather wild, even including a labyrinth, which dorothee enthusiastically walks through…lots of interesting and beautiful flowers, my camera is clicking away, the colours are just fantastic!

we have lunch in the courtyard: decent food at decent prices. after lunch i take off for a visit to the lakeland motor museum — lots of fascinating display, oodles of old cars and bikes, and a very interesting display on the water speed record attempts by donald campbell in the 1940s and early 1950s…best of all, and most interesting, displays are the workshop replicas of garages in the 1930s!

we conclude our visit with a browse through food at holker hall (a green tomato chutney and a spiced plum chutney as well as a small bottle of damson gin make it into my backpack) and then drive home via the eastern route…a very nice day.

tarn hows…this time for sure, and an RAF trained gull

after another one of our interesting breakfasts — this time the hotel kitchen had a special treat in store: tomato with mouldy spot, yum, yum — we are on our way to hawkshead: we park in the now familiar pay-and-display area in the south of the village, and then start our walk past the church, through the church yard, across a couple of meadows towards the old vicarage, then — still following the footpath — past walker ground (aptly named that one) along a small wood and more open meadow on to hawkshead hill. from here it’s only a short walk until we reach tarn hows

the sun is fighting it out with some obnoxious clouds today, and the wind seems keen on getting a play in as well, so while we sit on the shore of tarn hows and enjoy the scenery it starts gettting chilly and a bit uncomfortable…after a little while we decided to continue our tour. as we are about to leave we watch one of the gulls who apparently live here take off and start chasing, RAF fighter style one of the ducks! having chased that one for a bit it abruptly swerves off, circles a bit — and goes on full attack towards a group of american tourists sitting on portable chairs a bit higher up on the fell…funny…probably seen to many of the RAF fighters that use the lake district as training ground (mind you, it’s only about four planes a day, though) and thought what’s good for the fighter is good for the gull… (addendum: not that we’ve ever seen RAF fighter planes attack ducks, let alone american tourists; i think that was creativity on the part of the gull…or simply lack of proper targets…)

another “small” walk…well…not really

after yesterday’s rather long “small” walk we deliberate whether “‘tis nobler in the mind to take” another small walk or whether to just take it easy and go for a relaxed morning to brockhole…hmm…”tough decision!”…not really: we go for a coup of tea, a scone (me), and settle down in the grounds of brockhole, enjoying the sun and life in general…

in the early afternoon, it’s on to windermere: a bit of shopping (more of the mineral water), and a stroll through that wonderland of kitchen utensils: lakeland limited (aka lakeland plastics) — basically every piece of kitchen kit known to man and woman (and a few not known) seems to be available here, useful stuff and utterly useless stuff…we almost manage to resist, almost…

after the short excursion into that victorian station hall of a supermarket (booths, which is inside the old windermere railway station) i suggest a drive back to brockhole (the car park ticket is still valid after all, and the weather is still quite nice) for a cup of tea before going back to our hotel and then for a very enjoyable, relaxed, and friendly dinner at sheila’s cottage : the food is really good — as is the beer…

an almost-but-not-quite church service & a “small” walk

it’s sunday. i was interested in attending an anglican church service …the leaflet at our hotel listing the various churches and their worship service times had informed us that the second service at st mary’s in ambleside would be at 11:30 — it seemed like an awful late starting time when we read it, but then this is england and what did we know about anglican church worship service schedules…well, it turned out that the leaflet was a bit off: the worship service had already started at 11:00, so we turned up a full half hour too late — and decided to let it go and instead went into ambleside: getting some mineral water for the “small” walk we wanted to undertake shortly, made reservations at lucy’s on a plate for tonight at 18:30 and went off on our “small” walk.

almost two hours later we have mastered wansfell pike (482m) and about one third of our “small” walk: the view across the lake district is great, we can see until morecambe bay in the south, the irish sea in the west and parts of yorkshire in the east — fantastic! …but also very windy…and after 20 minutes of shivering on the top of wansfell pike we continued onward towards troutbeck…but first got a little lost on the eastern slope of wansfell…once we’ve recovered our way, it’s easy, downhill walking into the upper part of troutbeck. the route takes us past the post office (and assembly room for some obscure group, unfortunately forgot to take note of their name) and then back via high skelghyll through skelghyll wood down to waterhead and the wateredge inn where we sit outside on the lawn under the tree close the wateredge and have pint of cidre and of guinness and read today’s observer

dinner is at lucy’s on a plate tonight which is right in the town centre of ambleside…a bit cramped but friendly, the dinner menu is overwhelming though: lots and lots to choose from and it takes us a bit to digest it all (yes, i do love puns).

ruskin it

the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.

to see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.
— john ruskin

today we take it rather easily: with our trusted easy-merc we are off to hawkshead for

(a) a bit of shopping (more of those “fantastic” white t-shirts for mrs d, and i succumb to the “charms” of the hawkshead store and buy a pair of casual shirts — though i must have shrunken in recent years: instead of size L it’s now M…old age setting in?), followed by

(b) a bit of “window shopping” (except shop windows in hawkshead village are not really that large so we end up looking at the “warez” inside the stores), and

from hawkshead it’s off to coniston: the actual plan for today is to park easy-merc in coniston, take the northern lake cruise on a coniston launch and make a long stop-over at brantwood.

the road from hawkshead to coniston, though rather narrow at times, is rather nice and first winds its way up via hawkshead hill to high cross and then unwinds down to coniston water tappering out at coniston itself. we manage to find a slot a the national park’s car park — but only end up sponsoring the national park really (the slot is GBP 6 per day) as it turns out that there are plenty of free parking spaces directly at the water front where the launches for the northern and southern cruise leave. oh well.

the weather continues to be magnificent: white clouds and plenty of sun taking care of airial entertainment. at brantwood we disembark and make our way up to the house through a fantastic garden — “dogs to the left path” as there are “rabbits at large” — and stop short in our tracks at the sighting of the jumping jenny, the café at brantwood: the food is excellent, but the wait unfortunately is as well: it’s definitely lunch time and we are definitely not the only ones with lunch in our minds…the building housing jumping jenny must have been the stables of brantwood: along one wall they still have the mangers mounted on the walls. the undisputed star of the café though is a black and white cat that pops up inside the jumping jenny (or rather materializes or undissolves) and clearly has not been petted for weeks! naturally, the patrons of the café do their best to remedy the situation — resulting in the cat, who i think introduced himself as one john ruskin, sitting on one of the table by the piano hiccupping from too much stroking and patting.

after a very nice lunch we spent some time inside the house (very interesting video on john ruskin, not the cat, rather the philosopher, writer and socalist; note to myself to read up on the internet on him) and the remaining time until 16:10 (when the launch back to coniston will pick us up at brantwood) in the marvelous and enticing gardens…

this evening we have made a reservation at the jumble room in grasmere: the food at rothay manor house hotel was not that exciting to entice us to keep the diner arrangement, we decided to drop it after last night’s “interesting” starter experience: a clump of something brownish-gray containing small bits and pieces of what were shrimps but really looked liked chopped up parts of earthworms — sometimes i’m amazed at the “creativity” of cooks…anyhow, our dinner at the jumble room turned out to be very good! very nice people, relaxed atmosphere, lots of personality as a restaurant, excellent food! recommended…after dinner we had plenty of time and sunshine to take a stroll around grasmere: quiet and relaxed atmosphere, definitely worth a look at for self-catering aparments : local bakery, a co-op, a number of restaurants (certainly the jumble room wednesdays to sundays) and quiet! the jumble room itself has a holiday cottage for rent as well…hmmm…

a very nice day!

a castle, a walk, a ferry trip…

despite the weather report being not too favourable today (“some severe showers in the late morning and early afternoon”) our plan for today is the footwalk cruise which leaves ambleside waterhead by wooden launch to wray castle on the western shore of lake windermere. after a chilli breakfast (there is a nasty draft going through the hotel dinning room this morning) we make our exit through the very nice hotel garden, take the main road to waterhead for about 100m and then follow the footpath across the national trust property and the small waterfront park. we are in luck: the launch going to wray castle is just due to leave shortly when we arrive at the pier.

the weather is a mixture of clouds chasing across the sky and the sun trying to get his act in sideways — fantastic walking weather! the trip with the wooden launch takes about 15min and follows the shore line of lake windermere — very enjoyable and pittoresque.

at wray castle we get off…along with a group of elderly ladies tottering ahead of us, a pair of american tourists who quickly get lost in the undergrowth (don’t worry, they reappeared later at the wray castle site). we follow the old ladies tottering ahead of us to have peek at wray castle — wray castle limited as soon transpires: it seems to be the location of some obscure company (or the front for one of the british secret services? who knows…). we circle the building once and then speed down the path to the shore and are on our way (the speeding bit to by-pass the gang of tottering old ladies apparently intent on taking the same route as us) to the south keeping to the shoreline pretty much all the time. the route is prety much level all the time — only towards the last third of it is a bit of a hill to master. on our walk we pass a couple with a white and black sheep dog who pretends to “loose” the stick he is carrying every couple of meters — clearly in the hope that someone will stumble over it, pick it up, notice that it is a really fine stick for throwing and do so…unfortunately that trick is not working out as often as he is hoping for (he even tries us once).

by 12:40 we arrive at the far sawrey ferry pier. as the ferry is currently not operating (it is under refurbishment and due to run again a week after pentecoast) we patiently wake for the cross lakes ferry, another wooden launch.

in windermere we check the pitlochy store (nothing suitable found), ignore the fish & chips stand outside, muster the tourist information centre’s offering (that green fleece that dorothee is looking for is again not available in her size here), take a brief look at the lunch menu of the belfield, decide against it (looks rather a sad affair with its crumbled sign and lunch menu printed in the style of ice cream menus…) and board the next boat to ambleside.

touring the lakes…or: almost-a-walk

the plan for today: tarn hows walk. after our “fawlty tower” breakfast (today yoghurt is binary: we either order it or not, but the idea that both of us wanted to have a yoghurt each seems to be beyond the staff, we only get one) we go by easy-merc to hawkshead, the starting point of our tour today…we know that there is a national park car park at the end of the village and sure enough after a fun-to-drive, winding road (starting almost right outside our hotel) we spot the sign pointing to the car park, follow it dutifully and expectantly — and end up on the road leading to near and far sawrey…hmm…somehow we missed that parking lot…so, turn around and try the only possible other road and…yes, we end up on the car park (later we see that there is a sign pointing in the right direction, but it’s hiding in leaves borrowed from the close-by hedge)…the pay-and-display at hawkshead is a bit dear: GBP 1.20 per hour and no changing machine in view: so we scrape together our last coins and pay for 3 hours with the plan of having a look at the wares on display at hawkshead , doing the odd bit of shopping and having a cup of tea, getting some change out of that, and top up the park-and-display before embarking on the walk…

well, to cut a long story short: we do shop at hawkshead , we do have a browse through the local bookshop, and we do have tea at the minstrels’ gallery —however, we do not do the walk: instead we drive on (after our 3 hours are almost over) to near sawrey to visit beatrix potter’s farm house…which turns out to be closed today, but the garden is open! so, we park our easy-merc around the corner, and have a look: it’s suprisingly void of japanese tourists , considering the time of year; the japanese economy really must have taken a hit, we only encounter one or two japanese — compared with five years ago that is quite a difference. the garden itself is quite nice, i take quite a number of pictures and we enjoy the garden.

we go back the long way round: near sawrey – far sawrey – lakeside – fell foot park (short break for tea, and, just in time, to wait out a very intense shower) – bowness – windermere (pit stop at booth’s to take lots of mineral water on board) and back to our hotel.

a very nice, albeit lazy day…

grasmere, jumble room, rydal water

after our lazy day yesterday we decide to do the walk from ambleside along the river rothay rydal to pelter bridge then along the southern side of rydal water connecting up to grasmere water and ending up in grasmere — the route back then via town end, how end and white moss common to rydal hall and then via pelter bridge back to ambleside.

after breakfast we start off. the weather is quite nice for walking: not too much sun, quite a bit of cloud cover, so it’s not too hot. instead of taking the little road along the rothay river west of ambleside, we first make a little detour through town (today the putting-green-cum-crazy-golf seems to have selected the UK timezone: the gate to ambleside is open, so we take that “shortcut”) to stock up on mineral water for the walk — and i acquire a little compass, just in case… (and prompt forget to consult it the one time we could have made really good use of it) then we go past the glasshouse café, turn left towards the west and reach the rothay river via a short walk across the greens. from now on we follow the rothay as it winds its way northwards towards pelter bridge. the view from loughrigg holme towards ambleside seems straight out of a agatha christie mystery, oozing prototypical english landscape.

it’s slowly become overcast, the sun still manages to get a word in edge-wise, but the clouds clearly decided that today they get to play as well…so when we walk along the southern shore of rydal water and on below loughrigg terrace to grasmere water, it’s occasionally quite chilly and we are glad that we have our fleeces with us.

a number of duck and geese families are currently using grasmere water as their kindergarten and the parents are quite protective: most of the time an excited “naaat–naaat-naaat” flings through the air…quite a bit noisy those “naat-naats”.

we reach grasmere in time for a late lunch in the jumble room café : it still is as amiable, relaxed, and cosy as five years ago — inspite of having just been awarded the les routier north west restaurant of the year 2003/4 the staff are still down to earth and friendly as ever!…and, the food is excellent as we remembered it (in contrast to the glashouse café in ambleside that has turned from a nice, pleasant place to stay into a tourist trap, not even serving tea or coffee between lunch and dinner time). nice to see people doing a great job, being (righteously) proud of their work, but not going over the top and staying who they are.

after an excellent lunch we make our way back through grasmere, past dove cottage (“wordsworth was here” written all over the place) and past white moss common along the north side of rydal water to rydal hall (already closed at 16:45, in time for the official 17:00 closing time) and then back via pelter bridge along the rothay to st mary’s church yard and back to our hotel.