I haven’t had the chance to get back to this and blog the rest of my travels. It’s been a hectic second week away and getting back home, there’s been a lot to sort out. Getting back to work takes up the rest of the time! Here’s another installment, the first half of another nice day out.
We love the Lake District with its spectacular scenery. It’s not a long way from our base in Manchester so we have driven up through this gorgeous area a few times over the years when I’ve visited England. We decided to do another trip and, luckily, the weather cooperated. This time we chose an area we’ve not been before, Coniston, which is less touristy than Windemere and the towns along that famed lake. That was the anticipation, at least.
We started up the motorway and turned off, heading west towards the southern lakes. We found ourselves on some pretty country roads, narrow and twisty but no lakes in sight. Yet. We soon came to the lower part of Lake Windemere and the GPS sent us down a narrow road to a queue of cars waiting to board a ferry across the lake! The signs indicated it could be a 30 or 40 minute wait. That didn’t appeal (the GPS was set to send us the “fastest” route. a 40 minute wait kind of contradicts that). We decided to head further north alongside Lake Windemere and in doing so, we had to navigate the narrow streets of the town of Windemere itself, made worse by the crowds of Easter holiday tourists.
We forged onward to Ambleside, suffering another bottleneck of traffic. This isn’t boding well but at least we could see some of the lake. I knew we could get to Coniston by driving through part of Ambleside and over the top of Windemere and that’s what we did, finally arriving in Coniston about noon. We had intended on going down to the lake, having lunch in the Bluebird Café and maybe taking a boat ride but we couldn’t find a parking spot at all! Even in the village itself, parking spots were scarce and there were a lot of people wandering around. So much for this being less touristy although it was less so than Windemere.
We finally found a place to park behind a pub that dates back to the 16th century when it was a coaching Inn. It’s called the Black Bull and we went in there for our lunch since the sign at the parking lot warned us it was for patrons only. Lunch was excellent and we each had a pint of Bluebird Ale, brewed just behind the pub in Coniston Brewery. My piece of battered haddock was so large we joked it was a piece of whale! G. had a wild boar burger and was very happy with that, too.
From there, we walked along the main street past the shops, picking up some Kendal Mint Cake in one, basically that’s a block of minty sugar, some of it coated in chocolate or a brown sugar crust. We found the John Ruskin Museum which tells some of the story of Coniston. It was founded by W.G. Collinwood who was secretary to artist John Ruskin who died in 1900 (the museum opened in 1901 as a memorial to him as well as depicting the surrounding area of Coniston). There are interactive displays and lots of information signs.
The museum has some nice displays of linen and lace, geology and social history, mining and farming and a section honouring World War veterans including a local man who was awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI. His motorbike is there on display. There’s a miniature stone version of the village out behind the building. There’s a larger gallery that focuses on John Ruskin himself, including artifacts, books, letters, photographs and many of his paintings and drawings. He was an important man in the art world in the 1800s, being a strong defender of J.M.W.Turner and a strong influence to the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Most of his paintings are water colours and are nature-related or architectural features. Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, is on the opposite side of the lake and can also be visited.
Another newer gallery that was there told the story of Donald Campbell. I had never heard of him but he and his father both endeavored to break speed records on land and on water with various types of vehicles and boats. Donald Campbell died in 1967 while attempting to break his own speed record on water in his Bluebird K7 speed boat on Lake Coniston. The boat flipped and crashed on the water and his body was not found until 2001. They had photos and models of his boats and his father’s cars and they had pieces of the wreckage including a boiler suit that his remains were found in. Kind of creepy! Graham remembers when the crash happened, it was big news here in the U.K. It might have been in Canada too but I was only 8 at the time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard about it.
We walked through the village and stopped into St. Andrew’s church. It’s a pretty little church but there isn’t anything unusual or overly interesting in it. There’s a nice font in one nook at the back and the graveyard is nice. The grave of the soldier who won the Victoria Cross is here but Donald Campbell was buried elsewhere in the village.
We decided to drive on and see if we could actually see a bit of the lake itself. A short way out of the village we found a stopping point where we could look over the lake and take a few photos. We drove on and though the scenery was still nice, we really didn’t see much more of that or any other lake. The drive long Ullswater that we’d taken a few years ago was much prettier as far as water views go.
We drove along the rest of the road, intending on picking up the motorway near Kendal but ended up taking an unexpected stop. More on that later.