Friday, 20 June 2014

Black Country Living Museum

For quite some time now, Sally has been saying that we should go to the Black Country Museum. She had been there on a works corporate thing a few years ago, and had quite enjoyed it, and thought i would too.

It had always been on the "things to do" list for this holiday, and today was the day that had been penciled in for it. Thankfully, the weather seemed to be acceptable - it was overcast, but the forecast was for no rain, and it did in fact brighten up nicely as the day wore on.

We got there around 11:20am - the journey taking about 45 minutes from Coventry. We were rather surprised that there were not more road signs for it, and were very thankful for the satnav. We had read online that there was a big corporate event going on today, and that certain parts of the museum would not be open to the general public. It turned out that it was not a major problem for us, and we hardly noticed this. The carpark WAS almost full though, and if we had left it much later we may well have struggled to park.

The first thing we had a look at was the "Newcomen Steam Engine", which was actually working today. This is a replica of one of the original steam engines for pumping out the old coal mines. They have it set up so that you can go into the basement and see the way the pump actually works.

We then walked down into the "village" itself, and had a walk around the shops and houses they have set up there. It was a bit strange being able to walk into peoples houses and wander around them, have a look in their back gardens, and see how their lives would have been. Some of them had members of staff dressed in period clothing, all of whom were very happy to talk to you and tell you all about who's house it would have been, what kind of a life they led and what work they had done.

Having been brought up to not invade other peoples privacy and homes, it was very strange to be able to go around like this - i was almost wanting to apologise to these people for bursting into their houses! I would never dream of poking around in other peoples back yards and peering into their houses normally.

The staff were so enthusiastic about what they were doing, and some of them we chatted to for ages, not always just about the museum either!

As for the shops, they were all set out just as they would have been at the time, with items that would have been for sale back then. I was surprised just how many things i recognised, but then again, my dad has so may of these old tins, jars, tools and what have you in his shed that it is probably not that surprising.

Their was a general food store, a chemist, a sweet shop, bakery, hardware & tool shop, a pawn brokers, bicycle shop, gents outfitters, motorcycle shop, wireless shop, tobacconists, fish and chip shop and a builders merchants. Most of these were just for show, but the bakers had some cakes for sale, the sweet shop some sweets on offer, the chip shop always had a big queue for their fabulous fish & chips (yes, we did try them!) and even the gents outfitters had some things for sale which are replicas of old style clothes which they have specially made for them.

The pub was open for local beers too. This was a proper old "spit and sawdust" pub, complete with sawdust of the floor of the bar.

The most interesting ones were the houses though i felt. It was amazing to see how the families would have lived in these one up one down houses, sometimes with 6 children sharing the house with their parents. So that is EIGHT people living in a house not big enough to swing a cat in. The downstairs room being the kitchen, dining and living room, probably only about 12 feet square, and their being just one bedroom of the same size upstairs for them all. No running water, no toilet, no washing facilities, no gas, no electricity. A very simple life, but one which probably saw them quite content, as they knew nothing else. It wasn't as if they were jealous of their neighbours, as they were all in the same boat, and quite often your neighbour would be a relative anyway!

We spent 3 hours there, and while we walked around most of the site, we didn't see everything, and are looking forward to going back. It feels as though you would not get bored with repeated visits, as different parts of the site would be open, some bits that were too busy to go into today we can visit next time, and they do have special events and themed days too, so i think we will be making a few more visits during the next year.

If you haven't been to it yourself yet, make the time, and go - i doubt you will regret it!!

One of the "1930s" living rooms.

Inside the workshop part of the "Wireless Shop".

One of the 1930s kitchens.

The tobacconist shop.

The main street of the village.

The bakers shop.

Inside the chemist shop.

The downstairs room of a "one up one down" house.

The garden of the chemist, also showing the back of the house next door.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Kedleston Hall - a nice little place!!

Sally got up VERY early this morning and went with her dad for a walk with their chocolate labrador, Libbee. I have to confess that i was still fast asleep when this happened, but that is not too surprising considering the early hour involved!

The weather as a little overcast, but rain seemed unlikely, so we finally went to Kedleston Hall, which is a National Trust property a few miles from where Ron & Beryl live. If you have seen the film "The Duchess", you will have seen the house as it was used in the filming of that.

We were very lucky to be able to take part in a pre-opening talk by two of  the NT volunteers about the history of the house and the family who built it. This was a really interesting talk, and you could tell the they were really enthusiastic about the subject and obviously love their work at the Hall.

This was noticeable with all of the volunteers we encountered - quite often at NT properties they seem almost as though their job it to guard the places and make sure that you don't pinch anything - these were all keen to talk to you and tell you about things, explain the reasons behind some of the features, tell you stories about their history - they made the whole visit so much more interesting we thought.

Some of the rooms were stunning - both in size and decor. It turns out that the majority of the Hall was simply designed and built to show off the owners wealth and "culture", which we gather was the done thing in the mid to late 18th Century - it was important to let others know just how rich and cultured you were, even if you didn't really like the results. ( you do wonder if things have actually changed that much!!)

This photo is of the so called "Marble Hall" - in fact the vast columns are actually made from alabaster, and were originally installed as smooth round ones - the house owner wanted them fluted, and they were fluted in situ! There is over 2 miles of fluting on the columns in this room.

This next photo shows the detail in the tops of the columns.

This next room was converted into a ballroom some years after it was originally made, and was used in the film The Duchess. The photo cannot convey the sheer scale of the domed ceiling.

This next room is the "withdrawing room", where the ladies of the house went after dinner while the men continued drinking and smoking.

These final two photos are of some of the images within the domed room. They look as though they are in 3D, but in fact the images are totally flat.

All in all, we thought it was one of the best and most interesting of the NT properties we have visited - if you are ever in the Derby area, it is well worth a visit.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sunday 15th June - Father's Day

A dull and overcast day today. A nice lie in after the best night's sleep that I have had for quite a while. Maybe the answer is single beds then??!!

The original plan had been to go to Kedlestone Hall today, but the weather didn't give us any encouragement to go outside, with periodic showers and black clouds.

Instead, we spent a lovely day with Ron and Beryl, chatting, catching up on the gossip, and even playing games in the afternoon. (We showed them how to play "Ticket to Ride", but I have my doubts that they will get as hooked as we have been!)

The aftermath of the England v Italy game was all over the news, but it was no major surprise that we lost last night, if anything only losing by the one goal was a bit of a surprise!

I gather from speaking to my dad that the weather has been very hot and sunny back home while we have been away. I am dreading seeing what state the grass is in when we get back, but the nice thing is that we have the new driveway to look forward to. I have to arrange with the council to drop the curbs and then the job will be all finished. Then maybe we can get the garden sorted. One step at a time.....

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Friday 13th wasn't so bad

The weather was overcast for the whole day, but it stayed dry until late in the afternoon when there was one heavy shower.

Undecided about how to spend our last day in the lakes, we ended up driving around Coniston Water and making a few stops along the journey.

The first stop was at Brantwood, John Ruskin's home and having a brief look around an a cup of tea overlooking the lake.

Continuing along the East side of the lake, along the narrow "C" road (these are better than the "D" roads that we experienced earlier in the week!), we came across numerous parking spots with views of the lake, but we were heading for one on the western edge of the lake. This one had "facilities", by which it seems they mean it has toilets. It had no hand basins though, just a dispenser for hand sanitiser!

The car park had access to the lake side via a path, and it was only a few minute walk to get to the lake and the lovely view.

A couple were preparing their kayak to go out on the lake, and despite them not seeming to have much of an idea of what they were doing when they started out, they soon vanished from view.

Having spend about an hour admiring the view and the tranquility, we headed back up to Coniston village, parked up and went into the same cafe that we had been to on Sunday. Sally had some home made red pepper soup, and I had the home made pie and chips again. (The gravy and the mushy peas were so tasty that I just couldn't resist them!!)

A walk around the village was followed by a nice cream, and the. We made our way back to Ambleside and visited the garden centre that was not far from the cottage. It claims to be the largest garden centre in the area. I wouldn't be surprised if it is the largest in the country - it is absolutely massive. You could spend an entire day there and still probably not see it all.

It basically consists of a huge building built in a circle, which contains all the gifts, tools, clothes, etc that one finds in garden centres these days, and the plants are in the centre of the circle. If you are ever in the area, give it a visit, you will be amazed.

While we were there, the heavy shower happened, which saved the staff having to water the plants I suppose.

Back at the cottage, we had more tea and a chill out before having a meal made up of bits and bobs that needed using up. I watched he Spain v Netherlands football match, and them it was bed time for the last time here.

We have really enjoyed our time here. The only criticism of the cottage could be the difficult to use parking space and the road noise. We like to sleep with the bedroom window open, but the road noise was so loud that we couldn't here the radio that we have on all night. It is surprising just how busy the road is, even in the early hours of the morning.

We can't complain about the cottage itself. It was spotlessly clean, very well furnished and equipped, with high quality products. You would be quite happy to live there with what they have in it.

Would we come back? To the area - yes, in a heart beat. It is achingly beautiful, with plenty to see and do. A week probably wasn't long enough in some ways, but until we are fitter and able to do some of the walks the area offers, it is long enough. In terms of towns, we have pretty much done all the ones close by that are worth doing. There are some more National Trust (and similar) places to see, and I'm sure that we will come back.

As to whether we would go back to this cottage - probably not, and that is simply down to the parking and the road noise. We have now got a better idea of which parts we would like to stay in, and I would favour along Coniston Water myself, probably in a stone cottage tucked away somewhere.

It feels as though we have been off work for ages, and we are only half way through our holiday! We are going to Derby on Saturday to spend a couple of days with Sally's parents before heading back home on Monday. We have a few things we would like to do next week, and we have our fingers crossed for decent weather.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

An uneventful day...

Thursday, last but one day here. The weather was a bit dull and cloudy to begin with. Sally was the one sleeping in a bit more today, which made a change from it being me that made us later getting out!

We didn't really have anything in for breakfast, so we decided to head to Cartmel and have a late breakfast/early lunch there. I remember it being a tiny place, but it was even smaller than i remembered!

In the end, we opted to have something at the home of the famous sticky toffee pudding, which now has a cafe upstairs above their shop.

Sally opted for the home made mushroom soup, i went for a ham and pickle sandwich with salad. Both were very nice indeed.

Afterwards we had a walk around the village and checked out the gift shops. We can remember buying a wooded wind chime from one of the shops the last time we were there.

Before leaving the village we went back to the village shop and got a take away sticky toffee pudding with a scoop of ice cream. It was absolutely delicious!!

We then made our way to Kendal, which seems to be the biggest town in the area. I would say that it is about the size of Leamington, it is a very picturesque town with plenty of old buildings, but despite there being a lot of shops, there really wasn't much there.

It has more than its fair share of charity shops, as do most towns now if we are honest, there were the usual suspects from the list of multiples, all the mobile phone shops etc, but not a lot to whet your appetite to part with any money.

Luckily, there was a small Marks & Spencer where we were able to top up on supplies, and then we headed back home.

Supplies were put away, and then, as the sun was now out and gracing us with its presence, we went and sat on the edge of the lake for an hour or so, and watched the world go by.

As the light changed, so did the views, the colours change on the hills, what you can see clearly alters - this truly is a view you would never tire of.

The World Cup starts tonight, and i have to admit that i am a little bit excited. I know the chances of England winning the trophy are pretty much close to zero, but that is beside the point - this is the World Cup, and for any football fan, that is something a little bit special.

So, you will have to excuse me now - kick off in the first game is but a few moments away.....

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Choo choo or doo doo - I'm not sure which is right.......

What can I tell you about today that won't get me into trouble with the political correctness brigade? It was a day when we didn't DO that much, but actually DID experience rather a lot.

The weather forecast had always predicted that Wednesday would be the best day of the week, so we had long planned that it would be the day we did a boat trip on the lake. In the end it was the day we did five boat trips and a train journey for good measure. It was also the day that gave us the most laughs so far, mostly at other peoples expense, but it was a day that proved people watching is possibly the most interesting pastime there is.

We had a reasonably early start for us, and caught the boat from Ambleside to Bowness. This is a trip of about 40 minutes, taking in the northern part of the lake down to the mid-way point. The weather was bright and sunny, though there was quite a breeze which made it a little chilly. As we got about half way to Bowness, there was a definite change, and while the top end of the lake was still in sunshine, the further South you looked, the blacker and more threatening it looked. There almost seemed to be a line drawn between the two areas.

At Bowness, we were able to stay on the boat as it was going all the way down the lake to Lakeside. During this stop over, lots of people left the boat only to be replaced by even more, and there were an awful lot of Chinese people who got on the boat. It is an awful thing to say, but it did feel a little like we had been transported to Kowloon Harbour instead.

The three things that became very apparent about out new ship mates were that they have truly dreadful dress sense, almost like a colour blind person had got dressed in the dark - in a charity shop. They seem to have to take photos of everything - any time a point of interest was mentioned over the tannoy, they would all rush to that side of the boat and takes hundreds of photos. The third thing is that they didn't seem like they could keep still, they seemed to constantly be milling about going from one friend to another. It made me feel dizzy.

The weather was now clearing up a bit more, and some of the views of the surrounding mountains were beautiful.

We now arrived at Lakeside, where we left the boat to catch a steam train for the short trip to Haverthwaite. This is only a 20 minute trip, but being on an old steam train makes it seem more special than it probably is.

I had read that there was a restaurant and a museum at the station, so had planned to stop for a while rather than just stay on the train for the journey straight back. It turns out that it was more of a basic cafe and an engine shed, but we did have a superb home made scone and a mug of tea in the cafe, and a quick look around the engine shed proved fairly interesting.

It was while on the journey to the station that the title of this post came about. As the train was pulling out of the station at Lakeside, the driver blew his whistle, "choo choo" it went, and a lady in our carriage with a young child called out "doo doo", and continued to do so every time the driver blew the whistle. We were in bits by the time we got to Haverthwaite, and it became the theme of the day.

The trip back to Lakeside an hour later was without incident, and I actually dozed of for a couple of minutes, which made the journey seem even shorter than it actually was.

Back on the boat for leg 3 of the nautical part of our trip, and we came across some more characters. There was a school party on this part of the trip, and the children couldn't keep still and were running up and down the boat despite their teachers trying to keep them under control.

It would seem that two of the adults in their party were not exactly teachers of theirs but visitors to their school, as at one point one of the children tried to justify why he was about to go down to the lower deck with the explanation "but the Africans are down there!"

We looked at one another aghast, but I suppose he could have said something worse.

Also, on this part of the trip was a pirate looking old man, who decided that the best viewpoint on the boat was his, and he set up himself there for the majority of the journey, and was reluctant to give it up for anyone else. He did make for some good photos of my own though.

The weather was now fabulous, and the views were even better.

Back at Bowess, we had decided that as the tickets we had allowed for unlimited trips today, we would take the boat that takes you around the central party of Windermere and shows you the small islands.

This was on a smaller boat, and only 45 minutes long.

This was full of American teenagers, mostly female, who spent most of the trip talking loudly and discussing which features of their digital cameras they like best. It seems that the "toy camera" setting is the "coolest", and also the "colour swap" one, which meant that this one girl was able to take a photo which made the lake green and the hillside blue. I gather that this one was also rather "cool" or even "awesome" as one put it. I made a mental note to investigate the more inane features of my camera if ever I felt I was loosing the will to live.......

Finally, on the final leg of our trip, we found ourself back on the first boat of the day for the journey back to Ambleside. The sun was now very hot, so we elected to sit inside rather than up top on this part, which may have been a mistake as this meant there was no breeze to take away some of the heat.

We made it back to port with no further adventures, and back onto dry land. We waved the boat off and set off in search of food, ending up at the fish and chip shop not far from the cottage.

Tired after the excitement of the day, full after our meal, we spent the evening chilling out and laughing about some of the stranger events of the wonderful day we had shared.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tuesday 10th June 2014

Despite the weather forecast saying it would be a wet day, it was bright and sunny to begin with, and the whole day ended up being much better than they had predicted, with only a few brief showers during the afternoon.

We drove to the South end of lake Windermere to the village of Lakeside. I had gathered that there was a shopping outlet village type thing there, but it turns out that i had that totally wrong, and all there is there is a marina for the Windermere boats. So our stay there was so brief that we didn't even get out of the car!

On our way there though, we had spotted a National Trust place that we hadn't been aware of called Fell Foot, which is a Victorian Country Park. It is basically an area of parkland with some landscaped garden areas, with paths down to the side of the lake. The old boat house has been turned into a cafe, and you can hire rowing boats there if you wish.

We just walked around most of the grounds, including the large "meadow" area, which was all very pleasant. The view across to some of the mountains and up the length of the lake were excellent.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the park, and stopping for a quick cup of tea, we made our way a bit further up the lake to the town of Bowness on Windermere. This seems to be the "main" town along the lake, and certainly has more shops than any of the other towns locally.

As you would expect, it has more than its fair share of eating establishments, and it would have been rude not to have partaken of one of them, and as we knew that there was another branch of Byson's there, we sought that out and parked ourselves in their tea rooms.

Having found out the hard way yesterday that their afternoon teas are a bit too much to handle (we still have two of the cakes left from yesterday!), we opted for the ploughman's lunch, and it was quite nice, although the service was not up to the standard of the branch in Keswick.

We then had a good walk around the town, failed to find anything particularly exciting, but i did ask one of the ladies in the Beatrix Potter shop why Peter Rabbit always looks so angry. I had noticed that all of the cuddly toys of him being sold everywhere have him scowling and looking as though is saying "come on then, i'll have you!!" in the manor of a football hooligan, and i just don't think it is fitting for a children's character.

She wasn't able to give me a definite answer, and she did profess that she had never been asked this question before, but she did agree with me that he does have a certain look about him!

I haven't got any photos of Bowness, hence the image here of the interesting trees from Fell Foot.

From Bowness we moved onto the town of Windermere to the Lakeland Plastics store, which is their flagship store and head office. It looks very impressive, but we were both rather surprised that it is no better stocked than most of their ordinary stores, just better laid out and with room to move between the displays.

Sally did manage to fill a basket with goodies from there that we needed for our kitchen back home.

By now, my back was aching again, and Sally's feet were beginning to hurt, so we headed back to the cottage for tea, and in my case a doze, in Sally's case some colouring.

The flower is one that i photographed at Fell Foot.

Dinner tonight was fish fingers with baked beans and mashed potato, which went down a treat with both us us.

We had decided not to go for a walk this evening, which is just as well, as a few minutes ago it threw it down with rain, and it was so heavy that within a couple of minutes the road was VERY VERY wet.

This storm has now passed and the rain is nowhere nearly as heavy just now, but the sky is still very black, and i wonder if we are going to get the thunder storms that they had promised most of the country today......

We will finish today with an obligatory photo of the two of us i think...... :-)