Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sunday 8th June 2014

We awoke to glorious sunshine - such a difference to yesterday! We had both slept well, and the bed is very comfortable I am pleased to report. The shower that is over the horse trough sized bath is a little complicated to use. You turn the handle to make the water come out as one would expect, only to find the water coming out of the "tap" and just making your feet wet! It turns out that you have to also push a button, which diverts the water to the shower head. Once you are aware of this, it's fine, but the first time you use it, especially when you are half asleep, it seems overly complicated!

Our first port of call today was the village of Hawkeshead. We had been there before when we spent a few days in the area ten years ago, so it is not too surprising that it all looked totally different to how we both remembered it. The big Hawkeshead outdoor shop is still the focal point of the village, but it seemed smaller than I recalled, and this time it had very little in the way of special offers, whereas last time the whole top floor was devoted to them. They also now have quite a large cafe area in store, which does make you wonder if that is more profitable to them than sales of clothing.

In fact the whole village is mostly given over to caf├ęs, pubs and restaurants. It is not that surprising I suppose as it is such a beautiful little village.

We did also discover something new to us regarding car parking. There seems to be quite a few in the area that use the "pay after stay" system. Nothing new there you are thinking, except this system involves no ticket being given as you enter the car park. Instead, your number plate is photographed as you drive in, and is logged on their system along with the time you entered.

What you have to do is remember to go to the machine just before you leave, enter your registration number and it tells you how much you owe, you pay this and then drive away.

I wonder how many people get caught out by this and totally forget to pay before they leave only to receive a penalty notice in the post sometime later? The charges also seem a little odd, a standard charge for the first hour, and then a bit extra for each extra 20 minutes you stay. It can work out quite expensive if you stay for a long time, but thankfully, everywhere we have come across this system so far only has a very limited range of shops, so your stay is never likely to bankrupt you.

Next we moved onto the tiny village of Sawrey, where "Hill Top" is, the location of Beatrix Potter's cottage. This is a National Trust property, and i know that Sally was quite keen to pay it a visit. The small car park was full, but we were pointed towards the hotel carpark next door instead. The lady who signed us in told us that we were fortunate that it was very quiet today! Goodness know what the place gets like at busy times then!

The cottage itself is very small, with there being only two rooms downstairs, and four rooms upstairs available to visitors. Virtually everything in the cottage belong to Beatrix at some point during her life, and I'm sure that to an officianado of her work it would have been very interesting, but I am sorry to say that I was a little bit let down by it. Compared to all of the NT houses we have been to before I felt it lacked something. The garden was very pretty, though again rather small. It didn't take too long to see all there was to see there, but I am glad we went, and in its own little way, it was quite interesting.

Next, we had a quick drink in the small pub next door to Beatrix's cottage, and Sally made a new friend at one of the other cottages in the village. I do think that Mr McGregor took quite a shine to her!

We then went on a bit of an "adventure" down very narrow twisty lanes to Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre. If I had know just what the roads were going to be like, I may well have not suggested we take the left turn onto them. Even the in car satnav decided that there weren't actually any roads in the area! Let's just say that it was a bit "hairy" at times and leave it at that.

The visitor centre had another of the Big Brother CCTV carpark systems, but this one made it even less obvious as to what you were supposed to do, so I'm sure they get plenty of people who forget to pay before they leave and get the dreaded knock on the door later.

If we were fitter and more active I'm sure we would have spent more time here, as there are many forest walks, cycle rides (complete with bike hire), zip wires through the tree tops, climbing, jumping, sliding and what have you - all great for kids of all ages, but maybe not for two somewhat unfit oldies!!

The road then took us miles out of our way as we tried to make our way to the village of Coniston. While it was only a few miles away as the crow flies, there simply were no roads to get us there in a direct way, so we had to head South along even narrower and twistier roads until we finally hit an "A" road and were able to go in the right direction. It was a pleasant sight to see roads that actually had a white line down the middle!

We were then able to turn back North and head up the Western side of Coniston Water and finally into Coniston village itself at the North end of the lake. Once there, I realised that we had been there before. I only realised this when I saw the huge sight of the "Old Man of Coniston" towering over the village.

We had a bite to eat here, as we hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast, and it was now almost 4 o'clock. We decided on a bustling cafe and both had pie and chips with mushy peas and gravy. It looked nice, and tasted even better. It really hit the spot and set us up for the rest of the day.

On the way back to Ambleside, I decided that we should take a slight detour along what promised to be a road taking us to nowhere except offering a bit of a view. I should really have known better. Yes, it offered us some stunning views, but the carpark at the beauty spot turned out to not being either much of a car park or be clearly marked, so we missed it, found there was no easy way to turn around, and ended up having to leave the area via a road that even the map hardly marked. It was basically a single track farmers track. It made the roads through Grizedale Forest seem almost like a dual carriageway. It was narrow, winding, steep, and downright scary in places! If only the photos would have given the views justice, but as usual, they just don't convey the true scale and beauty of the area.

Finally back at the cottage in Ambleside we decided to go for a walk while the weather was still so nice, as the forecast for the next few days is not so good. We sat down at the edge of Lake Windermere and watched the boats for a while before finally heading back to base for a well earned mug of tea.

I had a doze while Sally did some colouring with her watercolour pens, which she is really getting the hang of and enjoying very much.

We didn't want anything else to eat until 9 o'clock, and had some crackers, cheese and fruit. We had bought some cheese from Booths yesterday that has apple, sultanas and cinnamon in it, and it is absolutely fab.

As I am typing this, it is just starting to get a little dark (it is almost 10pm), we are both tired, but happy at what we have done today - we got a lot more done than we expected to, and the weather has been lovely which was a nice surprise.

I think the two words that sum up today's experience of the Lake District are "achingly beautiful", and I have a feeling that phrase will re-occur throughout the week.

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