Get­away: Lake Dis­trict

Al and Char­lotte Smith en­joy spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes and tran­quil lake­side camp­sites in Cum­bria’s Na­tional Park

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

Char­lotte and Al Smith ex­plore Cum­bria’s Na­tional Park from tran­quil lake­side camp­sites

TRAV­EL­LING LIGHT WAS the name of the game when we pre­pared to visit the glo­ri­ous land­scapes of the Lake Dis­trict in the sum­mer. On our pre­vi­ous ex­cur­sion, the car had been strug­gling to as­cend steep hills while tow­ing, so we had to lose some weight. The prob­lem be­gan be­cause we had to take the guinea pig’s hutch, run and other para­pher­na­lia on hol­i­day – it was weigh­ing us down. But his spe­cial care needs meant that he had to come car­a­van­ning with us again. So what else could we leave be­hind?

Off to Raven­glass

Do we re­ally need fresh shirts ev­ery day? The toaster? Spare socks? The elec­tric heater? Does the saucepan need a lid? Do we need so many books and mag­a­zines? Can’t the DVD cases stay at home? Have we got a sam­ple bot­tle of sham­poo? In the end, dozens of items were left be­hind. It was a hor­ren­dous eight-hour jour­ney from Buck­ing­hamshire to Cum­bria, where we got stuck in ‘smart mo­tor­way’ road­works on the M6 for two hours; these are sched­uled to con­tinue into 2019. A crash site and a trac­tor added to the fun. Our even­tual ar­rival at Raven­glass Camp­ing and Car­a­van­ning Club Site was a relief. Raven­glass and Eskdale Rail­way is just across the road from the site, so in the morn­ing, we caught the first train and watched the tran­quil scenery pass by, be­fore alight­ing at Dale­garth, the ter­mi­nus. Then we walked through some beau­ti­ful coun­try­side and wood­land to see Dale­garth Falls, and on to Gill Force, a spec­tac­u­lar cas­cade on the River Esk. While try­ing to reach a view­point, I slipped and fell into a bog, got soaked, and had to dry out my clothes un­der the hand-dryer in the sta­tion wash­rooms. Af­ter lunch, we went by steam train to The Green, a sta­tion near a coun­try pub. Our next stop, Ir­ton Road, was in Eskdale Green village, where there are very pretty houses, a shop, a church, a wood­land walk and some stripy cows (Belted Gal­loways). Hav­ing been ad­vised not to dis­em­bark at Mun­caster Mill, be­cause the route to the cas­tle was boggy, we re­turned

to Raven­glass, where we looked round the sta­tion mu­seum, then ex­plored the Ro­man Baths, the har­bour and the village cen­tre. If you plan to travel on this rail­way, it’s worth know­ing that the trains don’t stop at all sta­tions. One sta­tion is for pick-ups only, and an­other, we were told, was ‘too boggy’ for a re­quest stop. So we ended up back at Raven­glass by 3pm. But if you don’t want to be back that early, con­sider spend­ing a bit more time at Dale­garth, where you can visit the her­itage mill and take a short walk to Boot village.

En­nerdale and Was­dale

The next day, we vis­ited En­nerdale and ex­plored the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, moors and heath­land, with sheep on the road and threat­en­ing skies over­head. At En­nerdale Wa­ter, we fol­lowed a lake­side path through the valley, lap­ping up the views and the serene en­vi­ron­ment. Light show­ers and hazy sun­shine punc­tu­ated the cloudy skies. We trav­elled on to glo­ri­ous Wast­wa­ter, Eng­land’s deep­est lake, where peo­ple were pad­dling in­flat­able craft. Fur­ther up the valley is Was­dale Head, which of­fers some lovely walks through the hills and val­leys, pass­ing St Olaf’s, the small­est parish church in Eng­land.

Camp­ing at Keswick

Af­ter three days at Raven­glass, we moved on to Keswick Camp­ing and Car­a­van­ning Club Site, which is in a stun­ning lo­ca­tion on the banks of Der­went­wa­ter. We spent our first af­ter­noon ex­plor­ing this busy town. It’s full of out­door gear shops, fas­ci­nat­ing crafts, and one em­po­rium with amaz­ing nov­elty items, in­clud­ing Harry Potter mem­o­ra­bilia, tucked away in a court­yard off the High Street. A 10-mile walk around Der­went­wa­ter took us past the The­atre by the Lake, the John Ruskin Memo­rial and the Na­tional Trust Cen­te­nary Stone. The map from the tourist board guided us to a bridge that was washed away by floods in 2015 – at which point, we should have re­turned to the road, but in­stead, we tried to go on to the bridge at Lodore Falls. Half an hour later, rather frus­trated and un­able to find the bridge, we turned back. It turns out that much of the lake­side is pri­vately owned be­yond that point, with foot­paths di­verted from the waterside. So if you want to do the best bits and leave the rest, catch the ferry back to Keswick just af­ter you pass Lodore Falls Ho­tel. We were weary by the time we got back to camp, but mus­tered up enough en­ergy to drive to Cast­lerigg Stone Cir­cle be­fore tea. English Her­itage sug­gest you imag­ine Druids, sac­ri­fices and rit­u­als tak­ing place in­side the cir­cle – it helps to bring the mon­u­ment to life. The set­ting, among glo­ri­ous hills and val­leys, is beau­ti­ful. We re­turned to the site and picked up our car­a­van bat­tery from re­cep­tion. The staff had charged it for us while we were out, as it was al­most dead. The au­to­matic recharg­ing mech­a­nism on our car­a­van doesn’t work and we didn’t bring the charger be­cause we thought the bat­tery would last 10 days (and we re­ally were try­ing not to over­load the car­a­van). It didn’t even last five days, though. The Camp­ing and Car­a­van­ning Club came to the res­cue and by 5pm, we had a fully pow­ered bat­tery, which lasted for the rest of the hol­i­day. Our he­roes! The next morn­ing, we de­cided to visit The Puz­zling Place in Keswick, which de­scribes it­self as ‘a world of op­ti­cal il­lu­sions’. The dis­torted rooms here cre­ate rather odd il­lu­sions that make you look large or small, or give you the ap­pear­ance of be­ing able to lev­i­tate or walk on a ver­ti­cal wall. Balls ap­pear to roll up-hill. It’s all a bit strange, al­though the visual il­lu­sions are amus­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing. The puz­zles in­clude a bot­tom­less chest, mir­ror il­lu­sions and a spin­ning wheel that makes you see odd­i­ties hap­pen­ing to your own hand. There’s also a gallery of holograms.

Bliss­ful But­ter­mere

We went to But­ter­mere in the af­ter­noon, through Hon­is­ter Pass, a glo­ri­ous land­scape with a pretty stream in pop­u­lar walk­ing coun­try. There’s also a slate mine here, of­fer­ing guided tours. As we fol­lowed the But­ter­mere lake­side walk, we passed wa­ter­falls, streams and wildlife, all set in a back­drop of stun­ning scenery and beau­ti­ful re­flec­tions. You can do this cir­cu­lar walk in about two hours; it’s four-and-a-half miles long. There’s a tun­nel be­side the lake, a charming fea­ture, dug out in the 19th cen­tury by the landowner, who wanted to walk around the lake with­out climb­ing the rocks. Back at camp in the evening, chil­dren were row­ing rub­ber dinghies on the wa­ter be­side the camp­site, the play­ground was busy, peo­ple were cy­cling, barbecues were alight, and our guinea pig had ac­quired a fan club. It was very lively, with ev­ery­one out and about en­joy­ing the sun­shine.

Tales of Beatrix Potter

The next day, we vis­ited the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Gar­den, on the Lingholm Es­tate, where Beatrix Potter spent many hol­i­days in her youth, usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by her pets. She was in­spired by the beauty of Der­went­wa­ter and in­cluded el­e­ments of her ex­pe­ri­ences here in her sto­ries. Set in beau­ti­ful gar­dens and with a small dis­play of lo­cal art­work, the café is a great place to stop for tea and cake. En­try to the walled gar­den is free – you can even take an al­paca for a walk if you wish. We trav­elled on to Win­der­mere Camp­ing and Car­a­van­ning Club Site and spent the af­ter­noon ex­plor­ing Bow­ness and Lake Win­der­mere. A visit to Fell Foot, a coun­try park on the banks of the lake, con­cluded a tran­quil af­ter­noon amid glo­ri­ous scenery,

dozens of boats, chil­dren play­ing in the wa­ter and wild­fowl beg­ging for food. In the evening, the whole camp­site came alive with rab­bits, and as dark­ness fell, hedge­hogs ven­tured out, too. Win­der­mere CCC Site is a wildlife haven, but look out for the rab­bit holes. The toi­let block looked good, and morn­ing con­firmed that the show­ers were hot and toasty, but don’t leave your shoes on the floor be­hind the cur­tain – mine got wet.

Crea­tures great and small

We spent the next day at South Lakes Sa­fari Zoo; just £5 per adult (kids go free). The high­light of our visit was the lively gi­ant ot­ter feed­ing ses­sion, where they leapt onto the grassy bank and tore into their food. My favourite, though, was the con­dor. This amaz­ing bird of prey from North Amer­ica has a wing span of up to 3.4m. Watch­ing them fly across the huge aviary was quite a spec­ta­cle. Nearby Fur­ness Abbey is a fab­u­lous ruin dat­ing from the 1120s. You can read about the life of the monks and the Pre­ston fam­ily, who con­verted the di­lap­i­dated build­ings into a dwelling and lived there un­til the end of the 17th cen­tury. On our fi­nal day, we vis­ited Siz­ergh Cas­tle, a me­dieval house with a stun­ning rock gar­den, the Stumpery – show­cas­ing its fine col­lec­tions of ferns – park­land trails, a kitchen gar­den and an or­chard. The cas­tle in­te­ri­ors are or­nate, with carved chim­ney­p­ieces, wood pan­elling, gor­geous drapes and four-poster beds. An af­ter­noon at Con­is­ton Wa­ter was charming, and as our hol­i­day came to an end, we took a dif­fer­ent route home – only to dis­cover the M1 had road­works, too.

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You can take a close look at all kinds of an­i­mals at South Lakes Sa­fari Zoo, in­clud­ing the gi­ant ot­ters

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