Get­away: Lake District

Har­vey, Ben and Anna Lyon en­joy a tra­di­tional fam­ily cel­e­bra­tion – and some snow – in the Lake District

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

Anna Lyon and fam­ily cel­e­brate a tra­di­tional Christ­mas with a twist, amidst the beau­ti­ful lakes and fells

PRE-EMPTING BEN’S AN­SWER, Har­vey and I agreed that we would ex­change ‘small’ Christ­mas presents be­fore ask­ing 10-year-old Ben if he would he con­sider spend­ing Christ­mas away in the con­fines of Tintin (our caravan). Thank­fully, he thought this was a bril­liant plan – and of course, fes­tive fam­ily tra­di­tions would still be kept, with the ad­di­tional prom­ise of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore the ma­jes­tic moun­tains and lakes in the Na­tional Park of the Lake District. As al­ways, the lead-up to Christ­mas was hec­tic, as schools filled the days with play re­hearsals, carol con­certs, fetes, par­ties – and end-of-term tests. Some­how, we made it to the fin­ish line, pack­ing the caravan dur­ing the evenings so we could leave straight after our chairs were on the desks for the hol­i­days! With Grandma Choco­late con­ve­niently lo­cated half­way be­tween us and the Lakes, we stopped off in Soli­hull for our first Christ­mas din­ner, and to buy as much food as we could cram into our lit­tle fridge.

Lights, ac­tion, Christ­mas car­ols

Feel­ing re­laxed after a good night’s sleep, we made the straight­for­ward jour­ney to Con­is­ton Park Cop­pice, where we were greeted by the war­dens with mulled wine and mince pies. This spa­cious 63-acre site on a steep hill­side in Na­tional Trust wood­land has var­i­ous level sec­tions and hard­stand­ings; we had no trou­ble find­ing a suitable pitch. Con­scious of the fad­ing light, we set up our awning, com­plete with tree and lights, leav­ing Ben and his ca­nine friend, Lucy, to dec­o­rate in­side. Soon car­ols were play­ing in Tintin and, with nib­bles set out, it was be­gin­ning to feel a lot like Christ­mas! Keen to get our bear­ings the next day, we took the foot­path to­wards Con­is­ton (once a cop­per min­ing vil­lage) along­side Con­is­ton Wa­ter, with ac­cess from the bot­tom of the site across fields to Con­is­ton Wa­ter. Ben had been read­ing about the chil­dren’s ad­ven­tures in Swal­lows and Ama­zons; Peel Is­land in Con­is­ton Wa­ter be­came Wild Cat Is­land in Arthur Ran­some’s book.

Blue­bird at Con­is­ton

Lake Con­is­ton also at­tracted Sir Mal­colm Camp­bell, who set the world wa­ter speed record there in 1939, reach­ing 141mph in the orig­i­nal Blue­bird. Sadly, his son Don­ald per­ished on the lake in 1967, hav­ing achieved both land- and wa­ter-speed records in Aus­tralia. On his first run at Con­is­ton, he touched al­most 300mph, but his Blue­bird K7 hy­droplane hit a patch of tur­bu­lence, som­er­saulted and sank. Ben wanted to learn more, so we made our way to the Ruskin Mu­seum, to visit the Blue­bird Wing, where you can track the lat­est devel­op­ments in the re­con­struc­tion of Don­ald Camp­bell’s Blue­bird. The wreck­age of the craft was lifted from the lake bed in 2001 (find out more at blue­bird­pro­ject.com). The mu­seum is named after John Ruskin, the great Vic­to­rian art critic and so­cial com­men­ta­tor, who lived nearby. As well as the Blue­bird Wing, it tells the story of Con­is­ton, and has a won­der­ful minia­ture vil­lage just out­side, which was es­tab­lished by the late John Usher, mem­ber of a fam­ily of lo­cal builders. Seek­ing Don­ald Camp­bell’s grave, we went to the small church ceme­tery be­hind the Crown Ho­tel, then on to the heart of the vil­lage and St An­drew’s Church, where we de­cided to at­tend the Christ­in­gle ser­vice. Need­ing to re­fuel, we stopped off at the bak­ery, then ate our cakes on the peb­ble shore­line of Con­is­ton Boat­ing Cen­tre, a 10-minute stroll down Lake Road. Pop­u­lar in sum­mer, the lake of­fers boat, kayak and

dinghy rental, as well as trips on the Steam Yacht Gon­dola (much to Ben’s amuse­ment, boats are now lim­ited to 10mph). We en­joyed the out-of-sea­son tran­quil­lity – while Lucy en­joyed the ducks! Then back at the caravan, we made Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions be­fore set­tling down to watch a film. Ben was ex­cited that to­mor­row was Christ­mas Eve – what would Santa bring?

Christ­in­gle and duck

Christ­mas Eve was to be our ex­plor­ing day. With no need for last-minute prepa­ra­tions, we headed off after a ba­con sand­wich, park­ing our car at Hayes Gar­den World, to be greeted by singing rein­deer and en­chant­ing Christ­mas dis­plays. Leav­ing the car at the gar­den cen­tre, we walked to­wards Win­der­mere, Eng­land’s largest and most fa­mous lake. We chose a short cruise (win­der­mere-lake­cruises.co.uk) and had the boat all to our­selves, be­fore stop­ping off at the pet shop by the pier to buy Lucy a sur­prise stock­ing filler. Next stop, five miles north-west of Win­der­mere, was Am­ble­side, where we were de­lighted to find that the fa­mous 17th-cen­tury Bridge House was open. To avoid the busy shop­pers, we lim­ited our­selves to a cou­ple of out­door cloth­ing shops to buy warmer gloves, be­fore head­ing back to get ready for the Christ­in­gle ser­vice at 4pm. With Christ­mas jumpers on and the ta­ble set for our re­turn, we en­joyed the friendly ser­vice at St An­drew’s Church. Ben joined in, mak­ing his Christ­in­gle light. Can­dles made and only a few sweets hav­ing dis­ap­peared, the church lights were turned off and car­ols sung in the won­der­ful at­mo­spheric set­ting. With tra­di­tional duck and pan­cakes on the Christ­mas Eve menu, Lucy made very sure she sat clos­est to the Re­moska in the awning. As we would do in our other home, we en­joyed an evening of games, swap­ping lit­tle presents be­fore set­tling down to read the next few chap­ters of our Christ­mas book – A Boy called Christ­mas, by Matt Haig. We ended our day with a Christ­mas Eve stroll, with Lucy in tow, look­ing at all of the beau­ti­ful lights around the camp­site.

Fa­ther Christ­mas found us

Christ­mas morn­ing saw ev­ery­one on our bed – Lucy en­ter­tained us with her presents and co­pi­ous amounts of wrap­ping pa­per to rip – chaos, but won­der­ful! The beauty of a twin dinette in our van means no­body hav­ing to rush about, and the break­fast ta­ble was laid for Har­vey to present us with salmon, scram­bled eggs, brioche and (for the adults) a bot­tle of cham­pagne – we didn’t even have to move to un­cork the bot­tle!

'Christ­mas Eve was ex­plor­ing day, so we headed to Win­der­mere'

Sadly, it wasn’t a white Christ­mas in the Lake District, but we walked along­side the lake to Con­is­ton for some fresh air, which in­volved some se­ri­ous pud­dle ne­go­ti­a­tion, if not the odd pud­dle splash­ing. Ben also hap­pily played with a stock­ing present that sang an­noy­ingly high-pitched car­ols, while munch­ing his way through too many choco­late but­tons. Be­ing pre­pared, we had bought a clothes rack to store in the awning, which proved in­valu­able to hang up our coats. A large, very ef­fi­cient on-site dry­ing room meant any wet clothes were soon dry. With Lucy ready for a power nap, I set up the two Re­moskas to en­able us to have our rather im­pres­sive full Christ­mas din­ner, pre­pared in my ‘kitchen awning’, then car­ried on with the more se­ri­ous busi­ness of open­ing presents. Lucy took charge of pulling crack­ers and was de­lighted with her spe­cial Christ­mas din­ner. Har­vey and I, with slightly tilted Christ­mas crowns, re­laxed, know­ing we had achieved a happy Christ­mas day for all.

West for a long walk

Box­ing Day is prob­a­bly my favourite time: cooked meats and all-day buf­fet, with plenty of time to look at all the presents – well, after a good long walk. We headed west to­wards Torver, all very ex­cited to see snow on the moun­tains (so it was a white Christ­mas!). A cir­cu­lar route took us through Torver Com­mon Woods, up Torver Beck to see the wa­ter­falls, then back to base­camp, for an af­ter­noon of eat­ing and re­lax­ing. Well fed and rested, we de­cided next day to try to get closer to the snow and climb the 600m to reach the sum­mit of the Old Man of Con­is­ton (2635ft). We were pre­pared for all weathers, with ex­tra cloth­ing, emer­gency ra­tions and wa­ter, and Ben grabbed his walk­ing stick, ea­ger to start. There are var­i­ous ways of ap­proach­ing this, the most pop­u­lar be­ing to start the in vil­lage, 1.9 miles away. How­ever, we drove to the car park, with the sum­mit in sight to spur us all on. Ben and Lucy marched ahead, crack­ing the ice un­der­foot and break­ing off ici­cles to lick. The steep, twisted route took us through aban­doned quarry works un­til we reached Low Wa­ter tarn, which was cov­ered in snow. Look­ing up to­wards the snowy sum­mit, we could see that go­ing any fur­ther would be haz­ardous, so after en­joy­ing a quick snow­ball fight and a roll in the snow, we made our slow de­scent.

Let it snow!

Snow was fore­cast for the next day, so we took down our awning be­fore head­ing off to Gras­mere un­der clear blue skies. After vis­it­ing Heaton Cooper Stu­dio and Dove Cot­tage, we fol­lowed our noses to the Gras­mere Gin­ger­bread Shop, then took a stroll around the Wordsworth Me­mo­rial Daf­fodil Gar­den, munch­ing our gor­geous gin­ger­bread en route. The evening turned bit­terly cold, so we all had an early night. Next morn­ing, Ben woke us by ex­cit­edly an­nounc­ing that it had snowed. Happy to join in the ex­cite­ment, Lucy jumped up and down on the bed! The war­dens ad­vised that it was not sen­si­ble to travel any­where by car, so we were of­fi­cially snowed in. Wel­lies on, we headed to Con­is­ton and there, at a lo­cal DIY mer­chant, we found the last red sleigh for sale – at £5 we could not be­lieve our luck, and joined the lo­cals to spend a few hours on the slopes. After an amaz­ing af­ter­noon, we dried off in The Ship Inn, en­joy­ing a hot meal and drinks be­side their beau­ti­ful Christ­mas tree. An evening head­torch sleigh ride was a treat to end a truly mag­i­cal Christ­mas. The snow melted dur­ing the night, to make way for an easy jour­ney home. “Per­haps we should go away next year,” Ben an­nounced; we think he is ab­so­lutely right!

FROM TOP LEFT Anna, Ben and Lucy brave the great out­doors. All dressed up for Christ­mas Eve. The last red sleigh! Ben and Anna on the slopes. Time to be­gin the cel­e­bra­tions. Lucy takes charge of pulling crack­ers

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