Monday, February 20, 2006

Postcard from the Lake District (1)

Saturday, 18th February 2006

Lake Windermere, England’s longest lake, must surely rank as one of the most beautiful areas within the British Isles. Described by the poet Wordsworth as ‘like a vast river, stretching in the sun’, it is the setting for the adventures of Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and for the many tales of Beatrix Potter. It sits surrounded by tree-clad shores beyond which, gentle countryside rises to towering fells. Several islands within the lake add to its charm, as do the many sailing boats dotted around its waters.

The day started well, with an overnight mist and frost soon lifting to reveal a blue sky scattered with white fluffy clouds of the cumulus variety.

Leaving the car at Ferry Nab, near Bowness, we caught the ferry across to the western shore. The lake was calm and there was little in the way of wind, making the passage akin to that of a vast swan gliding serenely over the water. Even the gentle throb of the engine failed to disturbed the tranquillity of the crossing.

Our walk took us via a ruin known as Claife Station. This is the site of one of the Victorian viewpoints for the lake. It was once a building with vast windows, all of which were fitted with different coloured glass, so as to give the impression of the effect on the mood of the lake by the changing seasons, or the impact of moonlight or a thunderstorm.

From the station, we progressed through woodland inhabited by red squirrels, accompanied, as we walked, by the constant song of robins and chaffinches. The route took us to the village of Far Sawrey and then on to Near Sawrey and Hill Top, the latter once being the home of Beatrix Potter and now preserved by the National Trust. Every so often, we caught glimpses of the waters of the lake below us, sparkling in the winter sunshine.

Lunch was a sandwich, taken seated on limestone rocks on the edge of woodland, overlooking pastureland where sheep quietly grazed. In the distance, the mountainous hills could be seen to be snow clad on their upper slopes. Whilst above us, a mewing sound drew attention to a buzzard, patrolling the area in vast lazy circles. A blissful silence was otherwise our companion, making for a most relaxing setting.

After lunch, and after crossing a few miles of open pastureland, pausing only to take some photographs of the church of St Peter in Far Sawrey as it nestled within the green rolling fields with the hills as a backdrop, we reached a path alongside Lake Windermere and thus returned to the ferry.

Back in the Yorkshire Dales, what had been a most satisfying day was rounded off by a meal at one of our favourite restaurants in Skipton. Le Caveau is to be found in the High Street, in what were once the dungeons of the 16th century Toll Gate to the town. The stone walls and vaulted ceilings give an interesting character to the restaurant, where the hospitality is warm and welcoming and the food simply delicious.

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