Oh where to begin….the journey to Windermere was fraught with anxiety & nerve-wrenching exhaustion, but once there we parked the car & did not get back in until it was time to travel to the next destination. Instead, we took Sharon’s advice.
We were happy to gaze out the window at the mountains of the Lake District & also stopping to get a closer look at some of the more interesting points of interest in the area instead of navigating ourselves down narrow, winding roads closed in on both sides by stone walls or hedgerows
welcoming us to….
The loveliest spot man hath found
Two things I love: 1. Dogs/animals of all kinds 2. Flowers of all kinds
Everywhere we went in England we saw both in an astonishing number in the most unexpected places, but the Lake District, Hawkshead in particular, seemed to have both in happy, beautiful abundance.
We took a Mountain Goat bus tour, Heart of the Lakes, to see as much of the Lake District as we could with so little time. Our bus driver was fantastic, a story teller & fearless driver. As he drove he pointed out landmarks of interest, gave us names of fells. I must confess, I love English names of places & things, like the word fell. It has a romanticism to it, perhaps because it’s so new to me. According to the Oxford English dictionary, a fell is an old English word that means a hill or stretch of high moorland, especially in Northern England. Though the fells in the Lake District are not that high, they have a rugged, lonely feel that adds to their majestic mystery. Sheep graze on grasses that grow up the craggy sides of the mountains & hills. It’s open range farming called fell farming & since we were there in May lambs were cavorting across the meadows & pastures. It was just about as charming a sight as can be seen.
Taken from the window of a moving bus the 2 photos above tell the story of hills & farming. Herds of hearty sheep, the Herdwick breed promoted by Beatrix Potter, wander the hills & dales as part of the National Trust’s promise to Beatrix. In her will she left acres & acres of farms & robust countryside to the National Trust to be protected from commercialism that may have destroyed the breath-taking views & rural life of this treasured part of England. Today the main industry in this region of England, called Cumbria, is fell farming & tourism.
We held our breath as we squeezed through the smallest of roadways, skinny branches of the hedgerows scratching the windows. I loved it!
Our first stop…
Once upon a time around the year 1840 a wealthy doctor wanted to build his wife a grand home filled with the romance of chivalrous knights, fair maidens & courtly love. So Wray Castle rose up on a hill overlooking Lake Windermere. It has all the ambiance of a gothic novel, but Dr. Dawson’s wife found the place to be hideous & never spent one night in the johnny-come-lately castle that is now a popular site for visitors. It’s easy to dream of another world, but truth is it’s not old by European standards where buildings have been standing in the same place for over a thousand years.
Inside, the ceiling in what was once the music room now a gift shop, was an eye-catcher. One of the volunteers struck up a conversation with me & we shared a bit about farming in our countries. We both laughed when we said we raised Black Angus cattle. Her farm hilly & filled with history; the farm where I raised my children as flat as a pancake & filled with the family history of my ex-husband. I could have sat & had a cup of tea, nibbled on a scone & talked with this lady for hours, but sojourners were getting on the bus & our time at Wray Castle over.
Off we went down more crazy, wonderful roads with stunning views on both sides. So many photos didn’t happen as we traveled along…the gigantic exposed roots of trees that surely houses fairies, sprites, & elves. I failed to capture that mournful, dark feeling of a primal forest, so old & so full of stories. I missed the babbling brooks that skittered over stones, the rugged hikers trekking from one village to another through the woods, over hills, & along waterways. There was so much to see, so much to take in & my mind rushed forward with so many thoughts. Did I take enough time to truly let it all soak in? Did I look with eyes wide-open & appreciate every nuance? I think I did because there was no lack of tears when something so magical would occur & that magic might be nothing more than a thought that I was very near the settings of some of my favorite books…Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, for one. A long held dream coming true is sure to overwhelm & it did…just ask MJ.
Late in the afternoon we pulled into a little stop where a sign said it all…
We stopped for a just a few minutes at Hill Top Farm the house that Beatrix Potter loved so well. When we got off the bus we noticed a gathering across the way & like 2 little girls with their noses pressed against the window of a toy shop, MJ and I stood watching the group that we were supposed to be a part of. We both felt a bit sad that we were not able to attend, but nonetheless we both got photos of the picnic at Castle Cottage with author & water colorist Susan Branch.
You can read about Castle Cottage picnic on Susan’s blog. Just click HERE. It was a marvelous day, I’m sure, filled with all the quaintness of a Beatrix Potter illustration, but a blustery day that was quite chilly. I didn’t get to attend & perhaps seeing the group made the hurt just a bit deeper, but no matter, there was time to take a quick jaunt through the garden. We would be back tomorrow to see the house, spend all the time we wanted in the gardens, & walk the road to a pub for a bite.
Back on the bus we were off for a longer stop.
Here I found the England that I knew from books, movies, & PBS!
We ventured up a little hill & to a closer look at Hawkshead Grammar School where Williams Wordsworth (1770-1850) studied & grew up to write some of the loveliest poems. The first stanza of Daffodils written in 1802 certainly makes me think of the Lake District now & surely Wordsworth’s inspiration.
Sit like a throned lady sending out
A gracious look all over her domain’
– The Prelude by William Wordsworth