At my former flat in Reading, Berkshire, I had a postcard that sat on my fridge, held in place by a magnet. It depicted a road that ran through a village. One side of the road is flanked by thatched-roofed cottages with baskets of purple, yellow and pink spring flowers hanging outside the windows. On another side, are meadows – the greenest I have ever seen. A man stands on the road with a Yorkshire terrier by his side. There are about twenty to thirty sheep in front of him, seemingly blocking the road. And the caption reads: Traffic Jam, Lake District.
This postcard was responsible for several cups of milky Indian chai or tea brimming over on the hob as I stood in the kitchen, daydreaming about going back to the Lake District. I would recommend that a trip to the United Kingdom should include a trip to the Lake District if time and budget permits. A lot of tourists to the UK concentrate on exploring London; the capital is a vibrant, multi-cultural city and I understand its charms for a tourist, especially if it is your first visit to the United Kingdom. But I promise you that if you do end up going to the Lake District, you would come back with the sights and sounds to launch a hundred day dreams. After all, a little chai bubbling over the hob hasn’t cost anyone anything, isn’t it?
How did we get there? A little car made a big journey
It was rather exciting. My husband drove (we had the tiny Mini Cooper then) and it was our first trip after we had moved to England in 2014. A friend was visiting us from India, and we had her in the backseat (if you can call it that) and though the Mini Cooper doesn’t quite boast of a big boot space, it graciously held all our suitcases, coats and a bag full of munching food.
Driving will turn out cheaper – you can rent a car if you want. It is about 265 miles approximately if you drive to Windermere (from Reading in Berkshire.) You could also take a train, there are direct trains to Windermere and Kendal along the branch line from Oxenholme. Those who prefer to take a train can opt for one from London Euston to Oxenholme and you could check the national rail website for fares and availability. If you book in advance, you should get a better deal.
My husband loves to drive and we drove through some spectacular views, and saved quite a bit of money versus taking a train. Once there, you could check out the A591 from Kendal to Keswick as it has been declared as the drive with the perfect blend of views, bends and long stretches, according to a research. As for the accommodation, we chose to rent out a cottage in Cockermouth instead of a hotel and it turned out to be a good choice. We had a lovely fireplace, a small but well equipped kitchen, two beautiful bedrooms and a window that overlooked the woods.
Apart from Airbnb, you can find good deals at http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk and having a cottage also means that you can make your own breakfast or dinner if you fancy. (On some days, when we had a rather heavy lunch, we bought cans of soups and bread from a Co-op store in the area and had them for dinner. My husband also travelled with a nice bottle of Whisky on him, so that the evenings around the fireplace were rather pleasurable for him.)
A medley of lakes
The Lake District has around sixteen water bodies – though it would be a crime to call them that. I thought the waters of the lakes were like a multitude of shiny sky-blue ribbons woven together in placid harmony. In their waters, is both prose and poetry and depending upon the season and the day – you will find that there are different poems and short stories on offer.
Take for instance, the reflections of the mountains or the fells as the locals call it. In Autumn, the reds of the trees will blend with the browns of the mountain and the waters of the lakes will mirror them in all their glory.
While we were taking in the reflections on one of our walking trails, a white swan gently glided past on the waters. It felt as if a note of meditative music was being spun by fairies.
What are things to do when you are in heaven?
I would suggest, walk. Walking is the best way to experience the sights and sounds of the Lake District.
We took several walks alongside the lakes – you can always find something that is at a beginner, or intermediate level to suit your energy levels. At most of the trails that we went to, we found that there were various sitting/viewing spots and even benches that were placed strategically so that you could take in the view. Those benches were perfect for claiming our inner Buddha.
We also found a makeshift swing on one of our walks. It was a piece of sturdy wood and rope, hung on a tree whose branches bend towards the waters. And as you take to the swing, you are swung back and forth between land and water, your senses swirling. I felt as if I was a child again, the swinging taking me back to a time when my hair was enveloped in unruly curls, my heart was rather joyous and carefree.
We would also recommend taking the hop-on and hop-off boat on the Derwentwater – it is an absolute delight and lets you explore the little islands and spaces nestled between the lakes (There are four islands – Derwent, Lord’s, Rampsholme and St Herbert’s.)
There are also Windermere Lake cruises – just take your pick. We found the Derwentwater cruise to be less crowded, but honestly, most lakes and their surroundings are breathtaking, so it really doesn’t matter what you choose. If you have children, you could look into the Pencil Museum in Keswick, as also The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on Windermere. A lot of literature lovers like visiting Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere.
If you can manage to leave the fells and the lakes, you can try the pubs in the picture postcard towns and villages, where people sit at the table, dogs at their feet. We went to a pub in Cockermouth. It had tea pots everywhere; the pub owner has about a thousand of them in all shapes and sizes. He even had teapots from India! The locals who visit the pub are very friendly, and if you love a good pub meal and have a thing for teapots, do visit The Old Posting House.
The Wordsworth trail
While studying literature at the graduate level in India, we read and re read several poems of William Wordsworth, and of course, Daffodils made the top of the list.
I don’t think I ever saw a daffodil while in India, I only saw it when I was in the UK. I think I saw them at the supermarket Tesco, being sold in a bunch for as little as 75 p.
So when we visited the Lake District, and Ullswater, and saw the sights that inspired Wordsworth, it was as if a curtain had lifted and I could appreciate his poems in a new light.
Daffodils or I wandered Lonely as a Cloud – the verses came alive for me. If you have read Wordsworth, you could absolutely do a Wordsworth trail (there are several trails) while in the Lake District.
It could inspire the nascent poet in you, who knows?
Is that a dog? Or a lamb? What is it?
It’s a Bedlington (terrier). Now, as I have told you before, we came to the Lake District just a little after we had moved to the UK (from India). And I had never seen a Bedlington before, not even in a photograph or a picture book.
So imagine my incredulity when we were waiting for our hop-on and hop-off boat and I saw a family come up with something that looked like a lamb. But it wasn’t a lamb. It also looked like a dog. But was it a dog? Well, it was on a leash…
I couldn’t resit myself and I went up to the family and asked – ‘Hello. That’s a lovely dog, but I am afraid I don’t know what breed is that – it’s my first time! Can you tell me a bit?’
Well, they did and I realised that it is called a Bedlington terrier and it does resemble a lamb!
Sometimes there are dog clubs who are out visiting at Keswick and you may find a lot of Bedlington terriers there. Most people, and cafes are very friendly, so do go up to them and chat if you like dogs or are just as awestruck as I was by their appearance.
I wont’ post a picture here – I would leave that to your imagination. That is, if you haven’t seen a Bedlington before and if you can resist the urge to google!
What do I leave you with as I end this blog? Well, I will add some more pictures to the blog – there are some beautiful ones of the reflections captured in the waters. I can’t seem to add certain pic formats, it seems and so I will ask the husband for help in converting those pic files into a compatible format for the blog. But I will also leave you with the first stanza from Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
I wandered lonely as a cloudWilliam Wordsworth
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.