Saturday, 21 April 2012

32 Years Later... the Lake District

Windermere from Bowness

The plan was to spend a couple of days in the Lake District, stay in a decent hotel and visit a couple of favourite places (e.g. Blackwell).

The weather was a bit mixed; after all, it’s April and the Lake District is pretty well-known for ‘mixed’ weather. (‘Mixed’, when applied to weather means ‘definitely not mixed but unalloyed dark skies and pouring rain.) In fact it wasn’t like that; it was mixed between warm sunshine, occasional heavy showers and thundering hail!

As we arrived in Bowness, we did the usual thing of picking up a few brochures for places to visit and were instantly taken back 30 years...

Ben, age 6 and Toby, age 4 by Coniston Water

In June 1980, we took our 2 sons, aged 6 and 4 to the Lakes for a week and, while there, we went down to Coniston Water.

Coniston Water

The boys were really taken with the restored steam yacht ‘Gondola’ which was sitting by the jetty looking wonderful. They were keen to take a trip down the lake on board Gondola, but we were too early. She was due to be inaugurated 2 weeks later by the Duke of Devonshire so was unavailable for trips. We promised the boys we would come back one day.

Ben with 'Gondola', 1980

Watercolour, 1980

Watercolour, 1980

This was our first visit to the Lakes and we all loved the area. The weather was (occasionally) sunny so I was able to paint a few watercolours as well as taking photos (in those days, I was using film so couldn’t afford to take many).

Thirty-two years later, Marea and I found ourselves again driving down Lake Road to the North end of Coniston Water to take a trip on Gondola. We were early, so there was plenty of room in the car park and we sat and waited in the sunshine for her to come  round the corner at the North end.

'Gondola' arriving

The Front Saloon

Looking back Northward

Great Skies

'Gondola's' figurehead
We boarded and sat out of the wind for the trip down to Brantwood, a National Trust property, home of John Ruskin the leading Victorian art critic.
In this photo, the little gazebo is there for the inauguration of the new public toilets later in the day. We didn’t have a lot of time before the boat came round again so we avoided the introductory video and had a quick look around the house. Ruskin is to be admired for his support of the pre-Raphaelites but had some other strange ideas.

Brantwood interior

Forgetting that the National Trust doesn’t allow photography in its properties, I took a couple of interiors before a house steward discreetly asked me to stop. No-one has satisfactorily explained to me why one can’t take photos except that they want to sell their postcards (the steward said as much). They quote ‘conservation reasons’ (I know of none), copyright (I’d like to know who owns the copyright to the interior of a building) or security but they provide extensive plans to their buildings!

 Boarding to continue our journey

The next day we went to Blackwell, Britain's finest surviving Arts and Crafts house, designed by M.H. Baillie Scott. 

Stained glass from the porch


...and from the Dining Room

Looking through from Hall to Dining Room

The Hall

White Bedroom

What I like most about Blackwell is the scale of the rooms and the consistency of the design. The main hall is almost like a mediaeval hall but its elegance is enhanced by the stained glass, the friezes and the Minstrel’s Gallery (seems like there was only 1 minstrel). This would have been such a beautiful house to live in that I would never have wanted to go out. My own love of stained glass is well catered for and the craftsmanship throughout is exquisite. I can’t provide lots of photos but here are a couple from Blackwell’s own publicity (© Lakeland Arts Trust).
If you’re in UK, love the Arts and Crafts movement and can get there, I’ts a great place to visit. Just take plenty of money; the shop’s full of exquisite things!

Arnside 1980
When we came up with the boys, we stayed in a small flat attached to a pub in Arnside. The pub is still there but the small flat has been incorporated and is now the restaurant part of the pub.

 Across the sands, 1980

Tide coming in, 2012