Our holiday in The Lakes.
By Lucy and Ruth Merrell.
Sunday 9th August
We left Somerset at about 10am hoping to make it to Finsthwaite in good time to be able to help Dad put up the tent. He drives an automatic so the journey up was pretty uneventful for me. I just sat back and watched Ruth do all the hard work.
Occasionally he flicked in the cruise control, so at least we were able to spend a little bit of time together.
It only felt like we'd been travelling for about 2 hours when we pulled up and were soon overwhelmed by the unmistakable scent of melamine and newly-weds.
It turns out that we'd stopped off for lunch at some huge Swedish furniture shop that also has a café.
Ruth had a close shave with a ball of meat that must have fallen from someone's plate, although it was a bit odd as it seemed to be covered in gravy and jam?!
Anyway, back in the car and a few hours later we arrived at Finsthwaite.
Dad started to put up the tent and having been made redundant by his mallet, we just kinda let him get on with it.
Finally, after a good few hours of travelling and setting up we were able to relax for the night.
Monday 10th August
Woke up early having had hardly any sleep. The cows lowing and the sheep bleating, punctuated every 15 minutes by the knackered church bell trying its hardest to peal, (just in case you needed to know the time at 4.15am) really didn't help, but it was also because it was the first time we'd ever slept in a tent.
Today's outing was to Tarn Hows; a quaint little tree-lined lake a few miles from Hawkshead. Our first test was keeping dad upright on the steep wet slope down to the water's edge which we managed with no problem. We even managed to keep his feet dry, much to his surprise (he's not used to having waterproof shoes).
Some of the kids on the holiday had heard the tarn was full of leeches so spent the next hour or so trying to catch them.
They caught a few using a stick and a net, but I couldn't help thinking that had we been left on the bank, and had Dad gone for a paddle, then we could have caught quite a few more.
The leeches were promptly returned to the water as the National Trust man had told Dad that they were an endangered species.
After their safe return, we went for a walk around the lake. At least, that was the plan, but as a couple of the kids preferred to explore and go skimming rather than walk all the way round, Dad opted to stay with them.
Tuesday 11th August
There had been a couple of days in the mountains planned, but the experienced mountaineer in the party was unable to come due to illness, so it was decided to play it safe and stay low.
The sun came out today so we were just chucked in the boot just in case we were needed. We didn't mind though as it gave us a chance to enjoy each other's company and anyway it was nice for Colin and Malcolm (Dad's Crocs flip flop things) to have a nice outing.
Unfortunately it had clouded over within a few hours so we were back in action. The boot flung open and we quickly swapped places with Colin and Malcolm. Turns out we were at Fell Foot Park at the bottom end of Windermere and Dad had decided to go fishing with one of the kids.
First he tried the spinner for an hour or so and then changed to the leger which meant we were called upon to dig out a worm or two.
Another hour later and still no hook action, he decided to call it a day.
The Frisbee™ came out next so we spent the next half an hour lurching back and forth as Dad tried to catch the often wayward disc, and what with the park being rather close to the water, he was able to test out our waterproofness again on more than a few occasions.
Just then the night drew in like a great dark thing, so it was back to the car, and back to the tent for a sleep.
Wednesday 12th August.
Some of you may be wondering why we do so little in each day. Well, there are 8 adults and 8 children staying at the place, so we rarely leave the hall before noon as they are all faffing around having breakfast, then making lunches, then playing diabolo, then washing up, then deciding what to do that day. It’s lovely and relaxing for them, but when you are only really there for the outdoorsy stuff it can get quite boring at times.
Today it was Ambleside day. We made our way up the east side of Windermere to the climbing shop capital of the UK.
Everyone has heard of the tax dodger’s little house on the bridge, but not many will be familiar with the tiny pitch and putt among the houses. This is where we ended up, but because of the close proximity of the houses and the fact there were 8 kids (and 8 adults, 3 of whom were very much like kids) we opted for crazy golf (that’s mini golf for any European readers).
Unfortunately, like so many crazy golfs nowadays, it was basically 18 strips of baize with the odd rock plonked in the middle of it. No tubes or ramps or loop-the-loops and not even the obligatory windmill. Can’t believe the designer didn’t think to make a miniature version of the tax dodger’s place to putt your ball under.
After a strenuous 18, we wandered up into town to relax in the 19th.
Zeffirelli’s was Dad’s preferred choice - at least, he hadn’t stopped banging on about it since we arrived so we guessed it was no accident that we ended up there. It’s no different to any other café in my humble one and Ruth and I preferred the look of Esquires over the road, but at least we were on a balcony overlooking the main road which was good for people-watching.
We then wandered up further into town so Dad could show the kids the little house on the bridge, before returning to base to settle down for the evening with a mammoth Scrabble® session.
Thursday 13th August.
Today, Dad and the kids split up from the rest of the group and made their way up to Beatrix Potter country, Near Sawrey/Ferry to have a paddle and a swim. This time we were left in the car again as Sophie and Emily (Dad’s Cayman Crocs) did all the work. Most normal people would have just gone into the water in bare feet, but Dad is a bit of a wimp to be honest. Either that or he doesn’t want people to see him going ‘ooh, ooh, ah, ah’ as he tip-toes his way over the stones like a praying mantis.
The kids played in the water for a while as Dad decided to get his guitar out and have a little thrum. After about 20 mins, Ruth and I decided that if he played that Iron & Wine song one more time, then we would try to trip him up next time he put us on.
Luckily he moved on to some other drivel, so he’s safe for now.
There was just time to get the dinghy inflated, when the kids found out the hard way that there were also plenty of leeches lurking here too, so within minutes Dad (the aforementioned wimp) had packed everyone back into the car and was making his way back to Finsthwaite.
Once there, one of the adults was preparing a veritable Chinese banquet, so realising he had a few hours to kill, Dad took his son Silas and us up to High Dam to see if he could have any better luck on the bank.
All he had was some old bread so using a whip and float he swung it out for Silas to hold. Within seconds Silas had hooked his first fish. It was a minnow about 1cm long which Jeremy Fisher would have been proud of (this may even have been his home of course).
After a hook and bait change and an hour later Silas had caught about 20 fish most of which were ½lb roach. He was ecstatic as we wandered back down to the car and on to the hall for our well-earned banquet.
Friday 14th August.
Today’s outing was to Grizedale; a beautiful forested area near Hawkshead which catered excellently for children and adults alike.
After semi-successfully negotiating a parking space, (nearside wing RIP), we wandered up to the start of the Sculpture Walk. It was a lovely walk through the forest with sculptures every 50 yards. There was everything from a miniature Noah’s Ark, to giant flies to playable musical instruments, which at times made it sound like you were in the jungle between tribes.
We learned quickly that on these holidays, the adults like to set each other challenges. Today’s challenge was to try to throw the Frisbee™ all the way across the 80ft bridge without hitting the railings on either side. As you can imagine, no one managed it but they seemed to be having fun anyway.
At the end of the walk, the rain came in like small wet things so we made our way to the shelter of the Grizedale Visitor Centre to have our packed lunches, where a couple of the adults managed to finally find some mobile phone signal.
Much to the frustration of the children, it was too wet to play in the huge wooden park there so we made our way back to the hall to dry off and the kids’ disgruntledness was soothed by the toasting of marshmallows on the fire.
Saturday 15th August.
This was the day that ALL the kids had been waiting for. We left in relatively good time today (not sure why; maybe everyone was diaboloed out) and made our way over to Coniston to hire a boat. When we got there they decided on a couple of proper motor boats and took them out for an hour. It had been particularly windy that morning and the lake was very choppy to say the least. The kids took it in turns to fly the thing, which sometimes got a bit hairy especially as they kept hitting other boats’ wake sideways on nearly chucking everyone else out into the water.
It soon became apparent that there was a skiff race on that day. They must have got so annoyed with the pleasure boaters’ obstacular presence, but no one had told them to steer clear so they just got on with it.
Safely back on dry land we enjoyed our umpteenth ice cream of the holiday while the kids had a paddle with the ducks.
It was Dad’s turn to cook that night so we made our way home via the supermarket in Ulveston. He prefers to cook with Sophie and Emily, so we spent the evening relaxing by the fire.
That night we were called into action again while Dad went out to muck around with his camera and torch.
Sunday 16th August
Everyone should have gone home today. However, the holiday was drawing to a close and Dad had still not been to Grasmere to collect his annual batch of Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread, so he decided to stay another day.
After a quick tidy, we all got in the car and made our way back up to Ambleside. After finding somewhere to park, we hopped on the 599 which is the open-top bus that goes to and from Bowness and Grasmere all day long via Ambleside.
As you can imagine the kids raced upstairs to sit at the front so they could pretend they were driving the thing. They did so, expertly, and soon we were at the green in Grasmere where we alighted and had a little play.
Dad had forgotten the packed lunch that he’d spent half an hour preparing so went to find the Co-op for a substitution.
With tummies just short of full we wandered through the village following our noses to Sarah Nelson’s place for the Holy Grail that is her gingerbread.
Sold from a tiny shop with a big queue and ‘real’ Victorian girls serving, Dad bought two batches of the stuff; one for him and the kids, and one to take home for Mum.
Dad and the kids sat on the churchyard wall devouring the stuff, not quite able to believe that it could be so gorgeous, before strolling off among the graves to find that of poet William Wordsworth.
I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…and they were all yellow.
William Wordsworth (additional material by Chris Martin)
Having seen all they wanted to of Grasmere, we all climbed aboard the 599 again and made our way back to Ambleside. Realising there was still time, Dad jumped off at Ambleside to chuck some stuff in the car and got back on the bus to join the kids as we continued on to Bowness.
Bowness is a great place, but only for an hour or so. Ruth and I hate swans you see and Silas was very intent on stroking them.
Some of them were friendly, but you could tell that some of them meant business. Luckily the kids escaped without broken arms and we were relieved to be heading back onto the bus.
On the car drive back through Bowness, Dad stopped to pick up a curry as a last night treat. Judging by the curses and moans from above the table, it was quite obviously the worst curry he’d ever had, but as he’d driven so far with it, just had to grin and bear it.
Monday 17th August.
So there you have it. Dad tidied up the rest of the hall, chucked everything in the car that belonged to us and left the hall for the last time. It would have been great to have taken in a few mountains just to show Dad what we are really capable of, but maybe next time. He seemed to be happy with us nonetheless.
It was sad to say goodbye, but there’s always next year.