Lake District, England - 2022
After two years of the COVID pandemic and associated restrictions, we hoped that 2022 would be easier, but there were still restrictions around travel, airports seemed to be in near continuous chaos and flights were regularly cancelled, so the idea of flying somewhere didn't really appeal that much.
In recent years, Mandy has discovered a passion for Butterfly-spotting (for want of a better phrase) and has a goal to see all the British species.
One day she announced she was going to the Lake District in June or July to see specific species and wondered if I wanted to come along, obviously remembering a comment I'd made a few times that I would like to visit the Lakes again as we had not been there since before Lauren was born, 30 years before!
We considered a B&B or hotel, before deciding a self-catering cottage would suit us better, having more space to relax in than either of the other options and we found a reasonably priced one-bedroom annex to a farmhouse, in Kirkby In Furness, on the western edge of the Lake District.
We set off fairly early on a Friday morning, heading up the M40 and M6, but finding refreshingly little traffic.
In fact, we made such good time that we made our first stop at the first site Mandy wanted to visit in time to eat lunch there!
The site was at Arnside, overlooking Morecambe Bay and, while the weather forecast hadn't been promising for the whole week, we found ourselves hunting for butterflies in pleasant sunshine.
Morecambe Bay from Arnside
Mandy spotted a couple of butterflies she wanted to see at this and another site (Warton Crag) we stopped at before reaching our home for the week, so she felt the stops were worthwhile and it had really been an enjoyably stress-free journey to the Lakes.
We found our accommodation (Yew Fold) with little trouble and, although it lies on the Furness peninsula, it was quite well located for lots of the places we wanted to visit during the week.
Our home for the week.
It was also a very pleasant little place, obviously very newly built and with good quality fittings throughout. The friendly owners (who lived in the main house) popped around with a few eggs from their chickens for us, which I enjoyed later in the week.
We found an Indian restaurant nearby with glowing reviews on Trip Advisor, but sadly the food was bland, at best; very disappointing.
The next day we set off towards Ambleside, as I wanted to visit it and get a photograph of me sitting by the Bridge House as I have similar photos from visits in 1981 and 1992.
The compulsory me and Bridge House shot
On the way, though, we spotted a car park and a sign 'to Scafell 3.5 miles'. It wasn't raining and we wanted to try and climb the mountain as it was the 'big one' we had never been up in the past.
We set off, but within a half an hour or so it became clear that the route was very boggy and it had started to rain. My walking shoes were bought for our trip to Jordan and certainly weren't up to Cumbrian bogs, so we reluctantly admitted defeat and headed back to the car in increasing rain.
We drove up over Hardknott Pass, hoping to see a sign to the Roman Fort (or some sight of it), but we never did and gave up on that idea, too.
We stopped in Ambleside for a coffee initially, I bought some new walking socks (the ones I had on being normal socks and soaking wet at this point!), Mandy took my photo by Bridge House and we wandered around the town, buying some gifts and an ice cream as well.
As it was now mid-afternoon, we headed down towards our cottage, stopping en-route to look for more butterflies at a couple of places.
Sunday was always forecast to be a wet start and it certainly didn't disappoint. We decided to drive into Barrow-in-Furness to do some shopping and take a look around.
Most famous (if at all) for being the place where British submarines are still built, we did some shopping in a Tesco store and then had a quick coffee (out of the rain) in a Costa before heading off to the free Dock Museum.
This is a small, but interesting museum, and you can't complain about something for nothing!
Model of the M2 submarine (in early form with a gun, rather than a hangar!)
As well as covering the submarines (and other ships) built there (including the M2 submarine, which I have dived on a few times), it also covered local history. If you're there, it's well worth an hour or two of your time.
Diving suit - Apparently to save money draining them, divers were expected to dive into filled oil tanks!
We took our supplies back to the cottage, had a quick lunch and then set off West and North for Irton Fell, which rises high about Wastwater.
View down onto Wastwater from Irton Fell
The weather was quite pleasant by this point and while we didn't get quite to the very top, we reached a point where we could see both the Youth Hostel at Wastwater we'd stayed in one year and the hotel we'd stayed in a little further down the road from the lake, that we'd stayed in 1992. It was rather nice to have both places in sight at once all these years later.
Mandy takes a photograph of Wastwater Hostel
It was quite a climb and descent back, but aside from the views, Mandy was disappointed not to find the particular type of butterfly (Mountain Ringlets) she was hoping to see up here.
The Hotel (L) and Hostel (R) as viewed from Irton Fell
On Monday, we decided to use my English Heritage volunteer membership (unexpectedly awarded for my diving on the Hazardous wreck the previous summer) and visited Furness Abbey.
This is a large, but ruined site and kept us busy for a couple of hours. I even got a discount in the shop with my membership card, so we bought a few gifts for upcoming birthdays.
Furness Abbey sadly now a ruin
You do, though, get a sense of the scale and splendour it once had.
The lady in the shop was very knowledgeable and helpful and was quite intrigued by the fact I had my card for diving!
This would have been an imposing building in its time.
Streams provided fresh running water for the Abbey
Some of the rooms remain impressively intact.
In the afternoon we decided to take a walk at Coniston Water, as the weather (true to the forecast) had improved.
We had an enjoyable stroll along the banks, using a guidebook from our cottage and then finished the afternoon with a cream tea in a little cafe in the village of Coniston.
View over the Duddon Estuary
On Tuesday we set off for another butterfly site that we'd visited earlier in the week, where the tip was that we'd see another species (I think it was called a Brown Argus).
I can't recall if we found them, but we went to the pub that we'd stopped in for directions on our first visit and found that they didn't do food on a Tuesday!
Luckily they pointed us to another pub in a nearby village and we had a very pleasant pub lunch there, before setting off to another location to hunt for butteflies.
This one nearly ended in a minor disaster! After about an hour of searching the site, which had a couple of ponds in, Mandy popped back to the car for something.
After a little longer, we decided to head back to the cottage, but neither of us had the car keys!
We were in a field with zero mobile phone coverage and long, untended undergrowth. It seemed likely Mandy had dropped the keys at some point after returning from the car.
We hunted for a while. I walked back to the car, in case she'd dropped them there and then she had a thought. she had had to nip into some bushes on the way back and thankfully there were the keys where she had stopped!
That evening, after a fry-up including the free-range eggs for me, we headed down to the nearby Duddon Estuary. Mandy had read that we might see and hear Natterjack Toads in the twilight, but I don't think we even heard any, but it was a pleasant stroll in the dunes for an hour or so, before night began to fall and we headed back.
Mandy climbs a Duddon Dune - It's steeper than it looks!
Wednesday was always forecast to be a wet day, so we decided not to consider walking or butterfly hunting, instead taking a steam railway and boat trip up to Bowness on Windermere.
Our train at Haverthwaite Station
We drove up to Haverthwaite, where the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway starts (or finishes, depending on your start point, I guess) and bought a combined train and lake steamer return ticket to Bowness.
You can take a steamer all the way up Windermere to Ambleside, but having been there already we saved a couple of quid and decided to take a look around Bowness instead.
Combined Train and Steamer ticket
I was a little miffed to find that I had to pay for parking on top of the £21 each. It's not as if there are loads of places other than the railway to visit in Haverthwaite, so this rather tainted the experience for me, but luckily not too much.
Train at Haverthwaite Station
We boarded the carriage behind a steam locomotive and took the less than 20 minute journey (it's only around 3 miles) to Lakeside, at the south end of Windermere.
There we found the 1891 built lake steamer, Tern, waiting for us.
The Tern at Lakeside
Initially we sat on the open stern, but it quickly proved too wet and chilly and we moved forward to a covered section, a lot of other people went down below to the lounge.
A trip on the Tern
The journey up the lake was pleasant enough, giving us time to enjoy the lake and mountains from a different angle and explore the boat a little.
We wandered around Bowness for a while and then found a park to at our lunch as the weather improved. After that we had a quick drink in a pub on the side of Lake Windermere and headed back to the piers to catch the boat back down the lake, this time travelling on a newer (but hardly recent!) steamer.
Once back at Lakeside, we found a large school party leaving the Lakes Aquarium trying to board the same train (which was already busy), somehow they squeezed all the kids in!
We had a quick look in the station train shed - It's listed as an 'attraction' of the steam railway, but there was no-one around to explain what was in there or ask about the restorations and no signs either, so it's a pretty poor one, in my view, but maybe I was still miffed about the car park fee...
Earlier in the week, we'd booked a table at a Mexican restuarant in Ulverston called "Amigos".
It had excellent reviews, but so had the curry house we tried on our first evening, so our expectations were tempered by that experience.
Any Mexican restaurant is quite hard to find in the UK and a good one almost unheard of, so it was a real joy to find that the food at Amigos was truly excellent.
I was all for coming back the following evening, but Mandy (sensibly probably) felt we'd need to be packing instead.
For our final day in the Lakes, we decided to venture to the farthest part of the Lakes we've visited and take a circular walk over Ulswater.
It took over an hour to drive to Pooley Bridge from our cottage under a cloudy sky, but it turned out to be a lovely day and worth the journey.
The day started with cloud..
This is the second largest lake (by area), but rarely visited (compared to the others) and virtually undeveloped.
The weather, of course, started to turn better on our last day and we had bright sunshine throughout our walk.
A view over Ullswater
We parked by the river in Pooley Bridge and then set off down along the lakeside, before turning up through farmland and then into heathland as we turned back and ascended over the lake.
The views were lovely from here and I agree with Wainwright's view that this is probably the loveliest of the lakes.
Crossing the lakside farmland before the climb
Looking back down onto the lake
A welcome break in a cool stream for lunch
A stone circle on the hills above Ullswater
Eventually we got back to Pooley Bridge, bought something for dinner and had a beer in the pub by the river.
The new bridge at Pooley, the historic one having collapsed in a storm in 2015
Heading back we decided to route through Ambleside as we'd found very cheap petrol there. This involved following a road signposted 'The Struggle'.
This turned out to be a quite steep and narrow, in places, road. I guess in the days of horse and carts it would indeed have been a 'Struggle' (or, indeed, on foot), but it wasn't much of a challenge in a car and it got us back to Ambleside quickly where we found the petrol had dropped fractionally in price again, so I was more than happy to fill up for the return the following day.
We were up earlyish again to head home on the Friday and, aside from one small delay, we again found the traffic light and were home mid-afternoon.
The weather had been kinder to us than predicted and we'd managed to mix Mandy's butterfly hunt (which she declared a success!) with some walking and general 'holiday making'.
The cottage had been perfect for us and it had been great to visit the Lakes again, seeing sights and sites, both familiar and new.
Finally, as the trip had been primarily one to spot butterflies, I asked Mandy to let me have her 5 favourite butterfly photos from the trip, so here they are!
High Brown Fritillary
Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary
Northern Brown Argus