Ah yes. Summer 2007. It was a day to remember !
Summer 2007 was yesterday by the way, and I decided to get out and enjoy it - by doing what we Brits do when the sun is out and the sky is blue. I headed to a packed tourist trap which involved sitting in a traffic jam as like I just said, every other non working Brit made the same decision.
You'd think I have known better but I guess the sun was affecting my brain even before I left the house. It does tend to have that effect on us here in still slightly damp Britain. I call it 'Yellow Orb Syndrome' and when it strikes, normally sensible people lose all control of their minds and feel this primeval urge to head toward water.....or the pub. Whichever is closer.
And recently you could use one to get to the other. What a great nation.
In my defence, I reasoned that it was a Tuesday and so not everyone with a car would be out on the roads. As a plan, it sucked big time. Not even worthy of Baldrick.
My destination was The Lake District and to make it a bit different from other road trips to that part of England, I was going to take a ride on a steam train. When I got there I mean. Wouldn't like anyone to think there is a steam train that goes from Leeds to The Lake District. Mr. Branson please note......might be onto a winner with THAT idea.
I'm not a steam train (or even a normal train) freak so I've managed to get to this advanced age without sampling it's delights. I just thought it'd be a cool thing to do.
I'd wanted to set off at 10am on the dot and so I reversed out of the driveway right on time - at 10:15am. Wellllllll, I'm a free spirit and not weighed down by conventional time constraints. I also had to poop just before I left and that played havoc with my timetable. I know.....TMI. Sorry.
The 'best' road to take to get from here to TLD is the A65 which is very appropriate as the distance involved is........65 miles. Spooky isn't it ? It's as if they somehow knew this when allocating the road number. No wonder it takes forever to drive around the Leeds Outer Ring Road though (A6120).
With every man and his dog (and his wife and 2.5 kids) on the road too, it took me 45 minutes to get past Ilkley which is only 17 miles. I was ready to go home. I mean the Orb was out and I was missing all of it. Things got better after Ilkley and I pulled into the car park of The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway station at 12:30 - just in time for the 13:00 departure.
Well when I say 'pulled into' I really mean I stopped and handed over £1.50 to Cumbria's answer to Rain Man and then tried to cram my car into a parking space only just wide enough for me to open the door and squeeze out without taking paint from the camper van next to me. It wasn't so much a car park as a fertile breeding ground for bodyshops nationwide.
The line to the little ticket booth was long and VERY slow moving. No one seemed to just get to the booth, hand over their money, take their ticket and move on. Oh no. It was like being behind a line of women at a supermarket checkout. Suddenly everything from the total cost of the tickets to how many were in their party seemed to come as a shock to them. How much ? How many of us ? And so the counting and figuring would go on.....and on.....and on. I know not everyone thinks to check prices BEFORE getting to such places but come on people. You should at least know how many kids you've got so that it doesn't come as a shock when you have to pay for them all.
And so it was 12:57 when I finally got to the booth, handed over my 'all ready in my hand' money, got my ticket and was on my way all within 30 seconds. Victor Mildred needed to calm down and chill and he was in the right place for once. There is nothing like a slow relaxing steam train ride to bring down the blood pressure and after the stress of the road trip, having to pay to park in a space better suited to a push bike and then having to stand in line behind a coach outing from Dysfunctional Families In The Community, my blood pressure was off the scale.
The station beyond the ticket booth was very pretty indeed and although the train was already at the platform and steam was coming from every part of the engine, I felt I had just enough time to walk about and take some photos.
I guess I felt that as long as the carriage doors were lying open, I would have time to jump on even if the train was moving off.
Guess again. That might've been ok in the movies or in the Golden Age of Steam when this train wasn't an antique. In these days of Health & Safety. the passengers all need to be inside with their seatbelts fastened before the train sets off. Well maybe not the seat belt part. I just made that up.
With the station clock already showing 1pm and with the engine belching steam impressively, I had to rush to the far end to get a photo of the beast. There was a bridge over the line but I knew I'd not be able to get up on top and back down in time to take my seat and so I made do with a shot from the end of the platform looking back at the engine.
The front of it was almost under the bridge which is why it's a bit dark. I think that helps make the steam appear even more white than it was - so I've not tinkered with it.
By the time I walked back to my carriage of choice, the whistleblower was closing all the doors and about to do his thing. I jumped on board (and not in a sophisticated and casual Cary Grant way but more in a desperate and breathless Mr. Bean way) and settled down for the ride.
Within seconds I was on my feet again and taking photos like a madman out the carriage door window. You've seen the type of shot on every train journey documentary ever made. The train going round a bend so you see the engine and first few carriages; the train going along past fields with cute cows and cuter sheep; the train approaching a bridge/lake/area of outstanding beauty. You get the picture, so to speak.
My idea was to take all the photos on this outbound journey and then be able to sit down and enjoy the return leg without getting up from my seat at all.
My carriage wasn't full but I have to say the number of people on the train was very impressive and if that was typical, then it's survival should be assured.
Just about every group had a camera owner among it's number and a few even had the notebook that always accompanies the serious train enthusiast.
When I'd checked the web site, I'd noticed that there was a special Victorian Evening surrounding the 6:45pm train journey and it was tempting to be there for that. Maybe lots of the passengers would be dressed accordingly. I decided if I was in the area near the time, I would pop along.
And so, 18 minutes later, we ended up at Lakeside and it's pretty station right on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest lake in England.
Most people got off the train to wander around the area but I just hung around the station platform as the return trip was due in 15 minutes.
This still gave me plenty of time to take in the scenery and watch what was going on out on the lake.
There was a long line waiting to board the MV Tern for the 35 minute cruise along the lake. Built in 1891, this is the oldest steamer working on the lake and one of at least 16 large passenger steamers and launches taking people on lake cruises. Add to that the hundreds of personal boats of all kinds and you can begin to imagine how busy the lake becomes in summer - which was yesterday, remember. I'm sure they've all gone into dry dock today, what with summer being over an' all.
The 3 steamers, the Swan, the Teal and the Tern, can carry over 1400 passengers so it didn't matter that the line outside the station was long. They'd all get onboard easily enough. While enjoying the fact that few railway stations in the world could be located only a few feet from a lake, the Tern swept majestically into view and in no time was swinging around to dock right next to the small building in the last photo.
I'll add 2 images of the steamer; the first because it shows that the lake is surrounded by a wonderful backdrop of trees and hills and the second is to show off the steamer better as those very trees have made it difficult so see it clearly.
Then, with a few shrill warning blasts from the whistleblower, it was time for the trip back to Haverthwaite station and although I did my best to sit this time, I did have my video camera in my bag and so just had to get some footage - I mean I was onboard a steam train after all.
The whole round trip had taken less than an hour and was well worth the £5.20 adult fair. I have to say I was surprised there was no rate for a senior citizen and they'd been quick to see through my cunning ploy of rolling up my trouser pants and asking for the child fare. Damn this beard. Hey, it's puberty, what can I say !!
I was happy to find that the vehicles on either side of my car had not moved as I was concerned that in doing so, my car might have been damaged. Even getting into those vehicles may have caused damage to mine unless the owners were Kate Moss and Posh Spice - not something I'd have put any money on. Too much clear fresh air for Kate and no Gucci stores on the station platform for Posh. My gleaming Clio was untouched.
Anyway I left on the A590 and headed back a few miles to start on the A592 up the east side of Lake Windermere to the town which bears it's name. Lake. No sorry, Windermere. As the lake is 12 miles long, the road isn't much longer as it pretty much hugs the lakeline. Is there such a word ? Shoreline then. But lakes don't have shores, do they ?
Never mind, the road followed the water. There.
Just a few miles along and through the trees I saw hundreds of parked cars and the occasional glimpse of people frolicking on land and in the lake. I decided to investigate and found myself in Fell Foot Country Park which is owned by the National Trust and so it costs to park there.......£3 for 2 hours actually. The website I'm linking to here isn't great but at least it has 3 or so pretty moving images to look at. The National Trust website for the park is even less impressive and all this is a shame as the place looked lovely to me and a real treat for the eyes.
Well yes and no. As you can see from MY photo, it's a very popular spot and this brings a lot of tourists and day trippers. It's the old catch-22 situation again as the very beauty of the place has meant it is crowded on summer days (sorry, on the summer DAY) and so it's not quite so beautful anymore.
It's what I'd call the Yosemite Effect and if a tree was cut down in Fell Foot, loads of people would hear it fall.
Kind of mixing my metaphors there and after all, I'm not coming from a strong point of view. If I'd not caught sight of the parked cars through the trees, I'd never have stopped and added to the hoards already there.
And there was no doubt everyone was enjoying the park and that has to be a good thing. The money raised from all those £3's (and more if you stayed longer) is hopefully going back into the upkeep of the area and not into some pension fund in The Caymans.........unless that fund belongs to IBM in which case I'm all for it. They need to charge £5 per hour, dammit.
And on that point of fiscal nonsence, I'll close this part of my day out yesterday. If anyone is still interested, in true literary style, Part 2 will be coming along shortly. Book your tickets now and try to stay away from forums and chatrooms or you may accidently find out how it all ends.
Just in case, I've placed Hedwig's younger brother on the post (get it...post.....blog........oh suit yourselves). He'll let me know if anyone comes looking for Part 2 before it's published.
He went over to the dark side, which explains his appearance. Oh and the keen sighted may notice he's not an owl either. His mother wasn't fussy.