A Cumbrian Property – A Blog about Lakeland
It’s about a holiday visit to Merlewood, a Holiday Property Bond site in Cumbria to the south of the Lake District. The county of Cumbria was created in 1974 from the previous counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland with small parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The Lake District
The Lake District, also known as Lakeland, is a mountainous region of England located entirely in the county of Cumbria. It is popular for its lakes, forests and mountains and its associations with Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. Nearly all of it is covered by the Lake District National Park, the largest National Park of England and Wales.
The Holiday Property Bond (HPB) is a life assurance bond serving as a points based time-share holiday. It’s too complicated to explain here but bondholders can visit any site at any time of the year – as long as they have enough annual points unused for the year.
We visited Merlewood, an HPB site near to Grange-over-Sands in the Lake District (but just outside the National Park to the south). Like most of their sites Merlewood is a historic house modernized and augmented by surrounding holiday apartments.
We stayed in one of these apartments with a raised garden and woods behind us.
You can always find greyhound statues at HPB sites.
We went there for a week and fitted in a few local walks and attractions.
Morecambe Bay is an estuary with the largest expanse of inter-tidal sand and mudflats in the UK. At low tide it can be crossed on foot with careful guidance but it is notorious for its quicksand and fast moving tides.
Grange-over-Sands is a small town overlooking Morecambe Bay. It is effectively part of the west coast of England but faces seas to its east. It developed from a fishing village into a seaside resort in Victorian times with the arrival of its railway. The River Kent used to flow past its long promenade and a lido was built on the sea front in the Thirties. Now the course of the river has moved and the sand and mudflats have become a marshy grass meadow sometimes grazed by sheep. The lido closed in the Nineties.
It is now a relatively unspoiled town with easy access to the Lake District. Its large ornamental gardens had a number of resident Bar-headed Geese. You have to go over or under the railway to get to the Promenade, which still has excellent views over the bay even without a sandy beach!
Cartmel is a small town just two miles from Grange. It has a small racecourse and its parish church is the former Cartmel Priory. The town claims rather dubiously to be to home of sticky toffee pudding.
Muncaster Castle is a privately owned castle near Ravenglass a little west of Grange. It is still used as a family home but the castle and grounds are open to the public. Unfortunately photography was not permitted inside.
Ravenglass Steam Railway
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway running for seven miles from Ravenglass to Dalegarth station in the valley of Eskdale. It is known locally as La’al Ratty. The original line opened in 1875 to carry haematite iron ore. It carried some passenger traffic before being closed in 1913.
In 1915 it was converted to the narrow 15 inch gauge and reopened carrying passengers and granite. When threatened with closure again in 1960 it was taken over by a Railway Preservation Society. It now carries over 100 000 passengers each year.
We took the train there and back again. [Hobbit fans will understand the reference.]
Coniston Water is the third largest lake in the Lake District, five miles long by half a mile wide. The Victorian artist and philosopher John Ruskin owned Brantwood House on the eastern shore of the lake, and lived in it from 1872 until his death in 1900. Arthur Ransome set his children’s novel Swallows and Amazons and its sequels (about school holiday adventures in the Thirties) around a fictional lake derived from a combination of Coniston Water and Windermere.
In the Twentieth Century Coniston Water was the scene of many attempts to break the world water speed record by Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald Campbell, both in boats called Bluebird. In 1966/7 Donald Campbell attempted to exceed 300 miles per hour to retain the record but he was killed on the return leg of a record-breaking attempt.
The steam yacht Gondola is a rebuilt Victorian, steam-powered passenger vessel running trips every day on Coniston Water. Originally launched in 1859, she was built for passengers from the Furness Railway and the Coniston Railway. She was in commercial service until 1936 when she was retired, being converted to a houseboat in 1946. In 1979, by now derelict, she was given a new hull, engine, boiler and most of the superstructure. She is back in service as a passenger boat, still powered by steam and now operated by the National Trust. Gondola is one of the inspirations for Captain Flint’s houseboat in Swallows and Amazons.
From beginning of March to October there are anti-clockwise half lake cruises from Coniston pier taking place every day. We took one of these trips.
Tarn Hows is a popular tourist location with a small lake and an easy circular walk. It was rescued by Beatrix Potter and sold to the National Trust.
Elter Water Walk
Elter Water is a small lake near to Ambleside on Windermere. From here we took a walk following the river Brathay, with a small waterfall on the way, as far as Skelwith Bridge.
This privately owned country house near Cartmel dates from the Sixteenth Century with later alterations and rebuilding. In 1871 a fire destroyed the front wing, which has been restored and is now open to the public. Stable buildings have been converted to a café and shop. The older parts are used by the owner, Lord Cavendish, and are not open to the public.
This has been difficult. I have had to delete dozens of good pictures to get down to a manageable size. I can’t fit in all my wildlife shots but I am just going to squeeze in a rabbit from Merlewood and a Robin from Holker Hall.
[As always some of my notes come from Wikipedia.]