Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District

Silecroft Beach in the High Winds

In the high winds of October this year, team Rigg all drove down to the beach at Silecroft.  This long stretch of pebbly beach is a favourite of ours: an excellent spot for a “blow” with the children.  There are never many people here just a couple of stalwart fisherman with high rods planted in the stones and their long lines stretched into the waves.

This trip was particularly exciting as we fought against the blustery winds and stepped through the foam which was flying across the beach from the sea.

Only 8 miles away from Sykehouse Cottage, it has a car park and stone steps leading down to the shore.  No café but there’s sometimes an ice cream van parked up in the Summer.IMG_8282

Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Stott_Park_Bobbin_Mill_Steam_EngineThis is a fascinating mill run by English Heritage.  They fire up the Victorian Steam Engine the first weekend of every month and bank holidays from April through September (they are open from April til the end of the October half term) and there are family friendly guided tours around the mill.

It’s small, personable and even I can understand what most of the moving parts are doing!  You can really get a sense of what it must have been like for the 250 men and boys who churned out a 1/4 million bobbins a week – wading through waist deep discarded shavings to keep warm in the winter.  And it’s a great way to inspire budding engineers – or potential industrial historians!

Stott Park Bobbin Mill is about a 1/2 hour drive from the holiday cottage, just north of Newby Bridge.  For more details click here for the English Heritage website.

Hardknott Fort

Hardknott Roman FortHardknott Fort, at the western end of Hardknott Pass, is one of the most remote and dramatically sited Roman forts in Britain and is well worth the 30 minute drive from Sykehouse Cottage for a look around and to marvel at the sheer tenacity of the Romans. Though I must point out that the road up to it is single track and that reversing skills may be needed if you meet another car!

The stronghold was built early 2AD and an inscription says that the garrison was the 4th Cohort of Dalmatians, all the way from the Balkans.  It was abandoned in the 3rd century and the stone was pilfered over a long period.  However there is still enough to see the outlines of central buildings: the headquarters, a small temple and the commander’s residence.  Also the remains of a bath house alongside the road leading up to the fort.  We find it incredibly atmospheric and, as one of the tribe is a budding gladiator, it’s a perfect place to sit and imagine life 2000 years ago and perhaps  … for a leisurely picnic!

It is an English Heritage site and further details can be found following this link.

Muncaster Castle

Muncaster CastleMuncaster Castle is a great day out for families and a favourite of ours; it’s about 30 minutes drive from the holiday cottage.  There’s a very well presented Owl Centre which is the HQ of the World Owl Trust and also is a breeding centre for rare species. The Centre has daily displays of the birds which enthrals the smaller members of our tribe.

When we get bored of staring at the owls, the vast grounds are lovely for the children to run through, a good sized playground, café, and there’s the deliciously scary (for under10s) Meadow Vole Maze where one experiences life as a vole with gigantic predators about!

Here’s their website if you want a closer look.

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway

RavenglassA great day out from Sykehouse Cottage – especially if you have children – is the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway. It’s a 30 minute drive up to A595 and we sometimes include Muncaster Castle for a very full day out.

Built in 1875, it is the Lake District’s oldest and longest narrow gauge steam railway and known locally as La’al Ratty or The Ratty.  Its original purpose was to ferry iron ore from workings at Boot down the valley to Whitehaven Iron Mines Ltd. The narrow gauge railway provides a lovely 7 mile journey, through some of the Lakes prettiest scenery, from the coast up into the Fells.  There are good, easy walks from many of the stops and, at Ravenglass, there is  a small railway museum and café.  They often have special events for holiday weekends.  For more information click here for their website.

In Praise of Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal mint Cake

‘We sat on the snow and looked at the country far below us … we nibbled Kendal Mint Cake.’  The famous quotation on the Romney’s bar linking Edmund Hillary’s successful ascent of Everest with eating a toe curling mixture of sugar, glucose and peppermint oil must be one of the most famous and successful celebrity endorsements of all time.  We always have a bar or two in a rucksack when we are walking – only when we are walking.  It is too sweet to be eating sitting down.  However it is very useful when junior members of the tribe are flagging and a pick-me-up is needed.  This may also include the who-can-keep-a-piece-in-their-mouth-the-longest competition for added distracting interest.

The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry has just opened an exhibition all about this famous local delicacy: Kendal Mint Cake: On Top of the World running from 19 July right through until 21 December.  On 31 August, the Museum is holding Mint Cake Eating contest and an auction of the world’s biggest bar of Kendal Mint Cake which will be broken up and sold in aid of MacMillan Cancer. Further details of the exhibition and how to enter the competition can be found following this link.

Wild Water Swimming

Swimming in a river or lake IS different.  It doesn’t taste of chlorine for a start.  And isn’t crowded.  The water has a smooth soft quality that slides around your skin.

I only swim on hot Summer days.11feb13 004  The water coming off the mountain tops is still much colder than you think.  Even in August.  But there are many places up the Duddon for a dip or a paddle – and then a leisurely recovery on a hot, flat stone.  I take old sandals to paddle into the water as pebbles can be sharp under foot.  Crocs or flip flops disappear surprisingly fast on the current.

Okay, you will need a wet suit and more stamina than I have: but how about attempting the Great North Swim on Windermere?  This is now the UK’s biggest open water swimming festival and happens in June every year.  Follow this link if you would like more details about it.

Tarn Hows

Tarn HowsTarn Hows is another favourite walk of ours – particularly when we have friends with pushchairs or just want to “walk and talk” instead of concentrating on finding the next sheep track, as it’s a stunningly pretty round walk on smooth paths with plenty of benches along the way.  The place is owned by the National Trust, has a well managed car park – and possibly an ice cream van in high season.  They even have a couple of those nifty Tramper scooters giving people who are less mobile a chance to roam a little.  So, if you are staying at Sykehouse Cottage and fancy a stroll rather than a hike, Tarn Hows is the place for you.  It’s only 25 minutes from Broughton in Furness, past Coniston Water.

For all its natural beauty, the tarn is artificial.  It was created in the mid C19th by the owner out of three much smaller, boggier pools.  He also landscaped the area, building the footpaths and planting the magnificent, non-native trees such as the Giant Sequoia which give the place a rather Scottish feel.  Tarn Hows was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1965 with red squirrels, Herdwick sheep, both red and roe deer and Daubenton’s (or water) bats living in the area.

Tarn Hows is open dawn to dusk all year round.  Further details can be found on the National Trust website here.

Grizedale Forest Sculpture Trail

The immense satisfaction of finding something unexpected, yet wholly delightful, amongst trees has to be hot wired into the most grizedale woodsmanprimitive part of our brains.

Rambling around Grizedale Forest looking for sculpture is one of our favourite days out.  The tribe can run about to their heart’s content (waving sticks, climbing over logs and jumping out shouting BOO!), whilst I stand still and contemplate art, and it’s only half an hour’s drive from the cottage in Broughton-in-Furness.

Grizedale has the largest outdoor collection of site-specific art in the UK.  Created over 30 years, it holds about 50 permanent pieces but nobody’s quite sure how many as some, inevitably, have rotted away.  Last month, two new sculptures were added to the collection.  “Concrete Country” by Lucy Tomlins is an out-sized concrete country stile and “Romeo” by Owen Bullet & Rupert Ackroyd is a carved oak totem.  This was inspired by the story of Romeo, an urban fox who explored the Shard tower in London.

Grizedale Forest also hosts temporary exhibitions and events, please check out their website to find out what’s on.

Museums at Night Festival 2013

2013 Museums at NightThere is something deliciously exciting about being somewhere you are not normally allowed – especially at night.  Here in the South Lakes there are some fun things to do over the 16 – 18th May as part of the national Museums at Night Festival.

‘a greeting of good ale’ 16 May 7.30-9.00 £4 Dove Cottage. Wordsworth is famously known as the “simple water-drinking bard”, but the archives tell a different story.  Discover more about the history of Dove Cottage, formerly the Dove and Olive-Bough Inn,  and enjoy a free beer and food tasting.   Further details at The Wordsworth Trust website here.

Arts & Crime, Murder at Blackwell 16 May at 5.30, 6.30, 7.30, 8.30. Free but limited to 15 so booking essential.  You’ve mistakenly entered the end of a dinner party in the 1920s: what has happened and is someone still ‘at large’? Let the theatre company, Bear Necessities, lead you through Blackwell in search of the culprit.  Further details at the Blackwell website here.

Dozing at Dove Cottage 17 May & Secret Sleepover 18 – 19 May Dove Cottage  Dozing at Dove Cottage, for 14+, will be an eventful evening of activities exploring the cottage, a bite to eat, and a movie marathon followed by the sleepover.  Listen to some ghostly tales on the torch-lit trail and enjoy twilight arts & crafts activities before setting up camp in the museum for the night!  The Secret Sleepover is for children aged 7 – 13 years old, but adults will enjoy it too – a minimum of 1 adult for every 5 children. £10 pp includes breakfast, accommodation and materials for activities. Further details at The Wordsworth Trust website here.

Cranium Sculptorades at Abbot Hall 18 May From 6.00pm, games start after 7 until 10.  Free event, just turn up on the night!  Why stay in and play board games when the Lakeland Arts Trust team is challenging teams of visitors to a giant game of Cranium Sculptorades? Further details at the Abbot Hall website here.