Back to Haarlem

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Last week we were back in Haarlem, to visit our daughter while taking a few days break. As usual, we managed to pack a lot into the week – spending some time exploring the small, historic city, watching some live music acts (the Haarlem Jazz Festival started towards the end of our little holiday), taking in some art in Amsterdam and even managing a short walk on the dunes.

We caught the plane from Manchester. Unfortunately there was a dealy which meant we were sat on the plane for over an hour and a half before it took off. Not the greatest experience, but it could have been worse. So we arrived in Haarlem a couple of hours late. It’s quite easy to get to the city by catching the Number 300 bis that runs from Schipol airport to the train station in Haarlem, a 40 minute journey with buses about every 10 minutes during the daytime. We’d rented a house a few minutes walk from the station, so after picking up the keys we were soon settled in.

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The next morning we spent the morning wandering around Haarlem. The Single canal was just a couple of minutes walk from our little house. The canal was built as part of the city defences and the northern section zig zags – a defensive arrangement. The city walls used to stand on an embankment to the south of this section of the canal but they were dismantled many years ago as the city expanded northwards and a park created where they used to stand. We followed the path along the canal bank through the park.

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We spent the rest of the morning mooching around the pleasant streets in the city centre before grabbing a bite to eat in the cafe on the top floor of the Hudson Bay department store

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from where there are good views over the city.

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The building that the Hudson Bay store occupies was built in the 1930’s for the Vroom en Dreesman store. It’s architecture is modernist in style with Amsterdam School and Art Deco influences. It’s something of a Marmite building – you either love it or hate it – I fall into the former camp! V and D went bust in 2015 and the building was unoccupied the first time we visited Haarlem, but it was taken over by Hudson Bay (a Canadian company) who opened there in 2018.

There are some rather nice stained glass windows in the stairwell and on some of the floors

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After we’d eaten we wandered through the shopping streets down to the Spaarn and made our way to the Tyler’s Museum. Our visit there warrants its own post so to finish this one, here’s a few photos I took around the town (some taken later in the week).

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Spring Break

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It’s been a long haul from Christmas this year with Easter being so late – I wish they’d fix the date! So I was glad to be able to take a week off work last week to go away for a few days. We found ourselves a cottage for 4 nights just outside Cartmel at the foot of Hampsfell.

Cartmel is a small, attractive village to the north of the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, which is something of a “honeypot” with an old Priory church, old houses and other buildings, a number of touristy shops, a Michelin 2 star restaurant, four pubs and the smallest racecourse in the UK. The village is just to the south of the Lake District National Park, although our cottage, one of a small group of properties, was just inside the National Park boundary. Historically the Cartmel peninsula, together with nearby Furness, the other side of the Leven estuary, were part of Lancashire. Cut off from the rest of the county the area was often known as “Lancashire over the sands”. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 it was absorbed by the newly created county of Cumbria.

This old map shows the pre-1974 county boundaries and includes the area north of Morecambe Bay which is now incorporated into Cumbria.

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Although seemingly cut off from the rest of the county the area was accessed via routes over the sands of Morecambe Bay. The tide recedes from the bay leaving behind a vast area of sand and mudflats criss-crossed by a number of river channels and notorious for it’s quicksands. Until the Furness railway was opened in 1857, crossing the sands was a major route of communication. It was a dangerous crossing, though, and many people were trapped by quicksands and a rapidly rising tide, losing their lives. According to Wikipedia Cartmel apparently means “sandbank by rocky ground“, from the Old Norse kartr (rocky ground) and melr, reflecting it’s location a few miles north of the bay.

We were lucky to have some decent weather – cool, but sunny – so managed to have a good break taking in some walks, a visit to a stately home and even some art! So, lots to write up, but for a starter here’s a few photos we took in and around the village and our cottage.

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Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge

Thursday was the last day of our holiday and we decided that although rain showers were forecast we’d get out for a walk. We managed to persuade our son to come out with us so we decided on a route that wouldn’t be too challenging.

We drove over to the National Trust Car Park at Great Wood on the east side of the lake and set off up through the woods, heading for Walla Crag.

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The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up of Derwent Water and the fells to the west of the lake

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and to Skidaw

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and Blencathra

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Passing the farm we had a short sharp climb up the fell, but with great views

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It’s a relatively short climb up to the top of the crag, although it is classified as a Wainwright as the grumpy author of the classic guidebooks to the Lakeland fells gives it it’s own entry due to it’s popularity. It’s certainly a great viewpoint.

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The dark clouds threatening rain made it very atmospheric.

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Bleaberry Fell, only a mile away, looked inviting

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but son wasn’t so keen on extending the walk, so we continued on our pre-planned route taking the path descending gradually down the hill towards Ashness Bridge.

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Looking back over Derwent Water

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It didn’t take us too long to reach Ashness Bridge, a traditional stone-built bridge on the single-track road to Watendlath. It’s a very popular tourist spot as it’s easily accessible and is allegedly the most photographed packhorse bridge in the Lake District, so I had to stop to take a few snaps.

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Rather than take the path through the woods from Ashness Bridge back to Great Wood car park we decided to follow the road down to the lake and walk along the shore to Calfclose Bay to have another look at the Millennium stones monument.
I’m not sure that this was a great idea because for a good stretch of the way back the path we’d walked along on Saturday was flooded as the Lake level had risen due to the on and off rain since Sunday.

Reaching the sculpture, this is what greeted us

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So far, despite rain clearly visible falling over the fells, especially up Borrowdale and in Newlands Valley across Derwent Water, we’d avoided the showers. But now it started to rain – very heavily. It was only a short walk back to the car, but it was time to get the waterproofs out of the rucksack!

Reaching the car we changed out of our boots and chucked the wet coats into the boot of the car and then drove back to Portinscale. Another good walk.

A night at the Theatre by the Lake

After looking round the museum in Keswick, browsing in the shops and a stroll in the parks we headed over to Morrel’s Restaurant where we had a table booked for an early evening pre-theatre meal. Like some other diners we had tickets for that evening’s performance at the Theatre by the Lake.

The Theatre “does exactly what it says on the tin” – it’s a repertory theatre situated close to the northern lake shore of Derwent Water. It opened in 1999 with funding from an Arts Council Lottery Fund Grant. It has a main auditorium and a Studio theatre. From May to November every year a resident company of up to 14 actors perform a Summer Season of six plays in repertory.

We’d decided it would be good to take in a play during our stay in Keswick so I’d booked tickets the week before. The play running that week was an adaption of Jane Austen’s tale of manners, matrimony and social standing – Sense and Sensibility. Now I’m not a fan of Austen’s work and had hesitated when looking at the programme but decided to go anyway. I’m glad I did.

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The play was a light-hearted adaption of the novel featuring the entire company, some in multiple roles. It was funny and well acted with some excellent performances. I though Lydea Perkins’ did a convincing job portraying the young Margaret Dashwood. Sarah Kempton and Alice Imelda as her older sister, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood were also very good. Christine Entwisle was also excellent in the contrasting parts of the cold and cruel Fanny Dashwood and the main comic turn, Mrs Jennings.

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The male leads Oliver Mott as at Willoughby and Thomas Richardson as Colonel Brandon both did a good job in portraying characters of whom the audience’s opinion and sympathies changed during the course of the play.

So, despite my initial reservations, this was an enjoyable evening and I’m glad I decided to overcome my prejudice and go ahead an buy the tickets. Sometimes taking a chance leads to a nice surprise!

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Keswick Museums

The Tuesday morning of our holiday we went out on the lake. The offspring and Moss in a canoe, while I followed up on my Anglesey adventure by hiring a kayak – a “sit on” one this time as no “sit in” types were available. Photographs were difficult as we didn’t want to get our phones and cameras wet, but Mitch did manage to get a snap of Moss.

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After an enjoyable hour paddling on the water, we went back to the apartment to dry off, change and have a bite to eat. After that I went with J into Keswick for the afternoon. After looking around the shops for a while we headed over to the Keswick museum. It’s quite small, occupying only three rooms (not counting the reception / gift shop, but worth a visit. There’s a permanent collection – local fossils, geological samples, natural history, social and industrial history exhibits and objects reflecting life in Keswick and the Lake District. Old fashioned, but in a good way!

UntitledMy favourite exhibit was the large lithophone (a xylophone made of slate) which visitors could have a go at playing.

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There were also two temporary exhibitions – one devoted to female mountaineering in the Lake District and the other to the famous mountaineer, Chris Bonnington, who lives locally.

The other museum in Keswick is devoted to a product that used to be a mainstay of the local economy – the pencil.  We visited on the Wednesday, which had the worst weather of the holiday – it rained most of the day.

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Graphite was discovered down Borrowdale, near Seathwaite, way back in the 1500’s and a cottage industry of pencil making began in the area and this then evolved over time to with the UK’s first pencil factory being founded in Keswick in 1832. The Cumberland Pencil Factory was set up in 1916 and would have been a major employer in the town until it was relocated to more modern premises near Workington in 2008. The pencil museum is located on the site of the former factory, having moved there when the original site in the centre of the town was damaged during the devastating floods in December 2015. It reopened only last year at the new location.

It may seem a little odd having a museum dedicated to such an ordinary object, but we found it interesting and spent over an hour looking round. The entry “ticket” is an actual Cumberland pencil.

Exhibits cover the history of the industry and the manufacturing process, starting with the mining of the graphite itself. There’s also displays of the different products produced by the company over the years, as well as various objects related to the manufacture, promotion and use of pencils, including one of the largest colour pencils in the world measuring almost 8 metres

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and miniature pencil sculptures.

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During WW2 the factory were commissioned by British Intelligence to create a special pencil with a hidden compass and maps. It was given to bomber pilots and sent to prisoners of war, the idea being that they could use them if shot down or trying to escape.

There were tables set out with the range of products manufactures by the company which visitors could use and try out. They specialise these days in high end products for artists with graphite products making up only a small proportion of their range. There was, of course, a shop where the products were on sale!

Definitely worth a visit for an hour or so on a rainy day in Keswick.

Lingholm

The weather forecast for the Sunday of our holiday in the Lakes was for heavy rain all day. It didn’t quite turn out like that. We had a lazy morning and a late cooked breakfast (a holiday treat) but in the afternoon I had itchy feet. The skies were grey but it wasn’t raining, so some of us decided to go out for a short walk to have a look at the Lingholm Estate.

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After the Lake District had become a popular holiday destination, particularly after the arrival of the railways made travel there much easier, many wealthy Victorian businessmen (many from Northern England) had holiday homes built on, or close to, the shores of the various lakes. Lingholm, on the north west shores of Derwent Water is one of these. It’s a large house built in 1873 and designed by the prominent Victorian Architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed many notable buildings including Liverpool University Victoria Building, Manchester Town Hall, Strangeways Prison, the Natural History Museum in London and Wigan Library)for Lt Col. James Fenton Greenall of the brewing family. Financial problems meant that he had to sell it and it in 1900 it ended up owned by the family of George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale.

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Beatrix Potter spent her summer holidays at Lingholm between 1885 and 1907, and she wrote some of her best-known stories while she was staying here.

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Today the house has been converted to holiday accommodation with several apartments to rent, but there’s also a garden and café that’s open to the public. It wasn’t possible to get round to have a proper look at the house so I was only able to get some snaps from the back.

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The octagonal garden is only a few years old, but sits on the same spot as the old Lingholm kitchen gardens which Beatrix Potter credited as her original inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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The garden contains a mix of vegetables for the kitchen and ornamental plants

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There’s a path down to the lake where there’s a jetty where it’s normally possible to catch the launch over to Keswick and other locations around the Lake. It’s closed at the moment due to the construction of a new boathouse, but it was still possible to access the lake shore.

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The estate also own a herd of alpacas and you can hire one out to take for a walk if you feel so inclined!

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After a coffee and an ice cream we walked back towards Portinscale. I decided to have a wander through the meadow to the lake side where I stopped for a while to watch competitors participating in the second day of the swim-run coming ashore.

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There was only a relatively short run for them to the finish line.

I had a chat with one of the race officials and he told me that the race had started in Buttermere and they’d swum in the lake there, run over the pass, along Derwent Water before another swim. Crazy!

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A week in the Lakes

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I’m just back from a family holiday in the Lakes. Our daughter came over from Amsterdam with her boyfriend (the first time he’s been on holiday with us so we had a compliment of 5 this year, plus Moss the Springer Spaniel who we were looking after while his owners were away on a one week cruise.

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This year we were staying in an apartment in Portinscale, a small village just outside Keswick in the north lakes. Although only a mile from the hub-bub of Keswick, it really felt like it’s own place. Our apartment was on the first floor of the building and we had a great view over Derwent Water and the crags and fells on the east side of the lake from a large picture window and balcony.

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After a couple of months of unusually hot weather and little rainfall, things had changed and the forecast for our week away didn’t look too promising. However the weather turned out better than expected so although the temperature was considerably lower than it had been, that was good for an active break, and the rain mainly fell in the evening, overnight and early morning, so it certainly didn’t spoil things for us and we were able to do almost everything we’d planned. And the fells can look particularly attractive when there’s a mix of sun and cloud

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Having said that there was enough rain to result in the lake level on Derwent Water rising several inches as can be seen in the photos I took of the Millenium Stones sculpture by Peter Radley-Page in Calfclose bay on the Saturday

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and Thursday

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We had a busy week. Family holidays inevitably involve compromise so I didn’t spend the week up on the high fells but I did have one day out on my own. Besides that we had a couple of less strenuous walks, went out on the Lake in a kayak (me) and a canoe (offspring, daughter’s boyfriend and Moss the dog), visited a couple of museums and a garden, ate out a few times, had an evening at the theatre, visited an exhibition of ceramics at a favourite location and had a wander round a pleasant small village..

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So quite a bit to write up!