Lake District 2015

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I asked my good friend Richard Marson to keep a diary of our trip to the Lake District and below are his observations. - BL


Friday, 9th October

OCTOBER - T’was exactly 09.15 as our coach pulled away from the lay-by at Shenfield Station for our next port of call, Brentwood High Street, and then on to Mary Green Manor to complete the entourage before joining the M25. The day started with a beautiful cloudless blue sky providing wall-to-wall sunshine and a pleasant 13 degrees. Could we have requested anything better?

The serenity within the coach was broken by the dulcet tones of El Capitano Brian, who was responsible for arranging the break and who introduced us to Robert Hull, our driver, adding that we would be meeting our courier Dorothy at the hotel. He also advised us of a cunning plan, to play havoc with our brains, in the form of a quiz which would extend for the next three days (you can read of this later).

Robert advised we would be stopping at the Norton Canes service area for coffee as he needed to obtain a pass in order to use the M6 Toll Road. Unfortunately on arrival it appeared that the cast of Ben Hur had arrived and it needed a strong constitution to achieve the comfort break and obtain refreshments in the allotted time. Eventually all were rounded up and back on the coach to take the toll road to connect once more with the M6 which was extremely busy being a Friday as it was POETS day, or Push Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday, as any worker will tell you.

Lunch break was taken at Bridgemere Garden Centre, located just outside civilisation near Nantwich, a huge enterprise believed to be the largest in the UK, and members were required to undertake a route march to reach the restaurant. It was likened to Las Vegas which is often referred to as "the lighthouse in the desert – very bright, but not a lot of use." So, too, Bridgemere could be remembered as "paradise in purgatory –never-ending elegance in a vast wilderness."

It seemed an eternity before eventually making by 17.15 it to the County Hotel, Kendal. Here we were greeted by the Assistant Manager who soon had us settled in our rooms while our cases were delivered to our doors.

The lounge/bar appeared to be the in-place as quite a number of members took sustenance after a very long day before going through for dinner at 19.00. There was a good choice on the menu and staff served us all quickly and efficiently. Coffee was taken in the lounge

Saturday, 10th October

On a crisp slightly overcast morning, following a very welcome breakfast served very promptly, we boarded our coach and left at 09.15 for our first tour of Lakeland. Our courier, Dorothy, gave a concise interesting insight into the background of Kendal known as "The Gateway to the Lakes". First stop on our itinerary was to Ambleside is a typical Lakeland village where one ambles (no pun intended), which we did for three-quarters of an hour, browsing the quaint shops and cafes, etc. We continued onto Hawkshead through a magnificent leafy and twisty road that tested the skill of the driver. Hawkshead is a charming little village with a pattern of nooks and crannies, interspersed with the many touristy shops, pubs and restaurants that is the attraction for millions of overseas visitors.

We continued our journey to Lakeside, where roughly two-thirds took the steamer to Bowness, whilst the land-lubbers travelled by coach. A couple of hours was spent in Bowness which is built on a steep hill. The journey back to our hotel in Kendal was uneventful, where after another enjoyable dinner we were entertained by Eric Lee Stevens, an extremely good all-round entertainer who was a comedian, vocalist and keyboard player, and whose claim to fame was playing the keyboard on the original recording of the Tony Christie’s hit tune "Amarillo"’.

Sunday, 11th October

As on Saturday, the day started bright but slightly overcast. Dorothy promised that while Lakeland has beautiful scenery our journey today would take us through some of the prettiest areas, with absolutely stunning countryside of rolling narrow roads, valleys and mountainsides and plains alive with flocks of every breed of sheep imaginable. First stop was Grasmere where we had an hour or so to explore this delightful hamlet. It attracts many visitors and even this late in the season we were able to get an idea of the numbers that crowd the narrow winding road. On a personal note I was surprised to find a takeaway shop, called Lucia's, that was no bigger than a hole in the wall, where an entrepreneurial  man (Lucia?) was busy preparing a dish of pasties for the counter and on looking through the front window I could see more pasties and an array of fillings. The place, the tiniest I've seen for many years couldn’t have exceeded more than 80 sq ft, and contained a small sink, a microwave and oven, and customers could only stand at the doorway (which was open, I imagine for ventilation), while making their purchases. Lucia had found a wonderful niche market requiring minimal overheads and staff.

We made our way back to the coach for the next leg of our journey which was Keswick. Confirming Dorothy’s promise the scenic views were breathtaking through the valley roads, streams and rolling hillsides with cattle and sheep dotted along the way and the occasional greystone cottage and farmhouse. Keswick is a thriving market town and with a large pedestrian thoroughfare, lined with restaurants and cafe’s making it easy for shoppers. With a departure time of 2.30, we had sufficient time for lunch, followed by a gentle stroll around the many shops. Unfortunately one couple mis-heard Dorothy’s announcement for the time to return to the coach of 14.30 for 4.30, so the rest of the members found themselves having to sit on the coach and wait another hour and a quarter before the couple, who actually thought they were early, returned.

The eventual return to our hotel was made via Kirkstone Pass, which to say the least, was surely the most spectacular and wondrous valley scene that can be seen in this country today. Eventually reaching the top of Kirkstone Pass (with the highest inn in the country), the photographers amidst us recorded the stunning views for miles around in the late afternoon.

Arriving back in Kendal and following dinner, members assembled in the lounge for the evening’s entertainment, but first, our leader, El Capitano Brian, announced the winners of the quiz that he had set over the past three days. Quite simply he gave us clues to three well-known personalities over the course of the three days and points were awarded depending how quickly we were able to guess their identities. Winners of a box of chocolates were Willie and Hilly Gilly Reeves.

This evening’s entertainment was performed by the diminutive guitarist and vocalist (under 5ft tall) Jeremy Jay, who reminisced through country and western, rock and roll music songbooks from the 50’s and 80’s bringing many memories flooding back and a little madness within the audience as well!

Monday, 12th October

Our final day of a quite brilliant four-day break began bleakly as our entourage appeared to sleepwalk through to breakfast and eventually to the coach in weather that had suddenly changed to bring a little drizzly rain to a rather dreary morning. However once in the coach and just before the off, with fond farewells to the staff, Kevin the hotel manager appeared to say he hoped we had enjoyed our stay and wished us a safe journey but had to ask if he could have the keys to room 214 back as they were not in reception. Now there are no prizes for guessing who had the keys, in London parlance - they "blew it".

Once under way Dorothy advised us that we would have a coffee break at the Trentham Estate garden centre, which is near Stoke. The weather was very kind and many members enjoyed their coffee sitting out in the warm sunshine. On then to Norton Canes Services for lunch where we bade farewell to our driver Robert who was replaced by another driver also named Rob, before continuing on our journey.

Our courier Dorothy had kept us very well informed, interspersed with stories and puns that were both funny and dubious during the two days. As an example, at one time she had the whole coach talking to the fairies! Whilst returning to Brentwood Dorothy presented two prizes chosen from the feedback questionnaires provided by Just for Groups. Lucky recipients were Celia Clinker and Mollie Cooper.

Dorothy must be commended, for carrying out her courier duties with excellence and due diligence.

El Capitano Brian advised us that gratuities for both courier and driver had been taken care of in the overall price, which incidentally the general consensus appeared to be extremely good value for the money paid, but he requested a sitting ovation to both for a wonderful weekend.

To finalise the proceedings, and on behalf of the rest of the party, Michael Jennings requested we show our appreciation to our esteem Chairman and El Capitano Brian for an extremely well organised weekend excursion flawlessly executed.                  Richard Marson

As well as the pictures below you may click on the button below to access more of Bill's photos

 seem more pictures and videos on Bill's Website

Kirkstone Pass (Photo: William Reeves)

Ambleside  (Photo: William Reeves)

William Wordsworth Cottage, Hawkshead (Photo: William Reeves)

Beatrix Potter shop, Hawkshead (Photo: William Reeves)

Bowness ferry port (Photo: William Reeves)

 Grasmere gingerbread (Photo: William Reeves)

A glimpse of Thirlmere Lake as the coach rounds a bend (Photo: William Reeves)

Cumberland Pencil company (Photo: William Reeves)

Tower Bridge in pencils (Photo: William Reeves)

Hawkshead looking north  (Photo: William Reeves)

Church at Hawkshead  (Photo: William Reeves)

Bridge at Grasmere  (Photo: William Reeves)

Wordsworth family grave (Photo: William Reeves)

Homeward bound, the Group stops off for a brief coffee break at a garden centre near Stoke-on-Trent (Photo: Brian Leith)

As well as the pictures above you may click on the button below to access more of Bill's photos

 seem more pictures and videos on Bill's Website

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