Lake District and Yorkshire Dales

Many hours spent looking at this picture

26-29 June – The Lake District – Phillip and Heather own a cottage in Underbarrow, a village in the Lake District National Park. They very kindly offered to take us up there for a few days, an offer we jumped at. As a child in primary school, we got a new set of coloured pencils each year. They were the “Lakeland” set, produced by the Columbia and Cumberland Pencil Company. I used to gaze upon the pretty scene of the Lakes District when things got boring in class and always thought it would be a nice place to visit. The brand is now called Derwent and is located in Keswick in the Lakes District. However, I notice from looking at a picture of the old pencil tins that mine were made in Lane Cove, NSW.

The Yorkshire Dales – We drove through some beautiful country along the way, across the Yorkshire Dales. These are wild and bare high hills, not really mountains, but massive nonetheless. They hold a beauty that is hard to describe, but best gleaned from the TV series All Creatures Great and Small. I am not sure I would want to live in such places, especially during the depths of winter, but driving across the Dales is a wonderful experience. The area markets itself on being “Herriot Country” and we stopped in a delightful small village of Askrigg to get a picture of Skeldale House, Siegfried’s house and surgery in the TV series. There was an old car as featured, parked out front, and looking like it hadn’t moved for years.

Yorkshire Dales and Skeldale House (All Creatures Great and Small)

Some of the roads we took were the one lane type common in rural Britain. Here though, getting too far to one side didn’t just contact a soft hedge, there were also dry-stone walls to contend with. Dry-stone walls are an art form across the country, the building techniques varying widely. The ones in North Yorkshire are the neatest yet, with beautifully stacked stones and a line of angled slate-like pieces as a topping. None of the beauty matters if the car is sent crashing into one by an oncoming vehicle. Heather had to brake sharply a number of times and there was a bit of backing up on both sides but we got through without leaving any bits of dry-stone on the car.

The sheep here are very different, mostly Swaledale, a breed of Yorkshire sheep known for their hardiness and meat more than their wool, which is rather coarse and off-coloured. They are a long haired breed and many that we saw had not been shorn, leaving them with long dags of wool and big bare patches where the wool had dropped out. I dubbed them apocalypse sheep because they looked like something out of a zombie movie. The lambs on, on the other hand, are pure cuteness.

A stop at the Wensleydale Creamery for cheese tasting and lunch was well worth it. There is a seemingly endless variety of cheeses on display, all freely available for tasting. We moved through the tasting room, sampling almost everything, except for the blue cheeses, which do little for us. The Wensleydale varieties were very good, and we bought a mild Wensleydale and an interesting Ginger flavoured cheese to have with drinks at the cottage. We were so filled up on cheeses that we kept lunch small.

A very rough representation of our trip. (Yes, I got a bit lost)

Lake District – Once down from the Dales we spent a brief time in the lower country before once again driving into the hilly country towards the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District. Britain does not have any high mountains by world standards but many contain enough bulk to be impressive and the geologically recent glaciation of the last ice age has left the valleys wide and rounded.

The cottage proved to be charming, with three comfortable bedrooms and a homely downstairs area. It is one of three dwellings in the building, it being originally a farmhouse and barn, but now converted. Christine never tired of looking out the back windows because they overlooked a field with sheep in it, better looking than the apocalypse sheep, and a few rabbits that loved to play around in the morning hours. She even announced that she liked washing up now because the kitchen overlooked the field. I might get some sheep and rabbits.

The cottage. Search “Orphan Crag” in AirBnB

Phillip and Heather kept us busy, proving the perfect tour guides. Unfortunately, the weather worked hard against them, with some cold and rainy periods. In fact, it was the worst weather yet encountered in Britain, but in a way it enhanced the beauty of the surroundings, producing some lovely mists and low cloud at times. We drove up to the nearby Scout Scar, a long limestone cliff. The scars are a feature of the area and help produce some of the amazing scenery. There is a memorial called the Mushroom on the top of the scar that has a feature showing all the visible features and mountains in a 360º arc. We could only see all but the tops of the highest peaks.

Views from Scout Scar

One day, we went on a tour to see a coupe of the lakes. What else would one do in the Lake District. The closest and largest is Lake Windemere. We drove along the eastern shore seeing the many small settlements and resort towns. The area was generally busy, despite the wet weather, probably with people from tour coaches who have had to go ahead regardless. The numerous watersport facilities were not getting much of a workout, although the temperature did not stop some people from swimming.

At the bottom of the lake, we turned to cross the Newby Bridge. As we passed the Newby Bridge Hotel, the sight of a carpark full of vintage cars caught our interest. We managed to find a parking space and wandered around the cars, admiring everything. The oldest I saw was from 1904. They were part of a rally and most owners were out getting ready for the day. A couple that had no form of rain protection were crying off on this leg. We talked to one couple who had a 1914 Paterson (USA). He told us that he had just purchased another Paterson from Brisbane and was having it shipped over (at horrendous cost). He indicated he had a few other cars and then confessed to owning 11 vintage cars all up. I asked about sourcing tyres for these cars and he said it was mostly off the internet. The ones for his Paterson are in the region of £500 each, and given that the current ones are well worn, it was time to sell the car. This is not a hobby I need.

Vintage car ralley

The next stop was Lakeside, where Lake Windemere empties into the River Leven. Lakeside forms a port for the southern end of the lake and there is a beautiful little steam train running down to the village of Haverthwaite. We rode the train, unable to resist a steam train ride. The carriages were 1950s vintage and done in the old traditional red and cream of British Rail.

The Lakeside to Haverthwaite steam train

We just did the ride down and back, before getting out and visiting the aquarium, next to the station. I assumed that the display would focus on the aquatic life of the local lakes, and although that was represented, there was a lot on display from many parts of the world. We particularly admired the sturgeons, huge fish to have in an aquarium, but only tiny compared to the potential 6m long for a full grown specimen. There was a very good display of the fish of the local marine environment in Humbolt Bay, with many kinds of dogfish, skate and rays. There were a few weird turbots, large white flatfish with both eyes on one side of their head. All in all, a worthwhile stop.

Big Sea Bass and Leopard Sharks

We drove back around and north along the shores of Windemere through Ambleside and up to the little village of Grasmere, on the shores of the lake with the same name. Heather waited in the long queue to purchase some of Grasmere’s famous gingerbread, unlike any other we have tried. It is more like a ginger toffee coated in loose crumbs than a biscuit, but it is quite delicious. Grasmere also boasts the grave of William Wordsworth who described Grasmere as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” While Heather stood in line, we wandered through the Daffodil Park, along a unique pathway of flagstones, each bearing the family name and city of origin of people who donated to the formation of the park. It was very interesting, and we found a few Australian families. I thought this was a great way to create something special and it was very well done.

View from Brantwood over Coniston Water

The drive south took us along the shores of Lake Coniston and through the small town of the same name. By the time we reached home, we were exhausted, but no trip to the region would have been complete without a tour, even though one could spend years exploring the many nooks and crannies of this picturesque part of England. No wonder it is one of the big tourist drawcards.

On our last night at the cottage, we enjoyed a very nice meal at the local “Black Labrador” pub. I can see why the cottage has its attractions for Heather and Phillip. It is a slower pace of life, even though Newark is more downbeat than London. In the lake District, one never ceases to be in touch with nature and the weather, and, in my opinion, is one of the keys to a life of contentment. That connection is being eroded through city life and a reliance on media to supply all our emotional needs. Get outside and live, I say.

We only covered a small part of the extensive Lake District

Huddersfield – On our drive back to Newark, we detoured a little to take in the West Riding of Yorkshire to see what we could find of the area that my father came from. My grandparents, aunt and father came to Western Australia by ship in 1927 from Huddersfield. We had information on where they lived prior to leaving, a house that the family had occupied for around 20 years. Along the way, we stopped at “The Hinchliffe” a pub in a village called Cragg Vale to take some pictures. The house itself was not as easy. The place has been built over by a large factory or mill, and it looks as though that is being prepared once again for redevelopment. Heather researched the old maps of the area and we found that the house would have been on the edge of a railway marshalling yard, which was obviously redeveloped to a factory of sorts sometime after 1929. So we found nothing definitive, but we still got the feeling of a few ghosts of family past.

As near as we could ascertain, this is where my grandparents and father lived. The rail tunnel would probably have been there.

Our final stop was at “Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop”, passing through the locality of “Berry Brow” the name of the Palmyra house my mother lived in as a child. This has always been considered an odd coincidence in our family, as Mum’s family had no Yorkshire connections. Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop is a big concern, selling an amazing array of fresh farm produce with an attached restaurant. It boasts being the first farm shop in Britain, the original business starting off in 1929 selling and delivering fresh eggs. We asked one of the butchers for any history of the business and were given a pack of brochures. He said they get quite a few Hinchliffes through from many parts of the world but were the first Australians he knew of. We had a meal at the restaurant and headed off, feeling that we had done as much as we could to trace the roots.

The Hinchliffe Arms and early farm shop truck




  1. Phillip and Heather sounded like great tour guides.

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