After a week of ‘iffy’ weather in the north-west, Friday 17th was forecast to be at least dry and a promise of the sun making an appearance from time to time. We loaded up the Freelander and set off to pick up the caravan. By 9.30 we were hitched up and pulling out of the storage compound. Sue, while winding up the corner steadies with the Makita, had managed to get a mouthful of Makita battery when the torque twisted the drill out of her hand, which apparently was my fault. She was definitely not a happy camper. With hindsight, she was extremely lucky that she did not end up with broken teeth and a fractured nose. I think there is a lesson to be learned here. If you use any sort of drill to wind your steadies, you need to be certain of the setting before you start.
This was the first time out towing with our new TomTom Live Camper and Caravan version GPS. We have been using it for a couple of weeks to trial it and to get used to the new layout and functions. Hopefully I’ll be doing a review of it in the near future. We were stopping at the Caravan Club’s Troutbeck Head site just off the A66, so from Manchester it was an easy haul up the M61 and M6 to Penrith. By the time we were north of Carnforth it was coffee and sammich time. We broke the journey at Burton Services, which does not have any parking for caravans so we ended up parking in the lorry park next to a clean and shiny Eddie Stobart lorry. On leaving the lorry parking bay there is a rather deep drainage channel just as you pull out of the bay. It might be fine for lorry’s but it’s a bit deep for a car and caravan. I’d recommend giving this services a miss if you are towing. The rest of the trip was easy-going following the sat nav. Rather than using the POI in the sat nav for the site, I always create my own using Google Maps and street view, this way I can check the approach to a site just in case….. We pulled into the entrance and parked outside reception dead on 12:10 after towing 121 miles from base.
Troutbeck Head site is effectively split into two smaller sites. The ‘north’ section is laid out like most other touring sites while the ‘south’ section which has the fully serviced pitches was once where all the static caravans were once placed. As we had booked a fully serviced pitch this is where we were directed to. The pitches are wide enough but the access road is a little tight and reversing on to some of the pitches you have to be careful not to run on to the grass of the steep banks as they are very soft.
By 1:00 we were pitched and as the sun was shining, decided to enjoy it with a glass of wine (Sue) and bottle of beer (Me) sat out on the chairs and catch up on some reading.
A few days earlier I had been at Woodford, the former British Aerospace site. My local Rotary club stored their Christmas float in the old fire station and we were preparing it for a repaint. Stored next to it was the preserved nose section from a Vulcan bomber and while having a look round it reminded me of a book I had been given and read a few years ago. It was a copy of “Vulcan 607″ by Rowland White, the story of the RAF’s epic mission to bomb Stanley airfield on the Falklands. On the front page of the book it carries a hand written inscription ” To Simon, all the best Martin W”… Martin Withers was the pilot of 607 on that mission. It was a coincidence that this weekend was also the 70th anniversary of another famous RAF mission.
Saturday 18th May
Well, a picture is worth a thousand words or so they say….
We woke up to heavy rain pounding on the roof of the caravan. The access road had turned into a flowing river and even the birds thought better of it and grounded themselves for the day. After checking the local weather forecast on the morning news, the wind was only one or two knots so the weather front would take at least 12 to 18 hours to clear through. The prospect of trudging round any of the wet weather tourist destinations with everyone sporting dripping kagools, soggy rucksack’s and prodding your ankles with pointy walking sticks while attempting to shelter from the rain in every conceivable shop doorway did not appeal. Today was definitely a ‘glad to be indoors’ type of day. Sue had a stack of caravan magazines to catch up on and I had about two-thirds of my book still to read.
Sunday 19th May
Overnight the clouds had started to clear through and although not bright sunshine, it was bright and dry. There were a few clouds still sat on the peaks but hey… it is May and at least it hadn’t snowed in the last 48 hours. We originally wanted to get the steamer from Glenridding to Howtown and walk back to Glenridding following the shore of Ullswater. However, we engaged our brain at this point, as we had never done this walk before and did not know what the track was like or how steep it was. The 1:25,000 map indicated it might have a couple of steep sections round Hallin Fell and Low Birk Fell. We decided that with all the rain the previous day it might be a silly thing to attempt, especially as we were not seasoned hikers by any means. When I was in my teens, I’d done a bit of walking in the Lakes and way back then learned not to take stupid risks.
We decided instead to drive Kirkstone Pass, which was enveloped in low cloud, and end up in Ambleside for a spot of lunch. Turning south out of Troutbeck Head takes you down to Ullswater and for a while you follow the north shore before continuing south towards Kirkstone pass. We passed over some of the becks flowing into Ullswater and they were definitely in full flow.
Arriving in Ambleside was like hitting Manchester in rush hour. We managed to park on the car park behind the famous house on the bridge which allegedly was one of the most photographed buildings in the Lakes. Some of Ambleside was familiar, but a lot had changed …. mind you the last time Sue and I were there was back in the mid 80’s, and the last time I was there for any length of time was sometime in the 70’s when my parents used to rent a cottage. We did a bit of window shopping… and looking for a pair of laces for Sue’s walking shoes… which unless you wanted high performance military style laces was a bit of a blow out.
Sue spotted “The Giggling Goose” in the old mill, North Road and as it was lunchtime we headed in. Sue ordered soup which happened to be parsnip and came in a mahoosive beaker with warm crusty bread and I opted for a ‘cheese and bread lovers’ selection which came in its own wicker picnic basket!. It was described as a selection of cheeses and bread with chutney on the menu and all I can say is it was fantastic. The goat’s cheese especially. The only downside was both Sue’s choice and mine left no room to try some of the amazing desserts on display… the chocolate cheesecake looked especially inviting, mind you so did the walnut cake and…. Oh well. We returned to the car and headed down to Bowness. Today was the Windermere Marathon and on the road down to Bowness we passed a constant stream of runners who at this point had already run over 20 miles still looked to be going strong. Well done to everyone taking part. However, it did mean that Bowness was full…. a quick tour of the main car parks and the queues to get in them saw us taking a tour round the back of Bowness and heading back up the A591 towards Keswick. Just outside Keswick we called in the filling station to top up with fuel and headed back along the A66 back to Troutbeck Head. As the clouds had been slowly clearing all day the opportunity to sit out and catch up with the Sunday papers over another glass of wine / beer presented itself. As we pulled into the site and turned along the small road leading to out pitch, it was a case of spot the newcomers and one stood out. There was a splendid new Inos caravan pitched. This was the first time I’d seen one of these with the slide out section. We parked up and got the chairs out and settled down outside for a bit of reading/caravan people watching… OK admit it, you do it as well.
We had only been sat out for 15 minutes when a chap came along and looked at the empty pitch next to us. He said hello to us and told us that they had just pitched and when he went to tell the warden which pitch they were on to get his gate pass, he was told he’d have to move as he had pitched on a seasonal pitch. 10 minutes later, the Inos caravan we had seen earlier came down the small road and proceded to reverse on to the pitch next to us. As they were reversing on, it was the first chance I’d had to see one of these up close. I was impressed how clean the lines were. No twiddly bits, awning or skirt rails spoiling the lines. It was an impressive looking van.
Later that evening we had a visitor from the Inos caravan. I just opened the door to go outside for a cigar and a Westie was sat there looking up at me. As soon as the door was fully open, he jumped up the steps walked in and sat down looking at us. We think he was having a location crisis as earlier he had been on one pitch, then had to move to the pitch next to us.
The night sky had some scattered high clouds but there wasn’t any rain forecast overnight or for the following day for our trip home.
Next trip we are off to Glastonbury… no, not the festival, but to The Old Oaks and then on to Warwick Racecourse.