Wild men, wet weather and woolly sheep

On a wet week in November, Mr H and I ventured to the north of England, to the beautiful Lake District, to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

The Lakes is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Britain – all rugged mountains, crystal clear lakes and rustic slate cottages. This is as close as England gets to true wilderness, with its unpredictable weather and craggy peaks.

For a short break in November however, we weren’t planning anything too wild. A bit of gentle rambling, chilling out in the spa and taking in the scenery, were all on the menu.

On our only full day there, given we were staying just south of the largest lake in the region, Windemere, we decided to follow a 10km circular route from the town of Ambleside.

Ambleside is quite a pretty town, but felt quite touristy, even in the low season when we were there. It has a lovely position on the edge of Lake Windemere, and is right next to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall.

Stock Ghyll Force

The falls were in full flow when we were there, and made quite the pretty picture rushing down through the autumn trees. Apparently in the spring the area is carpeted in daffodils too (very appropriate, given this is Wordsworth territory, but more on that later). They are only a five minute walk from Ambleside town centre, so very easy to visit. We had them pretty much to ourselves, on this drizzly Thursday.

Rainy rambling

From Stock Ghyll Falls, we were climbing to the top of Wansfell Pike, on a circular walk from Ambleside via TroutBeck. The Pike is about 400 metres high, and offers top views across Lake Windemere. The weather wasn’t great for us, with low cloud blowing around and plenty of wind, but the outlook from the top was still stunning.

View over Windemere from Wansfell Pike

After quite a bit of climbing, from here it was mainly down hill into the tiny village of Troutbeck. On the way down narrow country lanes lined with dry stone walls, we said hello to plenty of damp woolly sheep. I love how much wilder they look than the sheep I grew up with, which were always fairly neat and dusty in comparison.

Woolly locals

After a tea break by a stream in Troutbeck, we walked back towards Skelghyll Woods, a woodland managed by the National Trust. As you’ll see from the photo below, I was the designated map wearer. Not the most stylish piece of attire, but I sure love being in charge of directions.

My best look

We ended the day walking through pretty woodland, back down into Ambleside.

Cascades

To reward ourselves, we hopped on over to Elterwater to The Britannia Inn which had been recommended to us, for a well-earned drink by a lively fire in the snug bar.

Next day, the weather was rubbish. Wet and grey and COLD. What better thing to do, than head for a swim in one of the nearby lakes?

Brave man in a wetsuit

Not me of course – Mr H just couldn’t resist the call of the water! First we tried Rydal Water, one of the smallest lakes in the district, where you’ll also find Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s old cottage.

Fancy new swimming hat

Despite me loudly worrying about his sanity, Mr H ventured into the river that leads into Rydal Water. Looks inviting, no?

Venturing in…

But despite his toughness and state-of-the-art wetsuit, the conditions weren’t great. The river was rocky and shallow, and after travelling a little way down, we decided to try and find a better point to enter the lake.

Too shallow!

After driving around the lake and at one point ending up stuck at the end of a dead-end, muddy, narrow country lane, we drove on to Grassmere, to try the lake there instead.

This is more like it!

We found some steps in front of a hotel, and off he went.

Brrrrr!

I watched on in the rain from the muddy bank, as he explored the lake and scared the local water birds.

Too warm with the wetsuit on apparently

One cold but happy Englishman.

His idea of fun

We spent the rest of the day exploring Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage, and tasting local treats in the village of Grassmere. This in another post to follow soon.

Have you been to the Lake District? Any favourite places there to recommend?

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A day out in Lincoln

A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Holly invited me to join her and a bunch of friends for a big day out / train picnic adventure to Lincoln. Only one hour from Nottingham by train, I’d heard little about Lincoln – only that it is home to an impressive Cathedral and hosts a hugely popular Christmas market each December – and had never been there before.

Unfortunately the reason for our outing was a sad one, as Holly is leaving Nottingham to move to London, but in her inimitable style, she made sure to have a special send-off.

First up was the train journey there. We enjoyed a train picnic – bringing prosecco, red wine, cheese, pork pies, nuts, hommus, tomatoes and other tasty delights on board to share amongst the group. It was a lovely way to pass the train journey, as we travelled through pretty Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire countryside.

Welcome to Lincoln

Once arriving in Lincoln we enjoyed ‘free time’ and wandered around the town checking out the historic cobbled streets, and visiting some of the quirky stores and sights.

Saturday morning in Lincoln

Saturday morning in Lincoln is BUSY. It was a cold November day, but the sun was shining and it seemed everyone had come out to make the most of it. The area nearer the train station is mainly the usual high street suspects, but as we ventured further away, and started climbing up hill, we began to appreciate Lincoln’s pretty historic face.

Ladies who train picnic

The streets start to rise quite steeply and are lined with historic buildings, and on this autumn day the bunting was flying in the sunshine.

Lincoln’s Steep Hill

Steep Hill is a beautiful narrow street leading up to Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle, and is lined with all manner of temptations – second-hand bookshops, vintage shops, crafty gift stores, tea shops and clothing boutiques.

Autumn colours

It really is quite a steep climb, but there is plenty of cause to stop on the way up for a breather. We browsed in plenty of stores, but I managed to resist the temptations and save my pennies. We wandered and browsed and chatted, til we got to the top of the hill.

Cake show

I was particularly taken with this cake display in one of the tea shop windows. Tempting toffee fudge cake? If I wasn’t still full to the brim from the train picnic, I definitely would have been tempted to try a piece.

Lincoln Cathedral spires

As we got to the top of the hill, we spotted the cathedral’s famous spires in the distance, and a few of us wandered over to have a look at Lincoln’s most famous landmark.

A few interesting facts about Lincoln Cathedral:

  • For 249 years it held the title of the tallest building in the world (1300 – 1549)
  • The original Lincoln Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 1185. An earthquake! In Lincoln!?
  • It costs more than 1 million pounds per year to maintain the Cathedral
  • The Cathedral played the role of Westminster Abbey in the film of The Da Vinci Code

Spires and sunshine

It really is a beautiful building, and absolutely enormous. It glowed in the sunshine, and we stepped inside to appreciate it fully.

Inside the Cathedral

The sun shining through those huge stained glass windows was really something. I couldn’t really capture it properly on my little camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Lincoln Cathedral is open daily, and it is free to go inside and see the nave. For 6 pounds you can explore further and take part in one of the tours – I’d love to go back and have a proper look around.

Future home

The street outside the cathedral is lined with lovely historic homes. This one especially caught my eye – so pretty, and wouldn’t a Christmas tree glowing in the window just look picture perfect?

Lincoln’s famous Christmas market takes place 6 – 9 December this year, and although it is said to be hugely busy, it sounds like a brilliant festive day out.

Have you been to Lincoln or the Christmas market? What did you think?

A day out in Belper

One of my favourite things about living in England, is how easy it is to get to most places by public transport. I can walk ten minutes from my house, hop on a train and end up just about anywhere – even London is less than two hours from our front door by train. And to an Australian, two hours to get somewhere really isn’t very far at all.

So it was I found myself on a gloriously cold and crisp sunshiney winters day, hopping on a train to a new destination, off to discover the delights of the pretty market town of Belper. The reason for my visit was to catch-up with my lovely friend Catherine who lives in Belper, which is nestled in the Amber Valley on the banks of the River Derwent, in Derbyshire.

Autumn colours at the weir in Belper

The journey to Belper from Beeston, where we live, took me just over half an hour, and when I got there I felt like I was on holiday for the afternoon. Sometimes just being somewhere new can have that effect I find, and it probably helped that the sun was shining.

Posing in Belper

The weir on the River Derwent is one of my friend’s favourite spots, and I can see why. The running water and arched bridge make for a pretty picture, and I loved the trees growing right in the middle!

On the banks of the river

We wandered around the River Gardens, which are very picturesque, and met some of the friendly local ducks and geese. The bandstand in the park is used for concerts and performances in the summer – what a gorgeous spot for it.

The River Gardens

Belper was once at the heart of the industrial revolution, thanks to its cotton mills, which were powered by water from the River Derwent. The remaining mill building now houses a small museum, but much of it is also sitting empty. It is an amazing building, hopefully they bring it back to its former glory one day soon.

The old Mill building

The East Mill

Belper’s charm is that it is small enough to be quaint and pretty, surrounded by rolling green fields, but still has enough going on to make for a delightful day out.

Historic church in Belper

We wandered along narrow cobbled streets, past tiny cottages which would have once housed the mill workers, and by a beautiful old church yard full of autumn colours.

The Ritz Cinema

In town, Catherine pointed out The Ritz, their local cinema. Belper’s high street has some great independent shops and places to eat. We wandered into a specialist liquor store, homewares store and a few lovely clothes shops, in an attempt to get our Christmas shopping started.

After plenty of walking and chatting, our thirst got the better of us. Cat took me to a lovely cafe, I Should Cocoa, which is a chocolate shop slash cafe, and full to the brim with delicious goodies. We found a sunny spot inside and ordered hot chocolates. I went for the dark hot chocolate with orange, and I have to say it might have been THE best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. So smooth and chocolately, rich but not sickeningly sweet, it came with cream on top and a demure little bowl of marshmallows. Hot chocolate heaven.

Catherine and our hot chocolates!

I spied a couple of other nice places nearby, and will definitely be returning to try them! Fresh Basil is a deli selling local and artisan produce, and has been named one of the top 50 UK delicatessens by The independent. And next door to I Should Cocoa is Strutt Street Bakery, which had plenty of tempting treats in its front window.

Belper is just 45 minutes by train from Nottingham and 15 minutes by train from Derby. Have you ever been to Belper? Let me know what you thought!

Happy travels,

Erin x