After that we spent awhile looking at the farm's collection of old steam equipment and visiting the animals. Aurora, meanwhile, spent most of the time riding around on some toy tractors they had available.
After awhile we decided that we'd seen about everything there was to see, so we hopped into the car and headed off towards home.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill
The day yet held one more surprise, however. Michelle happened to spot a road sign pointing the way to an English Heritage property described simply as "Bobbin Mill". Excited by the intersection of her interests in yarn and heritage, Michelle was keen to take a detour to see what it was all about.
When we arrived what we found was Stott Park Bobbin Mill, the only working bobbin mill left in the Lake District. The car park was a short distance from the main property, and the whole site was tucked away in a wooded valley, so we frankly had almost no idea of what awaited us.
When we arrived we discovered that the only way to see the interior of the property was by guided tour—but luckily for us there was one in around ten minutes, so we waited around and looked at the exhibitions on display until it was time to start.
At the appointed hour we were ushered into the dimly lit interior that was crammed with equipment. Our guide showed us the original steam engine that powered everything—still in working order, but only run on special occasions—and then talked us through the complicated process of creating bobbins.
Stott Park was a mechanised workshop where coppice poles or, later, larger planks, were transformed into finished bobbins. This process involved many separate stages and each of the machines on display was designed to perform a specific task.
We then headed into the other half of the ground floor, where the wooden cylinders were formed into the shape of bobbins. I was amazed at how fast the process was and how little the workers were paid for each gross of bobbins, as a way of motivating faster production.
Apparently the shavings were allowed to pile up around the workers which helped to keep them warm on chilly mornings. Once the piles got too high, however, they’d sweep them through a small door directly into the boiler—nothing went to waste.
It was great to see our guide not only describe the processes but demonstrate them as well, as you can see in the video below.
Next we headed upstairs to where the chisels were sharpened and the bobbins were polished and finished. As well as the machinery there were an almost inconceivable number of old bobbins lying around on display.
It was a beautiful evening and as the light slowly faded I found some new views of the estate that made for some picturesque photos.
As it got darker it was time to head back to the cottage for another pleasant evening.
Monday, 14 August
Monday was my beloved Michelle and my wedding anniversary. We'd booked a table for dinner at a Windermere restaurant, so we took it fairly easy during the day in preparation for the evening. That didn't stop us taking a little time out to enjoy our cake, however!
We had a beautiful meal and when dessert arrived we received a special bonus cheesecake adorned with a sweet message (see what I did there?). I must admit if I'd have known that was coming, I may not have ordered cheesecake myself—don't get me wrong, it was jolly tasty cheesecake, but quite substantial and I was a little cheesecaked out by the end of the meal.
I did get a chance to burn off that extra cheesecake, however, as we realised that there was a somewhat torrential downpour outside as the time came to leave and we had neither coats nor umbrellas with which to weather it.
Choosing to be a gentleman (for once), I trudged my way to the car, picked up the umbrella that was there, took it back and let Michelle use it to get to the car in relative comfort. I, on the other hand, felt rather like a towel that had been accidentally dropped in the bath and then rather carelessly wrung out.
The journey back passed without further incident, if a little soggily for my part, and overall we'd had a really lovely evening.
Tuesday, 15 August
On Tuesday morning we bade farewell to Mum, as she had to head home on the train. The rest of us were sticking around for the rest of the week, however, and we enjoyed a relaxing day exploring more of the Sizergh estate.
Michelle and Jackie wanted to explore the house a little more, so I took Aurora off for a walk around the gardens for some fresh air. Or perhaps she took me off, I wasn't quite sure.
It was a blissfully sunny day, and we explored some of the forested paths on parts of the grounds that we'd yet to see.
Then it was time to head back to the rock garden so Aurora could "show me round". Being such a sunny day, the dappled shade of the paths was quite welcome.
We had to explore every single path, so Aurora could make sure I'd seen everything. Given the number of winding routes the garden designers had squeezed into a comparatively small area, this took a surprisingly long time.
Then we curved around to the house to catch up with Michelle and Jackie. On the way, however, Aurora was lured into a game of "let's get as many grass stains as we can on our clothes" with some other children who were indulging in it already. Since she was doing so by rolling down a fairly steep slope right next to the lake, I kept a watchful eye open, but she had the good sense to stop rolling far short of the water.
After a little more walking around the gardens, we headed back to the cottage and passed another happy evening gaming and chatting.
Wednesday, 16 August
On Wednesday I wanted to take Aurora out on something I'd spotted earlier in the week called the Wild Trail.
The wild play trail at Sizergh gives children (and adults) an excuse to explore and play in the woods. The Sizergh Family Volunteers helped design and plan the trail, which tests your balance, stamina, resolve and your brainpower and it takes you off the beaten track into the depths of the wood allowing you to experience ancient trees, exotic looking fungus and beautiful ground flora.
To follow the trail, we had to find and decipher a series of fiendish clues, the first of which can be seen in the picture above. Admittedly, there was also a very clear path to follow, which helped. As well as the clues there was also a series of wooden animals decorating the route, some of which you'll see in the pictures to follow.
Chapel Wood was bright and airy, and the path was very pleasant walking. As hinted by the second clue, our route was marked by a rope, so there wasn't any confusion as to which way to go.
Then came the next challenge—at the end of the rope, a sheer cliff face that must have been six or maybe even seven feet high. Quite terrifying, I can tell you, but fortunately for us some brave soul had installed a knotted rope to help.
Aurora's abseiling skills were up to the task and, with perhaps just a little help from Daddy, we made it to the bottom of the precipice and could continue our exploration.
Soon after this came a series of logs on which to balance This was a little trickier than perhaps it sounds due to the rain that had been falling overnight which made everything rather slippery, but we made it through more or less unscathed. Some upended log stepping stones then faced Aurora, but were similarly swiftly conquered.
Tired from our exertions we paused for a moment to admire an old lightning-struck tree, a vertical scar in its bark bearing witness to its fate. Then we ventured on, to see what else awaited us on the trail.
While Aurora was excited about finding the clues and challenges, I was very much enjoying a stroll through some really old deciduous woodland. I can see Chapel Wood marked on maps going back at least to 1860, and quite possibly much further, so I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise to find gnarled old trees like this one.
We ascended a slope guided by wooden archways that put me in mind of the whalebone arch in the Yorkshire town of Whitby, and upon reaching the top we found a rough shed made of branches. Sitting inside was a wooden duck with which Aurora was quite taken.
It was time to head back. We joined up with the original route and retraced some of our path back to the entrance. It was a really lovely woodland walk and the National Trust volunteers have done a truly sterling job creating it.
We booked a slot in the cheese-making demonstration (as one does) and then headed over to the crowded Calvert's Restaurant for lunch. We were a little unlucky as we'd arrived shortly after two large coach parties, but after a short wait they managed to squeeze us in. We enjoyed a delicious meal which made copious use of the local cheese.
As our lunch settled we took a gentle stroll around the attached museum, which contained all manner of historical cheese-making paraphernalia.
At the end of the museum we were given a glimpse of the cheese being manufactured. Managing to resist the urge to grab a packet of crackers and leap into the troughs, we headed back.
A more recent addition to the museum was a scene based on the Wallace and Gromit films, which make frequent references to the creamery's signature cheese.
It was then time for the cheese-making demonstration, which was fascinating but unfortunately didn't permit photography. Aurora behaved quite well for most of it, and also got to help out a little. She was also the first one to respond to the request for "any questions?" at the end in order to ask "what does it feel like?", and was promptly treated to a fondle by way of answer.