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In May 2015 myself, Michelle, Aurora and Jackie headed off for a week in Keswick, nestled at the heart of the northern Lake District.
Saturday 23 May
At the start of the bank holiday weekend and half term we'd already decided we needed an early start and done most of the packing the night before. I awoke a little after 7:30, more or less on schedule, but of course loading the car and the remaining packing took longer than expected—curse the 80/20 rule! Still, eventually it was done and it was time to awaken Aurora, have some breakfast and be on our way.
It was a fairly trying journey, with considerable delays due to congestion on the A1, but around mid-afternoon we were heading along the A66 and enjoying the view as it gradually blended from rolling fields to rocky fells.
We had to arrive before 5pm to collect the keys so it was a slightly tense business for a little while but in the end we arrived in good time and even got a parking space right outside the front door to boot. Michelle popped over to the Cumbrian Cottages office to collect the keys while the rest of us sat and enjoyed the sunshine.
After poking around I decided to recover from the journey with a nice cup of tea and immediately hit on the most significant snag of the day so far—no tea! Michelle and I thus trundled off to Booths, the local supermarket, to patch the holes in our essential supplies.
That done Michelle and I relaxed and Aurora amused herself while Jackie made a delicious lasagne for dinner, which was very welcome after a long day. Then it was time for a very welcome bed.
Sunday 24 May
None of us were too eager to get up early on the Sunday and we had a fairly leisurely morning—that is the idea of a holiday, after all. In my case this was also motivated by Aurora waking up hungry at 1am, so I'd stayed up for awhile with her to make her some food, let it settle and then soothe her back to sleep.
After showers all round and a light breakfast of tea and toast we felt it was time for some fresh air, so we headed off into Keswick. First stop was a visit to a few of the shops. We lingered for awhile in the many outdoor shops as we were a little lacking in appropriate outdoor attire. There were plenty of bargains to be had, but I fear our resultant excess would cause some issues when packing the car to leave—but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Then we decided that it was more or less time for lunch and we headed for Brysons, the tea shop that Michelle and I had so enjoyed on our previous visit.
Bryson's craft bakery started hand baking bread from locally milled flour over 60 years ago.
A veritable cornucopia of cumberland sausage, afternoon tea and, in Aurora's case, a sizeable bowl of ice cream was dispatched with enthusiasm. Thus satiated we bade Brysons farewell and headed off along Keswick high street.
The Moot Hall is a prominent Grade II listed building situated at the southern end of Main Street. It was built in 1571 and rebuilt in 1695, and the current building dates to 1813.
As we meandered along Aurora was keen to investigate everything—but not for nearly long enough to Michelle or Jackie to tarry in any shops for more than a few moments, so I spent quite a lot of time trying to find ways of stopping her from trying to drag me along. A giant flowerpot and bronze giraffe made handy distractions... For a minute or two, at least.
We then popped into a toy shop to see if they had anything nice and this was a very popular decision with a certain toddler. The problem was finding something she didn't want to buy quite as much as everything else, but we eventually narrowed it down to a couple of toys and headed out. Of course at that point the only thing to do was to return home and let her play with them—fortunately we were about ready to head back anyway.
We made our way to the shores of the lake fairly quickly and spent a few minutes on the grassy slopes of the National Trust owned Crow Park while we admired the view.
After our little photo shoot we strolled back to the lakeside path and continued round past the Theatre by the Lake to the series of jetties just beyond. At this point we sat for a few minutes and then I took Aurora down to the shingle beach just below and out on to a jetty to see the lake. I held on to her fairly tightly the whole time, but actually she was very sensible—she can be, when the mood takes her.
Derwent Island was owned by Fountains Abbey but with the dissolution of the monasteries, it fell into the hands of the Crown and was sold off in 1569 to the Company of Mines Royal.
St. Herbert was the close friend and disciple of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, at whose request he took up the life of an anchorite, dwelling for many years on the little island that still bears his name.
I didn't want to leave Jackie sitting for too long as there was a fairly stiff breeze coming off the lake and as we trotted back we passed by the memorial to John Ruskin which overlooks Friar's Crag. John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of the greatest figures of the Victorian age: poet, artist, critic, social revolutionary and conservationist.
The few square yards around the John Ruskin memorial were the earliest part of the Lake District to become National Trust property.
Having rejoined Grandma, we were all feeling more than a little peckish so we decided to walk back to the Theatre by the Lake and stop for a bite to eat in the café there.
We wended our way back through Keswick and met up with Michelle just as Aurora was starting to play up—the best time to head home. After a spot of shopping we said our goodbyes to the last of Michelle's friends to leave and lugged our shopping home.
The day wasn't quite done, however. Aurora was a little tired but still found, shall we say, imaginative ways to keep herself amused. She was finding original ways to play her new xylophone, for example, such as using her feet.
Meanwhile we realised that our earlier shopping trip had missed a few essentials so I left Aurora to her entertainments and popped out on my own to collect them. On the way I crossed the river and took a quick stroll through the nearby Fitz Park.
As I walked through the park and rejoined the high street on my way to the shops I mused on the contrast between this slice of traditional England and the modern version that awaited me at home—a night in front of the TV watching Britain's Got Talent. Doesn't quite have the same grandeur, somehow...