Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keswick, The Lake District

By Claire
June 14
Today was our day to have Homer serviced—yes, that means we’ve gone another 7,000 km. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Finding the place was another matter, but we made it—after deep discussion with the campground Wardens—“You know where Staveley is, right?” No. They did print out a nice Google map for us and, white knuckled, we found the place and even arrived 15 minutes early for our appointment.

I cracked open my book—a paperback from the “family room” here at Camping Windermere—settling in to wait. Nothing happens quickly here in England. You must queue up, you know. Our appointed 10:15 time came and went. We finally found out they had called another shop somewhere in the region to send over an oil filter. I wonder why that could not have been accomplished when we made the appointment 3 days ago? Oh well. We left to find a café after a nerve wracking drive into the garage with micro centimeters to spare; fortunately the owner did the driving. An hour later we were good to go. We’re really relaxed about time now that daylight lasts 17 hours.

Our first stop was to see our first stone circle, Castlerigg, in Keswick. We had a mix of blue sky, sun and heavy clouds and it was a beautiful drive. I liked these row houses.

After parking and having our picnic lunch, we saw an ice cream truck parked along the road. The guy was very nice and had information in the windows of his truck about all the stone circles in the area and aerial views of the stones. He also gave us the best directions we’ve ever received on how to drive out of there without having to turn around on the narrow road.

We started with one of the interpretive signs with a model of the circle, looking down from above.

From there we wandered around and took it all in. “Castlerigg Stone Circle was built around 4,500 years ago by prehistoric farming communities. Its large size and irregular oval shape suggest that it was an early stone circle. Stone circles were important for prehistoric communities as they provided a setting for seasonal gatherings and various ritual or ceremonial activities.”

I thought these stone steps, built into this stone wall with an opening to get you over to the other side, were really unique.

“Castlerigg became so popular that when William and Dorothy Wordsworth visited with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1799, they were disappointed by crowds and didn’t find poetic inspiration here. However, 19th century writers were entranced by the wild and dramatic setting. They imagined druids, sacrifices and ancient rituals, which increased Castlerigg’s mysterious appeal.

When Victorian tourists started chipping flakes from the stones as souvenirs, people realized that Castlerigg was under threat [shades of Egypt in the Victorian era]. This led early conservationists to campaign for its protection, resulting in it becoming one of the earliest scheduled ancient monuments in 1882. In 1913 it became one of the first archaeological sites to be protected for the nation by the National Trust.”

Following the ice cream bloke’s perfect directions, we made our way to our next stop, something we’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation: The Pencil Museum!

We watched a really interesting short video about the process and the history of The Cumberland Pencil Co. then wandered the tiny museum with displays that included colored pencils we could try out. Some of these pencils can be used with water to achieve a water color effect. It was interesting to find out that the cedar used as the pencil covering comes from California and Oregon.

The first graphite ever discovered was found on the side of the mountain Seathwaite Fell in Borrowdale, near Keswick around 1500. A popular story is that, following a very violent storm, the shepherds went out in the morning to see their sheep on the mountain side and found a number of trees had been blown down, tearing away the subsoil as they fell and leaving exposed to view large masses of black material.

Pieces were dug out and the shepherds first thought it was coal, but as it would not burn they were at a loss to understand it. It was then found to be an excellent medium for marking sheep.

The first pencils ever made were produced in Keswick following the discovery of Cumberland Graphite. I asked about the word Cumberland and whether it referred to Cumbria. I’m really trying to learn what and where all the regions are. Apparently, Cumberland was one of three regions including South Lake which became Cumbria.

We were especially impressed with the pencils given to American bomber command aircrew and sent to POW camps. Inside the pencils were a small map of a region in Germany and a tiny compass. They were a vital part of the wartime escape networks. The man who instigated the idea was Charles Fraser-Smith. He procured special equipment for MI-6 during WWII. He was the model for "Q" in the James Bond movies.

I liked the idea of these colored pencils for colorizing photographs. They sold kits way back when.

And this is the largest pencil in the museum. The Cumberland Pencil Company holds the Guinness Record for the largest pencil in the World; but, it was not on display: It is about 25 feet long.

Cheesy photo

We spent a fair amount of time in the small and fascinating gift shop. I liked the battery operated fine point eraser and the packs of colored pencils were hard to resist. What a fun place!

We walked over to a coffee shop advertising free Wifi, passing some very typically dressed people. Every other shop is an outdoor store and almost everyone is dressed as though they just stepped out of the pages of an REI catalog.

Heading home, the big thrill of the day was being waved down with a red flag thinking there must have been an accident only to discover it was a dog race across the fields and hills. They were tearing through a field on their way to cross the road to another field, leaping and bouncing 4-6 feet through the air like kangaroos. We have never seen anything like it. In my frantic haste to get my camera, I was only able to get a very mediocre shot through the side window before they disappeared from view.

Within this magical circle, a small plantation of larch trees environed part of the stones, through which the hollow wind roared from the neighbouring mountains, the sure forerunner of a tempest, and rendered this wild spot still more picturesque. ~ Thomas Hartwell Horne, 1816, writing about Castlerigg

1 comment:

punkingee said...

While you're in the area, you might want to visit the pub in the Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite. It was wonderful. While you're in the area, we loved hiking in Borrowdale valley (dale is valley, so I repeat). The area is so pretty.