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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cycle rides with our children part two: Threlkeld to Keswick

To my mind this is the ultimate in child friendly Cumbrian bike rides. It ticks all my boxes - off-road, flat (amazing!), scenic, and somewhere fab to visit at the end of it.

Annoyingly I have no photos from the day we did it, so I am borrowing this one from Visit Cumbria hope they don't mind.

So the way to do it is to park at Threlkeld, and don't fret about this, there is an old school or community hall, can't remember which, but it's well signposted with plenty of car parking and handily some toilets. Leave the car there then head off on bike or foot (plenty do) through the village towards the Keswick turn off of the A66. Just to the right of the big turn off is a path that goes down to the track.

The track is actually part of the old Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith railway which no longer exists. It has been made into a terrific bike and walking trail with some gorgeous old railway bridges to cross. It's about four miles in length so it will test the little ones but there are lots of places along the River Greta where you can stop and rest and throw in stones. You'll never be alone on this ride, it was suprisingly busy with other riders and walkers when we went, but the atmosphere was really nice and cheery. The great thing about it is that it comes into Keswick right near Fitz Park a perfect place to stop for an ice-cream and play before setting off back again - or alternatively sending mummy or daddy back to get the car!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Best places to see the bluebells

It's bluebell time again, my favourite time of year, and there's a short window to see them in the next couple of weeks, so here's two of the best places to spot them in all their glory in the Lakes this spring:-


In the hidden valley of Rannerdale near Buttermere there is an unmissable display of bluebells every year. Combine them with a walk up to Rannerdale Knotts, my favourite fell climb, and you have a perfect day out.
Picture taken gratefully from

A guided walk to see them at their best has been organised by the Lake District National Park Authority and is happening on the 12th May

Dufton Ghyll and Flakebridge Woods near Appleby

This is a gorgeous place for a walk and the bluebells make a spectacular carpet to the wood at this time of year.

Make the most of the woods with a guided walk with the Friends of the Settle to Carlisle Railway on the 19th May this year.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Ride to Stride festival

Just a quick heads up that this week is going to be extra special for travellers on the Settle to Carlisle railway line. A week long festival of walks, music and talks will run from the 1st to the 7th May all tied in with the most beautiful train line in the country.
A full programme of events, many of them free of charge is available from here

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Perfect places to picnic

The clouds are drawing in, it's -3 on the tops, it must be nearly time for picnic season! We were thinking yesterday about all the great spots we've come across for picnicking and thought we might share a few with you in the hope that you might share some of yours with us!

So in no particular order here are some of our favourites-

Small Water, Haweswater
A gorgeous spot accessible with a bit of effort from the little ones. Park at Mardale at the far end of Haweswater and follow the rocky path signposted Kentmere via the Nan Bield pass. It's scrambly and good fun with a couple of stepping-stone water crossings. When you get to Small Water you are rewarded with views down to Haweswater and lots of places to sit and picnic and throw in stones. .

Friars Crag, Keswick
My favourite minimum effort picnic spot. Drive to Keswick, park at the Theatre by the Lake follow the lakeside path to Friars Crag described by Ruskin as one of the three most beautiful scenes in Europe; fight your way onto the bench to enjoy that famous view or go on a tiny bit further and, hey presto, grassy lakeside shores are all yours. Take a football and your crocs for paddling and enjoy it all afternoon long.

Yew Crag, Gowbarrow, Ullswater
A good one for those who want to look at the water without the wee ones being in the water. Start at the Aira Force car park and walk up to the right, go through a gate that takes you away from the falls and to the side of Gowbarrow Fell. Follow the gentle upward path parrallel to the lake until you get to a stone seat placed there in 1905 with a message of thanks to God, opposite is Yew Crag, park your bum and enjoy!

Suprise View, Keswick
 Drive out of Keswick on the B5289 to Borrowdale. Go over the famous Ashness Bridge and keep going until the Suprise View car park, opposite which you will find the truly wonderous viewing spot seen here. If you can manage to pull yourselves away from the view, follow the tracks along into the trees to the lovely path to Watendlath (makes for a gorgeous walk) along the side of the beck.
There are lots of places along the beck that make perfect spots for picnics and paddling. Just don't forget the spare trousers!!

Great Crag, Borrowdale
Bang in the middle of Wainwright's most lovliest square mile, this is a great picnic spot for lovers of stairs - and not so good for those with no head for heights!

Park at Rosthwaite and cross the bridge over the beck, head up and up and up some more on the stone staircase through the woods and you will be rewarded at the top with a fab clearing with spectacular views over Borrowdale.

Loughrigg Terrace, Grasmere
Solitude is unlikely here but great views are guaranteed . Park at White Moss car park and cross the bridge over the river then follow the path upwards. At the top there is a choice of left or right for views over Grasmere or Rydal water. If you turn right and follow the path along you can turn off to the left to ascend Loughrigg itself - not a bad choice for a first fell climb.

Sandwick Bay Ullswater
The drive to Sandwick Bay is almost as much fun as the destination. Drive past Howtown and keep going, you might think you're in the Tour De France at times as you zig zag along through Martindale! Follow the signposts to the hamlet of Sandwick where the road ends, park up (if pos) and enjoy the view from the lovely sandy beach. Gorgeous...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Baaa-rmy goings on at Rheged

Over the winter months last year school children and ladies of a certain age from all over Cumbria, and indeed the world, were eschewing the delights of the x-factor and nintendos for a simpler way of passing the time. They were getting together to make masses of pom pom sheep in a project to celebrate the beauty of wool. And now in a production to rival Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles, the sheep are herding together at Rheged for one huge installation.

Join the flock from Wednesday this week

p.s. if you see a lurid green fella with wonky legs give him a special squeeze from us!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Peter Rabbit's Egg Hunt

One of the country's biggest Easter egg hunts starts today. Every year the lovely people at the World of Beatrix Potter museum hide ceramic eggs in various locations around the county, and winners get to keep not only the beautiful egg made by local potter Sue Dunne, but also get a free family entry to the attraction and a book. The map with clues will go live here today at 10am

Last year I went slightly bonkers trying and failing to find one, this year we are egg-stremely determined!!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

National Learn to Play Day

Today is National Learn to Play Day and to celebrate Lakeland Music in Penrith are offering free taster lessons on the 2nd,3rd & 4th of April for piano, guitar, keyboard, violin, saxophone, banjo, flute, trumpet & drums.

Phone 01768 864024 to make the most of this great opportunity, or see their webpage for more details 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Kendal Passion Play

We're one Easter bonnet parade away from the holidays here and very much looking forward to two weeks off school. I have to admit that we are more about the bunnies and chocolate in our house, but if you want to teach your kids about the real meaning of Easter and be part of something rather wonderful you could do a lot worse than head over to Kendal this holiday weekend.

For the first time in 400 years the Easter Passion Play will be performed on the streets of the town, starring local volunteers including the mayor as Jesus. The play starts at 4pm on Good Friday at Kendal Library and continues throughout the town culminating with the Cruxification at the Brewery Arts Centre at about 6pm. On Easter Saturday a fire sculpture display will accompany the scenes following the Resurrection at Kendal Castle.

You can get further information including a map of the route and rehersal updates here

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Aira Force and a host of golden dafodils

Aira Force is one of the Lake District's most visited destinations. As popular today as it was in the Victorian times, it attracts hundreds of visitors each weekend, as can be seen by the fullness of the car park on sunny days!

Don't let this put you off though, it's popular because it's so lovely. The waterfall is spectacular, as are the wonderful trees surrounding it including monkey puzzles and the most enormous sitka spruce ever seen; and the walk up along good paths and steps is highly enjoyable.

It's great as an adventure walk for young tots - you need go no further up than the viewing point this picture was taken from (in 1890!!), or if they are feeling more energetic head up to the bridge and beyond - the rocks along the babbling river higher up make excellent picnic and stick throwing-in spots. It's a great walk for grown up visitors to the lakes too, the pub up at Dockray making a perfect stop off spot for lunch or much needed refreshments!

We make the walk longer by heading off to the right and following a track parallel to Ullswater to the summit of Gowbarrow. A walk mapped and described perfectly in Striding Edge our absolute favourite guide to all things Wainwright
The views along the length of the lake are well worth the extra effort and the walk back beside the waterfall makes a perfect ending.

Which ever way you decide to go, don't miss the fabulous money tree on the way down. We have no idea why there are thousands of pennies hammered into this old log but we do know that they're sure as heck not coming out!

BTW The National Trust own the land around the waterfall and while you don't have to pay to walk there, you do have to pay to park. There are ways to get round this, ie by parking in one of the laybys on the road up to Dockray but actually we reckon that the Trust do a great job and we prefer to start at the bottom.

Will leave you with this wonderful picture of spring daffodils taken gratefully from The shores of Ullswater are where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud, and now is the perfect time of year for seeing hosts of golden daffodils in all their glory.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Do something amazing for free

How about spending a day out learning new skills, making new friends, and doing something wonderfully worthwhile?

This is an opportunity open to all through the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Cumbria's only voluntary organisation devoted solely to the conservation of wildlife and wildplaces. The trust was formed in 1962 and according to their website cares for over 40 nature reserves, campaigns for the protection of endangered habitats and species such as limestone pavements and red squirrels, and works with adults and children to discover the importance of the natural world.

Their excellent website provides details of each of the 40 nature reserves they look after and how to visit them. You can help the Trust by volunteering to help with work such as planting trees, building boardwalks, and scrub clearance. A full list of forthcoming events is available in the What's On section of the website. A quick check for March reveals brash burning at Smardale, tree-cutting at Wreay Woods and coppicing at Grange-over-Sands amongst other events and meetings, many aimed at children. No experience neccessary. Have a look and see what amazing things you could do this week...

Monday, 5 March 2012

Lacy's Caves

Phew we did it! It looked for a moment that week 1 of the 52 week challenge might not happen as we have had a very busy time of it here. Not least due to the fact that there is a new explorer in the house. This is Edward, he is 6 months old and he likes to get out and about too (when he's not busy cuddling and chewing shoes)....

So in honour of Eddie and all the other the doggie adventurers out there, this week's day out is very dog friendly.

Based in the beautiful Eden valley this is a walk to Lacy's Caves near Little Salkeld. The caves were constructed by a Colonel Lacy in 18th century as a folly - some say he used them as a dining room - some say as a cave for his very own specially employed hermit. They consist of 5 spectacular stone chambers directly overlooking the river Eden. The walk to get to them is a very pretty track following the river and old railway sidings where the gypsum works used to be. We followed the walk in this wonderful leaflet produced by the now sadly defunct East Cumbria Countryside Project We didn't do the full loop as it is quite a long walk for little legs, but the walk to the caves and back was just right.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

An apology and a challenge

Our poor neglected blog! We are so sorry for not updating much in the last 12 months. Things are going to change though. We are back and fired up with lots of ideas for free days out in this beautiful county of ours. So with spring around the corner we have decided to challenge ourselves to coming up with at least one idea per week, that's 52 days of free fun folks. Watch this space....

BTW wondering what we've been doing all this time? We've most definitely not been sitting on our laurels, we've still been enjoying our free days out ticking off our Wainwright walks. 22 down 192 to go...