28 March 2014

The Windermere Ferry and a Foggy Day

The car ferry across Windermere will be out of action all May, for its five year overhaul. We know that many of you enjoy the journey to Hill Top by taking the ferry option, but it is still very easy to get here by driving around to the north or south ends of the lake at Ambleside or Newby Bridge, and taking the lovely B-roads to Hawkshead. Hill Top is then only two miles away. Check with Cumbria County Council for the date when the service is back running again.

The ferry has been in use for over 500 years. (Not the current one, that was built in 1990!) It's purpose was to 'complete' the important direct road from Kendal to Hawkshead, and so avoid eight extra miles of walking around the top of the lake. In the early days people were rowed over the lake, but by the time Beatrix used the ferry to come up to Hill Top, having travelled to Windermere by train, it was a more substantial affair, as this picture from the Nineteenth Century shows:

from the Photocrom Collection: Library of Congress. Public Domain

Visitors, unfamiliar with the area, sometimes say that they feel like they have arrived off the ferry onto an island. Certainly the rolling countryside west of Windermere can feel very different to the busy east shore. The other morning I travelled to my work at the ticket office in thick mist, arriving for the 9.10 ferry with just two other cars. On the other side of the lake there was no-one at all to make the return trip. There was an eerie feel to the area around the Ferry House, the lake flat and smooth and silver, so that the little boats looked as though they had been etched onto a sheet of infinite paper.

 At Hill Top too, after such glorious spring weather, it felt as though we had fallen back in time; a glimpse of a different winter altogether.

By lunchtime the sky had cleared once more, and spring had re-established itself. My favourite time of year in the Lakes, daffodils opening out along the verges where only hours before they had waited as still as the air, visitors coming back to the ticket office to see where next they could go to explore and enjoy the day, blue-tits and chaffinches darting down to the windowsill by our front door to take the food that the house staff put out. After such an unpromising start, the day could not have had a better end. If you've never been to Hill Top this early in the season, perhaps this is a good year to come.

ticket office Ian