During my trip to the United Kingdom, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Lake District of Cumbria, with the generous loan of a caravan situated between Penrith and Keswick. This is a beautiful, unspoilt and verdant part of the country, and the weather also obliged, granting us four rain-free days.
Keswick is a beautiful town along the banks of the River Greta, with narrow winding cobblestone roads, and a traditional town centre. It afforded great shopping, and I picked up some lovely jewellery pieces (including an unusual silver spiral set of earrings from Special Expressions – where I got talking to a lovely chap who was originally from New Zealand). Amber stones set in both gold and silver are very popular in this region, however none of the pieces I saw were particularly appealling. The region is also renowned for Honister slate, which is commonly observed as a building material in fences and walls. This light grey-green coloured stone was also to be seen in many pieces of jewellery, but being such an unusual colour I didn’t think any of the pieces would suit the complexions of those I was buying for.
Another attraction of Keswick is the Cumbria Pencil Factory Museum – located on the site of the old Derwent Pencil factory, which has since relocated production to an industrial estate further west in Cockermouth. The Museum provided a good overview of coloured pencil production techniques, and outlined a number of the compounds used to produce the varied hues of the pencil filling. The souvenir shop was limited, but did have a great range of Derwent pencils, includings seconds bundles for only 2GBP each.
There were a number of great little coffee places in Keswick, but my favourite was Java and Chocolate, who made a delicious hot chocolate and weren’t bothered at all that I asked for soy. Also had something called a Toblerone Tartar here which was a type of mousse cake with crispy wafer layers – haven’t been able to find any recipes or pictures which adequately describe what it was like.
Another key observation about Keswick, and the Lake District in general, was that many people have dogs – almost one in two to one in three people I saw had their faithful fido with them. The most popular breeds appeared to be border collies, labradors and a variety of generally large terriers. Not a chihuahua (or corgi) in sight! Many shops advertise their dog-friendliness, and many cafes made provision for dogs with bowls – and treats.
Penrith was similar to Keswick, with a traditional town square girt by narrow undulating cobbled laneways. Again, slate was a key building material seen in many fences and walls.
The highlight of my trip to the Lake District though was the hike around the Derwentwater – a large lake to the south-west of Keswick. The day started out very bright and sunny, but very cool – with frost icing the trees and shrubs until about morning tea time. The walk was strenuous – and I was grateful for a loan of hiking poles, as the path was as narrow as eight inches in some parts, and very slippery. The scenery was absolutely stunning – with the sun bouncing off the placid lake like droplets hitting a mirror. The air itself was like breathing purity – cold, and pure, and heavy at the same time, smelling of fresh moss, sodden earth and unbrushed wool from the black faced sheep who grazed along the edges of the walk. It was pleasing to see so many walkers – called ramblers – out and about – and more so because the vast majority were middle aged or older – and their fitness levels all put me to shame!