Lake District - Windermere

While we famously know the place as Lake District with 14 odd lakes strewn around in the monuntains, the locals rarely refer to those as 'lakes'. They are instead most commonly called "Meres" (Like Winder-mere) or "tarns" or just "waters" - all words that have stuck back from the Anglo-Saxon era. 

History abounds in Lake District, just like most parts on England. But here it is not in the form of castles and royalty. Stories about history of the landscape, its evolution over years, its inabitants and even supernatural experiences were woven in our journey by our fantastic driver and guide of 'Mountain Goat' tours, throughout our trip, with his beautiful skills of narration. 

The prominent thought, however, that occupies our minds after returning from the wonderful visit, apart from its divine sights, is that - we must go back again. Partly because there are places we missed out on - like the Grizdale forest with it huge collection of forest sculptures - but also because Lake district is not complete without cycling up mountains, climbing hillsides and rambling alongsided lakes, or maybe even camp beside one. 

And yet, the tour expereince, our first guided trip, was also beautiful, serene and humbling to say the least. We meandered up and down the hilly roads, stopping every now and then to discover different definitions of 'breathtaking'. The numerous streamlets bounding down slopes to fill up lakes and the mountains dotted with herdwick sheep - they are sights that are imprinted permanently in our memory. The lakes all seem to have their own character and each comes with a story that gives the lake its name. No two lakes seem to be the same. 

The mountains carpeted in green with pockets of 'imported' coniferous trees, tell their own story. The landscape was once a dense forest land. The Celts, Romans, Angel and Vikings, however brought with them 'mountain farming' and 'sheep-farming' thereby giving birth to a whole new landscape that we admire today. Part of the land was cleared for agriculture and part of it stopped growing as the sheep nibbled away constantly at new plant shoots. Strangely this is now likely to undergo a reversal though, as the new generation finds mountain farming too hard and less profitable thereby moving to 'greener pastures' ! The government is possibly hoping to sustain it though with subsidies and other initiatives. 
Time will tell which route nature takes.

For now the herdwick sheep are the most important inhabitants of the mountains. Apparantly they are the only ones who can actually survive the landscape and weather. Neither cows nor horses are bred with much success in the area.  While they apper to be either white, grey, brown or black, they are actually all the same and change colour from black to brown and then white and grey as they grow. Mostly bred for meat, their  coarse fur is used for insulation, carpets etc, not clothes. 

We also missed out on visiting the Pencil Museum and factory due to some reasons, but it is definitely on the cards when we go next. Legend has it that in the early 1500's a violent storm in the area led to uprooting of trees and discovery of a strange black material underneath - which farmers used to make markings on the sheep. We managed to pick some of the famous pencils though :)

One astonishing thing, hard to miss about the lake district is its relation with 'stone'. The town are a direct result of railways that were set up to support the mining industry that once flourished and the signs are seen till date, though most of it is now limited to preserve the area. Slate mining still exists on a limited scale. and most roofs of homes are made of slate owing to its natural quality of flattening itself. 

Equally fascinating , I felt, was the endless rows of piled up stone walls that are built as fences for homes, farms and roads. The stones are piled up in a specific manner so that they stay together without any cement of any sort. Building such walls is an art, and luckily not a dying art like many other traditional ones. Volunteers around lake district, especially youngsters, have learnt this art and gladly provide their services free to farmers and people who wish to reconstruct or repair their walls. 

All this education came from our wonderful tour guide during our trip, apart from beautifully woven stories Viking period, stories of climbers, writers , farmers, animals and even spirits. We even got to stop at a little gingerbread shop that had a story of its own.  The Sarah Nelson Gingerbread shop - which has a recipe so unique that it is safely stored in a bank vault, and not replicated anywhere else. It all reminded me of the famous quote " The universe is made of stories, not atoms" .

I would say Lake district is like a window to some part of what heaven would look like - serene, beautiful, abundant, calm, rich and purifying. Is it my imagination or did it have a little effect of my baby too? As i picked up William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils'  fridge magnet souvenir , my 4 year old came to me with two souvenirs - a keychain with a car and a fridge magnet with a floating dolphin. I told him that he could have one and he had to choose. Must have been the connection with nature ...he chose to take the dolphin ! 

Lake district was a soulful experience - one that we will cherish and go back to for more. I do hope that as we quench our travel thirst over time, my child will absorb what Karim Rashid beautifully says - 

'We consume experiences, not things'.  

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! writing,pictures and hmmm quotes!