Just back from the Lakes …

Last week I decided to go and join my parents briefly on their holiday in the Lake District. For those that don’t know, the Lake District is a part of north-west England, and it’s a mountainous area with, well, a lot of long, narrow lakes. I travelled for the whole of Thursday (in a car you can do it in half a day if you leave early - we just have done, on the way back), but by bus it will take pretty much all day, and that’s if the traffic’s good. (By train it will take less than that, but it’s expensive and this week they have been rebuilding the line, so that the trains can go at 125 mph rather than the usual 110.) To my knowledge the only company doing buses from London to the Lake District is National Express. These are basically the UK’s answer to Greyhounds, except that they don’t stop at prisons. A few years ago I lived very briefly in Gloucester, and had to regularly use their buses. The number 412 stopped first at Heathrow, then at a bus station on the outskirts of Reading, then at a few other places before Gloucester. The few other places could be Swindon, or Cirencester, or Stroud (and a little village between Cirencester and Stroud), or Cheltenham (necessitating a trip down the windy old A435, where we collided with an owl). Those that go north stop first at Golders Green, then Milton Keynes, then Birmingham. So we first have to the slow route out of London, up the slow motorway (the M1, rather than the M40 which is the much faster route), and into another city centre before heading north. Not surprisingly, we hit traffic, and two of the jams on the M1 were due to minor accidents, in one case because people couldn’t resist slowing down to have a look, which caused tailbacks miles long. In the end, I was more than two hours late reaching Carnforth in Lancashire, where I got off the bus and met my dad.

The cottage my parents were staying in was outside Kendal, off the Endmoor road just before it reaches the M6. Of course I only had one full day in the Lakes, and we went to Ambleside (which is mostly a mountaineering and outdoor pursuits base, and is full of shops selling OP gear), looked round the shops (and my parents bought me a new pair of shoes from a discount shoe shop), walked to a ruined Roman fort by Lake Windermere (Ambleside is near the northern end of that lake), then drove over the Kirkstone Pass to Ullswater, where there are fewer tourists because it is isolated from the main centres of the Lake District (ie. Keswick and Ambleside-Windermere). We sat on a pier on the lake, had some coffee, took a short walk and then drove home, back over Kirkstone and through Kendal. All in all I’m glad I went up there as we had a nice day by the lakes yesterday. It took us just five hours or so to drive back, and that included a stop outside Warwick.

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