Saturday, 12 April 2014

Stranger to the West of the North Pennines

"O Reader! had you in your mind such stores as silent thought can bring. O gentle Reader! you would find a tale in everything" - William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850.
On board the SilverHolme in the middle of Lake Windermere, Lake District, England, 08/04/2014

by Kudakwashe Kanhutu

West of the North Pennines: The Lake District

As far as genres go, let’s get this out of the way out of the way, shall we: I travel to get away from the stress of my Strategic Studies. The only reason why I travel, is so as to counter the stress inherent in studying ways to, in the future, deny evil people a foothold in my polity. Insofar as a genre has repetitive features, all my travels and writings about them are exactly about that; de-stressing. I also absolutely have to make the most of these travels now, because at the end of my studies, it is guaranteed that - either by my commitments or by my politics - I will be barred from most places outside the Southern African Development Community. The actual writing about my travels is a way of trying to capture my experiences for my future personal reference, as well as trying to contribute some insights that may help others to plan or better their plans when they visit the same places.

Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished - William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850.

What is a Genre?

If you want to know what a genre is, it’s best to watch spoof movies. Watch any movie that mocks horror films, spy films or thrillers. The value of watching spoof films is that they caricature the recurrent features that identify the genre. A genre, then, is; a style of art, film, or literature, with distinctive features that makes it stand apart from the others. To the reader who has read my last “Stranger Adventure,” it must seem like I am repeating myself in this instalment of my adventures, but I am not; it’s just my genre rhyming!

"I attribute the little I know to my not having been ashamed to ask for information, and to my rule of conversing with all descriptions of men on those topics that form their own peculiar professions and pursuits" - John Locke.
St Cuthbert’s Society MCR:

The first difference: not Hatfield College MCR! For those who have paid attention, my travels in the North East of England have always been with my Hatfield College mates on Masters and Ph.D. programmes at Durham University. What is different with this instalment is that I went with Ph.D. and Masters Candidates from a different college than my own: St Cuthbert’s College. It’s not so much the Taliban travelling with United States Marines, but parallels could be found. For the purposes of this story, let’s just agree that the story I am telling is different from the last one because I travelled with the ‘enemies’ this time around.

Starting out with mixed MCRs, I counted 4 Colleges at least
Starting Out:

We left promptly at 0900hrs from St Cuthbert’s main accommodation building. My home is a 15 minute walk from this rendezvous point. At exactly 0851hrs I remembered I had forgotten to take the battery for my Canon camera off the charger, so the camera in my pocket was just a dead weight. If I had attempted to return home for that camera, the trip would have ended right there and then for me. Mind you, my name was not even on the list despite that I had paid my hard earned £10.00 to secure my berth. Would they wait for a mere guest and not one of their own College members? You are probably thinking; “all this song and dance over a camera??” Imagine a soldier going to war with his rifle but forgets to carry his ammunition. Same ballpark! If you are diligent in the mundane affairs of life, chances are you will also be the same in high politics. Besides, a good story is made better by pictures because, as we all know, a picture tells a thousand words. I went to Portugal, Mozambique, Australia and Kenya without a camera when I was still in aviation, and I don’t have a single picture from those places. Thank God for the genius at Samsung who decided to put a high resolution camera on my Galaxy Note II phone. 

Reclaiming the century from the smart people, one dumb mistake at a time. Carried a camera with no battery. For what?

Barnard Castle:

To the Castle!
Our day trip would take us first to Barnard Castle on the River Tees for a very brief tea and coffee stopover: 30 minutes to be precise. I wasn't particularly keen on this town, so I did not even bother to research what period the Castle is from or what purpose it served. I just didn't care. Raby Castle, midpoint between Durham University and Barnard Castle, is probably a more interesting proposition because it is still intact and Deer roam its grounds. Barnard Castle is a ruins, the better attraction in this town is probably the Bowes Museum. But dear reader, do not be put off visiting this place by my feigned disdain, the way this works is that Barnard Castle is part of the package of attractions of County Durham. So if you are reading this from the other side of the world, in Pago Pago for example, your trip will have to be made on the basis that you will see other attractions such as the Roman Forts at Vindolanda and Darlington, Hadrian’s Wall, Raby Castle, Lindisfarne Holy Island, High Force Waterfalls, Durham Cathedral and Castle, among many others. Whatever you do, do not miss the short 50 mile trip to the Lake District!

The Lake District:

The main prize
This is when my money started working for me, all £10.00 of it! I have already intimated, elsewhere, that a poor traveller - aided by a little imagination - can enjoy the same attractions as the rich, on the flimsiest of shoestring budgets. You will remember that I took a weekend trip to Marseille for £162. 00, went out on a boat on the Mediterranean Sea to see Les Calanques, saw the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille, Frioul Islands, ate the finest supermarket food when I was there and watched only local TV programmes in my hotel. By comparison, the rich man (or for that matter a poor man who lacks imagination) who went to Monaco at the same time as me, would have spent around £1 600. 00, most of it on Champagne and hiring a Yacht so as to fit in, but I digress.

You know you have arrived because the pace just slows right down.
My new money saving trick is to see all the attractions within a 100 mile radius of Durham University. I have been placed in Durham by absolute necessity but I will draw some satisfaction out of it yet. I can assure you, I never would have made the trip from London to see the attractions I go to see now (except maybe Hadrian’s Wall, I really wanted to see that!). It is only because I am here that it is quite painless for me to take in these sights. And wouldn't you know it, the Durham College systems just allows people who enjoy travel to take in the sights together on the cheap by arranging Coach Tours for next to nothing. There is no way it should cost you £10. 00 to see all that I saw on the day trip to the Lake District. I even felt like we were going to London at some point, because the Coach took the southbound A1 Motorway from Durham until we reached Scotch Corner Services. Anyone who has ever driven to Scotland on the A1 (M) will testify that these services are quite a landmark on this long journey. Having never been this far South of Durham ever since I moved here last year, I half hoped we would be going to LondonA sentiment that I immediately discarded as soon as we turned off the A1 (M) onto the A66 and so entered the treeless landscape that is Borderland County Durham and Cumbria. The North Pennines did not disappoint in providing a dramatic background in the distance wherever you looked. 

The Borderland between County Durham and Cumbria County

You have to understand that 70% of my time is spent in the library or online reading about NATO’s Nuclear Ladders of Escalation, Russia’s Nuclear De-Escalation Concept (using tactical nukes very early in the war), Israel’s Iron Dome, Taliban Denial of Access tactics and such like. Any sight, any travel that makes me think of beautiful things instead is ever so welcome. Some do Yoga, some meditate (or is that the same thing??) I travel to the quieter corners of the Earth to recover.

"If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; And that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Now wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake" -
William Wordsworth, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye River.

Idyllic Grasmere
Grasmere Lake:

At precisely 1200hrs we arrived at the Coach Park at Grasmere Lake. The instructions were; go crazy but be back on the Coach at exactly 1400hrs! Grasmere’s main attraction is the Wordsworth Museum which houses the Lake District’s most famous son’s village and cottage. The great poet, William Wordsworth, was born at Wordsworth House on 7th April 1770 and died on 23rd April 1850. His poetry was inspired by the natural beauty that surrounded him here. He was also quite a character, travelling to France to fight in the French Revolution. I must admit, I only learnt this on the Coach as we neared Grasmere for he is not my guy. My own training in the Classics did not have him on our reading list. I instead deciphered martial and epic poems from Homer’s time till Shakespeare/Marlowe’s time. I thus did not go into the museum.

The Wordsworth Museum at Gramere Lake

I chose instead to walk the circuit around Lake Grasmere. I walked the inner circuit, some choose to climb the peaks around it and some get onto canoes and paddle onto the lake for 1 hour. Well, I like to get away from the stress of my strategic studies but I don’t want to die in the process! So I walked round the lake, thinking happy thoughts; It took me a full 2 hours to walk round this Lake although this is a very small lake. I even had to rush for the Coach at the end of the walk but I made it ahead of the guys who had taken the canoe onto the lake.

The brave ones!
Lake Windermere:

The Lake District's star attraction
Windermere Lake is just a short 8 miles from Lake Grasmere, but it is THE attraction in the Lake District, for me it is! It is the longest and deepest lake in England. Only the Loch Ness is deeper on these isles. I reasoned that I would take better pictures if I was in the middle of the lake rather on the shore, so I took the 45 minute cruise which costs £7.50. For all my desire to save money, I know that some expenses are unavoidable. It would have been a very poor trip if were to go to the Lake District then not get on the water once. As we went on a Tuesday, it was not busy at all so I managed to get a conversation going with the boat crew and thus painlessly learned a wealth of information that would have been painful to extract from the library. The boat, meanwhile, was going from pier to pier dropping and picking up passengers. 

The pier at Wray Castle, one of the attractions I did not disembark to see.

I did not break my journey as, again; I only had 2 hours to spare here before we had to return to the Coach for the return trip to Durham. The cruise was exactly what I needed, moments of calm to slow down and reflect in such beautiful surroundings. But I would be lying to you if I said that I managed to completely forget about my war studies. How could I? At Grasmere Lake, some turbo prop jets had been coming from behind the mountains and flying over us, I just ignored them thinking they belonged to some local aviation enthusiasts with too much time on their hands. Critical mass was achieved at Windermere. It was only over the much wider expanse of water that I was given a closer look. Here, because of the length of the lake, the planes manage to fly much lower and closer to the water, so I could make out that they were actually Royal Air Force Fighter Jets. 

Further, at Windermere it was actually war planes making the low fly pasts. I saw Tornado GR4s pass so low, I swear I could have reached out and patted them. My boat crew knew all about these planes as this is a regular training exercise by flight crews from the RAF Norfolk Air Bases some 256 miles away. If you were to check the distance between RAF Marham, Norfolk and Lake Windermere on Google Maps, you will be told that it will take you 4 hrs and 56 minutes to make the journey. Really Google?!

Photo Essay:

Leaving for the Lake District with St Cuthbert's Society MCR. 08/04/2014

Standing room only once on board.

Reclaiming the century from the smart people, one dumb mistake at a time. Forgot the battery at home.

Luckily some genius at Samsung put a camera on my Galaxy Note II

Our first stop was Barnard Castle

The Coach station at Barnard Castle

The main attraction here is this Castle.

"Force and Finesse."

I had not researched any background information to this Castle

So I know nothing about it

But the Castle may yet please others depending on interest. 

Soon we were in Cumbria on our way to the Lakes

If Nowhere has a middle, this must be it

Beauty personified or should that be fieldified?

Don't quote me on this, but I think the Lakes create their own weather patterns.

We had been in the Lake District for about 20 mins already when I remembered I had a camera on me.

The Coach Park at Grasmere Lake

2 hours stopover in William Wordworth's hometown.

"Habit rules the unreflecting herd" - William Wordsworth

The Wishing Well at Grasmere


The routine here at Grasmere

I don't even know what purpose the signs behind me serve...

The only traffic I saw here could not read a speed limit sign if they tried.

For me though, any sight that helps me slow down is ever welcome.

The Lake at Grasmere

"A worshipper of Nature, hither came" - William Wordsworth

"Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished" - William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850. 

The Boys from Brazil.

Ustinov College's Brazil Boys set out in a canoe onto Grasmere Lake.

You won't catch me taking such risks, No Sir, No Madam!

I dipped my hand into the cool cool waters, then walked around the lake instead.

"O Reader! had you in your mind such stores as silent thought can bring. O gentle Reader! you would find a tale in everything" - William Wordsworth

"And this green pastoral landscape, were to me more dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake" - William Wordsworth

Walking anti-clockwise round Lake Grasmere

I cannot believe I cannot name even a single one of those peaks behind me

"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege" - William Wordsworth.

With some cool people from Trevelyan College, they made the clockwise walk

The best view of Lake Grasmere came after a 1 hour 15 minute hike around the lake

For a minute I thought of waiting for the bus here, before realising I didn't even know if this was the main road to begin with

Wordsworth Museum. I did not have time to go in

Our next stop. The main attraction for me in the District. England's longest and deepest lake: Lake Windermere. On these isles, only the Loch Ness at 800+ ft is deeper.

At last we arrived at our final destination. 

Lake Windermere

The deepest and longest lake in England. Fact.

Ambleside Pier circa. 2014 A.D.

Let's light this candle, shall we! The 45 minute cruise costs £7. 50 but is worth it for pictures from the middle of England's deepest and longest lake.

The Silverholme at Windermere

Captain on deck!

The lower deck of the Silverholme

"O Reader! had you in your mind such stores as silent thought can bring. O gentle Reader! you would find a tale in everything" - William Wordsworth.

Transiting to the upper deck of the Silverholme

Any day away from the library is a day well spent

On the upper deck of the SilverHolme. It's not quite the upper deck of the Airbus A380 but; the right tool for the right job!

If I was a man of the world, I wouldn't mind owning a house so situated. But I am not, so I do (I think!)

Epic fail! My "I am King of the World" moment! .

And the reaction it drew!

Breaking all the rules 

The view from the lower deck of the SilverHolme

Final destination. Back where we started at the end of this 45 minute Lake Cruise 

Good-bye Lake District, I like to say I will be back but I have said that to many places I have never seen again.