Sunday, 11 September 2011

Lake District holiday

We spent a couple of days in the lake District as part of our holiday this year-- neither of us had been before.
We had a great time -- marvellous scenery -- even some good weather! (View a larger map.)

We did the usual touristy things -- first off to see the Castlerigg stone circle, and try to spot how the stones are aligned on peaks and valleys:
brass map of stone ring part of stone ringpossible alignment of stones on valleys

We had a trip on a steam train, sitting in a carriage that is exactly like ones I remember from my childhood (except much cleaner!), and looking at the lovely views:
a very clean carriage the Repulsereflecting on the view

We did a lot of driving round, marvelling at the scenery of lakes and mountains. Some roads were a little alarming -- hairpin bends on steep inclines with little room to pass traffic in the opposite direction (fortunately there wasn't that much traffic) -- topping the brow of a hill and being unable to see anything but sky past the front of the car -- learning to sneer at "mere" 20% incline warning signs -- sitting at the top of a 30% incline, thinking, it looks vertical! But the scenery was worth it all.

We even made friends with some of the exotic local wildlife -- sparrows!! -- who were tame enough to eat crumbs from my hand. After I made the mistake of providing some food, lunchtime turned into a scene from Hitchcock ... suddenly sparrows, hundreds of them!
lake mountainscheeky sparrows

We were expecting scenery and stone circles -- it was why we went. But an unexpected highlight was the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick. We saw this advertised in a tourist leaflet at our B&B, and so we just had to go. Now, I've never really given a lot of thought to pencils beyond the obvious "so how do they get the lead in there?", but, like just about everything really, there's more to them than meets the eye, as we learned at this fascinating museum.

The local pencil industry grew up around the local graphite outcrops (I learned that it was only relatively recently named "graphite", after the Greek for "drawing/writing", as in "grapheme" and "graphic"). The hardness is altered by adding clay -- more clay gives a harder "lead". Then the industry branched out into coloured pencils, watercolour pencils, and more. And there's lots more fascinating bits and pieces -- including wartime spy pencils, manufacturing tricks, and more. We would have stayed longer, but our car park ticket was expiring, so we had to leave after about an hour.
pencils through the ages putting the lead in a pencil

So, a good couple of days in the Lakes. I'm sure we'll be back.

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