We had two full days scheduled in Coniston, so we just had to deal with whatever the weather gods threw at us. As it turned out it wasn’t that bad—we could have had worse.

May 17, 2013

Since the weather was quite good today we decided to go hiking. The obvious candidate was the Old Man of Coniston, which looms over the town. We started at about 10 am again and, after buying some food for lunch, we headed out of town on Walna Scar Road. We had heard that this part was steep and steep it certainly was! But it was early in the day, so we made it up to the car park quite easily. The “tourist” route up the Old Man started there, but we had a longer trip in mind.

We carried on along Walna Scar Road, which was now a wide track and not nearly as steep. It climbed more or less continuously and so we got a series of views to the south. First a bit of Morecambe Bay, then Ulverston’s Hoad Monument, then more of Morecambe Bay over to Heysham. As the road approached the pass it became narrower and rougher, and here we were approached by two parties of college students who wanted to know if they were on the right road for the car park. Pretending to be local experts we assured them that they weren’t lost.

At the pass we suddenly had new views, this time of the west coast from Barrow up to the towers of Sellafield. We turned off here onto the trail up the ridge. It led uphill to Brown Pike, then slightly down before climbing Buck Pike. By now we were hungry, but the high point of the ridge, Dow Crag was not much farther so we decided to have lunch there.

Weather-wise we were lucky, no rain and the clouds were high enough that we had good views in all directions. After lunch on Dow Crag the trail plunged down to Goat’s Hause, which was the saddle between Dow Crag and the Old Man. At the summit of the Old Man is a very large cairn, the largest we had seen in a long while. And it was built on a platform of slates which must have been a meter thick. There were a lot of people having a snack or a rest there, so we got a volunteer to take our pictures.

Again we decided not to follow the “tourist” path back down to Coniston, but instead headed north on the ridge towards Swirl How. We were looking for the route down from the ridge when we met a couple of men coming the other way. They told us that the only practical route was the Prison Band, on the far side of Swirl How. They also mentioned a memorial to some Canadian airmen who died in a crash back in 1944, but it would be a detour to see that. But as it turned out, we were a bit off course scrambling down Swirl How and so we did see the remaining fragments of the crashed aircraft.

The rest of the trail down was a mixture of rocky path and boggy grass which wasn’t easy walking, but finally we reached the road down the Coppermine Valley and back into Coniston. It was now after 5 pm, so it had been a longer day than planned, but we were happy with the walk and with the weather. For dinner we checked out several places but ended up at the Black Bull again. Tonight it was quite busy but we managed to get a table, and as usual their food was very good.

May 18, 2013

The weather forecast had predicted rain for this morning, and sure enough at breakfast time the rain was coming down hard. So we were glad we had done the walk yesterday. Today’s plan was to take the Coniston Launch over to Brantwood, so after breakfast we first stopped off at the Tourist Information office to buy our discounted tickets for the trip, and then headed down Lake Drive to the dock. The rain was still coming down quite heavily so by the time we got to the dock we were quite wet. We took shelter inside the Bluebird Café while we waited for the launch’s crew to arrive.

At 10:45 am the launch departed, and we were the only passengers until it picked up a couple of hikers at the Torver dock. Soon after that we were at the Brantwood dock, where we got off and headed up to the house. The entrance area was quite small but luckily we were the only people arriving at the time, so we hung up our wet jackets on the coathooks there.

John Ruskin was one of the great men of the Victorian era. He wrote extensively on art and architecture and was a visionary who dreamed of a country where everyone had a decent wage and adequate housing and medical treatment. But he seems to be rather forgotten today. He bought Brantwood sight unseen based only on its location and then spent a lot of money fixing it up. It was his home for the last 28 years of his life and now it serves as a museum for all things Ruskin.

We spent an hour or so looking around the house, which preserved a lot of things the way they were in 1900 along with many other Ruskin artifacts. Upstairs there was a studio with an exhibition of contemporary art, and on the upper floor of the little building next to the house was a lithophone which Ruskin had devised. That’s like a xylophone only made out of stone (local and regional slate) instead of wood. The real instrument was off limits but there was a smaller version which we could play.

We went for lunch at the Jumping Jenny restaurant, and then since the rain had stopped, we went walking through the extensive gardens. They had the hugest rhododendron bushes we had ever seen, they must have been 10 meters tall. And in the woods the bluebells were carpeting the ground. We caught the 2:20 pm launch back to Coniston, this time with a lot more passengers. It was much nicer walking about now without the pouring rain. After we docked we were in time to see the National Trust’s steamboat Gondola arrive. It is a steam boat shaped like a Venetian gondola which was built in 1859 and restored by the National Trust in 1980.

For dinner we first went down to the Black Bull. Rosemary wanted to have the lamb hot-pot which Paul had last night, but it wasn’t on the menu today. The place was very crowded so we headed across the road to Harry’s Wine Bar. Here we shared a pepperoni pizza and each had a small salad to go with it.

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Next: Coniston to Great Langdale

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