Thursday, 30 June 2016

Ullswater and other lakes

This was to be no ordinary Ullswater trip! We had persuaded school to let Nathaniel out for the day and we had big plans.

After the kids had both listened to Swallows and Amazons and played being Swallows and Amazons and talked endlessly about Swallows and Amazons, I let them watch the film (the old one - the new one isn't out yet and I don't think I'm going to like it). And of course, that meant that they had evidence that Wild Cat Island actually existed and wasn't entirely fictional. And they wanted to go. A lot.

So we hatched a plan. It started by leaving York at 6:53am with two boats on the back of the car (it's almost like they designed the GP to have an Oppy slotted upside down inside it). By 10 o'clock we were putting up the tent in the campsite in Ullswater and and had shed one boat. Then we were back on the road towards Coniston. We wound our way round tiny roads at alarming angles and the boat bumped along happily behind us. I saw Thirlmere for the first time and was most impressed, though rather dubious that I'd enjoy it do much from the water due to the road running along side. We discovered that Windemere isn't signposted very clearly, and Ian did an amazing bit of reversing on the side of a massive hill with a boat trailer. By 12:30 we were in a deserted carpark halfway down Coniston measuring a gap between two rocks with a tape measure. That deserves a story too.

When we were trying to work out how to get to the island, we scoured the internet for info about launching points on Coniston and discovered that the best place was way up in the north, a good few miles upwind of the island. So for hours we contemplated how sensible it was to drive the breadth of England, put up a tent, drive some more and the sail downwind for a couple of miles with a four year old, knowing that we'd have to do a good part of it in reverse at the end. But then I had a brainwave and remembered that we were in the 21st century and did what any sensible person would do - I asked facebook. I was already a member of the Arthur Ransome facebook group, so I asked them where they would launch. And within half an hour they were all debating the best spots (most of which were unknown to us), asking how heavy a boat we would be using and politely arguing with each other as to which other Ransome-spots we should also visit. One chap in particular provided a grid reference for the best parking and launching spot plus the instruction that we should pull the boat through a gap in the rocks of the north-east boundary of the car park which was approximately 2m wide. Hence the measureing. And he gave me his phone number so we could call if we had any difficulty finding the spot! What amazing people. The kids were even sent a message from the actress who played Titty in the film wishing them a good trip!

The crew were kept busy
Right, back to the (rather wordy) plot. There was much busyness in carrying down kit and rigging (and even a few mouthfuls of lunch) and then we were off! It was wonderful! It was a pleasant force 3 and we skimmed along, the kids experiencing for the first time the sorts of speeds that a GP can get up to when you have more than 25 meters between tacks. And then we were there, at Peel Island. I was soooooo excited!
Rigging on the launching beach

Landing was not as easy as we had hoped. The landing place was downwind and much narrower than it was in the film (or book). In the end we tacked closer and closer to the northern end in the lee of the island and eventually drifted carefully in among rocks and tied up very carefully. And then we explored.
The boat was pretty happy downwind of the island

Tiny landing place. Subsequent conversation with cast of the first film (!) yeilded the discovery that the water was lower and they shipped in gravel to enlarge the land place.

The harbour was amazing. Much easier to see than in the books - the rocks around the end didn't mask it so it was clear to see from the water (we didn't land there due to the onshore wind). But it was narrow and had great steep sides. Thea spent a lot of time walking up and down the channel. The camp was long and thin and stretched almost the length of the island. There was a fire in the centre and plently of trees for hanging Swallowesque tents. There were a least two levels of paths on either side of the camp at different heights through the tress and winding around massive rocks. You could play hide and seek here for hours as it would be easy to evade the seeker. The look out point was dramatic, looking south down the lake with no trees to make a lighthouse!

The Harbour

Thea on her island

Look out point
We could have stayed for hours. But we had to get sail back and then drive back to Ullswater, so it was a short visit (to be repeated, I'm sure), followed by the aforementioned wonderful sail back to the launching beach, and a jubilant drive back in the sun along a new and inventive route along the pass. (Not recommended when trailing a boat - don't think the old car would have coped!)

Swimming while we pack up the boat

Superlative road
 After that, it's hardly worth mentioning the rest of the weekend.

Both kids enjoyed the endless attention from their adult friends of the sailing club. They were constantly induged with flap jack, chocolate, discussion about maps, time in camper vans and general love. Yet again the sailing club proved that they are total suckers for polite kids and generally went out of their way to make sure that the kids were in seventh heaven! The kids totally took over Jasper the dog and took him for long walks around the campsite. Jasper was so tired after all the attention, he climbed out of bed during the night (in the campervan) and had to be lifted back up as he was too exhausted to get up himself!

Jasper the long-suffering dog

The kids con another poor man out of his last marshmallow

Consulting over the map
The weather was warmish and sunnyish but nothing special, so there was some sailing and some playing. Nathaniel sailed Sea Swallow around for a while, but to be honest he was too tired to do as much as he had hoped.

Ian played in a laser a bit, and I took out the GP for the annual 6am sail in the sun. The kids mainly splashed around in the shallows with Sea Swallow having a whale of a time. There are 6 kids of the sailing club, and now that their ages range from 4 to 10, they are able to play altogether and get along reasonably well.

N and D go to their secret cove along the edge of the lake

  So all in all it was a wonderful weekend, only to be improved upon by having the week of school in advance so that everyone has plenty of energy!
Bedtime at 12:15 - proof it never really gets dark at midsummer

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