Thursday, 26 April 2012

Windermere

W, of course, has to bring us to Windermere, England’s largest lake, over eleven miles long and just less than a mile wide at its widest part. It’s what is called a ribbon lake, formed when two Ice Age glaciers melted. The moraine from the glaciers formed a barrier at the southern end of the valley which then filled with water.

The name is thought to originate from ‘Vinandr’s Mere’, from the old Norse name Vinandr and ‘mere’, the Norse word for lake. Until the 19th century, it was still known as Winander Mere.

The village of Windermere is about twenty minutes’ walk from the lake and only started to grow in the 19th century when a branch railway line was extended from near Kendal, much to the chagrin of Wordsworth who vehemently opposed the advent of the railway.

He even wrote a sonnet about it, concluding with:
Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance
Of nature; and, if human hearts be dead,
Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong
And constant voice, protest against the wrong.

Despite much opposition, the railway was built, and the village which started to grow up around the railway station was originally called Birthwaite, after a nearby farm, but then changed to Windermere. The station is still there, but the original station building is now a grocery store.

The only town which actually stands on the shores of Windermere is Bowness-on-Windermere, which is a mecca for tourists. Sadly, many people think they have been to ‘the Lakes’; when all they’ve been to is this over-commercialised and frequently over-crowded small town!

Boating, of course, is a popular sport on the lake. However, about 5 years ago, a speed limit of 12 m.p.h. was introduced, effectively ending power-boats and water ski-ing on the lake. The arguments in favour of this were based on environmental and safety grounds, the latter being supported by yacht owners. The opponents claimed there was no other lake in England available for power -boats and other ‘fast’ water sports. Also there has been a knock-on effect for local business, since the number of lake-users has dropped dramatically since the limit was introduced.

Windermere has a fleet of pleasure cruisers which ply the lake from one end to the other. Three of the original boats, the Tern (1891), Teal(1936) and Swan (1938) are still used, although their original steam engines have now been converted to diesel.

There is also a small car ferry which crosses the lake from east to west (and vice versa). We sometimes used this to reach Hawkshead, although it was always a toss-up between the queues waiting for the ferry and the traffic jams between Windermere and Ambleside in the tourist season. The ferry, operated by an underwater cable, carries 18 cars, and takes about ten minutes.
There has been a ferry service here for about 500 years. Originally it was simply a rowing boat, of course. One spooky story is about the ‘Crier of Claife’. Claife Heights is a small wooded hill on the west bank of Windermere. Evidently, on a stormy night in the fifteenth century, the ferryman heard a call from the west side of the lake and rowed across. He returned alone, terrified and unable to speak, and became so ill that he died a few days later. For years afterwards no ferryman would take the ferry out after dark and it was said that the eerie cry of 'Boat' was often heard during subsequent storms. The 'ghost' was supposedly exorcised by a monk from Furness Abbey but even today there are some who will not venture into Claife Woods at night.

24 comments:

  1. This is a place I've not heard of and now will make a point to visit when next in England. Thanks, Paula.
    Karen

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  2. Again, lovely photos! Enticing.
    http://bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com

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  3. Windermere sounds beautiful. An d I love how your osts so often differentiate the beauty of the "real thign" vs the tourism play around it. Your posts will be our guidebook should we ever get to England.

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  4. just ADORE traveling with you! :0)

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  5. Your pictures gave me goosebumps today. So atmospheric. Been thoroughly enjoying all your posts this month.

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  6. I do like a good ferry ride, used to take one all the time in Seattle. I can see why people wouldn't want fast boats on the lake, but it is sad for the local businesses!

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  7. History, scenic beauty, and a little ghost story, too. *smiles*

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  8. I remember the very touristy feel of Windermere. Loch Lomond had to have some restrictions or bans on power boats etc. I love the ghost story.

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  9. Fascinating information, Paula. It's always so interesting to read the derivations of names and local legends are deliciously spooky.

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  10. Karen - Windermere is just one of the many beautiful lakes in this area.

    Thanks, Beth, drc and Sherry.

    Libby, the ferry ride across the lake was fun, apart from the scary moment of actually taking the car on to the ferry!

    Writing Goddess, Rosemary and Jabblog - nothing like a good ghost story, is there? Must admit I never went into Claife Woods at night!

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  11. Hi Paula,nice to meet you.

    Fun an informative post. anything water I can relate to.

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  12. lake villages are so charming!

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  13. Another lovely place convincing me England is one of the loveliest places in the world!!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

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  14. This is amazingly fortuitous, I'm setting my next novel in the Lake District and am venturing up there in July! I'm a new follower, and look forward to reading more.

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  15. Farawayeyes and Sandra - I love water and lakes too.

    Kathy - I have to agree with you!

    Rebecca - hi and welcome! Do tell me if you need any info about the Lake District!

    Dana - I love the ghost story too!

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  16. I have been there and loved the place!

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  17. It looks and sounds beautiful.

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  18. Claudia - who could not love Windermere? :-)

    Tonja - it really is!

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  19. The town looks cosy. :)I love going by Ferry. Did that while crossing from France to Uk about 2 years ago. Great post :)

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  20. Cecilia - the ferry across Windermere is very different from the cross-channel ferries!

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  21. Beautiful lake and town...and photos. Thanks for your comment on my blog today. I'm now following you. :)

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  22. I love Ferries and I would most definitely ride this one, maybe not at night. LOL

    Again, makes the reader need to be there.

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  23. You've brought Windermere to life for me. I thought it was the setting for some novels I've read?

    Denise

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