How to experience The Lakes

As a major new documentary series is about to launch on TV, it’s time to think about the Lake District experience.

Let’s get down to some biological basics. ‘Experience’ is driven by the five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch.  And when we have happy experiences, we release those endorphins and feel good.

Back in the early 1990s I was involved in a number of projects that Cumbria Tourism supported through a scheme called ‘Better than the Best’ using EU match funding. The hospitality offering back in those days was often on a par with Fawlty Towers and the Lakes Hospitality Association even had a Basil Fawlty look-a-like at one of their annual shows.

The new approach was to highlight the importance of investment in design, image and brand. The Lakes took off, more money was invested, and the scheme was a huge success. The understanding of investing in good design and the return on investment is now deeply engrained.

At the same time there was a growing awareness that  the Lakes has a landscape – in some areas – ideal for growing and harvesting local produce. This became a natural area of growth and the idea of foraging from the land became eco-fashionable.

Foraging a natural harvest

Foraging a natural harvest

The ‘Taste District’ was born and has flourished, with visitors senses tantalised by wonderfully creative chefs using local produce and winning national acclaim with supremely artistic presentations on a plate, slate slab, or chunk of wood.

But then there’s the Lakes’ experience that’s completely free…and easily accessible. Walking, swimming, watching birds and badgers, just breathing the finest quality air: all appeal to our senses. And that’s where the new TV series scores.

sailing

Derwentwater, differently. From The Lakes with Paul Rose

The Lakes (BBC1, starting Friday July 20) is presented by Paul Rose, our neighbour in Windermere, but a man who has explored the whole world – and comes back to the very best, on home territory. It was a pleasure to be invited to the preview in Kendal at the Brewery Arts Centre.

This is a series with immense integrity, as well as appeals to all of our senses, and will motivate every viewer to get out there and experience our wonderful landscape. Paul Rose doesn’t trivialise the Lake District, as some recent shows have done, but he still manages to be both highly entertaining as well as knowledgeable.

paul rose

Presenter Paul Rose

He’ll take you up into the high fells, and out onto the water, and he’ll introduce you to some of the characters whose lives, history, tradition and artistry enhance the Lakes’ experience.

More than that, we’re not saying. You’ll have to watch and see for yourselves. Then get out there and let the Lakes hit all your senses.

 

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A design icon back on our rails

There’s been rejoicing this week as trains left the main line station at Oxenholme bound for end of the branch line Windermere.

It’s not just that we have trains again after the Northern Rail fiasco left us without any service at all for several weeks.

It’s because we’ve seen the return of a design icon, a 40 year old diesel engine which links us to the glorious days of rail travel.

Our heritage train leaving Windermere: photo by Dayve Ward

Our heritage train leaving Windermere: photo by Dayve Ward

West Coast Railways, which specialises in steam-hauled charter excursions, stepped in to restore services after Northern, the regular passenger operator, replaced services with buses.

Passengers are now travelling free on the 10-mile route from Oxenholme to Windermere six times a day. The Department for Transport is reported to be meeting the £5,500 daily running costs.

The engines have no nameplates. One is a Class 37, dating from the 1960s, the other is a Class 57 (re-engineered in early-2000s from a 1960s-built loco). They are, ironically, only slightly older than many of the 1980s Pacers which normally operate on the line. But they look like “proper” trains, ones that reminds us of the romance and glamour of the days when the railways projected the mystique and allure of train travel in ways that weren’t simply about speed.

The Flying Scotsman, the Silver Jubilee, the Coronation Scot and the Cheltenham Flyer: in their heyday these classic British expresses were not only the fastest trains of their kind in the world, but a synonym for character and luxury, too.

Many of the things that made rail travel pleasurable have disappeared. Certainly  in Britain we seem to have lost the knack, deployed by the old railway companies, of harnessing the innate love of trains that seems to run through our DNA. Gone are railway stations built like cathedrals rather than concrete boxes, haute cuisine in the dining car, cosy compartments, seats that line up with the windows, cheerful porters on platforms.

By contrast think of modern railway stations designed elsewhere by Santiago Calatrava which epitomise style and artistry in architecture.

Calatrava train station

Calatrava train station

So a huge thank you to West Coast Railways , the independent heritage train operating company which usually specialises in operating charter trains along some of the UKs most famous and scenic routes and to many beautiful destinations.

It’s not quite the Flying Scotsman or the Orient Express, or the Night Mail of Auden’s poem, or our favourite fantasy railway, the Hogwarts Express, but it’s brought a reminder that design needs to play a part in the most functional areas of our daily lives.

And here’s the timetable:

train timetable

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