Tag Archives: lake district

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

When I was a girl my Nan had a caravan in the Lake District, we used to go and stay there a lot. It was a great place to spend time and my Nan and Uncle used to make sure we had lots to entertain us. We went on lots of day trips and really explored the area. One memorable trip was to the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick. For some reason it has really stuck with me and when we visited Keswick last week, I had to take my son for a return visit.

The Derwent Pencil Museum is located in Keswick town centre. There’s lots of parking on site and it’s easily accessible by public transport. The Derwent Pencil Museum itself is located in the shadow of the former pencil factory which has now relocated to nearby Workington in Cumbria.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

When I told the boys I wanted to visit a pencil museum, they both looked at me like I was mad. But by the time we left, they’d both fallen for the quirky charms of this interesting attraction.

When you enter The Derwent Pencil Museum, you are directed through a replica graphite mine which has some model miners working in it. This display shows what conditions underground would be like. There are also samples of the graphite that was mined in the area.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

The cave space opens up into a light, airy room filled with pencil based exhibits. There’s the World’s Largest Pencil, a large collection of novelty pencil sharpeners; The Queen’s diamond Jubilee pencil and some amazing miniature pencil sculptures. There are also some audio-visual exhibits and the fascinating story of how the Derwent Pencil Factory developed the technology to hide tiny maps and a compass inside a pencil for our agents to use in WW2.

Once we’d had a good look around, we retired to what I will call the Drawing Room, though I’ve no idea what it’s really called. There’s a space at the back of the Pencil Museum where you can sit and draw. I think it’s mostly meant for children, but I sat drawing all kinds of things with my son for a good half hour and we could have probably stayed there longer if we wanted.

There are step-by-step drawing books, good drawing paper and as you would imagine, the best selection of pencils you could wish to put together. We sat companionably drawing jellyfish, dinosaurs, otters, all kinds of wonderful creatures and he loved it. We loved it.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

There’s a good shop and a cafe we didn’t have time to try out. But it was just as good as I remembered it; when I asked him what he liked afterwards he said the cave, the giant pencil and doing all the drawing. If that’s not a good way to spend a few hours, I don’t know what it.

Admission is £4.95 per adult and £3.95 per child. They also run a number of adult and children’s art sessions throughout the year. For more information about visiting The Derwent Pencil Museum, visit their website.

The Derwent Pencil Museum is at Southey Works, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5NG.

Days Out: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

We paid for our visit to The Derwent Pencil Museum in full.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

We spent last weekend glamping near Keswick in the Lake District. On our way home to Manchester, we stopped in Kendal so we could spend an afternoon at the Lakes Alive Festival. We were very glad we stopped because it finished off our weekend with a flourish and we were only sad we didn’t get there earlier!

Lakes Alive is a free festival of contemporary arts and making. Three days of unique art in the unique landscape of Kendal.

We went primarily to go and see our favourite storyteller, Ian Douglas. We’ve followed him to three festivals this year and each time he has been a delight to listen to. Ian had pitched his storytelling canopy in Abbot Hall Park, which was filled with stalls, street food trucks and a huge marquee with a lively series of events booked in it.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

During the afternoon we watched Cloud, a pair of contemporary dancers drifting through space like weightless clouds which was quite beautiful to watch. People walking by almost always stopped and were captivated by the dreamy dance.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

The Fellowship Chorus and the Virtual Reality Choir were in residence, belting out a series of singalong classics you couldn’t help but join in with.

Marching through Abbots Hall Park and beyond were Walking Watling Street – a celebration to remember the 50,000 women who marched from Carlisle to London in 1913 to fight to win the vote for women. There was a great crowd of women dressed as Suffragettes and members of the public were all invited to join the march, and march they did. It was a wonderful sight!

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

Throughout the Lakes Alive Festival there were a number of weird and wonderful things just popping up. Once of them was Peddlers Pack – four fantastical cycle-powered contraptions. Peddlers Pack was a colourful and a little bit crazy group of people peddling their imaginary wares.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

I’m not sure what my son thought of the Peddlers Pack, but he stood back for quite some time taking it all in. If there’s one thing an arts festival does for children, it gives them permission to explore the outer reaches of their own experiences and brings life and colour to their own imaginations.

There were some things I was sad to miss (but better luck next year). It’s amazing that this is a free arts festival; there are so many weird, wonderful and downright creative things happening. I’d not heard about it until a week or so before and I was very glad we stopped by for the afternoon. Lakes Alive is something I’ll be looking out for again next year. Hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time exploring what’s on offer.

For more information about the Lakes Alive Festival, visit their website.

Days Out: Exploring the Lakes Alive Festival

My husband would like me to give a special mention to the man barbecuing sausages on a converted steam train.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

The last few months have felt pretty hectic for our family. We’ve been here, there and everywhere; almost always in a rush and not spending enough time just enjoying being together. Over the weekend we packed up the car and headed off to Inside Out Camping in the small village of Seatoller in the Borrowdale valley. Seatoller is near Keswick in the Lake District and we were glamping for two nights, staying in a Yurt. There was no electricity, no WiFi, no phone signal; just us and the great outdoors and it was nothing short of wonderful.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

I’ve wanted to go glamping for a while. The idea of not having to put up or take down a tent and not having to carry every single thing we’d need for the weekend was very appealing. I also liked the idea of a little bit of luxury in the middle of nowhere; in this case, a woodburner and a comfy futon to sleep on. There’s something quite luxurious about just being able to turn up without a car full of camping gear which takes a few hours to set up. Glamping is still camping, but with more of the comforts of home.

We arrived at Seatoller near Keswick, and spotting some of the yurts from the main road, made our way down the track to the small campsite. There are six yurts available to book and space for other campers in their own tents too. The site runs alongside the River Derwent, which when we arrived was a gentle, shimmering river which babbled alongside the yurts.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

We walked down to our yurt at the far end of the site. It stood right next to the river. Outside was a wooden picnic table and two wooden steps to the door of the yurt. Inside was a clean and well-equipped space. There was one double futon and two single futons with clean, crisp bedding. There was a gas stove and a kitchen area, plus a woodburner with a bag of logs to get us started.

We unpacked, got settled in and did what all English people do; we made a cup of tea. The boy ran about exploring the site, he crossed the bridge several times and scrambled down the banks of the river. On a warmer (or braver) day we might have all gone for a paddle, but we didn’t. The site is like a fairy glen and although it’s small, there’s a lot to explore.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

You do need a torch when you’re walking through the campsite at night back to the yurt. The site is unlit and without electricity, though the yurts have solar-powered lights and fairy lights too.

At night the yurt is really cosy. The beds have feather duvets and pillows and I’d forgotten just how snuggly they were. Tucked up in bed with the woodburner flickering away in the corner; a mug of cocoa and the fairy lights on, it’s a little piece of heaven. After a busy day walking and exploring the Lake District, we’d all fall into bed, talking and laughing together until we drifted off to sleep. With the stars shimmering through the skylight, it was truly magical.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

Inside Out Camping is located on Seatoller Farm which is a sheep farm near Kewsick. The campsite is surrounded by fields of Herdwick sheep (my favourite breed of sheep, yes I have a favourite breed). You can walk up to the farm and buy Herdwick sausages and burgers to take home or cook in your yurt. We had a busy weekend planned and we didn’t end up making anything more adventurous than breakfast and endless cups of coffee.

Although the site feels like it’s really out in the sticks, it’s very well served by regular public transport from Keswick. Just over a mile up the road, the Langstrath Country Inn serves good food. There are more pubs dotted along the road to Keswick, and once in Keswick there are more places to eat and drink than you can shake a stick at!

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

I confess I did have a slight wobble on the first night about there being no internet. I had a word with myself and just embraced it. There’s no better place for me than being beside my 7 year old when he’s on an adventure; climbing trees, scrabbling over rocks, defending the bridge from imaginary marauding pirates. You don’t need the internet or electricity for that.

It’s a small site with a basic but clean toilet block. Showers are available at the farmhouse a ten minute walk up the road.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

The Inside Out Camping yurts are an absolutely ideal base for visiting the Lake District. Whether you’re on a walking holiday, or exploring with the family. The area was wild and rugged enough to feel like you’ve really stepped away from the hustle and bustle of life at home; but close enough to Keswick to not be too far from the home comforts a city girl appreciates (Booths. I mean Booths).

Seatoller is a magical place. The Borrowdale valley is very beautiful and with autumn beginning to make itself known, it was a valley of mists and mellow fruitfulness. We were sad to pack up and leave after our two days of yurt life. It hadn’t taken long to settle into a rhythm there. I liked the home comforts and the peace. The boys liked exploring and we all really liked just chilling out together. It’s unusual for us all to agree on something, but we all really enjoyed our taste of yurt life and beautiful Borrowdale has a way of getting under your skin.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

We all want to go glamping again, we all want to stay in a yurt too; and I think a return visit to Inside Out Camping will be on our list for next year.

Yurts at Inside Out Camping at Seatoller Farm start from £285 for a three night weekend stay. For more information about glamping in the UK, visit the Campsites.co.uk website.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

We were invited guests of Inside Out Camping. All our images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Join the Stick Man Activity Trail

This summer, in 23 forests across England The Forestry Commission have set up Stick Man Activity Trails  for families to explore. The trails are based on Julia Donaldson’s beloved character and the Forestry Commission is aiming to help get kids outdoors and get moving this summer.

The Stick Man Trails have been on throughout the year at various locations up and down England, and this summer they’re encouraging little ones to get active by joining in with some fun activities, games and races. In some of the selected forests there will be special days where visitors can join in the fun and meet Stick Man himself, and some sites will have self-led arenas where visitors can use the sports equipment to host their own games.

Stick Man Activity Trail

Everyone who signs up on the website will be able to download a free Stick Man Games kit including fantastic games and activities that kids can do with sticks and includes top tips to help them become a sporting champion as well as cut-out medals and certificates. You can also invite all of family and friends along to join the party with the downloadable Stick Man themed invitations!

Join Stick Man on his quest to get back to his family tree and be reunited with his ‘Stick Lady Love’ and ‘Stick children three.’ The Stick Man activity trails lead children and families through the forests using activity points which allow them to live the epic adventures of Stick Man, whilst also learning about the importance of forests for people and wildlife alike.

Stick Man Activity Trail

We’ll be heading off to explore the Stick Man Activity Trail in Grizedale Forest in the Lake District this June. At Grizedale we’ll be following the trail, exploring the forest and taking part in the Stick man games and hoping to reunite Sitck Man with his stick family. Grizedale Forest will be hosting an arena with self-led games from 8-30 June 2016.

For more more information about the Stick Man Games, activity packs and trails are available from www.forestry.gov.uk/.

Family Travel: September in Center Parcs

It was my birthday on September 5th, so we decided to sneak away for a family weekend and a little celebration of my increasing age. We went to Center Parcs – Whinfell in Cumbria from Friday to Monday and had a lovely, lovely time. We even managed to do it on a bit of a budget too!

It’s so easy at Center Parcs to overload yourself with activities, but we were all in need of a restful break. We decided to dial down the busyness and focus on chilling out and being together. So that’s what we did.

Family Travel: September in Center Parcs

We arrived mid afternoon on the Friday (my birthday), unpacked and went to the Subtropical Paradise, otherwise known as the swimming pool. It was great to get in the water, and because we went in quite late at around 5pm it wasn’t hugely busy. We enjoyed the rapids and the waves for a bit, then went to relax in the baby pool while the small boy poured buckets of water over us.

After swimming, we headed back to our lodge, had some pasta for tea, sang Happy Birthday to me and settled down for the evening. We were all exhausted so it was early to bed for us all.

Saturday we’d arranged a free morning. The boys went to the playground while I read my book in peace and quiet for a bit. Later we all went swimming (swimming is free, so we did this a lot), then back to the lodge for a picnic lunch on the patio (any food eaten outdoors is a picnic to us, the small boy is obsessed with picnics). After lunch we trundled off to see the rangers and enjoy the pre-booked Mammal Magic session.

Family Travel: September in Center Parcs

Ranger Richard is lovely, really knowledgable and great with the kids. He brought round a number of animals to stroke and learn a bit more about. It sounds like his house is a bit of a menagerie. We met a polecat, a rat, a hedgehog, an Australian sugar glider and a husky. The hedgehog and the husky were our favourites.

After giving our hands a good scrub we popped to the pub for a quick pint before wandering over to Hucks in the village centre for our pre-booked tea. Hucks serve American Style food. We’d been four years ago when I was pregnant and if I’m honest we weren’t that impressed, but decided to give it another go. The food was much better, we shared a tasty spinach and cheese dip to start; and then himself had a burger and I had veggie fajitas. The small boy ate from the kids buffet. It wasn’t gourmet food, it is what it is and it was okay. We would go again on our next visit.

Family Travel: September in Center Parcs

Sunday was the day I was most looking forward to. We had a relaxing morning drinking coffee in bed and watching cartoons on TV. Then we headed off to the playground to burn off some energy. We had lunch in Dexters which is a burger bar next to the Subtropical Paradise; then the small boy and I wandered over to the soft play area while the big boy swanned off to the spa for a spot of pampering.

We’d booked the small boy into the crèche to go to a chocolate party for three hours. This was so we could go to the spa together for a treat. For complex organisational reasons we were only together in the spa for 90 minutes. We each had three hours in there, moving from steam room to steam room, swimming in the lovely outdoor pool, enjoying the saunas, resting on the waterbeds, enjoying some serious relaxation.

I adore the Aqua Sana spa at Center Parcs, I was steamed to perfection by the time I left. My skin was glowing and smooth and I felt fantastic. I could do with a spa session like that on a regular basis!

The small boy had had a brilliant time at the chocolate party. He’d been sent away with a box of goodies and an apron he’d decorated himself. He’d had a good time and so had we, it was win-win. The Center Parcs creche is really good, there are lots of activity sessions to choose from and they are well looked after.

It’d been another busy day for us all, exhausted but happy we all had a really excellent nights sleep.

Monday arrived and it was time for us to leave Center Parcs. We packed up and went for one last play in the playground. We had one last swim and one last picnic lunch by the lake in the sunshine. All told it was a fantastically restful weekend. We were sad to leave but I know that we’ll be back again really soon. There’s already talk of a spa day.

Family Travel: September in Center Parcs

Read about our visit to Winter Wonderland at Whinfell

Travel: My love affair with the Lake District

Growing up in the North of England, the go to place for short breaks and holidays was the Lake District. My Nan had a caravan there and it was, and is, a great place to take children. These days when we visit we camp, go glamping or stay in a B&B, depending on the weather.

What child hasn’t been enchanted by Peter Rabbit and the other Beatrix Potter stories; or wanted to go on Swallows and Amazons style adventures? We used to love going on the paddle steamers and the steam trains, as well as exploring the gardens of historic houses while Nan had a spot of afternoon tea and a few minutes peace and quiet.

Travel: My love affair with the Lake District

Returning as an adult for what these days is called a “staycation”, there are other delights which I didn’t fully appreciate as a child. Hill walking, beautiful scenic views and drams of whisky in front of a roaring pub fire. The Lake District is full of great places to eat, real hidden gems and a rich foodie heritage, not to mention excellent pubs serving delicious local real ales.

There is something magical about the Lake District; for me it evokes a strong feeling of peace and tranquility. In all weathers I can find beauty; the sun shimmering on the surface of a lake, the hills wrapped in rainy mist and shadows cast by clouds on the velveteen hillsides.

It’s a special gift to be able to share this magical place with my son. He’s growing up fast and just like I did, he loves the sail on the lakes, to paddle in the streams and to explore the endless hills and valleys of the Lake District.

There’s so much to see and so. If you don’t fancy doing, there’s always a great spot to sit and enjoy a flask of coffee, a hunk of Kendal Mint Cake and just watch how the light changes on the water or sit and listen to the wind as it shimmers through the trees. It doesn’t take much to understand why the Lake District has inspired so many writers, poets and artists over the years.

Travel: My love affair with the Lake District

It’s a place of rugged beauty, endless scenery, perfect serenity and adventure. I love the Lake District. I truly do.