An enduring memory of Ullswater in early November is the image of muddy people and wet dogs. For wherever Chris and I walked, there emerged from behind trees, or fences, or building doorways, dogs which were bounding like puppies and were all too keen to leap up and share their wetness with all and sundry.
I do wonder why every dog seems to be of Labrador size in the Lakes!
I have always liked the Lake District, back from my childhood when we used to get the slow train from Penrith to Keswick, a line which, along with many of the most scenic in this country disappeared when the famous Doctor Beeching undertook his amputations.
However, this November, Chris and I stayed at Pooley Bridge at the northern, Penrith end of this most beautiful of the Lakes. The village was never connected to the rail system, and is a mere fifteen minutes away from Penrith.
But that fifteen minutes is a complete culture change away from the small town with its supermarkets and chic gift shops.
This old village built by the side of the fast flowing clear River Eamont, and overlooked by Dunmallet Hill, consists of 2 main streets of old greystone houses, hotels, guest houses, tea rooms, tourist shops, an information centre and the small 19th century church of St Pauls.
Pooley Bridge seemed to abound and reflect in the colours of Autumn.
I have found that the name 'pooley' comes from Norse origins meaning 'the hill with a pool', and if they mean the Lake of Ullswater, then that is some pool. Surrounded by the glorious hills and colours of the Lakes at its best, this is the time of year to ‘see’ the Lakes, not just visit them, for every single colour of nature was visible in the many trees around the Lake.
Our host for our long weekend at the Pooley Bridge Inn, the ebullient Patrick, has an accent which betrays his South African background, but his love of this part of the county is clear. During the journey we shared in his black and speedy Ford Cougar, thanks to his kind offer of transport, he explained that he has lived there for around three years and feels truly at home.
I will say that the feeling of home is passed on to customers at the ‘Inn’ with the staff being genuinely friendly, and the food and drink being about as good and well served as you can get.
For everyone who reads this and goes to Pooley Bridge, even if you don’t stay at the Inn and are just passing through, the item on the menu named Lamb Chunk is not to be missed – nor taken lightly. For it is just that, a complete shoulder of lamb ‘dealt with’ by Patrick’s recipe and served on a bed of mashed potato. It is a meal to die for and Chris and I will forever remember the young ‘smart’ couple who arrived in a large BMW, all smiles and condescension, until the shock of seeing this feast put before them. The young man had ordered a side portion of chips! What a mistake to make. His charisma finally vanished in the tomato ketchup he poured over the chips.
The highlight of the break had to be the boat trip on the Heron, a lovely craft built in 1899 and smooth as eiderdown. The two and a half hour trip around Ullswater was in perfect weather, with sunshine mixed with mist topping the hills.
The whole thing was made even more relaxing with mulled wine served in the little bar.
For the first time for a couple of years I was able to unwind and breath in. It was a time I will value.