3.10 pm, Waterhead, Ambleside; AS I WAS quickly painting this view of Windermere as we waited for the ferry, Barbara spotted a notice recording the flood level in November 2009. I would have been standing almost waist-deep in water.

On our return journey to Bowness we pass Wray Castle, which Beatrix Potter’s parents rented for a summer holiday in 1882, giving 16 year old Beatrix her first experience of the Lake District.

Don’t go paddling at nearby Barrow Point (right); the lake plunges to 220 feet deep here. Windermere, at twelve miles long is the largest natural lake in England, is divided into two basins which were deepened by ice age glaciers.

I take a seat on the upper, open, deck of the ferry, sketching and dabbing in colour as we go.

It’s been a rainy day which is why we decided to head for Ambleside rather than setting out on a lakeside walk again.

It’s an opportunity to visit the Armitt Museum, which I haven’t visited since it moved to its new building in 1997. Amongst the exhibits are a number of watercolour studies of fungi by Beatrix Potter and a self-portrait by John Ruskin.

Bohemians in Exile

But the reason that I particularly wanted to visit today was to catch the Bohemians in Exile exhibition, which has created so much interest that it’s been extended until the new year. The Royal College of Art moved out here during World War II and, on the evidence of this exhibition they were a lively bunch, staging exhibitions and performances and getting involved with the life of the town.

I know someone who was there at the time and I can’t help thinking that there would have been many appealing aspects to being  based here as a natural history student during my time at the college, 30 years later.

Hmm . . . but then I’d have missed out on the Natural History Museum, and the Geological Museum . . . and concerts in the Royal Albert Hall . . . and lunchtime walks around the Serpentine (although it hardly compares with Windermere!).

Cuckoo Brow

Rhode Island Reds leaving the barn at Low Cunsey Farm
I remember these enamel warning signs from family holidays in the Lake District in the late 1950s and early 60s.

THE END of October marks the end of the season for many Lakeland businesses; village stores close, parking restrictions are eased and ferries start running to winter timetables so it’s an opportunity to explore a quieter countryside. From our hotel at Bowness-on-Windermere we walk to the car ferry and at Ferry House pick up the route of one of Mary Webb’s Tea Shop Walks in the Lake District. In six miles walking we don’t meet a single hiker or dog-walker, just one cyclist on a road section and two farmers auguring a pasture for soil samples. The Tea Shop closed for winter at the weekend, as did Beatrix Potter’s house at High Sawrey, which it stands close to. The Cuckoo Brow Inn at Far Sawrey makes a welcome alternative as a lunch stop.

Nuthatch on oak left standing on cleared area, Waterbarrow

We walk close to the shore of Windermere, from the tiny island of Ling Holme to the promontory of Rawlinson Nab. It’s quiet except for a gaggle of Canada and Pink-footed Geese. Other birds: Grey Wagtail, Robin, Great-crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull and, as we walk by a stretch of woodland cleared of conifers at Waterbarrow, Blue Tit and Nuthatches on the tall broadleaved trees that have been left standing. We see  several squirrels, but all of them Grey, not Red, like the one we saw yesterday in Keswick. Perhaps the central fells act as a barrier to the spread of the Greys in Cumbria.

As this is Wordsworth country, I found myself inspired to verse. I wasn’t going to inflict this on you, but our friends had to have this on our postcard from the Lakes so I thought I’d add it to this post, just to show that I was getting into holiday mood:

As we were walking in the Lakes,
We searched in vain for tea & cakes.
We tramped five miles then had to pause
At Far Sawrey village stores.
Alas, the sign we chanc’d to see
Said ‘CLOSED NOVEMBER’ (no more tea!).
But round the corner we said ‘Wow! –
they’re serving soup at Cuckoo Brow!’

Soup of the day was French onion, complete with crouton, made with good stock (not vegetarian, I’m guessing) and not too salty like French onion soup often is.


Red Squirrel

SOME DAY we’ll climb Cat Bells, one of the most popular fells for walkers in the Lake District. It sits enticingly on the western shore of Derwentwater as you look out towards it from the lakeside at Keswick. Cat Bells is 451 metres, 1480 feet high, and a three mile walk from the town but the boat house in the foreground of my drawing is on Derwent Isle, only two or three hundred yards from the shore.

4.25 pm; A Red Squirrel runs along the pavement by a roundabout near the Lakeside car Park. We’re so astonished to see it that, retracing our route back out of town, I turn the car on to the road we came on – which is one-way! Luckily I realise my mistake before we encounter any oncoming vehicles!

We’ve often come to the Lake District for several days and not seen a Red Squirrel, so this one came as a surprise.

We’ve driven here from home along the Leeds ring-road so many times that we were ready for a change; we headed up the road from home, in what seems like the wrong direction, to Grange Moor, then cut across via Brighouse and Keighley on smaller roads towards Skipton, avoiding West Yorkshire’s larger towns and cities.

Because of a road closure, we found another alternative route for part of our journey along a narrow lane across the moors and fells from Airton to Settle. A large flock of Fieldfares, the most we’ve seen so far, had descended on roadside hawthorns.

In Settle I drew the pillar in the Market Place as we stopped for lunch at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe. Limestone crags rise from woodland on the slopes to the east of town.