Five things Windermere is famous for...

Five things Windermere is famous for...


Five things Windermere is famous for

1: Our local theatre, down the road at Bowness on Windermere, is housed in a redundant Edwardian laundry. It was bought in 1991 by Roger, a set designer, and Charlotte, a former stage manager, with the intention of designing and building The World Of Beatrix Potter, which became an award-winning attraction. But there was plenty of space left over and the couple soon realised it could provide a perfect fit for a theatre.  They had been working with Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough and noticed that the space they had left would make a similarly perfect theatre in the round.  Ayckbourn offered to bring some of his shows there, and has sent a play to be performed almost every year since.  The theatre also puts on drama by other writers and visiting groups, comedy, music and dinner-and-film nights.


2: You all know that Windermere is England’s largest lake, but were you aware that it has 18 islands. The largest is the privately owned Belle Isle (40.0 acres) opposite Bowness which is around a kilometre in length. Its older name was Lang Holme, and 800 years ago it was the centre of the manor of Windermere and later a “moiety”, a kind of suburb, of the barony of Kendal. The other islands or "holmes" are considerably smaller. (Holme means small island and comes from Old Norse.) The others are Lady Holme, Bee Holme, Blake Holme, Crow Holme, Birk or Birch Holme (called Fir Holme on Ordnance Survey maps), Grass Holme, Lilies of the Valley (East, and West), Ling Holme (a rocky hump with a few trees), Hawes Holme, Hen Holme (also rocky and sometimes known as Chair and Table Island from some old flags or slabs of stone that were formerly found there), Maiden Holme (the smallest island, with just one tree), Ramp Holme (variously called Roger Holme and Berkshire Island at different times in its history), Rough Holme, Snake Holme, Thompson Holme  and Silver Holme.

3: In 1895, the lake was completely frozen for six weeks and locals could walk from one side to the other. They went skating, held parties, and hot chestnut sellers set up stalls. The big freeze was the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s classic novel Winter Holiday, one of the Swallows and Amazons series. Other frozen-over years were 1864, 1946 and 1963.

4: There’s a real castle on the north west shore of the lake at Wray, though it’s not as old as it looks from across the lake when viewed from Low Wood Bay. Wray Castle is actually a Victorian folly, built in 1840 for a retired Liverpool surgeon. The story goes that his wife complained that the roof leaked in the house where they were living, so the man built her a castle in the grounds. She didn’t like that either. However, a  member of his family, Hardwicke Rawnsley, in a bid to protect the countryside from damaging development, went on to conceive the idea of a National Trust, and the castle is now run by the Trust and open to the public.

5: Windermere is the home of the UK’s most pioneering and innovative independent home and kitchenware retailer, Lakeland. It has a chain of stores across the UK, and more than 50 years of selling an unrivalled collection of creative and practical ideas for the home and garden, and inspiring gifts. Go in Lakeland, and you’ll come away with items you know you can’t live without, but never knew existed till now….

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