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Postcard from the Lake District

I know this is a quilting blog, but... would you like to see my holiday photos? You would? Well, that's a relief because we're home from a week in the Lake District and were so utterly charmed that we've already planned a return visit. Here are a few of my highlights (and I promise there is a very special quilt at the end of this post).

The Lake District is only a three hour drive North from our home in Shropshire but for some inexplicable reason we'd never got around to visiting. Our train journeys up to Edinburgh to see our son pass through this lovely region and sowed the seeds for our visit. And, very happily, he was able to travel down from Edinburgh for part of it.

{If you're not familiar with this area, I can't sum it up any better than it's listing on the UNESCO website}


We stayed in Ambleside, at the top of Lake Windermere, which was a perfect base: chocolate-box pretty, with a lovely selection of places to eat out and just a twenty minute walk down to the Waterhead pier. Our strolls into town passed the picturesque Bridge House, built 300 years ago as an apple store and surely sketched, painted and photographed by tourists ever since.

Lake Windermere

From Ambleside pier we made forays across the lake on the frequent ferry services, travelling down to Bowness - a tourist favourite, so very busy - to visit the Jetty Museum and climbing the hill up to the rather ponderous, faux-gothic Wray Castle - holidayed in by Beatrix Potter as a girl - which was well worth it for the ravishing views.

There's also a charming car-ferry halfway down Windermere, which we used as a short cut to get to Blackwell - a beautiful Arts & Crafts house - before closing time one afternoon.

Grasmere to Keswick

The pretty village of Grasmere is best known as the home of English Romantic poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. They were both admirers of Grasmere's other famous daughter, Sarah Nelson, and her delicious gingerbread, which you can still buy from mob-capped assistants in the original, teeny-tiny shop, tucked behind the church. Highly recommended!

Thus fortified we made the exceptionally lovely drive North, along Thirlmere to Derwent Water and Keswick, to visit the Derwent Pencil Museum. Graphite has been mined in the Lake District since the C16th and it was originally prized in the manufacture of musket and cannon balls. Derwent opened its famous pencil factory two hundred years later, just in time to provide sketching supplies for the emerging tourist industry. And yes, I bought a new tin of colouring pencils.

Hawkshead to Hill Top

Hawkshead felt like a village lost in time: we wandered through medieval streets and admired the unusual C17th century wall paintings in St Michael and All Angels Church.

From there it's a short drive up to Hill Top, the former home of Beatrix Potter - bought by her with the proceeds from her famous children's books - and vignettes staged throughout the house and garden recall those familiar illustrations. Despite being busy it was very peaceful and it's easy to see why she loved it so much.

Levens Hall

We made a couple of trips down to the train station in Kendal. Although we didn't have time to visit the Quaker Needlework Museum recommended by reader Trish (next time!), I did finally made a longed-for visit to Levens Hall. I first became aware of this magical place when I was a garden designer: its ancient hedges and topiary are a rare survivor from the C17th and were only preserved by the happy accident of being passed down through minor branches of the family, who couldn't afford to indulge in the C18th mania for 'natural' landscapes.

It's thrifty owners also carefully preserved England's oldest pieced patchwork quilt (dated to c.1708), believed to have been made by Lady Elizabeth Grahme and her stepdaughters, which was the highlight of my visit. It's beautifully pieced with the tiniest stitches and quilted in a dense crosshatch with scarlet thread, which gave it a rosy glow in the dim light of the bedroom it was displayed in.

It was tricky to really study the construction in such low light - and my son did make fun of me for staring at it for so long! - but a remnant of one of the curtains had been framed in a neighbouring (well lit) bedroom, so you can admire the stitching at your leisure.

As Levens is a private home we were asked not to take photographs, so I'll refer you instead to Bridget Long's fascinating PhD thesis which has a couple of photos of the quilt and curtain in situ (page 259). But I do have a photo of a postcard - sadly no longer available in the gift shop - posted on Pinterest, that shows the framed, unquilted fragment.

See, I promised you a quilt!

Nicola xx


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Rosemary B
Rosemary B
Jul 02

Thank you Nicola for sharing these incredibly well done photos of your adventure.

How lovely to share your beautiful holiday with me. I do love the antique quilt.

Jul 02
Replying to

Thank you, Rosemary, we were incredibly blessed with such lovely weather. And I’m so thrilled to have seen the Levens Hall quilt at long last, I couldn’t not share :-) xx

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