It always surprises me how little of the UK I’ve seen. I know it’s often the way of things – you explore your own back yard least and last.
The same way Australians see more of London than their own country, I’ve seen more of the southern hemisphere than most antipodeans. But whenever we come back to England, Christina and I love to find new places neither of us have been to.
It never takes too long.
For some reason, I haven’t spent much time in the north of England. Perhaps it’s the run-off from my dad, who’s from North London, telling us kids that there was nothing worth seeing north of the Watford Gap.
So when we managed to finally get dates together to visit our friends Nickie and Wez in Manchester, Christina and I were excited to be seeing more of the country.
We hope you enjoy this special northern Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
We’ve made it to our friends’ place in Congleton, Cheshire. The canal that runs through this pretty little town gives it a sense of being far from any of the big cities of the north.
In truth, Congleton is within the commuter belt, 20 miles from Manchester and trains taking you directly to Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and even Leeds.
As walk along the towpath alongside the canal, it’s lovely to see the old longboats moored up or chugging along.
It reminds me of childhood holidays on the river with my parents.
We’ve walked to a nearby pub that’s next to the canal. The Queen’s Head Hotel is a real classic pub with a giant beer garden and some good ales on tap. They also have an impressive range of unusual gins available too.
The food’s great here too. Christina’s meat pie looks amazing (she doesn’t offer a taste, which is a clear telltale it’s good) and the chips they do here hit the spot too.
After dinner, we all head back home along the canal, the long English summer sun taking its time to set.
Back at base, Wez and I work through a few beers. Apart from the American IPA from Shipyard Brewery in Maine, USA, all the beers we’re drinking are English, and all of them are excellent.
We bookend our evening with two Robinson Brewing beers. It’s is a local Cheshire brewery, and its Trooper starts us off well, while the Old Tom (at 8.5%) is a the perfect finisher.
The threatening looking Nightmare porter from Hambleton Brewery in north Yorkshire coats us from the inside with its silky dark texture, and the two very unusual beers from Eagle Brewery in Bedford play with our tastebuds.
Eagle’s Waggle Dance is a honey beer, whose honey notes only come through once you’ve enjoyed the malts and the bitter floweriness of three types of hops.
Their Banana Bread Beer really is a work of art. You can taste the banana, the bread and the beer all at once. A remarkable brew from beginning to end.
By the way, I’ve featured all of these on our sideline Instagram account Beer Romance.
The beers flow as richly as the conversation. It’s lovely to see Wez, Nickie and their little boy ‘A’. I went to university with Wez and it’s been too long since we spent this much time together.
We talk (and drink) long into the night, all the while we’re joined by Nickie’s beautiful cat Dilly. She’s more like a dog and loves having her belly rubbed.
This morning, we head out for a look at the canal again. It runs off the River Dane, which flows from the Peak District all the way into the River Mersey and into the sea.
We make our way to Astbury Mere for a walk and to enjoy the weather while it’s still sunny. Things are due to change before lunchtime.
Things do indeed change over lunch. We’re on the road again heading north to the Lake District. By about 4pm, we’re on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest and most famous of the 16 lakes here.
It’s raining quite persistently, which isn’t unusual for this region, but it’s nothing to what we’ve just left. We’ll find out later that the northwest and Cheshire in particular have suffered huge volumes of rain and flash flooding since we left just a few hours before.
The town of Bowness runs right to the shores of Windermere. It’s busy, especially this time of year, but not too crazy. The rain and the tourists don’t put us off though, and we enjoy the unusual architecture of the area.
We explore as much of Bowness as our feet can stand, and we’re even tempted to take a boat out on the lake. They’re all chained up though, which makes sense. It’s really pissing it down now.
Instead, we head for a pub that’s caught our eye. The Hole in t’ Wall is the oldest pub in Bowness and definitely the most atmospheric. We really love it in this little place. It’s full of fascinating things, from taxidermy to giant bottles of Lanson. Even empty, this bottle weighs a tonne.
We have a bite to eat, a couple of delicious ales (they keep their beer really well here) and then head back into the rain.
As we explore Bowness and Winermere town, we try quite a few other pubs. The Hole in t’ Wall is definitely our favourite.
We find ourselves back at the lake enjoying the views in spite of the clouds and rain. It says a lot of a destination if it still holds its looks when the skies are grey.
One thing we’re really struck by by lake Windermere is the incredible wealth of hydrangeas. They’re everywhere. I think Christina’s taken about a million photos of them – but these are just two of our favourites.
The narrow lanes through Bowness and Windermere are so pretty, even in the rain. It’s hard to walk past the Hole in t’ Wall though. All we want to do is prop up the bar!
Tonight, we’re staying at the Denehurst Guest House right between Bowness and Windermere town. We were fortunate to have found this little place for a number of reasons.
As you can see it’s cosy and welcoming, but by the time we’d arrived, there were no more vacancies. In fact there’s not a guest house we walk past that isn’t full.
But what we’re not expecting is how truly hospitable and friendly owners Ken and Cindy Ravenhall are when we arrive. We often say it’s not where you are that makes a place it’s the people you meet. At the Denehurst Guest House, you’re lucky enough to find both.
I think you can tell by my face that the breakfast here at the Denehurst Guest House is good.
Before we start on our long drive back south, Christina and I enjoy one last look through the two towns and the water.
The Lake District really is so picturesque. We now see what all the hype is about.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition. We’ve got lots more to tell you about the Lake District, so watch this space for more on Wordsworth Country.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx