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The Lake District, or What I didn’t do on my holiday.

August 18, 2017

Wordsworth may have managed to wander as lonely as a cloud around the fells, we were more like a group of noisy sheep amongst other noisy sheep. Even in spring he’d have a job these days to find an unoccupied bit of scenery. The Lake District is beautiful but so. many. people. so. much. noise. Admittedly we were stacking the odds by taking a talkative 11 year old and a chatterbox 5 year old, and then we compounded this by spending a day in Windermere, the biggest and busiest of the lakes, but even so – people, people everywhere. Look, the Ordnance Survey even say that the Lakes are their most popular maps. Surely there must come a point when there’s no more room? When they have to put a sign up on the M6 saying ‘Lake District Full. Please keep driving, have you been to Carlisle? It’s surprisingly lovely, try there. Or, y’know, you could just go home, you don’t have to go on holiday, go home and do all those jobs you’ve been meaning to do, like for evah.’ I’m almost certain* that when we lived in Southampton they did this in summer with the New Forest. There would be warnings on the A31 and A338, they’d lower the barriers, raise the drawbridges, put up blockades, initiate siege procedures and send out TV and radio news flashes that the Forest had reached capacity and not another person could squeeze in.

It’s entirely possible I am being over-sensitive and unnecessarily sour, it is week 4 of the school summer holidays here and an isolation tank or solitary confinement is looking increasingly attractive.

But, the Lake District, lovely, it really is very lovely, even with my children and lots of other people, in fact my children were lovely in the lovely Lake District, and everyone we met was also lovely. And we did have a lovely time (I am going to think of another adjective soon, I promise). As I’m sure you know there’s lots and lots of archaeology in the Lake District, chuck a stone and you’re guaranteed to hit something old (or someone, so maybe don’t throw stones after all), take a look at any Ordnance Survey map and you’ll see a gazillion archaeology symbols, prehistoric



industrial archaeology

– the lakes has it all. We didn’t visit any of it. If your joy is architecture there are plenty of Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian examples. We didn’t visit any of those, either. Regardless of the long tradition of investigating archaeology in the region we didn’t go anywhere near any monument, historic building or museum. The nearest we got to any archaeology was a boat trip on Coniston Water where we passed the site of Donald Campbell‘s fatal attempt to break the water speed record (again) in 1967. However, on the up side we didn’t visit The World of Beatrix Potter, it’s a good job the 5 year old reads very slowly and we managed to whisk her past all the signs before she’d managed to read them.

So, a week completely free of archaeology of any kind, but because we were based at Coniston and, despite appearances to the contrary, this is supposed to be a histories of archaeology blog I shall tell you an archaeological anecdote: W.G Collingwood the antiquary lived on the shores of Coniston – in order to be close to John Ruskin. In the late 20s the author Arthur Ransom also moved to Coniston, he’d known the Collingwoods since the 1890s and they had taught him to sail. From 1929 Ransom produced his Swallows and Amazons books, and the characters are supposedly based on the Collingwood children and grandchildren, in particular, Dick Callum


Dick Callum copyright Arthur Ransome

was based on Robin Collingwood, aka The Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Magdalen College, Oxford. R.G. Collingwood (son of W.G.) was a historian and archaeologist specialising in Romano-British archaeology, he researched Hadrian’s Wall, as well as writing enormously influential articles about the philosophy of history.

And, on that tenuous archaeological connection I’m going to leave you. We’re away again next week, visiting Scarborough – which I have written about before here and here – and Buckingham, I may find something relevant to tell you about these places, but equally I may decide to spare you my specious attempts to turn my holidays into blog posts, in either case I’ll return in a fortnight.

Until then, have a great weekend, read some Arthur Ransome


*The problem I have with being prone to exaggeration is that I substitute my own imaginings, then forget the original details and assume that what I ‘remember’ is what actually happened. For all I know I’m basing this on once going past a campsite in the New Forest that had a sign up saying it was full and from that I’ve invented an entire seasonal lock down. Who can tell?

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