It is no use pretending that in the last few weeks that the Lake District has been close to declaring itself a drought-area. Not only was water cascading from the sky but also from the hillsides, turning the water-courses into cataracts and the lakes into miniature inland seas. Undeterred and undaunted our group has just returned from their winter sojourn at the Rothay Manor Hotel, where the only water problem was how much to put in the whisky or into the hot luxurious bath.
Our visits included the Armitt Museum in Ambleside itself where the undaunted custodians cleared up the mess of a flood, and gave us a superb mini-exhibition on Beatrix Potter, the naturalist. Better known for Mrs Tiggywinkle, Beatrix was a highly accomplished botanist, and we were able to see some of her immaculate drawings and watercolours miraculously rescued from the elements.
Brougham Hall, close to Penrith, is a monument not only to the building enterprises of Lord Brougham but to the persistence and enterprise of its now-owner Christopher Terry. First seen in a forlorn and ruinous state when he and his wife were on honeymoon, it now remains something of a building-site but also contains some remarkable artefacts which have “come home”. These include documents recounting the then Lord Brougham’s championing of the rumbustuous Queen Caroline and a royal bribe.The latest object to return is a medieval carved screen, formerly in the Great Hall which has come back from exile in a church in Girvan. This we were shown by its proud new owner, the first group to do so.
Not all the “entertainments” required us to brave the elements, for we were delighted to hear the world-famous lecturer, Ivan Day, talk on the “History of Dining”. We take this subject so much for granted, but what an engrossing subject it is. What is “service a la Russe”, what are “umbles”, why do you need cushions when preparing posset? All this and more you really need to know! Fascinating irrelevancies were also to be found at the Quaker Tapestry exhibition in Kendal. There are 77 hand-embroidered panels recounted the history of the movement. Did you know that Quakers were involved in draining the marshland around St. Petersburg? Or that they were important in the development of the railways? Well, most of our party were certainly unaware of these facts and a contented hour or so was spent marvelling at the prowess of the movement over several centuries.
Variety has always been on the menu at Rothay and in addition to the talks mentioned we studied the History of the Knife and Fork as well as Rex Whistler the Artist who went to War.
Culinary and Mental fodder which enabled us, thanks to the cosy, warm surroundings of Rothay Manor, to forget the sobbing skies and enjoy another fulfilling break in this congenial spot.