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Cycling to the Lake District 'Honeypots'

Geography - One of the reasons why this blog exists... When I was at Bay House School in Gosport, my favourite lesson was Geography and I owe much of what I know to my old teachers - Mr Thomason, Mr Jagger and Mr Spall. They taught me so much about the world around me and I remember the days fondly. They are one of the main reasons why this blog exists and why I get out and about as much as I do for enjoyment and continual learning.

Honeypots around the Lake District... A word that always sticks in my mind from my old geography lessons is 'Honeypot'. This is a term used to describe succinctly a place such as a National Park that draws in large numbers of visitors from surrounding cities for the day or longer likes bees to a hive putting pressure on the local environment and services.

One of the ironies of a 'Honeypot' area like the Lake District is that people escape the major towns and cities to get out into the fresh air, countryside and empty space and end up often in busier places than their own city centres. Most travel to the region by car and the small, narrow roads become congested quickly especially in places like Windermere.

From Windermere to the Kirkstone Pass...

I travelled by train using a Northern Rail pass and had a few hours to explore some of the main sights around Lake Windermere. I did want to take in a tough climb in the area, so decided to go up Kirkstone Pass. The A592 to Ullswater is a long climb that ascends 1500ft up from the shores of Lake Windermere. It is a fairly dangerous road with numerous hazards such as steep ascents, descents and changing weather conditions.

There are several ways of ascending to the landmark Kirkstone Inn, but the hardest route is up the 'Struggle' from Ambleside. I chose to go up the easier route and back down the technical 'Struggle' descent.

The route was fairly quiet but became busy when I reached Ambleside with the village centre full of people on holiday, scouting around the outdoor stores or sitting out in the sunshine.

After Ambleside, my next stop was Coniston Water and I choose to cycle along the main road to the setting of the Campbell family's water speed record. In 1939, Sir Malcolm Campbell set the record at 141.74 miles per hour (228.108 km/h) in Bluebird K4 on Coniston Water. Later successful record-breaking attempts by him followed.

The lake was then the site of a tragedy when in 1966 his son, Donald Campbell decided that he needed to exceed 300 miles per hour (483 km/h) to retain the record. He hit over 320 mph in his attempt (twice the speed of a TGV train!), but on his return leg, he lost control of Bluebird and was killed on impact. I stopped off to visit the museum to find out more about him, took a few photos of the stillness of Coniston Water and the scene of the accident.

Up Hawkshead Hill - A tough little climb...

Sometimes when riding out in hilly areas, the famous hills are the ones that you want to tick off, but it is sometimes the less famous climbs that you remember as being the hardest. Shortly after leaving Coniston Water, there is a hill called Hawkshead Hill that rises rapidly hairpin after hairpin.

It is a real, short and sharp 'English' hill and caught me out. I was glad to reach the top and take a picture of the sign for a short rest. Upon reaching Hawkshead, I realised that this is the very definition of a 'honeypot' with lots of traffic, tourists from all over the world visiting famous attractions such as William Wordsworth's school, the Beatrix Potter museum and the flagship store of the Hawkshead outdoor chain.

I did not stick around for long as I needed to catch the ferry over to Windermere, but I had to stop to take a photo of a stunning convoy of vintage cars on a tour of the Lakes from Belgium. There was even a very beautiful Jaguar E-Type.

The Windermere Ferry over the lake...

The ferry over Lake Windermere is a place where you can really see how popular the area is for visitors. It is a small cable ferry that takes cars, cyclists, pedestrians and coaches from one side of England's largest lake to the other over a distance of 450 metres. Despite being one of the main forms of transport in the area, there is only one ticket machine for everyone to use and it was temperamental at best causing long queues and frustration for everyone. I bought a coffee and let everyone else get on with it!

The short cruise was a nice break though and I caught glimpse of several Eurofighter jets training over the lake as I ate a traditional Kendal mint cake with an espresso during the crossing.

Windermere - Busier than Manchester City Centre...

Despite being a small place, Bowness-on-Windermere is incredibly busy with lots of foreign tourists especially from Japan and China wanting to sample a bit of English life. The boat queues at the terminal were very long and hundreds of people were sitting around enjoying the busy traffic on one side, the company of lots of other people and one of the best views in Britain on the other! I live in Manchester City Centre and it was busier than Market Street on a Saturday afternoon.

Windermere and its surroundings are essentially the 'Honeypot' that I learned about in school in my old Geography lessons. I decided to call time on my day as it was a midweek ride and I had work the next day, so I caught the train back to Manchester after my day in the Lakes.

This was my kind of field trip, but unlike many visitors to the area, I choose to see some of the most famous sights in the Lake District by bike. For me, always the best way to see 'geography in action'.

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