West Cumberland Railway Museum

On the murky morning, when I took the first photo in the previous post, I visited the West Cumberland Railway Museum in St Bees, Cumbria.

The museum was set up by an enthusiastic collector of railway memorabilia and opened in June 2016. It is housed in a building, which has been used in recent times as a shop and as a hairdressers’. The single room contains a variety of items connected with the local railways, either with the Cumbria Coastal Railway or with former lines in the area. It opens for a few days each month or by special arrangement for visiting groups.

The window on a sunny day
The window on a sunny day

For each opening the well-organised static exhibition is augmented by a display concentrating on a particular aspect of the local railway’s history. For example, the Furness Railway Company has been featured. This time it was the turn of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway. A particular station may be featured in the future.

One of the station signs
One of the station signs

The development of the railway had an impact on the economies of local towns and there was competition to have access to the rail network. Almost all the trains in West Cumbria (or West Cumberland, as it was) were used to transport coal and iron ore. Passengers were of less economic importance on these lines.

An example of tourist information
An example of tourist information

It is possible to look around the museum unguided, but the owner is very knowledgeable and provides much background information. The exhibits range from tickets and timetables to lamps, gadgets, signs and pictures. Maps and drawings also help to set the scene.

Among pictures, which once decorated the walls of compartment trains advertising places to visit, I spotted Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, no longer on the railway.

Wordsworth House, Cockermouth - a possible destination
Wordsworth House, Cockermouth – a possible destination


A Visit to Cockermouth and Wordsworth House

The previous time we visited Wordsworth House the garden was looking beautiful.  Then we heard the news of the December 2015 floods.  A picture on Facebook showed the garden covered in mud.

I had heard from a friend, whose favourite place is Wordsworth House and Garden, that the garden was recovering well at Easter.  This is no doubt partly due to the hard work and vision of head gardener, Amanda and her team of volunteers.

National Trust plaque
National Trust plaque

On a sunny Saturday in May we had an early lunch and drove to Cockermouth.  The staff and volunteers at Wordsworth House were very welcoming.  I had not previously noticed a plaque on the front of the house, which reads, Property of the National Trust.  This amused me.  It reminded me of a book plate.  “If this book should chance to roam, box its ears and send it home.”  I don’t think a substantial house is about to wander off!

We made a quick tour of the house and had a chat with the kitchen maid, who was baking bread and singing sweetly.  I watched the videos, which added to the information I had gleaned at Allan Bank.  We had seen the garden from the windows at the back of the house.  The apple trees were blossoming.  I went to see my old friend, Fletch the Perchcrow, who recently featured in a post for the Daily Post’s Photo challenge.  He is a real survivor!  His normal garb is sackcloth, but ashes are also available from the coal fire in the kitchen. Interestingly the coal is imported from Poland, like the glass at Allan Bank.  In the time of the Wordsworths local coal was available from the pits at Whitehaven, now closed.

There is still a wide variety of plants, many of which were in bloom.  We did not see many insects.  One ladybird and hardly any others.

After we had crossed the river by the footbridge, we still had enough time to explore the path beside the river.  We walked as far as the castle, seeing the confluence of two rivers, which gives Cockermouth its name.  The River Cocker flows into the River Derwent (not to be confused with the similarly named river in Derbyshire) near Jennings brewery.  On a calm day it is difficult to imagine the raging torrent, which caused such devastation.

However, there is still evidence of the damage to the river banks by the flood.  The castle wall is very close to the river and some reinforcement has been made to the bank below it.  On the other side there are dry channels, where the soil was washed away.  A bench is marooned above the place where a path used to be.

Cockermouth is a delightful market town on the edge of the English Lake District.  It has many shops with individual character.  Although some are still closed for refurbishment following the floods, most are now open and welcome visitors.



Visiting Wordsworth House in disguise

The Tour of Britain cycle race came to Cumbria in September.  Much was made of this event in all the towns and villages on the route of the race.  There were bright yellow bicycles in many places around the county.  The one at Wordsworth House featured in a post by my blogging friend, Fletch the Perchcrow.

Hubby and I did not go to Wordsworth House and Garden in disguise.  The house was wearing its temporary livery of white with green spots in honour of the cycle race.  I had seen pictures on Twitter and thought it looked dreadful.  Full scale it was not quite as bad as I thought.  I am happy to relate that passing through the town a few days later We saw it had been restored to its usual shade of terracotta (which can just be seen on one wall above and to the left of the shop).

Wordsworth House in disguise
Wordsworth House in disguise

I really have mixed feelings about the recent trend to change things for the duration of a local event.  Penrith station was in disguise in late July and early August while a music festival was taking place nearby.  Kendal Calling is an annual festival, which began outside Kendal.  Having moved to a location some distance from Kendal, its name is unchanged.  So they changed all the signs at Penrith station!  My photo was taken the day after the festival ended.

Penrith Station in disguise
Penrith Station in disguise

A charming young festival-goer sat next to me on the train south from “Kenrith” to Lancaster.  It was obvious from his appearance that Glastonbury does not have a monopoly on mud!

Our reason for visiting Wordsworth House and Garden rather than any other location on this particular day was that a guided tour had been advertised on Twitter.  The weather was unsettled so a tour of a house was more attractive than a walk by a lake.

Our guide was Gillian Powell.  Quite a large group of people listened attentively to her talks in four rooms of the house.  We learned much about the early life of the poet, William Wordsworth.  The house might have been demolished.  How it had been saved unfurnished was an interesting story.

The expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” took on a new meaning for me.  There were four separate fires along one wall of the kitchen.

At the end of the tour Gillian Powell recommended a book about the Wordsworths.  The author is Hunter Davies and I am currently part way through his book, William Wordsworth, which I later found in the local library.

I also took her up on the invitation to play the modern harpsichord.  This time I found a piece of music, which I really enjoy playing.  Another volunteer, whose name badge I failed to read, showed us the workings under the lid of the instrument.  Hubby was fascinated, not having seen this before.  (I have seen and played a spinet, which is another keyboard instrument with plucked strings.)

It was good to see Alex Morgan, who helps Fletch with his blog.  (She is the author of a very readable novel, Tandem.)

The weather improved and it was fine for our quick visit to the garden.   There was still plenty of colour, but the lady scarecrow had vanished.  Wordsworth House is a place, which becomes more interesting, the more one learns about its background.  The guided tours and short talks, such as I mentioned in an earlier post, really help to bring history to life.

It is also family-friendly with clothes for children (and adults) to disguise themselves as time-travellers.