The argument’s divided over whether the Aussies or Brits are more accustomed to lengthy drives to get to places – sure, in Australia we’ve got vast distance from nearly every point in nearly any direction you care to start. However in England a 100 mile car trip can take 6 hours, depending on traffic and how may flakes of “adverse weather condition” have fallen. Nevertheless, our 7 hour drive from London’s Mile End up to Cockermouth seemed to absolutely zip by largely thanks to the excellent conversation of Belinda & Tom (not withstanding my appalling navigational prowess in the last hour or so), and before we knew it (but after a very mysterious lamb shank dinner in a services stop) we were supping Cumbrian ales in Bushy & Rach’s living room, along with the ebullient & effervescent Lizzie. And what a top beginning to a bizarre-yet-top weekend!
Cockermouth is a pictureqsue town in England’s stunning Lake District, and Bushy & Rach have set up house not far from there, in a small village called Brigham.
The nearby area’s replete with interesting hilly bits, so given my lack of any sort of physical activity in the previous week I felt a bit of a prick at the idea of not acquiescing to Bushy’s suggestion that we go for a walk up some scenery. I didn’t catch the name of the one we picked (although it was close to something known as Skiddaw, I believe), but it was a clear & present reminder of how out of shape & touch I am with the whole “outdoors” thing these days. Luckily Bushy had a spare polar fleece, so hastily donning it we set off up the hill, and as time wore on the sound of my wheezing & puffing got more Stephenson-esque (and the polar fleece came back off again).
Nearing the top we stopped at the snowline (totally awesome panoramic shot here) – I’m hoping the reason for that was because we were all getting cold, and not just because of my slipping about in my gripless, impractical shoes. There was, however, time for Bushy to build a snowman(ish) and for us to perform a quick rendition of our new favourite song for the weekend – Trololo, by Mr Eduard Khil (Эдуард Хиль), which we luckily captured on video. How marvellous.
The evening’s entertainment was to head into Cockermouth proper – aside from being a lovely little town, it also has an excellent beer pedigree, boasting not only the widely renowned Jennings Brewery, but also pub microbrewery The Bitter End.
I’m just going to come out and say it – they make AWESOME beer. We each tried a pint of one of their available varieties before heading off for dinner (short story- dinner was meant to be at a nearby pub at 8:50, but when we arrived at 8:47 they said the kitchen was closed. They know what THEY are. So instead we had the worst Indian takeaway meal in the world), and found each brew to be flavoursome & refreshing.
As well as sipping an extremely tasty Golden Ale I got to chatting with some locals, who told me a bit about the rebuilding that’s going on following the big floods Cockermouth had in November last year. Most of the town’s bridges were taken out, along with loads of houses & businesses. On our way up the hill to our final pub of the night we saw evidence of just what kind of upwrenching disruption a flood can do.
We almost had damage of our own to cope with following Bushy & Belinda’s spectacular-yet-ludicrous piggyback-turned-faceplant effort. How the hell nobody ended up spitting out tooth bits after that episode is anyone’s guess.
On Sunday we were rejoined by Lizzie & Colin and ventured in to the wee town of Keswick. Clearly a favourite with the tourists (judging by the preponderance of teashops & pubs), it looks like it’s been built based on a particularly pleasant and English postcard photo. So what in the hell Adelaide’s pioneers, planners & forefathers were thinking when they named the corresponding suburb (chiefly noted for its railway terminal) I can only wonder at.
Our first port of call was the Cumberland Pencil Museum. I don’t want to say too much about that place, other than if you give me opportunity to go to a pencil museum I’m damn well going to take it, aren’t I? They certainly had a lot of information about how pencils are made. And they provide helmets.
I bought a souvenir pen.
Lastly we wandered around Keswick town and – as all picturesque village wanderings demand – had a spot of afternoon tea. I managed to fend off the subliminal advances of the excellently-stocked whisky shop (which had some marvellous decanters in the front window), however we did manage to find a beer shop which stocked bottles of Bitter End ale – and though it was a little awkward schlepping a carton with 12 bottles in it back through town to the car park it was worthwhile to be able to share these excellent brews with m’chums.