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Bluebirds, Pedal Cars & Automobiles – the Lakeland Motor Museum

January 9th, 2014

Having spent a fascinating few hours at the Lakeland Motor Museum near Newby Bridge recently, I think the DeLorean and the Peel P50 would be my perfect two car garage. It is a hard choice though as the museum has thousands of exhibits, including an amazing collection of cars that span over 100 years of our motoring heritage. Some give a hint of the romance and luxury of a bygone era of road travel, where picnic baskets were strapped to the back and others demonstrate how very simple cars used to be, appearing to be barely more than tyres, an engine and a steering wheel.

It is like stepping back in time through the history of cars and seeing what a varied and sometimes quirky world it was. The well-polished paintwork on the Bentley and Jaguars shone in the overhead lights, reflecting the signs and memorabilia hanging from the ceiling. Interspersed amongst the big gleaming cars however, was a motorbike with a side-car for two people! It looked tiny though so I am not sure how one person let alone two would have fitted in.

You wander through the exhibits surrounded by cars with names such as the 1960 Messerschmitt KR200 Kabin Roller and the 1933 Buick Viceroy but rubbing shoulders with these magnificent cars, they have made space for a Ford Fiesta and even an Austin Allegro. The collection of small quirky cars, such as the Peel and the Scootacar, is superb and a real talking point. However, because I love the film “Back to the Future”, the DeLorean was one of my favourite cars in the museum and it was wonderful to see it takes its place in such a prestigious motoring history.

All this against a backdrop of recreated old-fashioned shop fronts, a 1920s garage, a 1950s cafe, a large collection of authentic automobilia and examples of machinery and vehicles used by the Women’s Land Army.

Dotted throughout the museum are video screens, information boards and photos showing specific parts of motoring history, including the history of early motoring in the Lake District. Car manufacturers used the mountain passes to test their vehicles and the beautiful landscape provided excellent advertising for both the cars and the area.

The collection of pedal cars is simply lovely. The quality of these miniature metal and wooden vehicles was superb and almost exact replicas of the real thing.

It is not just about cars however. The history of motorbikes and cycles is included, with examples throughout the building and collections of Triumphs and Vincents to name just two. There are also exhibitions to explore.

In a separate building the museum displays a comprehensive tribute to father and son, Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell and the Bluebird series of cars and boats they used to capture 21 world land and water speed records. Donald Campbell was tragically killed on nearby Coniston Water in January 1967, whilst attempting to break his own world water speed record. There is a replica of the boat (Bluebird K7) that he used for this record attempt, along with replicas of the 1935 Bluebird car and the 1939 Bluebird boat (K4).

Once you have exhausted all there is to see in the museum and exhibitions, Cafe Ambio, which is part of the museum complex awaits you. This is a lovely cafe right next to the river where you can watch the water cascading past on a warm day from the terrace or if it is cold or wet, through the windows from one of the sofas inside.

A perfect place to visit come rain or shine.

 

 

Tanya Oliver is a freelance writer and author. She is also Programme Manager for the conservation programme “Fix the Fells” and has her own bloghttp://www.heelwalker1.blogspot.co.uk

Guest blog by Jane Watson: Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Memories of Summer

October 24th, 2013

One of the best days of the summer for me, was a gorgeous cool-blue July Saturday morning on the prom, prom, prom at Arnside.  The day was perfect – blue hazy skies; a light breeze.  You could feel the excitement and anticipation – after all, this was a Cross Bay Walk, led by none other than the Queens Guide-Over-Sands, Cedric Robinson;  legend in his own lifetime and a bit of a celebrity in these parts.   We just had to go and shake his hand… We’d lived in the Lakes for 13 years now, and the walk had always been on our ‘to do’ list.  There we stood, in front of the war memorial, with a couple of hundred other folk, a few dozen dogs and kids,  kitted out with hats, sunscreen,  and an eclectic combination of flip flops, some in ‘proper’ walking gear and sticks, and others in good old bare feet.  We were all raising money for the Bay Search & Rescue – so another good reason to walk, – the charity that kept those men & women who bravely respond to call-outs in their own time and pluck people out of these now infamous, dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay.  Beautiful, awesome, stunning and amazing wildlife habitat:  lethal to humans: approach with care.

We stopped at the local shop to buy cake, coffee and pies – the essentials of life, although the discussion did also skirt around not drinking too much coffee as obviously there are no loo stops on the way in the middle of the Bay.  No trees to hide behind for a sneaky pee.  But at 9am on a Saturday morning, you’ve got to have a brew that’s for sure..  The welcome sounded and off we went… a long snake of people, round the coast and the cliff-tops through the caravan parks and congregating, waiting for our turn to climb through the narrow gap in the trees and spill out onto the actual sands themselves, like eager little ants onto the beach below.  The sun beat down, and a lovely breeze blew across the Bay as a few hundred of us began the fantastic walk across this amazing landscape, with the biggest of skies and beach ahead of us, views out to the Isle of Man and beyond…Those of us who had any shoes on soon took them off and walked barefoot for the rest of the day, that lovely, amazing feeling of bare feet on sand, hard on the ridges, and soft on the shale; the broken cockle shells coarse on the bottom of our feet and the mud patches cooling and soothing us.  We walked as if we were led by Moses to the Red Sea, and when Cedric pulled us all to a halt in front of one of the deep channels, he slowly lifted his hand to pause us all; waiting for the safe time to cross, – we held our breath, almost in unison, as if it truly was about to part in front of us….Alas, part it didn’t – time to wade in…  and on a day of soaring temperatures into the 80s, that wade in the water was bliss indeed -  thigh deep; kids on shoulders, or swimming in the channels; dogs of all sizes loving the chance for a swim; and walkers, old and young, squealing with the softness of the water lapping around and soothing our swollen, overheated red feet.    We enjoyed 3 of these channels and in between experienced the very strange sensation of patches of quicksand which I can only describe as balancing precariously on pieces of cardboard, on top of very watery puddles which feels likely to pull you under at any moment… we all talked and shuddered at the power of mother nature and the stories these sands could tell… thank goodness for Cedric, our careful, wise and experienced guide.We walked and talked, and the dogs ran and swam.  The kids walked, gathered crabs and shells, and we ate our snacks and drank plenty.  The conversation flowed between family and friends, and new chats with strangers brought together in a common cause, talking, laughing and even singing together.  Toward the end, it was more of a desperate plod,  as we sweated under the mid-day sun, walking over the marram grass at Kents Bank;  climbing our way up and over to the railway crossing, dreaming of cold beer.  There we all met up with Cedric, ever cheerful, not even broken out into a sweat, greeting us at the gate, signing his books, and we quietly limped to the railway station for drinks & ice cream.  We collapsed in a heap and gently sat sweating in the only shade we could find, as the mud dried to sand and we flexed our bare, sore feet.

The sun beat down…we eventually clambered onto the train, chugging over the viaduct, and round to Arnside.  That cooling beer underneath the umbrellas outside the Albion, overlooking the sands we had just walked, felt like the most satisfying moment in a long time.  It had been quite a day…

 

 

 

Jane Watson is an occasional writer, fell-walker and singer.  By day, she’s also Marketing manager for the National Trust.

Roman Temples Excavation – Maryport

August 6th, 2013

Roman Temples Excavation – Maryport

Tanya Oliver

As soon as I met Professor Ian Haynes I knew I was going to enjoy learning about the Roman excavation at Maryport in Cumbria. His passion for the Roman World, specifically the religious landscape was infectious and I was very quickly swept up in it. I will be clear at the beginning that I am new to Roman excavations so I was on a steep learning curve.

Senhouse Roman Museum

Senhouse Roman Museum

I met Ian at the Senhouse Roman Museum, near Hadrian’s Wall which has a dramatic location just above the cliffs.  As we headed out across the fields towards the site, the sea behind us was as calm as a lake and although there was quite a dense sea mist, the outline of the Scottish mountains around Criffle could still be seen. The excellent vantage point of this site and the access to supplies from the Solway coast are the reasons the Romans chose the site for the fort. On a clear day, the Scottish Isle of Whithorn, which is associated with early Christian communities can also be seen.

A selection of Altars at the museum

A selection of Altars at the museum

The excavations underway are to unearth a temple near the fort with the aim to learn more about the religious aspects of Roman life. This Temple had first been discovered and examined by Antiquarians in 1880 by a team employed by Joseph Robinson (a Bank Manager with an interest in archaeology).

Ten years before in 1870, a number of Altars had been discovered a hundred metres away. An Altar is a short stone column commemorating individuals within the army. There is now a large collection of them in the Senhouse Roman Museum and what makes the site unique is the sheer volume of Altars found in this one place. It is fascinating that you can trace the history and movements of some of the army members who were stationed here through these dedicated altars and see where else in the Roman Empire they had been stationed.

On site

On site

Each time Antiquarians opened and examined the site throughout the 19th and early 20th century, they discovered more about the Roman religious landscape. The Temple has its back to the fort and the discovery of a stone wall within the area currently being excavated shows there were columns at the entrance to the Temple. Given over 2000 years have elapsed since it was constructed and the area has been farmed since then, it is the ground floor of the Temple that remains. Finding an elevation like this at such a site is extremely rare but has helped the archaeologists piece together other parts of the site.

The work is supervised by skilled archaeologists but there is a lot of input from volunteers. These volunteers come from as far afield as America and several of them have come back for each year of the excavation. The work is painstaking. What they are looking for are areas of discolouration in the soil that denote a part of a wall or an area where a pit is likely to be so the dry conditions over the last few weeks make this an even more difficult task. Every tool from tiny scrapers and trowels to large mattocks are used in this work (the mattocks are used carefully I hasten to add!) and each grain of soil is examined minutely. I looked closely at places where the soil was a slightly different shade and it would be incredibly easy to miss so the volunteers have an intensive training process before they go onto the site.

Interpreting the features

Interpreting the features

Whilst I was there, Ian had an on-site discussion with one of the longer-serving volunteers, John Murray and they were trying to understand the feature being excavated. How what seemed to be such small discoveries could tell so much to people who had studied the religious landscape was amazing and humbling to see.

At this point, a large Tanker sailed by just off the shore. It was such a contrast to the site and work going on just in front of me.

View to the coast

View to the coast

The excavation is part of a five year programme funded by the Senhouse Museum and supported by the Newcastle University. Hadrian’s Wall Trust own the land and give access for this work. The sites from 2011 and 2012 have been covered again but there were different artefacts and structures discovered from the Roman period or later and even a roundhouse that could have been from the Bronze, Iron or Roman age. The current site will also be covered when work has finished at the end of July and then re-opened next year. I was surprised by this but Ian explained that it was to protect the site from further erosion and damage. The site is a scheduled Monument.

pits in the 2012 site

pits in the 2012 site

All the artefacts discovered at this site can be found in the Senhouse Museum and the history is outlined as you walk around. The Antiquarians in the 19th century discovered a great deal about the site but some of those findings are being re-interpreted in light of the new skills and broader frame of reference of archaeologists today. It is now thought that the altars, whilst once objects of veneration, were re-used to help construct a timber building.

The most fascinating part of this excavation for me however was the link to Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Jupiter was the King of Gods and the God of Sky and Thunder, worshipped in Ancient Rome. From 509BC he was worshipped at the dedicated Capitolium Temple in Rome. In 1873 in the hedgerow near the excavation site at Maryport, a dedication slab was discovered to Jupiter Optimus Maximus with the epithet Capitolinus. This is the only epithet to him in Britain. In 2012 an Altar bearing his inscription was also discovered.

Could this site be a temple dedicated to Jupiter?

This would be an amazing find if so and the work on site to discover if that is the case will continue in 2014 when they hope to excavate more of the Temple. The project is always looking for volunteers who can commit time to this intricate work so do get in touch with the Senhouse Museum if you can help.

Find out more about the Roman Temples Excavation and Senhouse Museum here: http://www.senhousemuseum.co.uk/

 Tanya Oliver is a freelance writer and author. She is also Programme Manager for the conservation programme “Fix the Fells” and has her own blog http://www.heelwalker1.blogspot.co.uk

Professor Ian Haynes is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Newcastle, specialising in Roman religious sites. He has excavated extensively in Britain, Germany and Romania. Professor Haynes is also co-director of a major archaeological research programme underneath the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome. Read Professor Haynes blog here http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/empires-edge/excavations-in-hadrians-wall-country/roman-temples-project-blog

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