Monday, 30 November 2009

Comfort food

We had a really busy weekend and top category on both days was food. We don't sell many food lines that are particularly Christmassy so I wonder if it's an inbuilt subliminal need that we have, once it turns colder, to start squirrelling away provisions! There are still lots of visitors around today and the weather is fabulous. The Lakes Hospitality Association, which works really hard to help its members, has encouraged guest houses and hotels to reduce their rates up to Christmas in light of the recent bad weather and it seems to be having the desired effect. We're forecasted to have heavy snow tomorrow afternoon: it would be nice to have a real wintry feel on the run up to Christmas as long as it doesn't cause any travel problems. We have late night shopping in Bowness this Thursday and next and most shops are putting on mulled wine and mince pies - hopefully we'll have some very merry folk around!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

There's snow in them there hills

What a contrast to last Saturday. It's 3 degrees ('When will I see you again' as Sean would say!) here in Bowness and snow has sprinkled the fells. On the way here I could see a white Langdales and pockets of mist hanging lazily over the valleys: stunning! The sun is shining, so far, and there are lots of people around. In the shop at the moment is a coach party from St. Helens  - with all the pick ups they've made en route it's taken them 4 hours to get here and they're ladies on a mission to do all their Christmas shopping in Bowness and Ambleside. Great.

Last night the Christmas lights switch on in Keswick was a treat. The town centre was packed and the Prince Charles and Julia Bradbury double act was brilliant. Of course, the Prince's bodyguards were working hard to keep the space around him clear so it was a surprise to see Julia moving alone amongst the crowd. I asked her where her bodyguards were and she replied that she didn't need them and it was a delight to talk to people she regarded as her friends. She stopped for photos with anyone who wanted one (see for evidence of our family shots) and was, in fact, a charming, natural lady, just like she is on TV.


Friday, 27 November 2009

Royal visit for switching on of Christmas Lights

Bowness and Windermere Christmas lights get switched on tomorrow by Father Christmas but we've been upstaged by Keswick where tonight, at 5.30 pm., the lights are being switched on by Julia Bradbury, ably assisted by Prince Charles who is up here showing his support for the county over the next couple of days. Needless to say, we're going to watch. The weather forecast for the next four days is for sunshine with a few showers: the temperature has dropped a lot over the past 24 hours and Sean has reported sightings of snow on his walk this morning. See you there!


Thursday, 26 November 2009

How do solve a problem like Dou-ou-gal?

You may remember Dougal's top trick of digging up the plant troughs on our patio. Yesterday he surpassed himself. After I took both dogs for a long walk in a local wood, I left them outside to dry off. Half an hour later I looked out of the back door and found pieces of grey plastic scattered around and saw a bushy tail disappearing around the corner of the house...mmmm. The plastic turned out to be the remains of the grille at the end of the tumble dryer venting hose. How he managed to get it off the wall and destroy it in so little time is beyond me: maybe he had been digging at it for weeks, Great Escape style, carrying off the evidence and burying it in the far reaches of the patio. Anyway, he got a good telling off and then I left him outside again, figuring that there was nothing else he could harm. How wrong I was! Another half an hour later I looked outside again and the ground was covered in slivers of curled up aluminium, like small beached fish. The little beggar had dug his head into the hole once covered by the grille, pulled out the venting pipe and shredded it! Aaggghhhh! This is the puppy I hope to bring to the shop with me sometime soon...I think not.
Meanwhile in Bowness, it's good to see that the water has receded to below the main pier and that the ferries are running again.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Open for business!

Today's hot topic in Bowness is the lack of visitors around. We've been quite busy for the past few days but today we've only had a handful of customers so far! I've just checked out the website of one of the loveliest small hotels in Bowness, The Cranleigh, and they have rooms available for this weekend which is unusual for them. I guess people have been put off by the weather warnings and travel problems but my mission today is to tell you that all roads in and around Bowness are open. The weather is windy, but dry and the BBC weather for the weekend is cold and sunny. Businesses in the Lakes need people to visit now more than ever and some unusual and spectacular views are guaranteed!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The effects of the flood start to hit home

I heard from Adam at Mr Vikki's last night. He's based at Eamont Bridge near Penrith and couldn't get insurance after the last floods in 2005. Unfortunately, he's been flooded again and now has to start up his business all over again. His range of hot pickles, relishes and jams is fantastic and he was going from strength to strength after winning a plethora of national Gold Taste awards. He and his partner, Mary, are dynamic entrepreneurs and I sincerely hope they're up and running very quickly. Here in the south of the Lakes the rainfall predicted for today is light so far and it's quite warm, around 13 degrees. Other than the Windermere Marina, where I noticed today on my journey in that they've erected portacabins whilst the offices are cleared out, the biggest casualties in our area seem to be 3 large hotels at the foot of the lake (Whitewater, The Swan and Lakeside), all of whom are predicting that it will be weeks until they're fully operational again, and the Lakeside Aquarium which only escaped last year's flood by a couple of inches. It's supposed to get colder by the end of the week and Metcheck is showing snow showers over the weekend. Whatever next? A plague of locusts? We still have plenty of visitors around and yesterday our sales were 25% up over last year. Lots of customers are reporting that low level walks are quite interesting in these conditions!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bring me sunshine

According to the forecast we're in for another battering tomorrow but today the sun is shining and all is calm. The news from the marina is that 28 boats were sunk on Thursday and today they're clearing out the houses and offices as well as towing away the cars that were caught in the water. The local Chamber of Trade has been in touch informing us of rates rebates for businesses affected by the flood and also £5k interest free loans for emergency repairs. A notice on the Newby Bridge roundabout says that the road to Bowness is open for residents' access only!


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Floodwaters are receding

I detoured to the bridge at Whitewater Hotel this morning and the engineers were there checking the structure as the river was flowing just beneath the arch. There were some mighty rain showers last night and this morning but, inspite of that, the flood level appears to have dropped another metre. I could make out the bank of the lake at Fell Foot as I drove past but I still avoided the marina which remains a no go zone for normal traffic. Bowness is busy again today and I've spent this morning trying to contact some of our suppliers in the north of the county. Mr Vikkis at Eamont Bridge near Penrith is worrying me a bit as I've emailed them and tried calling but have not got an answer.

Karen from Firefrost Jewellery in Keswick has just moved to a house near the river but, thankfully, the river didn't reach her and she sent me a couple of photos (below) of the river in full flood:

Sean has posted some graphic photos of the floods at Backbarrow, Newby Bridge, Bowness Bay, Bowness marina and Waterhead at Ambleside from this weekend on our journey to and from work at

In Bowness town centre it appears that normality has returned despite the numerous heavy showers (including hail!) we've had so far today.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

Bustling Bowness

The journey to work today was a lot less traumatic than the past few days. The Newby Bridge to Bowness road was passable with care, allowing for a diversion around the Marina which is still under water. In Bowness itself the lake has retreated by about a metre and access to the town from the south is proving not to be a problem as many of the guest houses and small hotels are full for the weekend. The couple of premises on our street that had problems with water on Thursday are open for business and, despite persistent rain in the afternoon, trade was brisk. I heard many tales from people who were supposed to be travelling further north in the county but had been forced to stay in our area for the weekend: a couple of ladies who spent over £100 between them laughed as they confessed that, as they hadn't been able to walk on the fells since Wednesday, they'd more than blown their week's budget on shopping in Bowness and Windermere. One couple visited the shop four times today in between sessions in the nearest pub, spending more money on each occasion!

Here we go again

It's 8.30 am. and the rain has started again. Sean's photos yesterday showed the physical effects of the flood but what was so upsetting was seeing the emotional effect it is having on those directly affected. At Spark Bridge, where a rescue of a trapped resident was underway, people stood anxiously by, in silent small groups, powerless to do anything to help. At Bowness, owners of boats, houses and cars stranded at the marina stood at the periphery of the flood: misery etched on their faces. At Backbarrow by the Whitewater Hotel local people talked with wonder of the river last bursting over the bridge at the start of the last century; not within living memory. This truly phenomenal event is incredible to behold and, in fact, a jaw dropping, once in a lifetime experience for those not directly affected by the damage caused by the flood. For many of the residents and business owners of the Lakes it means nothing but loss and disruption for many months to come.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Flood update

We have finally made it through to Bowness - the roads are flooded but thankfully we are nowhere near as bad as Cockermouth and Keswick, I hope everyone is alright up there.

We took a circuitous route due to blocked roads and saw that the River Crake has burst its banks at Spark Bridge flooding houses there. At Newby Bridge there are major tailbacks on the main road and the road to Bowness is officially shut. The Swan at Newby Bridge is under water and Fell Foot is flooded. At Bowness the lake is right over the road at the jetties - even deeper than last year which seems unbelievable. There are quite a few folk about though, I guess everyone is trapped! Our shop has remained dry but up the street a couple have flooded at the bottom of the hill. Thanks for all the messages we have recieved from our StridingEdge family, we appreciate everyone's concern.

Update and photos later hopefully.

Sean and Louise 

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Lakes under even more water

 The latest is that Louise has indeed decided to bail out leaving the shop open in Julie's capable hands - no problems when you live in walking distance. She has been turned back by the Mountain Rescue on the A5074 Lyth Valley Road - usually the one that stays open in these conditions! Now I am playing Mr Sat Nav via the mobile directing her home on the minor roads. Fingers crossed!

Update: Made it! Two and a half hours of fun on waterlogged roads and it is still raining. Windermere (the lake) has made it up to road level now.


The Lakes under water!

The road from Newby Bridge to Bowness this morning is a river. Is it just me or does anyone else pat the car's dashboard and tell it "well done" when it gets through a particularly hairy patch of water? (Julie has just told me that she always thanks her car at the end of a hairy moment journey). I also love it when us motorists keenly eye up the vehicles coming in the opposite direction to gauge whether or not they're going to make it through (Corsas and Fiat 500s had no chance). I guess they'll have shut the road by now which begs the question how I'll get home as the Crook Road is already shut and the Kendal bypass is notorious for its inability to cope with torrential rain. Ah well, its 10.30 and I've just heard the till ring so maybe it will be worth it.
I feel as though I am going to be marooned on an island now, the schools around here are closed the A591 is closed between Windermere and Keswick and I was the last car through on the A592 from Newby Bridge this morning. All the jetties in Bowness Bay except the main one for the steamers are under water and, as I drove past in my amphibious vehicle, I saw a swan tapping its beak gently on the ticket booth - maybe it's too wet for him and he's looking for a boat to take him out of here - I think I will join him!


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wetter than wet

It has been wetter than wet in Cumbria today with more to come according to the weather man. Apparently we will have up to 8" of rain in the next 36 hours and that is more than a normal November's worth. As the ground is already saturated it could be interesting times on the roads around here as the water flows from the fells. The Bowness to Newby Bridge road is always an interesting experience when it is wet and sometimes an amphibious vehicle would be the only sane choice to travel along it.

We were shop hunting again today and a decision has almost been reached. We had to mull it over with nice coffee and a big piece of cakey at Chesters where Sean took these photos of the swollen River Brathay.


Monday, 16 November 2009

the trials and tribulations of finding a new shop part 1

We spent the majority of today looking at prospective premises around the Lakes and, quite liking one in particular, set about getting some opinions of the location from other retailers in the area. Most offered friendly and informative gems of knowledge but, oh my word, did we encounter an interesting chap right at the end of our mission. We dared to ask him a couple of innocent questions and got bombarded by a lecture about the importance of market research, whether or not the people who would be passing the store would be the right sort of customers, an opinion that the store in question was too large for our needs and finishing with the grand gesture that, as he was a "Management Consultant" (I might have guessed), we should be grateful that he was giving us these pearls of wisdom for free. All without one question from him to probe our experience or local knowledge. I shan't name his shop but we did think it was all a bit unnecessary!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Casper is six but will Dougal make it to one?!

Casper has reached the ripe old age of 6 today and is taking it easy lying in his favourite corner at home with an extra large bonio. We never actually knew when his birthday was until recently as he was a rescue Beardie and came without papers, so we only knew his approximate age and his breeders name. We were, of course, reaquainted with all of those when we got Dougal (his kennel club registered name is Sylvabrae Striding Edge BTW) who has now become the tormentor-in-chief of Casper. I think it is safe to say that Casper's tolerance has been thinly stretched recently and I guessed he had been pushed too far the other day when there was an almighty lions roar from our patio and I found Dougal lying on his back with Casper standing over him...complete with his jaws firmly locked around Dougal's throat. Now, now boys - play nicely!


Friday, 13 November 2009

new shop on the horizon

We've been given the green light from the bank to open a new Love the Lakes and yesterday the search began for the ideal site. As we viewed a number of shops in one town all the memories of going through the same process in Bowness came flooding back. It took us over six months and several false dawns before we were given the tip off about the store we now have and then it took a further four months before we finally opened in May 2008. Hard to believe now but our shop was an absolute mess when we took it over and, when I looked around a couple of stores yesterday, my heart hit my stomach as I could see the same amount of work required all over again. I know it will be worth it in the end but I wonder how many would be shop owners are deterred by the investment required to get their dreams off the ground.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I get many enquiries about what to wear and which gear to buy. Obviously I cannot give a definitive answer on everything as I have not worn or tested everything that is available. I can, however, give my opinion on gear that I have used or use.

I have just bought some new gloves - I say new ones, but really they are the replacemenets of the ones I already had and managed to rip last year. I did a running repair on them (alright, Louise did it for me!) and made them do for the remainder of last winter but they were so good I had to buy another pair for this winter's campaign; they are the Rab Phantom Grip. What a fantastic pair of gloves they are too, made from WindPro Polartec they are stretchy and light and more to the point for me, they don't have a lot of bulk which means I can operate my camera quite comfortably whilst wearing them. They also fit right in with my 'any new gear has to be light and have low bulk' philosophy.

The wind resistance they possess makes them ideal for almost all conditions and alongside that they are even water repellant and highly breathable. They also have that silicon print thingy on the palm which seems to be in vogue on a lot of gloves these days which makes them less prone to slipping when you are doing a spot of scrambling. In fact they sound too good to be true and they almost are - they were good enough to make me buy another pair anyway!


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Dougal today

We were out in glorious conditions today up on the fells - the sun was shining, the frost was sparkling and the skies were blue. Dougal almost goes through himself these days when he thinks there is a walk in the offing, so I guessed he quite likes it up there. The affirmation today was when we were wandering around, soaking up the beautiful views and Casper and Dougal were doing that daft dog thing, running up and down to nowhere in particular at 100mph. Dougal had a big grin on his face - yes , really - he looked as though he was smiling as he was frolicking and that made me smile too. That's what the freedom of the fells is all about isn't it? Life's simple pleasures. What a day, what a place...what a dog!


Monday, 9 November 2009

Don't miss John Sergeant in the Lakes

Tomorrow evening John Sergeant is on ITV with his new series about tourists in the UK. The first programme features the Japanese in Bowness and you may catch a glimpse of our shop as John strolls down Ash Street on his way from the Peter Rabbit and Friends shop to the Beatrix Potter Experience, so please watch if you get a chance. The Japanese can  be great customers of ours: if they see something they like all of their group will buy it but many of them don't like fragrance so they turn tail as soon as they step in the shop. We also get quite a few of them (and they are the only nationality who do this) who come in wearing face masks......nice!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Wedding photos

Oh, go on then - due to public demand (!), here are a couple  I took. Sorry Jules/Tim - hope you don't mind! Sean

Friday, 6 November 2009

Congratulations to Jules and Tim!

Jules who works with us in the shop got married to Tim yesterday and it was a fantastic day despite the weather. The location was superb - Belmount Hall at Hawkshead - which is a National Trust property run by the same people that run Jumping Jenny at Brantwood.

I did my David Bailey bit being the 'official' photographer and the photos seem to have turned out okay on first viewing (phew!). Managed to get a bit of embarrasing 'dad dancing' in last night after a glass of wine or six; the band oddly enough was called Striding Edge!

This morning we awoke to a great view from our room along the Vale of Hawkshead with the fell tops peeping above the mist which managed to sooth away some of our headache...Sean

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

rain, rain, go away!

So much for the cold, bright start to November: it's bucketing it down today! Not to worry, I've already had two giggles, the first being a lady who stood outside the shop and announced in a broad Yorkshire accent "Love the Lakes? Love the Lakes (louder)? What's to love about the Lakes?" Charming!
The second was an expectant mother who was interested in the children's clocks and mirrors. "Would you be able to exchange a mirror if the baby turned out to be the opposite sex?" "Certainly" I replied. "Are you keeping it a surprise?" "No" was the answer "I just don't trust the 3 scans I've had!" Apparently the scans showed this lady was having a girl but, in the end, she chose a Dinosaur mirror.................

Monday, 2 November 2009

floods again!

Well it wasn't as bad as last October's floods, but it came pretty close yesterday. Predictably, after a deluge of biblical proportions, the road from Newby Bridge to Bowness was closed for a time this morning. However, at just after 8.45, the road was passable with caution and I made my way through 8 flooded sections of road passing a few stranded cars along the way. One of the jetties from the pier in Bowness is underwater and I had to giggle at the number of boatmen stood scratching their heads, Stan Laurel-like, gazing at the water. Anyway, the rain has stopped and it's a cool, bright, fresh start to November. There are still quite a few families around so I'm hoping for a good day. No Jules this week as she gets married on Thursday - needless to say there are a few last minute glitches like Tim's suit turning up and the trousers being 3 inches too short, but nothing too serious.....yet.