Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Malamute on a Train

Wednesday 23rd August

Unlike yesterday morning I had a good idea of what I wanted to get done during the first part of the day: ride the steam-train from Eskdale to Ravenglass on the coast. To reach that most directly, we'd have to traverse both of Lakeland's steepest passes in quick succession.

First there was Wrynose Pass, with long 1 in 3 ascents, then a more relaxing high valley section and then...Hardknott Pass - as my map puts it "even steeper" with both 1:3 ascents and descents AND they're incredibly winding to boot. I was almost relieved that the weather was hiding any distracting views (or plunges) off to the side of the road.

I made it to our departure station with literally seconds to spare, since the train was about to start moving when Bondi and I bounded onto the platform. Being only a wee little train - this is England's oldest narrow-gauge railway - with a dozen or so wee little carriages, there wasn't much at stake. We leaped into what was basically a covered cart. A little disappointingly we were only being hauled by a wee diesel engine, but Bondi had settled into position nicely, with his head hanging just outside the carriage. This was actually necessary since the carriage was the same width as a Parisian lift.

After a 40 minute journey, we got out at Ravenglass, discovered there wasn't much to see there and got onto the next available return train, which happened to be a steam engine. This time our cart was open, so I could watch blasts of steam erupting through the foliage overhanging the track.

After that I thought I'd head south towards Ulverston and lunch at Conishead Priory, which had begun with the Augustines, enjoyed a period as a hydrotherapy centre, and was now a Buddhist retreat. When I got there I found that meals were only available on weekends, unless I wanted to grab a snack from the idol/incense/coke and chocolates selection in the gift shop. So we continued on to Barrow-on-Furness, which was hugely missable and then looped back to Ulverston for lunch.

I forgot that almost every chef in England downs utensils between 2.30 and 6, so none of the pubs or cafes was serving food at 3pm. The only alternates were prepackaged supermarket sandwiches or one of those dreadful tea-rooms where bacon baps are the typical fare. I found some fruit in the car and we headed back to Coniston.

There I went to the Ruskin Museum to look for some information on local industry that might pertain to my family history. It dawned on me that any mills that my ancestor Samuel Jones had worked on may have been ore-processing mills or water-pumps associated with the copper mines or slate quarries. That would tie more strongly with his developing career as a canal/mining engineer. It also suggests that I should look to mining links further back in his family history. A fellow at the museum suggested I look in the county archives in Kendal for any more detailed information about who worked at the copper mines.

When we got back to Bankground, I took Bondi down to the lake again for a belated swim, after which he took off for a demented run around in the long grass, something that I don't see as much of now in his maturer years. I miss seeing him and his brother Dougal tearing around in the grass in Marymoor Park's 40-acre offleash area (Redmond, Washington).

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