>Ullswater “steamers”


I arrived in Glenridding bang on noon and was delighted, when I parked up, to find one of the famous Ullswater “steamers” was preparing to leave in 15 minutes. I paid for my car parking (and noted we got a free cup of tea at the other end if we presented our reminder stub), bought my round-the-lake ticket, nipped to the loo, and found a dry-ish spot to sit on board the “Raven”.

When these boats were first launched on the lake, over a hundred years ago, they were indeed steamers. These days, though, they’ve all been converted to diesel and the funnels that once took the steam away now carry the exhaust fumes. The boats are still very old, and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to sail on one.

My first glance of an Ullswater “steamer” was in fact on my orientation drive on Saturday, and she was indeed the “Lady Wakefield”. This vessel joined the fleet in 2007 but was originally built in 1949.

The “Lady Dorothy” is affectionately referred to by the crews as “a proper little workhorse”. This vessel joined the fleet in 2001:

It really was a miserably wet day, but it’s the rain that makes the lakes so beautiful in this part of the country. Here is Norfolk Island:

The lake has these lovely boat houses dotted around at various intervals – I could live somewhere like this, couldn’t you?

This boat house is a little derelict now, but it conjures up all sorts of ideas for mystery or adventure writing:

Who lives in a house like this? And look at all those nooks and crannies:

The “Lady of the Lake” was launched in June 1877. She’s looking good for her age:

I love this picture. I love boats anyway, but I’m quite pleased with the composition on this one. Once again, it’d make a great jigsaw:

Here I am, in all my pasty-faced glory. Maybe a red funnel wasn’t the best thing to have my picture taken in front of:

We stopped very briefly at Howtown to let walkers get on or off, and then we had half an hour in Pooley Bridge. I’d already done Pooley Bridge so decided to claim my free cup of tea at the pier (for parking at Glenridding). Very few people obviously take advantage of this special offer as the lad in the café had to ask the skipper what the current offer was.

My skipper for the day was Chris. He took me under his wing and into his wheelhouse out of the rain, and kept me occupied with the history, various stories, and some lovely anecdotes on the ride back to Glenridding via Howtown:

And here is the “Raven”, which was launched in July 1889 after tour operator Thomas Cook added leisure cruises on Ullswater to his programme:

The fleet get a new addition in September of this year, bringing the number of boats to 5.

When Chris went out on his first jaunt of the day, he had to record a water level of 1.1m. In June, this was coming in at 0.4m, that’s how much rain they’ve had since the end of June. The boats are able to sail at such levels because of their shallow keels, but when it gets to around 1.4m, the “Lady Wakefield” apparently starts to struggle.

By the end of my cruise, 3 hours after I started, the water level was at 1.4m – that’s how much rain we had in just one day, less than one day. Chris was driving the “Lady Wakefield” the next day. He didn’t hold out much hope of sailing.

8 thoughts on “>Ullswater “steamers”

  1. Devon Ellington 30 July 2010 / 12:05 pm

    >What a great day. Imagine what you could do, giving one of those places a little TLC. I bet Chris loved sharing the history and stories with someone who was actually interested.


  2. carolwarham 30 July 2010 / 12:12 pm

    >I bet Chris enjoyed talking to you as much as you did listening to him. I was once in Keswick having a grumble about the rain when I was roundly ticked off and told if it didn't have so much rain it would be 'The Puddle district'. Point taken.


  3. Diane 30 July 2010 / 12:15 pm

    >Devon: It was on my must-do list so I had to do it, whatever the weather. I loved the derelict boat house. And Chris did say he enjoys it more when there's someone that takes an actual interest rather than kids that want to play at being pilots.


  4. Diane 30 July 2010 / 12:16 pm

    >Carol: I never complain about the rain, unless it's waited 3 months and then decided to come when I just hung out the bedding on the line. He said the same, about the rain making it the Lake District, but he said he does feel sorry for those whose only summer holiday is this one and it did nothing but rain the whole time.


  5. Ordinary Man 30 July 2010 / 1:54 pm

    >If those six numbers come up on Saturday night I'm putting an offer in on that boathouse in the third photo. Those steamers are fantastic.


  6. Diane 30 July 2010 / 2:34 pm

    >I asked Chris if it was the ultimate big boy's toy, and he said absolutely. :o)I loved 'em, and they look even better in sunshine when the water reflects the blue sky.


  7. jenny wilson 30 July 2010 / 4:16 pm

    >what amazing pictures, I love them.


  8. Diane 2 August 2010 / 8:57 am

    >Thank you, Jenny.


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