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Life Chez Dee Episode #22: Trip on the Train

So we decided to buy a family Railcard … we fancied doing some day trips out … day trips where we could avoid driving. I thought if we took the train, not only would it be a novelty for the boys to be using public transport, which we hardly ever do, but it would also be rather exciting. Train journeys are special, the scenery through that train window is generally spectacular, and you see it all without the stress of having to concentrate on driving, or being distracted by bored kids, moaning that they don’t want another game of eye spy or such like; are we there yet; I need a pee; I need to be sick; my brother is breathing my air or any other of this type of distraction. Trains take you to your destination through countryside which you don’t get to see when you’re travelling by car.

We bought the railcard with Tesco vouchers, which was really good value, as we only needed £10 worth of vouchers for the £30 railcard. And now, with the railcard, we get 30% off adult fares, and 60% off children’s fares … and so our first train trip day out was planned.

We decided to drive to Preston … I know, I know …. I said we didn’t want to use the car, but by doing so we didn’t have to wait a ridiculous amount of time for a connecting train. By driving to Preston there was a direct train to Windermere.

An early start and we parked up in Preston …. not so cheap at £12 per day. We could have parked further away for free, but being on the last minute this morning, we didn’t want the faff of finding our way to the station and finding that we’d missed the train.

We get to the station and the train says it’s on time. Everything was going to plan then …. or was it?

We walk up the steps to get to Platform 4, I’m mesmerised by the lovely railings and patterns I’m seeing, and I want a photo …. but I’ve forgotten my phone …. I always have my phone … I can’t remember ever forgetting this on a day out … I take so many photos of everything, from people, to views, to random things which catch my eye. William doesn’t see the problem. “Why do you want pictures of railings?” He says with distain. “Because look at them!” I say “They’re lovely … the patterns, the colours … just lovely, and I want a picture.” “Well it’s not like it’s a sentimental picture is it?” he says. No point in pursuing my disappointment, he doesn’t get it … and he could have taken a picture on his phone I might add … but let’s not go there.

Our train which was due in at Platform 4, was then marked as Platform TBC, and with three minutes to departure time there was no sign of the train, or indeed which platform its was coming in at. Apparently due to train trouble our announcer informed us it was running late.

That’s all we need we were muttering. Next announcement will be that it’s not arriving at all. Do they do that? says William. It’s not unheard of Justin said. The next announcement came through. Train still coming, but they were having trouble finding all the carriages! Never heard anything quite like that before!

Anyway, only a minor delay thankfully, and the train arrives. So new is the train … plastic on the seats still, there are a few teething troubles, namely that we can’t seem to get the door open. After much button pressing and the guard using the key to get on the train to fiddle with more buttons inside we eventually manage to get the doors to open.

Its rather pleasant journey looking all the fields at the rolling countryside. I’m lost in my gaze thinking about the lovely Stevenson poem: From a Railway Carriage … “Faster than faeries; faster than witches; bridges and houses; hedges and ditches; and charging along like troops into battle; all through the meadows the horses and cattle”. And I recite it in my head, with the same speed and rhythm as the train clattering along on the rails. I look at all the cows, and calves in the fields, romantically admiring our quintessentially English countryside, those halcyon days of summer. I talk to William about the year when it was so awful and you didn’t see the animals in the fields when foot and mouth struck. Truly awful.

Oliver is bored apparently. How on earth can you be bored with so much to look at? And there goes my theory of kids not getting bored on train trips. He soon gets over his boredom with the conversation we have, and indeed are able to do face to face, as we’re on the train, rather than all facing the same direction in the car. All in all it was a rather smooth and pleasant trip to Windermere.

We get off the train, and follow Justin, like sheep. He’s downloaded the OS app on his phone – which is brilliant if you don’t already have it, and we wander out the back of the station up the hill to Orrest Head. What a lovely walk, and one which we probably would never have done had we not gone by train. It wasn’t very high albeit a little steep in parts, but my goodness when you get to the viewpoint at the top what a view indeed. Stunningly beautiful. I realise that it was this walk with the mountains in the distance Langdale Pikes; Scafell; Great Gable; Crinkle Crags; Coniston Old Man; it was this view of the Lakeland Fells which inspired Wainwright to explore and study the mountains of the Lake District and produce his illustrated account in his pictorial guide, transforming his life, and the lives of thousands. He wrote “… quite suddenly, we emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. … This was truth. God was in heaven that day and I a humble worshipper.” What a privilege to stand here, to be rewarded with this stunningly beautiful view, the same stunningly beautiful view which Alfred Wainwright saw years before.

It was a gentle walk, very beautiful, up hills, through fields, through woods and over stiles. We passed those who were repairing the dry stone walls, and their sheepdog, who wanted us to stop for a while and throw his ball for him, to which William happily obliged.

We stopped for lunch at the lakeside and watched the view, and those way below us enjoying the water and leaping in from the jetty. Squashed sandwiches out of rucksacks, hard boiled eggs (which William says he’s gone off; says he’s previously had dodgy boiled eggs still raw when he had them at Premier Inn!); homemade banana cake (which I’d made to get through my glut of ripe bananas) … and all manner of other picnic things, far more than you eat at home for lunch for some reason. Perfectly lovely.

Had we not had this OS app on the phone, we wouldn’t have discovered this walk I don’t think; had we not had this we wouldn’t have attempted to walk down some of the footpaths, thinking they were actually private driveways; and we would definitely not have explored these footpaths had we driven to Windermere in the car. Arriving by train, and thus on foot, makes you look at the place differently.

A stop for a brew was inevitable so we walked into Bowness on Windermere. I have to say, that in all our many, many trips to the Lake District, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in Bowness, and I realise now that I’ve not missed anything. I have to say I wasn’t that enamoured with it … Windermere village, in my opinion, is far more preferable … to me anyhow.

Knowing that we didn’t need to get the return train until about 5.45pm we decided to walk to another viewpoint which Justin has found on his phone app. This one … unnamed it seems … just beneath Brant Fell; nothing dramatic, not a hard walk, a little steep on occasion, but not for very long. It was such a lovely view from the top looking down on the Lake. I sat looking at the view thinking of Edward. I often think of Edward, and particularly when we’re out walking, I feel that he’s walking with us, running along, laughing, joking, getting up to mischief. We left a stone #forEdward on a rocky outcrop with a lovely view of the lake. I know he’d have loved today; he loved walking in the Lakes, and it just felt like a nice place, and a little off the beaten track …. not that no-one would come along, but because it wasn’t one of the big mountains, and therefore not on that tick list that people have … ticking off the mountains, ticking off the popular walks … I knew the stone would be found by an unsuspecting soul out for a wander.

I sit for a while with my own thoughts. There is always a point where I need to do this. Where I feel sad, a little choked, because even on the loveliest and happiest of days, there is sadness too. I really miss Edward. I miss my boy so much the tears fill my eyes and there is no holding them back. I miss him, yet I know he’s with me. I am happy, and I am sad; I am both. There isn’t one without the other. This is what is hard to explain to others. The happy days don’t cancel out the pain of missing Edward; and vice versa. Whatever I am doing, and however happy I am, the happiness never cancels out the pain.

We make our way to the station, wandering back down paths, which at times feel like we’re walking down private driveways … I said it before, and I’ll say it again, thank goodness for Ordnance Survey. After a comfort break and a cuppa in Booths, which is right next to the station, we waited on the platform for the return train, admiring the artwork alongside the track, a dozen or so pieces of artwork beautifully painted. I have no idea who painted them, or why, but left there for us to sit and admire. It wasn’t a direct train home, we had to change at Oxenholme... but it was a faster journey, being a Virgin express train. This train finished its journey at Preston, which we all think a bit odd. Such a funny place to be a destination and we can’t understand why the train wouldn’t continue on to Bristol or London.

I’ve walked almost 20,000 steps, according to my watch, and my feet know they’ve been for a long walk. The drive home was easy, and the curry which had been in the slow cooker all day was waiting for us – a very welcome homecoming. Youngest in bed now to rest his legs for whatever the rest of the weekend has in store for us. Feet up, and G & T in hand, reflecting on a perfectly lovely day out.

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