Skiddaw’s scarlet tops

Though the hamlet of Seldom Seen is hidden away from the A66 and the casual walker, The Larches itself provides a wonderful viewing point of the surrounding mountains, especially if you climb up the steps to the top of the garden.

Over this last weekend, I had arrived back at the house late in the afternoon. Dusk was approaching and I glimpsed a flush of sunset colour to the north from the first floor sitting room. This merits a quick climb up to the Belvedere I thought, grabbing my camera on the way.

What a sight across the marshes of Skiddaw’s top from the Belvedere deck! I had never seen the likes of this before. The picture below tells it all. It’s worth a visit to The Larches for this alone!

Paris Belvedere @ centre stage

It’s exactly two years since we spent a long weekend with our family in Paris, walking the streets, enjoying early morning crepes, visiting galleries and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I’d decided in advance though that we must visit the the city’s Belvedere, built just after the 1867 Great Exhibition in Paris.

After a few enquiries we got some positive directions. It was in the North East of the City in the 19th arrondissement and easily accessible by the metro and a short walk. It was located we discovered as the centre and crowning point of Le Parc de Buttes Chaumont, a jewel of a place with a lake, cliffs, gardens, grassy slopes and people enjoying the sun and feeding the birds. It could be paradise!

Imagine then our surprise to read this last week that the network of jihadists responsible for the horrific killings of journalists at Charlie Hebdo and of police and shoppers at a Jewish supermarket trained here in this beautiful spot and now were being described as the Buttes-Chaumont cell (Financial Times Weekend, 10 January 2015).

For the record the Belvedere, curiously described in the Guardian (13 January 2015) as a ‘faux Roman temple’, was erected in 1869, exactly the same year as New York’s Belvedere was built in Central Park. Some cultural rivalry is surely evident here!

The site of the park was originally a quarry opened up for the construction of the 1867 Exhibition (See engraving of the original site) and the Belvedere stands in a central position on the rock, high above the surrounding lake. From its lofty position it has a magnificent view towards the centre of Paris, with the Sacre Coeur evident in the distance (See picture below)

After the rainstorms

This year has been the wettest we’ve had for years and Cumbria has taken its fair share of the rain. But this last month we’ve been up at The Larches several times and had some good sunny days and wonderful views. Why do so many people stay away from the Lakes at this time of the year and wait for the summer!

The photo above shows off the magnificent view we had from the Belevedere deck to the north east in the early morning. It’s hard to beat The Larches for this view of the Derwent Valley, showing – from left to right – Ullock Pike, Skiddaw, Blencathra, Latrigg and Clough Head. If you walk a few yards to the north to the seat on our High Point crag, you’re able to see Great Dodd too on the Helvellyn range.

From April onwards you’ll have a good chance of having this view with warm sun over a breakfast of coffee and croissant on the Belvedere deck!

The picture below is from one of my favourite local walks in the Keswick area. It’s taken during the late afternoon near the dilapidated shepherd’s cottage on the wide expanse below Blaeberry Fell. There’s a quietness here with only the wind and an occasional cry of the kestrel. The view is of Blaeberry Fell’s northern point, Great Dodd (mostly in cloud) and Clough Head (again) to the left.

Get up there if you can. Take the A591 road out of Keswick towards Thirlmere, which climbs steeply and then turns to the east on a long curve. Then take the turn off to the right to Castlerigg, which comes shortly. You can extend the walk to Ashness Bridge and Watendlath if you want.

A belvedere in the sky

We’ve been coming to Seattle regularly for over ten years now and staying close to Lake Union, which we’ve always been able to see from the apartment where our daughter Chloe has lived in the hilly Queen Anne district of the city.

Through all this time the sight and noise of the seaplanes taking off and landing on the lake has been a constant background from about 8.00 am onwards. Surprisingly it has been rather relaxing.

Seeing these small craft moving across the lake, at first slowly and then speeding up for take-off has been a daily reminder of Seattle’s connection with the Pacific coast and the many islands which dot the Puget Sound and the route north to Vancouver Island and Alaska.

It’s also a constant reminder of a key part of the city’s history, because it was in a hangar on the east shore of Lake Union in 1916 that William Boeing built his first B & W seaplane and saw it fly later that year across Lake Union. This was the start of Seattle’s major industry, aircraft manufacture, best known today for Boeing’s Dreamliner series.

This year though there has been one big difference in our experience of the seaplanes. To our delight I was this year given by Chloe for my birthday tickets for a return flight to Orcas Island, 70 miles by air from Seattle and a world apart. No longer was it just a case of us watching the seaplanes!

We were to travel up the coast on a fantastic viewing platform to rival any of the other belvederes we have included in this Lakeland Belvedere website. The photos in this blog give an idea of what you can see from the small 6 and 8 seater seaplanes that fly every day in and out of Seattle. The top photo shows the inside of the cockpit with Orcas Island opening up for us in the distance. Photo No 2 shows the seaplane arriving to pick us up for the return journey at Rosario and the pilot jumping out to secure the plane to the dock. Photo No 3 is of the plane flying low above the coast line as we flew to make an unscheduled beach pick up of a passenger on a neighbouring island.

For our return I was allowed to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, which provided even better views. Photo 4 shows the small Smith Island with a sandbar (covered at high tide) in the shimmering evening sun; and Photo No 5 is of an uninhabited island. Photo No 6 is of our return to Seattle with Lake Union opening up for landing. The house we were staying in is just below the radio mast on the left on Queen Anne Hill.

If you get the chance arrange yourself a trip.

The Larches is on the map

I know that I am more enthusiastic about new technologies than many, but it is hard to resist some of what’s on offer, especially when it’s free!

Google may have come in for some stick recently over non payment of taxes and for anti competitive practices, but few would argue that its programmes and projects are of no interest. I have mentioned Google Maps, Google Books, Google Analytics and Google ngrams in these blogs over the years.

Now it’s time to mention Google Earth, which allows us to access high quality, high resolution images of anywhere in the world. The example above shows The Larches and our Belvedere from the air; and can help anyone coming to The Larches first time to find the house.

All you need to do with Google Earth is type in the words ‘Lakeland Belvedere’ and the software will search and focus in on The Larches and our Lakeland Belvedere (with the red flag and A), high above the roofs of Seldom Seen and Thornthwaite. This image above is very helpful if you’re new to the area and want to check the exact route to the house. It shows the turn left opposite the lane to the church and the way the road bends up to the left.

Below is a second image, which shows Thornthwaite on a smaller scale and the relationship of our house with Bassenthwaite, the A66 and Lord’s Seat mountain to the north. It gives you an idea too of walks you can do directly from the house to Braithwaite or across the Derwent Valley to Little Crosthwaite or up Comb Beck into the Whinlatter Forest.