From the last days of July to the first days of September is the period of the annual Lake Artists’ Society’s Exhibition, an exhibition which has become for us almost a pilgrimage. We have been over the Pennines to visit for getting on for ten years I should think, and on our way home this time we discussed how many more times we might make it before we become too decrepit.
Before we departed we decided that whilst across the watershed we might go to the Upfront Gallery, another fairly regular visit in times past, but not seen lately. So we set about finding beds for one night, and of course at this time of the year finding beds in the Lake District is to remind you that you should have started on this project much earlier. However, we looked a little further afield than the tourist hot spots and lit upon the Mill Inn at Mungrisdale. They had one room available for one night in our chosen time span, so we booked our selves in. “Do you want a deposit ?” we said, “No” said they, “Just turn up”.
So, on Saturday last we set off along the dreaded A66, which turned out to be surprisingly quiet, and made our usual stop at the Temple Sowerby House Hotel for a coffee break. This is another regular for us, and the lady looked at us and said, “Now, let me see . . . . . you come here each year don’t you . . . but I can’t just remember . . . . ” so we explained ourselves all over again and she was quite interested to know about the whole thing.
Expecting Grasmere to be buried under heaps of visitors we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could park at the Village Hall without difficulty, and for the princely sum of a pound apiece plus three pounds for a catalogue – we were in. Talking about it afterwards we both felt that (as perhaps also last year) the number of paintings depicting realistic scenes that would be well known to walkers and climbers in the past continues to decrease, and abstract works, domestic scenes, and subjects far away (eg : Venice) are correspondingly on the increase. Nevertheless we had a good look round, chatted about what we saw and spent money on a book about the Society which was prohibitively expensive when first published, but has now come down to an affordable price.
Then we toddled off towards the town centre and were as usual magnetically drawn into the Sam Read bookshop, where I bought “As I walked out” by Laurie Lee – a book I have never read although I bought “Cider with Rosie” more years ago than I care to, or can, remember – probably when we ourselves lived in the Cotswolds. On again to the Miller Howe cafe – an object lesson in not thinking that you can go on repeating the things you have always done in the past. Obviously now in the hands of a firm of caterers, the food was good, but the place badly needs someone to get a grip on it and give it a good overhaul decoratively, and equipment wise. When stainless steel becomes stained steel, you know it is time to do something.
So, off we went to the Mill Inn via a little gated lane, something we have not seen for many years. Very narrow, the vegetation brushed, and sometimes clonked, the sides of the car as we went along. Several of us all arrived at the same time, but we all got dealt with efficiently and were soon shown to our room. We had asked for twin beds, what we got was a “King and Queen and the whole Royal Family” bed where you needed a mobile phone to speak to the person in the other half. The en suite bathroom looked as though it had had a total refurbishment quite recently, and altogether we were very comfortable. It was expected that the pub would be very busy in the evening and so we booked a table for 7.30 pm. In the event it was not so busy, which made things very pleasant. We both went for the local Fell Bred Sheep lamb shank. The meat was so tender (cooked for six hours we were told) and fell off the bone – but there was so much of it that we had great difficulty in finishing it.
In the morning there was a good breakfast – perhaps there could have been a few more cereal choices, but most people were busy shifting enormous platefuls of eggs, sausages, bacon and all the usual suspects in readiness for their strenuous activities during the rest of the day.
We then made our way across country to the Upfront Gallery – much changed – so much so that at first we could not work out how to get in ! Our minds and memories let us down by insisting that it must be THIS way, when in fact it was not, and was THAT way. There did not seem to be the art work an artifacts that we remembered, but the cafe area looked to be enlarged and offering extremely good (vegetarian) food. The puppet theatre has obviously been developed and there were some wonderful puppets on display. Alas, before we left my wife managed to fall over a step and shook herself up. But apart from bruises seemed to be OK. All this took place while I was elsewhere, and I have to say she was extremely well looked after by the staff of the place. She visited the Doctor today and it seems nothing is broken or needing x-ray examination.
So, after that little contretemps we (I) decided against further explorations and we drove home along remarkably quiet roads and were home in the early afternoon.