Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Day 23: Keswick Museum and snow on the Fells

As predicted, it snowed overnight. The town was simply very wet when I woke this morning, but the Fells were covered with a much heavier blanket of snow.

In between the rain there were squalls of sleet. I tried unsuccessfully to capture them on camera. In the end I made a little video. I hope it works in the blog. 

Alf went out on a reconnaiscence mission and, at 1.0 pm we set off to walk to the Keswick Museum. The River Greta was running very high.

To our disappointment, the complete set of lion's teeth mentioned in Sue's guide book were nowhere on display at the Museum. The attendants had no knowledge of the teeth. The Museum, however, had quite a lot else of interest. 

 A major attraction is the Keswick Musical Stones, lithophone or rock band. Unlike the one we saw in Coniston, visitors were encouraged to try it out.

It really was an amazing piece of work. The local examples are all from hornfels - a layer of sediment formed only on Skiddaw slate compressed on top of granite in geological movement some 399 million years ago. They are hard to find, and need to be of particular size and thickness to get the sound required.

This one was built by the Richardson family in the early 19th century and played for Queen Victoria in 1848.

It is displayed below a splendid case of a taxidermied bird of prey and its catch.

The earliest reference to the musical stones was in the late 18th century when Peter Crosthwaite, a local collector and eccentric, found six stones and spent six months collecting 5 more. This original set is also on display at the museum.

There are quite good collections of birds eggs, butterflies, insects, moths, stone implements and minerals.

There is also a cabinet of Robert Southey memorabilia, including a pair of his shoes. These are collectable because of Southey's poem Reflections on an old pair of shoes. which begins:
Thin and worn out! alas, my poor old Shoes!
My old companions! fellow-travellers
In many an up-hill, down-hill, dirty road!
Gone past all patching! gone beyond the reach
Of cobler, shoe apothecary's skill,
Or graduate master of the gentle craft.

A small room of the Museum is given over to the British mountaineer Joe Tasker who disappeared on Everest in 1982.

I was interested in his favourite books, which included T.S. Eliot's Selected Poems.

A macrame hanging by Betty Tasker pays tribute to the Everest climb.

The display includes an artificial rock, strung with a rope and cards. Visitors can open the cards and research the answers. Quite a good exercise for visiting school children.

 I was less impressed by the snow-suit draped over a non-functioning heater, representing, presumably, Tasker's body in the snow.

There is a magnificent pennyfarthing hanging from the ceiling.

 and a display of spinning wheels rather too high to examine.

A carved  wooden box invites you to open with care and prepare for a surprise.

Inside was a mummified cat.

There was also an item of Ruskin lace.

The current special exhibition at the Museum is a tribute to George and Ashley Abrahams, pioneering climbers and photographers of climbing from 1890. The exhibition features some of their photographs and some contemporary ones by Henry Iddon of 2016 climbers, using the same camera.historical photographs of Keswick. Some are fantastic, including a collection of climbing photos.

I photographed only a couple with reflections and angles that should guarantee they are not reproducible.

I really loved this photograph of a Fellsman carrying his sheep.

The exhibition is well worth a look if you are in the vicinity.

We paid our own tribute to the Abrahams brothers by taking advantage of the photo opportunity presented by the exhibition. Christine and Eddie really missed out on a photo opportunity

From the Museum we walked back into Lake Street to the Skiddaw Hotel for a 3pm lunch. It is very pleasant sitting in their atrium watching the passing parade of people rugged up in wet weather gear.

Back at the apartment the rain continues and the Fells come into view and recede. There is still a fair covering of snow but it is gradually being washed away.

The forecast for tomorrow has been amended from rain to the sun appearing from behind the clouds and a maximum of 8C for our last day in the Lakes District.


  1. I hope London is back to normal when you set out, and you get to RSN without any difficulties. Be well!

    1. Thanks Monica. My hotel is very close to Hampton Court so I think it will be fine.