27th - 30th March 2012


"It's your birthday next week", said Uncle Brian to Dad. "Have you thought where you want to go to celebrate?"

"Well I know that it is not long since we were at Armathwaite Hall, but going for afternoon tea, is really what I want to do", Dad replied. He then went on, "when I was at work, on your birthday, it was the case that you had to buy cakes for everyone in the department, so I intend to treat you."

"Well if that's the case you had better get on the phone and book", Uncle Brian replied with enthusiasm.

Dad spoke to Aunt Lorraine to do this, mentioning too it was for his birthday.

The day arrived and there was excitement because of the parcel that had arrived from Aunt Wendy. We guessed that it contained a new Hug member, as she makes small bears, Dad being fortunate to have acquired quite a number as birthday presents, and also some he has bought too. We were not disappointed, and our latest pal was revealed. Similar to Grizzly, so a cousin of his, in gorgeous dark blue antique velvet. He has his nose in the air, and his name is Choldmonderley Ponsenby-Smythe, but known as Chummy to his friends. Dad fell in love with him, and immediately decided that he would come along with Polly and myself, to Armathwaite Hall.

So late morning Chummy, Polly (who is my girlfriend) and I, settled in the car, and Dad drove us through the Lakes. The cloud was down on the fells, so for once Uncle Brian did not have to put up with a running commentary of the names etc.

Arriving we all went in to reception where we were greeted by Aunt Lorraine, who said, "hi Fletcher, and happy birthday Gerry."

Aunt Kim came and chatted, wishing Dad a happy birthday too.

He showed them our new pal Chummy, who was fussed over, and they thought he was lovely.

The prime table had been reserved in the Lake View Lounge in the bay window looking over the lawns, down the Bassenthwaite Lake. We settled in the corner on the window seat, looking out at the view.

Myself, Polly & Chummy (photo courtesy Uncle Brian)

"What a magnificent view", enthused Chummy. "I can see why Dad and Uncle Brian so like coming here, and how kind of him to bring me too, on my first day as part of the Hug."

An inquiry was made as to what tea Dad and Uncle Brian wanted, the shortly after this was served with the sandwiches, cakes, scones etc. It looked and was scrumptious. Everything, but everything is home made.

photo courtesy Uncle Brian

At the same time Justine, known to the staff as Juju, who is from France, brought in the large square plate with the cake and candle, while singing Happy Birthday.

photo courtesy Uncle Brian

This she had made specially for Dad, the plate being decorated with icing and the words Happy Birthday written across the top. The candle was lit and making a wish Dad blew it out. Quite delicious with all different fruits in the cream. A lovely thought and Dad thanked her, giving her a kiss, French style.

So then they just settled down to enjoy the food, taking their time. Quite often some people are unable to finish it all, but not Dad and Uncle Brian, and not a morsel was left at the end. One of the cakes was a chocolate eclair, which rather unflatteringly Uncle Brian, snapped Dad eating. I suppose the expression on his face could be described as one of ecstasy!

photo courtesy Uncle Brian

The afternoon was whiled away, and then we all went down to the Brasserie to see Sunshine, who Dad and Uncle Brian had talked to before on previous visits. I introduced, my pals, and she thought Polly was quite beautiful. That made my day, as she is my girlfriend. They chatted for about half and hour, before we said goodbye until the visit to stay at the end of the month. All that now remained was for Dad to see Aunt Lorraine and pay the bill. We all called a cheery goodbye as we left.




In the past I have been able to take quite a number of guests to stay with me, but ever since the visit in December 2011, when Dad was ill, and ended up at the A&E department at Whitehaven Hospital, Uncle Brian has rather put his foot down, and said that only five can go, including me. This was because, if Dad had been kept in hospital, and not being able to drive himself, Uncle Brian had pondered how he would have got home with his luggage, and the thirteen members of the Hug. In the event Dad was not kept in, but Uncle Brian has nevertheless not relented. Fred and Gladly always come, so that left just two others who I was able to take.

I talked this through with Dad and he said, "don't worry about that Fletcher, I intend that seven will go at least. Uncle Brian will never notice, and once we set off it will be too late."

"Thanks Dad", I replied.

"Who have you invited?", he asked.

"Well, Fred & Gladly of course, and I cannot leave my girlfriend Polly behind. So that's four including me. As Uncle Brian and Dad are going to the theatre, I will have to take Rex and Starbuck, and finally to make up the seven, Chummy is coming too.



As the day dawned blue skies greeted us, and it was to be very warm for the time of year. In fact this weather persisted for the whole of the stay, meaning for Dad, shorts and T-shirt was the dress all the time, apart from when they had dinner in the restaurant.

As Dad was putting the luggage in the car, I said to my pals, "come on let's get settled on the back seat. We had better keep quiet too until we are on the way, as we do not want to alert Uncle Brian, that seven of us are going."

After we had been on the way a few minutes, Gladly asked, "which way are we going Dad?"

"Through the Lakes, stopping at Lakeland Ltd in Windermere, to get some dishcloths. They did not have the Lancashire ones, last time, so we had to buy some others that are totally useless."

"My my, not stopping for food?" queried Fred.

"No, we are having lunch at Armathwaite Hall", his Dad replied.

This accomplished, we continued north, the views being magnificent, and the sun sparkling on the Rydal Water and Grasmere. Beyond Dunmail Raise, we passed by Thirlmere reservoir. "It's brim full", exclaimed Polly. "No water shortage here."

"Good news for Aunt Tish and Uncle Eddie too", added Fred.

Soon we could see Skiddaw and Blencathra, and knew that it was not far to Keswick, which we skirted to then join the A66 west. It was not long then, before we turned right and followed the road above the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake, to our destination. I went in with Dad to check in, then sat with them in the Hall, while they had a nice club sandwich for lunch. Then while Uncle Brian rested, Dad got the room key, and brought all the luggage in, including too, my other pals. We were back in our favourite room, 131, with that magnificent lake view.

Uncle Brian just wanted to rest, as too did Fred and Gladly, but I was anxious to show my other pals the grounds, so Dad kindly agreed that we could all do the nature trail again. I knew the way, of course, so acted as guide.

Exiting the hotel, Dad turned left along the exit drive. "We're going the wrong way", I called out. "We should go round the building and across the lawns."

"You are quite right Fletcher", Dad replied, "but I want to get a shot of Skiddaw, from across the road from the exit."

Despite the sunny day, the views were rather hazy, hence the mountains looked rather brooding. Broad End is left rising to Skiddaw, while to the right is Ullock Pike.

Along this drive is the staff block, and as we returned, quite a few were standing outside, including Sunshine, who Dad chatted to for a little while. It was just as well too, as she told him that she was not working until Thursday, so in order that they could see her, it was arranged to go to the Brasserie, that night.

Crossing in front of the hotel, we now set off on the Nature Trail. We did not get very far, indeed only to the side of the building, where Polly called out, "just look at that wonderful host of daffodils. It would make a nice picture, with us sitting amongst them."

Rex, Chummy, Polly, Fletcher & Starbuck

"Right, we better be getting on, otherwise we will never complete the walk", I said.

So, onwards crossing the lawns, where I pointed out to my pals the 21 lime trees, that had been planted years ago by a previous owner on the occasion of his son's 21st birthday. Then down the path towards the lake, the sun dappling on it through the trees.

Soon we crossed the bridge, spanning the road, the path going on down to the lake. Passing some logs beside the path, Starbuck, called out, "let's sit on those, so we can have our picture taken again."

"OK", I said, as we scrambled into position, before Dad lined up the camera.

It was not far along the path now, before we reached the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake.

"Wow" cried Chummy. "What a huge expanse of water."

It made a lovely scene with the sun shimmering on it.

"This by the way, this is the only lake in the Lake District", I said.

"Can't be", retorted Rex, "as we saw four others on the journey here."

"I agree, but this is the only one that is named as a lake, the others are meres and waters."

"Oh I see. A trick question eh", laughed Rex.

"Dad, how many stretches of water are there, that are officially classed as lakes, within the Lake District?

"Well Lad" Dad replied. "It is generally accepted that there are 18, namely -

Bassenthwaite Lake, Brothers Water, Buttermere, Coniston Water, Crummock Water, Derwent Water, Elter Water, Ennerdale Water, Esthwaite Water, Grasmere, Haweswater, Loweswater, Rydal Water, Thirlmere, Ullswater, Wast Water, Wet Sleddale, and Windermere."

"Wow", exclaimed Chummy. "You really are knowledgeable Dad."

"Where now?", asked Starbuck.

"Along the path above the shore of the lake", I replied.

So off we went. It was muddy in places and rather rough, but Dad is well used to that on his treks up the mountains. The lake was screened by trees, but there were gaps, and at one we took the opportunity to sit on the stoney beach at the edge of the lake.

"It is wonderful sitting here", sighed Polly. "Just so quiet and peaceful."

"Can you remind me of the names of the mountains, over there?", said Rex. "Not having been here before, I have not go them fixed in my mind yet."

"Of course", I replied. "From the left, they are Broad End, Skiddaw, Ullock Pike & Dodd. It really goes without saying that Dad and STAG have climbed them all, more than once too."

It was with some reluctance that we finally set off again, continuing along the path.

"What are those flowers, over there?", asked Polly.

"Wood anemones", I replied. "Our pal Moss told me, when he did the walk with me in 2010."

"Will you take our picture, sitting by them?", asked Chummy.

"Of course", replied Dad, lining up the camera.

Walking on we soon reached a cross path. "It is right here, to the road, then left along that to the corner just before the bridge", I instructed.

When we got there I went on, "when the terrible floods occurred in Cockermouth and Workington, the water came up to the top of the arch on the bridge."

"It is hard to believe", replied Rex, "seeing how benign the river looks now."

Our route was now through the Herdwick Caravan Park, beside which this unnamed stream, ran on its way to very shortly join the River Derwent.

As we entered, Starbuck called out, "look at that large bear pointing to the car park. He just spends all his time doing this. It makes me realise how lucky we are, that Dad takes us out and about."

Further on, by one of the caravans, there was a smaller one of these bears, with his paw raised, in welcome to visitors.

Past the caravans, the path led on ahead, and the view opened out. "That fell ahead is Binsey (1466ft), which Dad and STAG, climbed again recently."

"That's right", replied Dad. "We thoroughly explored Binsey too, as instead of just going up and down as we had done on previous climbs, we descended the far side and then walked back round its west side through Whittas Park. A lot of new ground was covered that day. Also its proximity to here, meant I was able to come for a meal in the Brasserie, afterwards."

"We're nearly back to the hotel now", I said, and sure enough after crossing an small bridge, we saw the gates ahead that gave access to the car park.

"Thanks Fletcher, from us all for taking us on the walk. It has been very enjoyable, and we will have lots to tell our pals when we get home", said Rex.

"You're welcome", I replied. "All part of the wonderful service you get here."

So, we all trooped up to the room, where Uncle Brian, Fred and Gladly were waiting. Fred and Gladly are our joint Chief Hug Bears, and for Fred, today was significant, as it was his 30th birthday. So we all join in wishing him a Happy Birthday, and we just had to include his picture, sitting with his brother Gladly. Fred is on the left.

We all spent the rest of the day in the room, resting. I had arranged room service, for our dinner, while of course Dad and Uncle Brian went to the Lake View Restaurant, for their lovely dinner. Here is what they had.

Amuse Bouche Tomato and Pepper soup
Starter Salmon Gravadlax, Cucumber Pickles, Micro Herb Salad, Lemon Dressing
Sorbet Strawberry
Main course Pan fried Seabass, Squid Ink Risotto, Roasted Scallops, Lemon & Olive Oil (Uncle Brian)
Peppered Fillet of Beef, Horseradish Mash Potato, Green Peppercorns sauce, French Beans (Dad)
Dessert Apple Crumble, Hot Custard sauce & Caramel Ice Cream

This was then followed by tea (Dad) and coffee (Uncle Brian), with delicious home made chocolates, served in the Lake View Lounge.



Up quite early, the curtains were thrown back, to reveal that wonderful view over the lawns to Bassenthwaite Lake. This is the main reason why we like to have room 131 when we come and stay. We never tire of the view, and it is rarely the same, this morning being no exception.

The sun still low in the early morning sky, is silhouetting Ullock Pike and Dodd to the left, while the lawns remain in shadow. Bassenthwaite Lake, with a silver sheen, stretches away on the right.

"Were off down for breakfast", announced Uncle Brian.

"What about us?", enquired Starbuck anxiously.

"Room service will be along shortly", I replied reassuringly.

Afterwards, we just rested in the room. Uncle Brian went and sat in the Hall, reading his paper on his iPad. Meanwhile Dad went off to the Spa for a back shoulder and neck massage. This was done by Colette, and it really relaxed Dad, relieving him of a lot of the tension and pain he suffers. I can see that he will be having more of these on future visits.

This afternoon, Dad and Uncle Brian were going to the Theatre by the Lake, to see the play The History Boys by Alan Bennett. Our pals Rex and Starbuck are the theatre bears in our Hug, and always go with them. So I will let them take over the story for today.

"Thanks Fletcher", said Rex.

"Come on Starbuck, time we were getting down to the car ready for the off", he went on.

"Just coming", Starbuck replied.

It is only a few miles to Keswick, and turning off the road that leads to Borrowdale, we were soon at the car park just above Derwent Water, adjacent to which is the theatre.

"I remember Lads, when the theatre here was comprised of the 'Blue Box Theatre'", said Dad.

Interested to know more we looked up the history on Dad's laptop, and this is what we discovered

The 'Blue Box Theatre', was the unique touring venue of Century Theatre, and occupied the site of the current building from 1976 until 1996, when it was removed to make way for Theatre by the Lake. Century Theatre made its debut in 1952 and first toured to Keswick in 1961, kindling the idea of a permanent theatre in the Lake District. It was when changes to the Road Traffic Act brought Century Theatre touring to an end, that the Blue Box then served as a venue for a Summer Season of professional repertory theatre in Keswick for the next 20 years. Far from being gone, the refurbished Blue Box is now at Snibston Discovery Park in Leicestershire where it serves as a community theatre

Theatre by the Lake is the only new English Regional Producing Theatre to have been built with National Lottery funding. It opened in August 1999, since when it has produced and presented over 5,000 performances. The Official Opening ceremony was performed by the theatre's President, Dame Judi Dench, and her late husband, Michael Williams, on 14 December 1999.

"Time for some lunch", said Uncle Brian, which they had at the cafe, next to the theatre.

We had had a walk round while they were eating, and marvelled at the prospect of Derwent Water and the mountains surrounding it. We knew that STAG, had climbed them all, and realised how intrepid they must be.

Seeing that Dad had finished his lunch, Starbuck said, "will you take our picture."

"Certainly Lads."

Here we are sitting on the wall with Derwent Water and the mountains behind.

Rex then asked, "can you tell us some of the names of the mountains, so we will be able to visualise them, when STAG talk about them.

"OK", replied Dad.

"Those are from the left - Rowling End, Causey Pike with Sail and Crag Hill behind, and to the right is Barrow."

"What about further to the right", asked Starbuck.

"That is Grisedale Pike, the ridge behind leading to Hobcarton Head", instructed Dad.

"We know about Grisedale Pike, as I will never forget how excited Allen was to reach its summit, as it marked the completion of his Wainwright challenge", replied Rex.

By now it was nearly 2 o'clock, so we hurried to the theatre for the play. We had in fact seen it twice before, but it is such a well written play, that we were all looking forward to the afternoon, and seeing what the company here made of it. And we can say without reservation, that the production was excellent, and we say, well done, to the cast, director and production team.

For many years we have gone with Dad and Uncle Brian to the Royal Exchange in Manchester, but it is getting increasingly difficult for Uncle Brian to journey to and from. Coming here today, made them realise that this is the solution for the future. An easier drive for Dad, car park right next to the theatre, and for them the prospect of having a meal at Armathwaite Hall afterwards. We are pleased to report that two plays have been booked for this season, in August and September, so we can both look forward to more days out to the theatre.

Returning to the hotel, we then told our other pals all about our visit.

And now, we will hand back the narrative to Fletcher.

"Thanks Rex and Starbuck, and glad you had a good time", said Fletcher



After breakfast, I asked Dad, "what is the plan for today?"

"Uncle Brian has decided that he would like to visit Maryport again, and even though he has not got his mobility scooter with him, I will be able to drive him round to the outer harbour, where there will be views out to sea."

"That's great, and if it is all right can all my pals come along too."

"Yes", replied Dad.

"Do I have to", complained Fred.

"Yes you do", said his brother Gladly. "It's about time we got some fresh air."

So we all trooped down to the car, and soon we were on our way. The route is along the A66 bypassing Cockermouth, then on the A595, turning off left for the last few miles to Maryport, Dad parking initially on the inner harbour.

While most of my pals decided to stay with Uncle Brian in the car, Polly and I went with Dad on a scouting mission, and to take a few pictures. The last time he took some nice shots of the boats in the dock, but today the tide was completely out and the boats settled firmly in the mud, so not photogenic at all.

Across the dock is the Ellenfoot Bridge, that today was down, so saving us a long walk round.

A plaque beside it told us that it was opened 13 July 2007. Until 1756 the town was called Ellenfoot, by virtue of the fact that it stands on the estuary of the River Ellen. The name was changed to Maryport by Humphrey Senhouse, in honour of his new wife Mary. Designed around a Dutch lift bridge, the raising and lowering of it can be done remotely. It is thought to be the only one of it’s kind in the country.

The Senhouse family who owned most of the land in the area, and other local luminaries were responsible for bringing industry and prosperity to the town. One such was the Ritson family, who developed ship building, including one of the first iron ships. What was unusual, was that on completion the ships were launched sideways into the dock. However as ships got larger, Maryport was unable to cope and ship building ceased in 1914. Coal mining in the area was another industry, now gone too, but this and a once thriving import and export trade, was responsible for the expansion of the number of docks. One such is now a marina.

Crossing yet another bridge we were able to explore further, and rounding a corner by an embankment, the view opened out to the sea.

"There's parking here, Dad", I said. "Let's go back and then you can drive Uncle Brian round."

"OK Lad", Dad replied.

On the way we passed this memorial to three trawlermen from Maryport, who had drowned. The tragedy happened some 20 miles off Mallaig in Scotland, when the nets of the scallop trawler Aquila, had snagged on an uncharted obstruction, so causing a violent capsize of the vessel. It brought home to us what a dangerous occupation this is.

With this in our minds, we were soon at the car, and then in minutes, at the parking overlooking the sea. A fine view for Uncle Brian, and he was able to engage in watching the tide coming in too.

"Are you going to take some more pictures?", asked Gladly.

"Yes I am", responded Dad, and getting out of the car.

First was the harbour light, the power of which is such that it can be seen 12 miles out to sea.

A close up, revealed it is topped by a wind direction indicator in the shape of a sailing ship.

This done Dad returned, saying, "I'm going to take the holiday hug group photo, as it will save me having to do this when we get back to the hotel."

"Ooh great", called out Starbuck, who was never camera shy.

The embankment made a good place to sit and we settled ourselves as Dad lined up the camera.

Fletcher, Starbuck, Polly, Rex, Fred, Chummy & Gladly

Quite a while went by just sitting and resting, then Dad suggested to Uncle Brian that perhaps they had better go and have lunch. We did not need to go with them, as I had arranged for a picnic lunch to be supplied from the hotel, which we ate sitting on the harbour, opposite the aquarium and cafe, where Dad and Uncle Brian went.

So, that was the end of our day out. We had all had a good time, but were not sorry to return to the hotel and relax and rest. Later we had our dinner served in the room as usual, while Dad and Uncle Brian went off to have their's in the Brasserie, which is the more relaxed restaurant. As expected Sunshine was waiting on, and during the evening they had plenty of lively conversation with her. I apologise on their behalf too, as it was rather late when they left, and am sorry if it delayed her finishing her shift.


The day of our departure, and it seemed that we had been lucky to have the warm sunny weather while we were here (let's hope that this isn't summer), as opening the curtains this morning the clear skies had gone and the clouds were down on the fells, and indeed we were to run into rain on the journey home.

We all had our final breakfast, then the packing was done, and Dad took it all down to the car. My pals went and settled themselves on the back seat, while I went with Dad to check out. Aunt Kim did this for us, and expressed some surprise when Dad said that it would be the autumn until we would be staying again. As it turned out whilst were to stay for five nights in September, another stay was subsequently booked for the end of June. I can't wait!!

So after yet another lovely time, my pals and I say a big thank you to Dad and Uncle Brian, for allowing us to come along too.

Love and Hugs always




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