What’s a claife? Actually a Claife… we’ll get to that.

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop (SE23) began in glorious May sunshine, as those attending – our companions – began to arrive and assemble around a triangular picnic table on the quayside at Ferry Nab, a short distance south of Bowness-on-Windermere.

(Above: the Companions begin to gather near the lake’s edge)

Once complete, our happy band of explorers were led down to the ferry point at Ferry Nab.

(Above: Lake Windermere, showing the ferry route from Ferry Nab, our meeting point, to Far Sawrey on the West Bank. The dark green area is Claife Heights)
(It’s a short walk to the Ferry and its ten-minute journey across this narrow part of Lake Windermere)

We crossed the lake via the chain-link ferry: a substantial boat that pulls itself along the water via gears attached to a large chain that lives on the lake bed until the machine hauls it up and over the cogs. It’s a common design for such short-hop distances, and usually reliable.

A decade ago, the chain snapped and the ferry drifted off down the lake, completely unable to propel itself, and awaiting rescue from a powerful private craft chartered for the occasion. No-one was harmed!

(We were not the only ones eager to embark – the start of Claife Heights is visible on the far bank)
(There are photographs of older ferries on this route: things were not always this robust!)
(Above: a short walk away, the former Ferry Cottage is now home to the best coffee on Lake Windermere’s western shore, in its modern incarnation as Joey’s Cafe)

Having crossed the lake, we were sitting on two of the outside tables of the renowned Joey’s Cafe – one of two such cafes on the western shore of Windermere. Above us, a fascinating Victorian structure guarded the entrance path to Claife Heights – our destination for the ‘big day’ to follow on Saturday.

We had plans to explore this Victorian outlier as a gentle first step of our weekend. There would be much walking on the Saturday.

We had selected another high destination for the arrival day (Friday afternoon), but the cars would do a lot of the work. Many of those attending had driven a long way – one from Suffolk – and, as organisers, we needed to provide a gentle introduction….

Coffee. Good coffee and lots of it!

Crossing a lake this size may seem an extreme measure – just to get a cup of coffee, but Joey’s coffee is worth it…

Water has always been linked – in the imagination and in our minds – with emotion. We were to spend a weekend exploring the different facets of this beautiful ‘element’ in our lives.

Plus, the cost of the ferry’s ten-minute ride is a mere £1.00 for foot passengers. Most importantly, by going there and back again, we got to undertake two crossings of the symbolic ‘water’, as in Water-Circle+Cross, the title and theme of the workshop.

(Above: Water-Circle+Cross)

Windermere is England’s largest lake, and we were to cover its entire perimeter over the next three days… The weather was superb; the very best that May can offer. Everything was set for sharing, enjoying, and a little bit of learning.

(Above: Windermere is a large lake – 10.5 miles long. We would get to know it well)
(William Wordsworth enjoyed this view, and wrote about it in his diaries)

William Wordsworth knew this side of Windermere well. He was born and educated in the Lake District. Giving directions to Henry Crabb Robinson in 1816, Wordsworth wrote:

“Put yourself under the guidance of an old woman, who will come out to meet you if you ring or call for her at a fantastic sort of gateway; an appurtenance to a pleasure house called the Station.”

We may have lost the use of ‘appurtenance’, but it’s worthy of a revisit.

(Above: historic photograph of Wordsworth’s ‘old woman’s’ house – also known as Ferry Cottage)

Joey’s Cafe, sited at what was the ‘old woman’s’ Ferry Cottage, is part of the historical structure that we were due to explore. It has seen many incarnations. Its modern life as a quality cafe is much appreciated by walkers like ourselves. We have to thank the venerable ‘old woman’ – whoever she was- for impressing the importance of her role on history.

Coffee finished, we walked up the track to explore the historical Claife Viewing Station, the place for which the ‘old woman’ had been the gatekeeper. Claife Heights is the high fell above here that runs half the length of the lake.

The viewing station was the large construction above us which looks out over the beauty of Lake Windermere. Visitors need to climb in an ascending circle to get to its ‘platform’. But when they do, the effort is instantly forgotten…

(Above: a dark, castle-like structure becomes visible above the trees on the curving track)
The dark structure only makes sense when you see the plan and elevation views. See below)
(Above: plan and elevation of the design)
(Above: the views of Windermere are stunning)

(Above: the views were considered too powerful for visitors to see without guidance. To this end they were supplemented by leaded glass panels and colour coded:

• Yellow to provoke thoughts of summer

• Orange to provoke thoughts of autumn

• Light green for spring

• Light blue for winter

• Dark Blue to suggest moonlight

• Lilac to conjure thoughts of a thunderstorm

It was almost too much to take in with one visit. we stood facing the natural beauty of Windermere and simply drank the vistas, letting their beauty affect the emotions of the ‘now’.

All this… and the Friday afternoon was only part way through.

To be continued in Part Two.

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

6 Comments on “Water-Circle+Cross (1) Coffee under the old woman’s claife

  1. Fascinating as ever, Steve. The May weather has been idyllic, hasn’t it? I shall be seeking out that coffee, next time I am in the area!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a Joey’s as the post, Michael, and another at Wray Castle. Wray does excellent soups, too, and the views are among the best in the Lakes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Steve, that puts Wray Castle on my must visit list for this year. There’s a coincidence! I remember it used to be home to a training school for radio officers in the Merchant Navy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It did, and has a fascinating history with some irony in it. Now being restored inside, the cafe is another Joey’s with a focus on veggie food of high quality … and coffee. You can get a small ferry from Brockholes and Waterhead (Ambleside) which does the triangle.


        • If you want a great walk, as we did on our SE weekend, climb up onto Claife Heights via the ferry at Ferry Nab, then walk one of the paths and come down at Belle Grange. Walk the remaining shore to Wray for coffee, then get the boat back to Waterhead or Brockhole and, if needed, a bigger ferry back to Bowness. Makes a perfect day. Blog to follow… see part 3


        • Mmm. There’s a coincidence: training radio officers links with your earlier comments! Maybe your lady robot has used a mysterious short wave to escape her time at Wray and sneak alongside you in 2023…

          Liked by 1 person

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