Michael Portillo takes a steamboat tour of Lake Windermere, visits Wordsworth's home village of Grasmere and makes sausages with a local Herdwick sheep farmer.
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one man transformed travel in Britain.
His name was George Bradshaw
and his railway guides inspired the Victorians to take to the tracks.
Stop by stop, he told them where to travel,
what to see and where to stay.
Now, 170 years later,
I'm making four long journeys
across the length and breadth of the country
to see what remains of Bradshaw's Britain.
Using my 19th century Bradshaw's guide,
I'm continuing my journey north into Cumbria,
to the Lake District, where the arrival of the railways
was, at first, extremely controversial,
but like Victorian travellers before me,
I'm looking forward to spectacular scenery.
On my journey today,
I'll be finding out why Victorian tourists flocked to Windermere.
Roger, what a lovely spread. And this is the height of elegance.
I'll be learning a thing or two about Kendal.
Erm, Kendal mint cake, please.
Erm, we don't stock Kendal mint cake! It isn't actually a cake.
-Well, that has thrown me.
-I'm so sorry!
And I'll be finding out how the railways changed farming life.
You would bring all that abundance of food to the population to sell.
I think railways have changed farming considerably.
I'm almost halfway through my journey north
from Preston to Scotland.
After a detour along the Settle to Carlisle route,
I'm rejoining the West Coast Main Line,
before crossing the border,
and heading for my mother's home town of Kirkcaldy.
Today, I'm leaving Garsdale,
and travelling across Cumbria to Windermere,
before continuing to Kendal.
Bradshaw recommends various routes around the Lake District,
depending on how much time the visitor has,
so I'm following his two-day tour,
which includes a cruise on the lake and a visit to Grasmere.
The first thing you notice about the Lake District
is that it is intensely green.
And you don't get that colour without a lot of water.
On a day like today, it's tempting to think
that the Lake District
is best viewed from the warmth of a railway carriage,
but I do need to get out at Windermere.
In the early 19th century,
poets, like Wordsworth and Coleridge,
made the Lake District popular amongst the educated elite.
When the railway arrived at Windermere in 1847,
large numbers of ordinary people began coming here, too.
The railway company even changed the name of the station
from Birthwaite to Windermere
to attract more visitors.
I'm looking for the view that Bradshaw says
is really rather impressive.
"From Windermere Station, the lake appears in view,
"with its beautiful islands and grassy,
"well-wooded fells round its borders."
But clearly this isn't the railway station
that was here in Bradshaw's time,
and my guess is that it's that thing that is now,
apparently, a supermarket.
The original station is next door,
and this is where Bradshaw and those early tourists would have arrived.
Morning! I'm assuming that this used to be the railway station,
is that right?
This was the terminus of the Kendal to Windermere line.
It's Grade II listed.
My 19th century guide says when I arrive at Windermere Station,
-I will have a wonderful view of the lake.
You don't get it from the new station.
Any idea of whether I can get it from behind here?
You won't get it from behind here.
Oh, dear. Seems more difficult than I thought to find a view,
but I'm going to keep trying. Thank you.
If there's any view, it's going to be from here.
With all this new building here,
you just can't see the lake.
Which is a pity, really,
because otherwise this would be one of the great views
from an English railway station.
-How are you?
-I'm very well.
-I recognise the face.
-Oh! It's lovely to see you.
-I'm using an old guidebook.
Apparently, there used to be a lovely view
from the railway station, of the lake.
Yes, there did. In the old days, there did.
But it's just the general build-up...
because the numbers have increased,
-they've had to extend the facilities, haven't they, really?
I mean, this used to be just a field, over here.
-This car park?
-More or less.
-You could see the lake from here, quite easily.
It's incredible, the number of people that do come here.
How do you feel about that?
Do you welcome the visitors or are you upset at the way it's changed?
Well, I feel pleased for the business people,
but, not being a business person myself, we keep out of the way.
The arrival of the railways in the Lake District
was hugely controversial.
At the time, the locals feared for their beautiful countryside.
150 years later,
Windermere has indeed become so built-up,
I need to get right out of the town
to get a glimpse of its most famous attraction.
At last, I've got the view I was promised from the railway station,
of Lake Windermere, spread out before me,
with its islands, with the woodlands coming down to the water's edge
and still actually quite recognisable from the picture
that appears in Bradshaw's
150 years ago.
As the trains brought ever more visitors,
the railway companies
began to provide an integrated steamboat service
to take the tourists across the lake.
The Victorian booking office,
where you could purchase tickets, is still here,
although it doesn't look much like one today.
-Could I have a cup of coffee, please?
-You can indeed, sir.
I believe this building used to be a railway booking office,
is that right?
Yes, it did, a long time ago.
It was built in 1858 by the Kendal and Windermere Railway company
and leased to a John Garnett,
who was a printer and Postmaster General for Windermere
and he printed all the railway tickets for the steam trains
and for the steamers on the lake.
So, you could get tickets for a steam train
-and a steamboat, all from this place?
-Yes, that's right.
I'm really pleased. I've found that a lot of people here
know their local history, it's really nice to know.
-Would that be a pound?
-Just a pound, please.
-Thank you so much.
You never told me that!
The steamboats were very popular - and no wonder!
As Bradshaw says, "The lake itself should be seen from the water,
"as well as the shores,
"to take in all its beauties."
Day one of my Bradshaw mini-tour suggests a trip out on the lake.
The most well-to-do Victorian visitors hired private steamboats
to enjoy the views and take afternoon tea
and I've managed to find one that's still working.
Roger, I can't believe it!
I have never seen such a beautiful vessel in my life!
-It is nice, isn't it?
And, of course, smelling of steam,
like all the steam engines I've seen recently.
Well, this is how they should smell, isn't it?
-Just shovel it in, Roger!
Roger Mallinson takes people onto the water
in his 100-year-old boat, Shamrock,
the last steam-powered cruiser on Windermere.
Roger, I'm using this 150-year-old guidebook
and, of course, it talks about going out on the lake.
Now, would this sort of steam launch have been available 150 years ago?
Not this class, no.
-An earlier version.
-An earlier version?
Every detail on this boat is beautifully kept.
Every inch of brass is polished,
the wood is beautifully kept.
It must be, really,
almost a life's commitment to keep this boat
in such pristine condition.
It certainly takes a lot of care, yes.
The rivers that feed fresh water into Windermere
are at the north end of the lake.
So, it's here that we find the cleanest water for our tea,
just as the Victorians did.
Now, that device there, your Windermere kettle,
-is going to heat that pretty quickly, isn't it?
Although I think my boiler pressure's down a bit.
-Nonetheless, you're taking steam from your engine...
-From the boiler.
Condensing it in a coil inside the kettle,
and the exhaust goes down as hot water into the ash pan.
Roger, a delicious cup of tea
and a most elegant way to spend the afternoon.
Have you been doing this for long?
I've been doing it all the years I've had the boat
and all my life I've been coming out here
and this is the area that has been used for taking tea
since the steamers came 150 years ago.
'The traditions may be the same,
'but the area's changed quite a lot since Bradshaw's time.
'Roger's concerned that the levels of tourism
'have simply gone too far.'
It's just become a car park.
And you don't think Windermere should look like a marina.
It's almost every part of the lake
that is shallow enough to keep an anchor or to get a mooring down
is full of moorings.
And I think it's been absolutely exploited to ruination.
Despite all your worries, Roger,
I must say this is one of the most beautiful spots in England,
and this, I believe, has been
one of the best teas I've ever had in my life.
Once the railways provided easy access,
England's largest natural lake proved a big draw.
Attractions built along its shore soon became very popular.
This fenced-off, derelict folly
was a Victorian tourist hotspot.
The tourists would have come on the steamboats
from the other side of the lake
and they're encouraged not just to see the view,
but to appreciate the aesthetic values of the lake.
They could do that by looking through different-coloured glasses
to appreciate the different seasons.
Looking through green glass
to appreciate spring and orange glass to appreciate autumn.
This ruin, on the west bank,
is Claife Station.
Built in the 1790s,
it was designed to frame the best views of the lake,
for visitors to sketch.
The big contrast between tourism then
and tourism now, is that then,
you had to concentrate and think and appreciate and remember.
Because in those days, you couldn't go, "Click!"
Before the railways, Windermere was just a farming village.
Since the 1850s,
it's become heavily dependent on tourism.
Over 10 million visitors every year
help to keep many small businesses alive.
But there's a downside.
The south end of the lake has become polluted.
Despite still being very beautiful,
you might be less keen on making tea with this water.
-Good morning, John!
-What a lovely location this is!
-It's absolutely splendid, isn't it?
Environmental manager John Pinder monitors the water quality.
I've been following a Victorian railway guide
on my journey around Britain.
I have a feeling the railways
are partly responsible for your problems.
They've brought mass tourism to the Lakes.
You're absolutely right.
The sewerage system here, a combined system that takes all road drainage
and waste water, is all in the same pipe work.
So, that Victorian sewage system has stood up well,
but, of course, now we've had expansion
and more hotels, more housing,
and that system is no longer satisfactory.
The sewage system now regularly overflows,
stimulating the growth of algae.
That causes a raft of problems for the lake's wildlife.
All those algae, when they die, fall to the bottom of the lake,
start to rot down and take out valuable oxygen
out of the bottom of the water,
which the fish need.
For the last two years,
John has got the whole community involved
in trying to clean up the lake.
His colleague, Helen, regularly checks their progress.
-Helen Titterington, Environment Agency.
What are you on the boat to do?
We're coming today look at water quality measurements.
It's something we do routinely throughout the year,
so it's routine monitoring.
You dip a little bucket over the side?
It's not hi-tech, but it tells us a lot.
And that is what we're looking at.
Ah, it looks clear enough,
but it's got a distinct colour.
It has indeed and that's part of the problem.
'As well as checking the colour of the water,
'she also monitors the visibility with a very simple test.'
So, there's a Secchi disk that we lower down into the lake,
you'll see the colour of it.
We basically just lower it down until it disappears,
and that gives us the transparency of the lake.
Some of the lakes - well, Wastwater - we can get ten-plus metres.
-It's still there, we're about two metres down now.
-So, now it's gone, yeah?
-So we just take...
-So I just take...
-I just measure them.
-Yep, each one being a metre.
-Two, three, four...
Five, six metres!
-Six metres and it disappeared.
That's not terribly good, is it?
Compared to some of the lakes in the Lake District, it's not good.
We have lakes where you can see it down to 20, 30 metres.
Over 150 years of tourism have taken their toll on the lake.
Bradshaw could never have predicted that the sheer number of visitors,
spurred on by the railways,
would affect the Lake District in this way.
But he wasn't the first person to attract visitors to the area.
Bradshaw celebrated the tourist charms of Windermere.
But before him, William Wordsworth
had opposed the railways coming to the Lake District
on the grounds that it would bring labourers and artisans
and the humbler class of shopkeepers
to ramble in the Lake District.
It's certainly busy today,
and the irony is that probably no-one did more
to attract huge crowds to the Lakes
than the poet with his idyllic verses.
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
"That floats on high o'er vales and hills
"When all at once I saw a crowd
"A host of golden daffodils..."
Poems like that one made people long to visit the Lake District.
As the father of the railway timetables,
Bradshaw just told them how to get there.
And where there were no trains, he told you about the omnibuses.
Coaches run to Grasmere, being four or five miles
amidst fine trees and beautiful scenery.
Surprisingly, today Grasmere is still relatively tranquil.
The village is pretty much devoted to tourism,
it's all hotels and restaurants,
but it is still very, very pretty.
This is the church of St Oswald of Grasmere
and Bradshaw mentions that William Wordsworth and his wife
are buried in the churchyard.
So, I will try to find them.
Ah, here every headstone bears the name "Wordsworth".
Having more or less been brought up on William Wordsworth's Daffodils,
it's very moving to see the place where they rest.
They were so completely associated with Grasmere.
Really made the Lake District famous, I suppose.
As part of my two-day tour,
Bradshaw recommends a few places to stay for the night.
He says, "Lake Hotel, Swan Inn and Red Lion
"are also several respectable lodging houses,
"all at Grasmere."
Fortunately, one of them is still open for business.
-Hello! Michael Portillo checking in, please.
-I saw the quote from Wordsworth outside...
Do you have a strong Wordsworth connection?
-We do. His sister and himself used to live at Dove Cottage...
..which is literally a ten-minute walk,
and he used to sneak out for breakfast to The Swan.
Fantastic. Breakfast still good?
Absolutely. Eight till ten for breakfast, served straight through.
And fortified with a Wordsworthian breakfast the next morning,
it's time to head off on the next leg of my journey.
I'm leaving Windermere and travelling eight miles
down the line into the Fells.
The Lake District isn't just about lakes, not just about water.
I'm on my way to Kendal now and Bradshaw comments that,
"The population is engaged in carpet, woollen, linseed, worsted,
"clog, comb, bobbin, fish-hook,
"leather, rope, woollen cord and marble works."
He has a lot to say about the surrounding countryside, too.
"The valleys through which the rivers flow are tolerably fertile
"and in the northeastern quarter,
"there is a considerable tract of cultivated land."
It seems that neither the countryside nor the customs
have changed much since Bradshaw's day.
Bradshaw's guide normally tells you, for each place,
which day is market day.
In his times, market day in Kendal was on Saturdays.
Today is Saturday -
and here is the market!
And the only thing I know about Kendal
is that it's famous for its mint cake.
-Lovely looking cake stand!
-Oh, thank you!
Erm, Kendal mint cake, please.
Erm, we don't stock Kendal mint cake,
it isn't actually a cake, it's quite confusing, it's a sweet!
-Well, that has thrown me!
-I'm so sorry!
I've come to Kendal for Kendal mint cake!
-We've lots of other things!
-You certainly have.
We do the Lakes tea loaf, which is local, erm...
-The Lakes tea loaf?
-Oh, that sounds like it.
-Is that this thing here?
-That's that one there.
-That looks lovely.
It'll last for ages.
We sell a lot to walkers, when they're going up the Fells.
Cut a slice of that, there's lots of fruit in it.
-Guaranteed to get you to the top of the highest hill!
OK, super. That's the one for me.
Righty-ho, thank you very much, thank you!
In Bradshaw's time, the railways transformed our cities.
But they also changed the countryside
and farming, too.
For the first time, fresh food could travel all over the country.
Farms that once supplied only their local markets
suddenly became national enterprises.
At Sillfield Farm,
Peter Gott's family has lived through those changes.
-I've got my wellies on.
-How'd you do?
-Very nice to see you, sir.
-Nice to meet you.
Get 'em back!
HE WHISTLES Steady!
They've been farming the local breed of Herdwick sheep
for hundreds of years.
Today, Peter works with shepherd Ian Grisdale.
Fantastic work, Ian, fantastic.
What did that take, about a minute to round them up?
Something like that, yes!
When you've got youth on your side, it helps!
At one time, the railways must have been
the only way to get produce from here to the cities.
Well, it was either that or horse and cart, and that's a bit slow.
Yeah, railways opened up the countryside.
Even markets were owned by railway companies.
We have a market in Barrow-in-Furness where they build nuclear submarines.
And the old market was owned by the railway company.
And, of course, coming down the west coast of Cumbria,
you would bring all that abundance of food to the population to sell,
and I think railways have changed farming considerably.
As cities grew, the railways satisfied
the mass demand for fresh food.
Farms became bigger and highly specialised.
By the mid-20th century, land was being farmed on an industrial scale.
Now, Peter's farm and many like it
are part of something called the "slow food" movement.
They're going back to a way of farming that's smaller-scale
and based on local traditions.
These are a designer sheep that belong in the Lake District.
Nowhere else in the country will you find this type and style of sheep.
What's important is that the flavour's different.
And don't forget, you are what you eat.
But they're eating old-fashioned herbage in the Fells.
They hop from crag to crag,
probably the nearest thing you'd get to a mountain goat,
and, of course, they've created
that grazed environment in the Lake District.
If it wasn't for the animals we farm,
we would end up with gorse and bushes
and you wouldn't be able to get on top of the mountains.
Wow. I had never thought of that.
If you think about it, farming today and the grazed environment,
the lush green patchwork of fields we see,
has been brought about by the farmers who are grazing that environment.
What we townies think of as being the natural look of the countryside
is actually the product of people like you and animals like that.
That's right, yeah.
These days, running a small farm doesn't pay well.
Peter has had to diversify to keep afloat.
I can also see quite a variety of livestock.
When you're on a small acreage like I am,
you have to do a bit of everything - a few poultry, a bit of eggs,
obviously Herdwick sheep, wild boar, pigs, bacon, ham.
It's literally a mixture of everything.
Of course, the cycle of farming means we spread the pig muck on the land
and that grows the grass and that feeds the sheep,
so it's all interwoven in a very small, mixed farm.
And you're doing all your own production,
you're producing your sausages and your pies...
Absolutely. We do about 30 types of sausage,
but the traditional Cumberland is our speciality.
We do a Moroccan type, which is ideal for the Herdwick.
The Victorians wouldn't have had Moroccan sausages available
at their local market.
21st century farmers may be turning the clock back,
but modern tastes are for international flavours.
Peter, this is a first for me.
I've never been involved in sausage-making before.
Well, it's something that's been going on for lots of years.
Salamis have been made for 2,000 years, 3,000 years.
What we're going to do is essentially,
the minced-up part of the lamb,
which is here, we've used a shoulder and some of the flank...
All I'm going to do is mix that in.
Obviously paprika in there, we've got some salt and spices.
And then we're going to stuff it out into the intestine of the lamb.
The sausage meat gets packed into the sheep's intestine.
At a whopping 45 feet long, if I get this right,
I should be able to produce over 150 sausages.
You know those bin liners you have to open,
-or those plastic bags in supermarkets?
It's exactly the same problem, isn't it?
-Presumably it doesn't take you half an hour every time.
Probably a little bit of water,
we'll see if we can get it to relax itself a bit.
So, you want to have one hand on the handle and one hand on the sausage
and just feed it out as you turn, so it's a dual moving...dual movement.
-Whoa, look at that!
-How long do I go on for?
-Just keep going.
And just keep... As fast as you do that, it comes out faster.
-I see, so I can lay it down there, then, can I?
Maybe just hold it back a little to get your sausage full
-so you're not getting any gaps.
-Oh, I see.
You'll become an experienced sausage-maker when that happens.
..and keep twining.
Do you know, I never realised it could be that simple.
Farming, like so many of the industries I've visited
on these journeys,
is moving away from the mass production of a previous era.
These days, farmers like Peter are reviving the skills and traditions
of their Victorian ancestors
to create luxury products for their modern customers.
Just as in Bradshaw's times, so today.
The Lake District is one of the loveliest spots in England,
come rain or come shine.
But communities don't live by good looks alone
and for the Lakes to continue to be prosperous,
we need to strike the right balance between access and overcrowding.
And even for those of us not lucky enough
to visit this spot very often,
its delicious products are available to us all, everywhere.
I'll be visiting what was one of the country's most lawless cities.
The stone is the Archbishop of Glasgow's
curse on all these families
because we got up to wicked deeds.
I'll be crashing a wedding.
Does Gretna Green have a special feeling for you?
It does now! It definitely does now! After today it will.
And I'll be visiting a secret munitions factory.
What was this thing called "Devil's Porridge"?
Devil's Porridge was a mixture of cordite and explosive,
mainly mixed by hand by women at the time.
Subtitles by Mark Corrigan Red Bee Media Ltd
Michael Portillo takes to the tracks with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook. In a series of four epic journeys, he travels the length and breadth of the country to see how the railways changed us, and what remains of Bradshaw's Britain.
Michael's second epic journey takes him north, from Preston to Scotland, on one of the first railways to cross the border. On this third leg, he takes a steamboat tour of Lake Windermere, visits Wordsworth's home village of Grasmere and makes sausages with a local Herdwick sheep farmer.