The following poem is inspired by a crew member at Windermere Lake Cruises – a local company that runs pleasure cruises on England’s largest natural lake. I spend the day with three of their skippers, and it strikes me that although they have their job in common, and they all carry out the same daily checks and routines, each has a very different relationship with the water.
This poem is inspired by Paul Holdsworth, one of the newest of the Windermere Lake Cruises skippers. You may have seen him driving the bike boat if you are in the habit of cycling here in summer. Although his roots are in the south of England, his former job as Town Centre Manager for Bowness and Windermere, coupled with a keen interest in Lakeland history and its industrial past, make him a mine of information about the area.
He holds strong views that Windermere should be a dynamic, constantly evolving entity. “I talk a lot on the industry of the lake, as I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about people’s tendency to try and set the National Park in aspic. It needs to be constantly changing. It always has,” he tells me as we travel the length of the lake.
Welcome to Lakeland
A poem inspired by Windermere Lake Cruises Skipper Paul Holdsworth
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to your Windermere Cruise.
As we start to pull away from Waterhead pier
you’ll see five hundred million years
of growth and squeeze, of fold and fall,
of i ll and fault. Treacle of trickle,
salt and silt, solidifying sediment.
Skiddaw formed. Helvellyn born.
Borrowdale volcanics torn and spent.
Notice now how turreted Wray Castle
frames a century of change and struggle,
woven with cotton and laced with bobbin.
Mill and mineshaft spawning and spinning.
Charcoal on far hill burning and charring.
Poet campaigning against railway scarring.
Farmer scraping out a meagre living,
clearing, shearing, ploughing, calving,
counting sheep during fitful sleep.
Rainwater siphoning under feet
to Manchester street in iron piping.
We are now at Windermere’s widest part.
Look to your left and you’ll notice the start
of the modern tourist industry.
Discouraged from seeing Europe by war,
folks came to the Lakes; an English Grand Tour.
They saw it as wild, and though they felt brave
they were clearly safer observing this world
from viewing stations such as Claife;
framing and taming present and past
with mirror trick and coloured glass.
Claife will one day reopen for tomorrow’s visitor
to view the future through a comfort filter.
Take a brief look behind us and you may well see
maritime traditions spanning generations.
The toil of Troutbeck and other feeder rivers
with glacial memories and seaside ambitions.
Take your energy from tack and gybe of yacht
spot old passenger ferry and its ghostly host
before they drift away through White Cross Bay.
Notice the excitement of a coming attraction;
old Steamboat Museum, new place to be.
Home to ancient dugout and steamer fleet.
History underpinned by daring and greed
for power boat record and top water speed.
As we make a stop on Brockhole’s jetty
try on for size the footprint of each family
stirring the air with their tree top dares.
Tune in to the wise words of our ancestors
as they pass on by, and pass on their dreams.
Peer into the lake and see beyond reflection.
Look into yourself and make a connection.
Choose your route. Stretch out. Explore
who you are now, not who you were before.
Our final stop is Waterhead. Why not disembark
and take a deep breath of our National Park?
And while the landscape’s beautiful, bear in mind
it’s not entirely natural, but shaped over time,
by hands like yours and mine. Our duty is to care for it,
value and evolve it, share and problem solve it.
We hope you enjoyed our cruise and commentary
in this brief trip through our Lakeland history.
All that’s left is to wish you a safe onward journey.