“It’s gotta be the most beautiful place in England. It’s our second visit but this is our first time out on Windermere.” Beaming Bob from New York was sitting next to his wife on the lovely ‘Tern’, as we sailed along the lake, sharing his impressions of their trip. They were staying at a local hotel and had seen a leaflet on the new Go Lakes initiative ‘Drive Less, See More’ to get people out of their cars to explore the Lake District by boat, bike, bus, train and on foot.
“Last time we hired a car but this time we thought we’d see what we could do without one.” They had bought a Cross Lakes ticket which includes the Windermere Ferry and Mountain Goat bus to go up to Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top and then on to the attractions at Coniston.
I was on a mission to discover more about the ‘Drive Less, See More’ project in Awareness Week, and had dragged along my teenage son, on summer hols and bored. We hopped off the ferry at Brockhole Visitors Centre: the new pier has increased the number of options for everyone keen to use eco-friendly ways to get around the Lake District.
The place was really busy and it was obvious a lot of people had used the boats and buses to get there. Even my son’s usual ‘whatever’ attitude cracked when he saw the exciting High Ropes attraction. Tom, from Kent, and his three mates had just completed the course. “We’re on a tour of England, using public transport all the way. It’s good to see the Lake District doing something for the environment and now transport’s better linked up it’s a lot easier for all of us.”
Next stop was the pop-up DLSM tent in Ambleside where Ken Claxton was handing out information leaflets. He explained, “It’s all about encouraging people to leave their car for a day and explore the area in ways that are more environmentally friendly but, most importantly, help them to see the Lake District at a leisurely pace and enjoy its scenic beauty. We’re also creating a network of pay-as-you-go electric cars, cycle hire fleets and low-emission petrol cars with recharging stations.” He explained that at present they were focusing on the ‘honey-pot’ areas of Bowness, Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston and Grasmere in the south Lakes.
It was encouraging to see how many people were asking questions and wanting to know how it all works. A couple with young children took away a leaflet on the electric bikes so we decided to follow them to one of the hire points, White Platts Park. They enquired about booking bikes for a half-day and were given a map with safe routes to ride on. The Park Manager said, “We’ve only just opened the electric bike hire here but the interest in amazing. They’re great for people who want to ride and need a bit of extra pedal power. New cycle routes will open up during the year.” Yet again the 15 year old showed interest, especially in how fast they could go – 15 mph on battery power.
There’s a great new offer to help locals and visitors make the most of their time without the car. The Go Lakes Travel Card gives two days unlimited travel on most bus services plus a return half-lake cruise on Windermere. So our last stop was the main transport entry hub to the Lakes, Windermere Station. Visitors arrive by here by train and bus from all over the country and abroad (NB it is NOT LAKE Windermere; that’s down the road at Bowness) and buses take them across the Lake District. Waiting for one of the open-top buses were retirees Beryl and Eric, from Rossendale, near Manchester. “We’ve come up for the day and are looking forward to seeing all this lovely scenery from the front seats on top,” and off they shot to bag those seats. Quirky Travel at its best …
Read about my test drive of the Twizy, an electric car on hire from the Langdale Hotel here.