(Feature image: The view along Windermere towards Ambleside from the site of the Windermere Jetty café)
Last September on the blog, regular readers may remember that I visited the Windermere Jetty construction site on a guided tour for the Heritage Open Days weekend. Windermere Jetty is currently being built by Lakeland Arts on the site of the original Windermere Steamboat Museum, and when finished, will house a collection of historic boats of international significance, which were saved and preserved by local steam enthusiast George Pattinson.
Recently I had the opportunity to revisit Windermere Jetty on a tour set up by the local business networking organisation LA23NET, which is part of Windermere Rotary Club.
Although it was a ‘no cameras allowed’ event, I was allowed a photo of the incredible view along Windermere lake towards Ambleside, which visitors will be able to see from the café when the project is complete. We were fortunate that it was one of the most beautiful, warm evenings of the year so far, which made the experience all the more special.
The building construction had come on a long way since my previous visit, and we saw the wet dock and indoor dry dock (an enormous rectangular hole in the floor) where one of the newly restored boats will be placed on display, but not launched on the lake itself. We also visited the reception and display areas, and the building in which the café is located will cater for events such as business functions.
The buildings are far from being fitted out, but we got a really good idea of the scale of the visitor areas, which will display all manner of boating memorabilia as well as historic hydroplanes. In another building, restoration will continue to take place of other boats in the collection, which are currently being stored off site.
Part of the tour took us around the temporary restoration workshop, where so much work had been undertaken on one boat, Branksome, that I hardly recognised her from last time, when much of her wooden underside had pieces missing.
Osprey, a beautiful wooden steam launch, was still waiting in the varnishing tent, and will be launched on the lake for visitors to enjoy when Windermere Jetty opens. We were shown parts of Osprey and other boats that had been restored, including an original gauge, and also saw how other pieces had been recreated, including a propellor that had been cast using a specially-made mould to match the original design.
Another diesel launch has also undergone work so that on poor weather days when Osprey cannot be operated, visitors can still enjoy a historic boating experience on the lake (it takes a good amount of time to prepare steam boats, which can be problematic if the weather can’t be predicted, whereas a diesel version can be started instantly). The restoration of Jane, a lovely little 1937 speedboat originally built in Florida, is also near completion.
Esperance, an historic steam yacht currently looking rather sorry for herself on one side of the construction site, is best known as the boat on which industrialist Henry Schneider would have been served breakfast as he made his way along the lake from his home at The Belsfield in Bowness-on-Windermere – now the Laura Ashley Belsfield Hotel – to his iron works in Barrow. That’s commuting in style!
Esperance may also have been the inspiration behind Arthur Ransome’s fictional Captain Flint’s houseboat in Swallows and Amazons (although I’m still unclear whether it was Esperance or Steam Yacht Gondola, a similar style of steamer operated by the National Trust on Coniston Water, that inspired this famous boat!). According to a guide from the original Windermere Steam Boat Museum, Esperance was used in the BBC’s film adaptation of the tale. It is hoped that she will be preserved, and maybe even one day fully restored.
Windermere Lake Cruises will, rather handily, be connecting some of their passenger services to the Windermere Jetty, as this will increase the flexibility of travel around the lake, and will make a great alternative to getting around by car. There will also be jetty space for individuals to visit by boat too.
The Windermere Jetty project is now estimated to reach completion in Spring 2018 (since the time of writing, the dates have been moved, with the latest estimate I’ve seen being a partial site opening by October 2018), and I can’t wait to see it. You can read more about how the project came about in my previous blog post on the Windermere Jetty.
Do you remember the original Windermere Steamboat Museum? If so, do share your memories by leaving a comment below!