There has been torrential rain all night and today is no different. We learn later that a month’s worth of rain fell today, probably all where we were. I decide against doing our washing before we set off for the day. I could probably have just hung it up outside for a thorough rinsing. As we leave the site we spot a sign for the local pub. Apparently it serves real food, that’s a relief, if a somewhat strange concept – along the lines of real ale I suppose. We drive through the Grizedale Forest, deliberately taking the pretty route to our destination and ignore the somewhat interesting suggestions by the Sat Nav.
We arrive at Stott Park Bobbin Mill where we have a fascinating tour. Open from 1835-1971, it turned bobbins for the Lancashire cotton industry. It was one of hundreds of mills in the southern part of the Lake District where the running water to power the mills was sited near wood that could be coppiced to produce the bobbins. In the hey day of cotton production, in the early C20th, twenty Oldham cotton mills required a million bobbins each to operate and these were used once only. This constituted 20% of the spinning capacity of the UK and this equalled the production in the whole of the US at that time. More recently, they produced wooden cotton reels for such companies as Sylko and which, with the addition of rubber bands, we turned into tanks in my childhood.
Some of the bobbins were made from tops, poles of a similar diameter to the bobbins. Larger pieces of wood, or cakes had several bobbins punched out from each one, a little like cutting mince pie bottoms from pastry. The lathes and boring machinery, which had no safety guards, look lethal and were often worked by young boys from workhouses in places like Liverpool. As always at places like this, I think how important it is for those who have ancestors who worked here to fully understand the conditions. The deep sawdust had implications for the health of the workers so I am drawn back to my ‘How our Ancestors would have Died’ talk. The workers on the mechanised boring machine were paid a farthing a gross for their bobbins. One in every dozen bobbins was set on one side to help the worker keep his tally stick for payment. We also learnt the origin of the phrase ‘knocking off’ from work. An individual machine could be stopped without the main belts stopping, by knocking the smaller belt off to one side of the rotating spindle so that it was slack and no longer turned. We are very taken with the gunpowder barrel that is part of the display showing how coppiced wood can be used. We wonder if we can acquire one to take with us to the seventeenth century. It is unusual in that it is cylindrical in shape, rather than being wider in the middle, like most barrels.
We then stop off at Fell Foot Park, Newby Bridge, which, in theory, has spectacular views of Lake Windermere. It is still poring with rain so it is a good job we have umbrellas with us. Of course they would be more useful if we hadn’t left them in the caravan. In the driving rain, we do a quick dash round to see the Lake and look forward to hot drinks, hot water bottles and dry clothes. We arrive back at the van to discover that the electricity to this part of the site is down. This is starting to be a bit of a theme. We make do on our gas for a while, then decide to move to a different pitch. This is another individual, tree lined pitch and we even have our own sheep in the wood behind us.