Sunday, 9 February 2014

Cockermouth - Second time around

The one place I wanted to revisit from our last trip to Cumbria was Cockermouth.  Just outside the Lake District, Cockermouth is a rather classy town.  On our holiday we made two abortive attempts to get to Cockermouth, however we spent too much time in other towns to get there before the shops closed.  The third time we made it our first visit of the day to make sure we actually got there.

Although getting to Cockermouth from Cartmel is a bit of a chore and with Neil’s travel sickness we had to take the longer, but slightly quicker route – M6 and A66.  Admittedly at this point in the holiday I was getting pretty bored of the M6, but it’s the best way to get from the southerly tip of Cumbria to the northerly parts.
This time I remembered that Cockermouth did the whole parking permit thing for its residents and you have to drive through Cockermouth to find the little car park behind the shops.  It was only 11am and the car park was packed and we just managed to find the only space in the place. We made sure this time to get parking for more than one hour as there is plenty to see in Cockermouth – that’s if you like antiques and charity shops.
One thing you notice about Cockermouth is that it’s really well maintained.  Lots of pretty street furniture, the rendered walls of the buildings always seems freshly painted and there is simply no litter here.  Parts of Cockermouth reminds me of the residential areas of Luxembourg and Paris.  I think it’s the colours of the rendered buildings and general neatness of the place.  That said there are plenty of buildings that remind you that you are in an English town – stone built buildings and the pubs.
 If you like antiques and a touch of vintage, Cockermouth is the place for you.  There are lots of antiques shops to explore.  Some are little more than vintage shops run by hipster types selling overpriced old stuff and much to Neil’s annoyance, trying to sell vinyl records at silly prices.  I daren’t think how many times did I hear the refrain from Neil ‘In Kingbee that would be in the 50p box’ at something that was priced £10.  I could literally spend a day and a fortune in Cockermouth Antique and Craft Market, Cockermouth Antiques and Collector’s Corner Antiques as they are so jammed full of stuff.  There’s so much to see antiques wise you really need to spend a whole day or two.  There is also an antiques auction room called Mitchell’s Antiques.  I’m really wanted to see an auction in full swing, however the day we went it sadly wasn’t on.  Apparently there is a household auction held every Thursday and the nearby cafĂ© cashes in on this by offering auction day specials.
The other good thing about Cockermouth are the charity shops.  Neil managed to find a Stevie Nicks and Michael Jackson album for 50p each in a tiny back street charity shop.  In the Oxfam I bought a Tracey Emin memoir called ‘Strangeland’.  The slightly odd shop assistant tried to engage me in conversation about Tracey Emin, but what more can I say than I find her interesting and that’s why I’m buying the book.  By the way the book was a disturbing read unsurprisingly.  Seriously social workers really needed to be called in when she was a teenager.  For me it really explained why she does her work, but how she didn’t become a teenage single mum with a horde of kids living in a council estate is a miracle and a testament to her strength of character.
We decided to grab a bite to eat at The Castle Bar, which is nice old pub that does gastro pub food. We ate in the restaurant upstairs and the staff were nice. Neil had the tempura chicken and I had the southern style chicken.  Both were good, although the chips weren’t the best.  Despite the simplicity of the chip (potato & hot oil) I do think, more often than not, most places don’t get them right.  However I really enjoyed their salad, as on holidays I tend to eat unhealthy food and by day four I’m desperate for a good salad.

We could have gone to the birthplace of Wordsworth as his home has been turned into a museum by the National Trust, but as you know dusty old romantic poets don’t float my boat.  So we gave that swerve.  Probably an interesting place though, but just not for me.
I do like Cockermouth a lot.  It’s a nice and peaceful place, just a little off the main tourist route.  The antiques and charity shops aside, there are plenty of independently owned shops in this town which are well worth visiting.  There are even two bookshops, which is a miracle in this day and age for a town of this size.  Definitely a place to stay for a weekend, however the only drawback is the fact it’s already 45 minutes away from the M6.  Then again if you are planning to spend a weekend exploring the north Lakes, Cockermouth provides a good base that isn’t overly touristy.