Windermere and Bowness Civic Society preserving the beauty of the Lakeland town
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 August 2014
Work to preserve the character of Lakeland's favourite town never stops, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Bowness has been one of Lakeland’s most popular places to visit for generations. Millions of holiday-makers stay there, or at least stop off there, every year to enjoy to views, the shops, the cafes and the restaurants. It is easy to see why Bowness is a perennial favourite but its enduring popularity does not happen by accident.
True, Mother Nature has been kind in putting the lake and hills on its doorstep, but the fact that Bowness has retained so much of its charm is largely down to a devoted group of volunteers who have been campaigning to preserve the town’s character for more than 40 years.
Windermere and Bowness Civic Society has more than 500 members who are keen to improve the appearance of both towns and to protects the green spaces. They also keep a close eye on proposed developments and planning applications and founder member Barry Tullett, the current the president of the group, said: ‘We are quite proud of our achievements but there is no let up, there is always something that demands our attention.’
The society’s first success was the pedestrianisation of Ash Street and they are currently working, with a number of other groups, to improve Millerground, a National Trust-owned woodland beside the lake. The Civic Society are also monitoring a proposal to build a large new hotel at the water’s edge on Glebe Road.
‘We have not seen any artist’s impressions yet but we want to be sure they have considered the impact of such a development on the infrastructure of the town,’ Barry said. ‘Bowness has grown up piecemeal over the years and has been something of a victim of its own success. Obviously tourism is the lifeblood of the town but any new development has to be sympathetic to what has gone before.’
That’s not to say that Bowness is averse to change – indeed, one historic building looks set to be given a new lease of life. The Rayrigg Rooms were built in 1907 and were bought this summer by the World of Beatrix Potter attraction who plan to convert the old church hall into tea rooms with a garden and rooms for events.
The new manager at the ever-popular attraction, Stacey McShane, has had a busy time since taking over in May. At the end of that month their Peter Rabbit garden, which recreated scenes from Beatrix Potter’s books, won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show.
And Stacey is already plotting how the attraction will mark the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth in 2016. ‘It will be our 25th anniversary that year as well,’ she said. ‘I’m not sure yet what we’ll do but we’re already thinking about how we celebrate the occasions.’
By then the party could be held in the Rayrigg Rooms and money from the sale could have started to help fund renovation work at St Martin’s Church, parts of which date back to the late 15th century.
Rector James Richards said: ‘There are several things that need to be done but the largest single item is the need to replace the lead roof, which was estimated a couple of years ago at costing about £400,000. There are also a number of other things that are nearing the end of their life – the gas boilers and electrical wiring for instance.
‘The total cost of the works is likely to be about £500,000 and we feel it makes most sense to have one big appeal to raise the money, rather than having an appeal for each piece of work. The sale of the Rayrigg Rooms will make a significant contribution to the costs but we will still probably have to raise about half the cost.’