Don't let the rain put you off

21st July 2006 at 01:00
Get your crampons on and show David Blunkett there's more to the Lakes than a quiet rest. Steven Hastings finds out what it's like to work in Windermere

Ah, the Lakes. Raining then?

Very probably. As we all know, it's England's wettest region. It rains - get over it.

Not much variety, then?

A little. "Warm rain in summer, cold rain in winter, that's what the pupils told me when I arrived," says Dr David Selby, who has been head of Lakes comprehensive school in Windermere for nearly two years.

But surely it can't rain all the time?

Sometimes it snows. But not so much, any more. The number of days of ice on Lake Windermere is used as an indicator of UK climate change. And there hasn't been any ice at all for the past eight years.

So what's the attraction?

Oh, you know, pretty mountains, quaint villages, cosy cafes. And lakes. At over 10 miles long, Windermere is England's largest lake.

A chance for a bit of Swallows and Amazons?

Absolutely. Take to the water any way you please: canoes, yachts, motor boats, jet skis, water-skis, car ferry... There are over 10,000 registered boats on Lake Windermere, and 1 million people a year take a cruise, so you'll have plenty of company.

Sounds busy.

It is. Bowness-on-Windermere is the Lake District's most popular holiday resort. The Victorians loved it - and people have been turning up ever since.

But not conducive to the intellectual life?

How intellectual do you want? The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has a laboratory which plots, among other things, the spawning season of the Eurasian perch.

I'm not into fish.

Well, there's Wordsworth, Coleridge, Beatrix Potter and Melvyn Bragg. They have all managed to find a quiet spot amid the hurly burly of steamboat cruises and outdoor shops.

Since when was Peter Rabbit intellectual?

Cute though. And there's a 3-D World of Beatrix Potter to prove it.

Hmmm. How about jobs?

There's more schools than you might think in the area so in theory jobs come up fairly regularly. Bear in mind, though, that many are small - even the secondary schools. The Lakes school is one of the largest, with 750 students.

Nice work if you can get it.

"We've got a beautiful catchment area," says David Selby, who had been holidaying in the Lake District just a few weeks before his job was advertised. The school's location was not his only reason for applying, but it was "a fantastic bonus". But be careful what you put on your application form. "If people's prime motivation is living somewhere attractive, then it doesn't look great," he warns.

But I could say I was into outdoor stuff?

That would be a good start. Not surprisingly, The Lakes school is a specialist sports college with an emphasis on outdoor education. "We're in a place that's second to none for that, so it would be mad not to make the most of it," says Dr Selby.

Great. I'll dig out the crampons.

It's not all plain abseiling, you know.

There are downsides? Surely not!

"It's very, very sheltered in many ways," says Dr Selby. "It makes any kind of multi-cultural activity difficult."

I'm still up for it.

Then there's the tourists getting under your feet and causing traffic jams.

Oh, and the rain. Did I mention that?

You're just trying to put me off.

Yep. Quite fancied it myself. I've got a sweet tooth. Kendal mint cake, sticky toffee pudding, Grasmere gingerbread... all just a calorie-busting cycle away. And then the chance to get one up on David Blunkett. Surely worth the removal fees.


Mr Blunkett had a thing about teachers running away from their responsibilities to a quiet life in the Lakes. Several times he complained about having "to read letters from teachers who would prefer to leave the profession and live in the Lake District". Get a job here and you can prove there's more to the Lakes than a picturesque retirement.

Next week: Wish you were in Cornwall?

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