How can you improve a long road trip? Go to a museum! Whilst driving from York to the Lake District we detoured slightly to visit Birdoswald Fort and Hadrian’s Wall. The Fort itself was quite impressive. However, I really enjoyed seeing the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall. Birdoswald is where you can see the longest remaining intact stretch of the wall. Inside Birdoswald you can see the wall up close – you and a few dozen sheep. There are so many sheep roaming around it’s quite atmospheric.
After the Wall (pause for Jon Snow reflection time) we drove to our accommodation in the Lake District. We are staying in the town of Keswick where they have the Cumberland Pencil Museum.
To be honest, one of the main reasons why I decided to visit this museum was because the entrance ticket is a graphite pencil. You literally get a pencil with the name of the museum inscribed on the end. Stationery makes me happy – museums make me happy – it seemed like a good combination. If you know your colouring pencils, this is where the famous Derwent colouring pencils are manufactured. This museum tells the history of the pencil. Trust me, it is more interesting than just that.
For example, a great exhibit focused on the Second World War. Charles Fraser Smith, who worked for MI9, created secret maps and compasses that would fit inside a pencil. These pencils were manufactured by Derwent and were then given to British soldiers. The maps contained German military routes and escape routes from the Netherlands and Belgium.
I also loved seeing the various pencil sets that have been released for special occasions. The pencil presented to the Queen in 2012 was actually quite beautiful. The gift shop is excellent for all art supplies so I helped myself to a replica Fraser Smith map pencil.
Very different types of museums with very different contents. Both, though, were great to spend some time in and around.