The elegant Steam Yacht Gondola emerges from her winter hibernation once again this Saturday 24 March, tooting her whistle announcing to all in the valley that another tourist season has begun.
Her appearance also marks 40 years since the National Trust employed Vickers Shipbuilding Ltd of Barrow to undertake the task of surveying and assessing the wreck of Gondola. Coniston locals may well remember the sorry sight of the ship-wrecked Gondola being towed from her watery grave at Water Park to the slipway at Coniston Old Hall the previous year in 1977.
Gondola’s unique story is rooted on the lake which she continues to serve as an elegant, moving part of the cultural landscape – this graceful yacht is also a product of local passion, determination and skilled craftsmanship. Thanks to the shipyard apprentices who rebuilt her in the late 70’s to successive crew members and associated friends of Gondola over the last four decades, Gondola continues to showcase the best of local skilled craftsmanship and engineering expertise to visitors from around the world.
These days the crew don’t have to rebuild the whole yacht but every winter but there is ongoing specialist maintenance work to be done. Gondola has been treated to a new skylight and her bear pit steps have been replaced ready for this season and she’ll re-emerge as elegant as ever on 24 March.
To commemorate the ruby re-build anniversary, the National Trust’s Gondola team would like to reconnect and get in touch with any volunteers or apprentices who were involved in the rescue and rebuild of Gondola in the 1970s.
They would like to collect up stories and anecdotes of this time as well as any images to record a complete picture of this period of Gondola’s history.
It will help to ensure Gondola’s story is kept up-to-date and lives on through the sharing of personal experiences of those involved in keeping her ship shape.
Visitor Experience Officer, Suzi Bunting whose late father David Williams was instrumental in Gondola’s rescue explains; “Aside from providing wonderful steam cruises, Gondola is an incredible product of the vision, skill and dedication of local craftsmen and women through the last four decades. It’s thanks to them that she is still in service today to give so many people so much pleasure – the purpose for which she was originally intended when she was launched on Coniston Water 158 years ago.”
There are plenty of reasons to climb on board, as the season ahead promises something for everyone. Family-friendly Cadbury’s Easter egg hunts take place during the school holidays from 26 March and in May and September, there is an opportunity to indulge in a cruise and guided walk with afternoon tea at Monk Coniston Hall exploring Coniston’s Beatrix Potter connections.
The Grand Victorian Tour will be running again this season in collaboration with partners Windermere Lake Cruises, Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway and Mountain Goat Tours – this is a unique recreation of one of the Furness Railway tours of the Victorian and Edwardian era, accompanied by a National Trust guide. An epic day of touring both Windermere and Coniston by steam rail, water and road, this tour is a full day’s package including lunch at Claife Viewing Station and a full lake cruise on Gondola.
Full details of Gondola’s timetable, special events and details about the Grand Victorian Tour can all be found on the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/steam-yacht-gondola