A couple in a traditional row boat on Windermere

Behind the scenes work helps preserve Windermere’s historic wooden row boats

Published: 26th October 2022
Categories: Media Release

Behind the scenes work helps preserve Windermere’s historic wooden row boats

Windermere’s iconic wooden row boats are about to be lifted from the water for the annual work which ensures the historic vessels are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

This Half Term week is the final chance this year for boat lovers to take to the water in the row boats which have been a quintessential Lake District fixture since Victorian times.

Windermere Lake Cruises has a fleet of around 55 wooden row boats and many of them date back to the 1930s. But the traditional clinker-built boats have been a popular attraction on Windermere since Victorian times.

Traditaion wooden row boats on display at Bowness Pier

Russell Bowden, Operations Manager at Windermere Lake Cruises, says: “Rowing boats used to be very much a first-class way of travelling on the lake. Victorian ladies would be rowed across Windermere to the area known as Strawberry Gardens to enjoy an afternoon tea.

“The boats were very plush and had lovely cushions to make the ride luxurious,” explains Russell: “We still call the buildings that house our information centre in Bowness Bay the “cushion huts” because that’s where the cushions used to be stored!”

Boatbuilder Mark Fleming at work on the row boat oars

Modern day row-boat lovers can continue to take a trip in the wooden boats until the end of Half Term week on Sunday, October 30. Then, they are taken out of the water to begin their annual conservation treatment.

“First they are stripped of their oars and fixtures and fittings,” explains Windermere Lake Cruises’ Boatbuilder Mark Fleming.

Boatbuilder Mark Fleming at work on the base of the row boats

“Then they are cleaned with a power washer and small brushes before they are taken to our boat yard to be dried out. Repairs are made to any planks or timbers that need work and the boats are varnished and painted.”

They will be kept in dry storage over the winter months before being brought back into action for Easter 2023.

“If we put them straight back into the water from dry storage they would just sink immediately,” says Mark. “All of the wood contracts when it dries so we have to put them through a process called “swelling up” before they go back into service.”

The row boats are stacked in a dry storage over the winter

That can involve putting them in and filling them up with water, so the planks re-absorb the moisture and the wooden structure becomes water tight once more ready for a new season of delighting visitors.

Windermere Lake Cruises is one of the top ten most visited “paid for” attractions in the country. While the rowing boats go into storage for winter, its fleet of larger passenger vessels operate every day of the year apart from Christmas Day.

And for those who like to explore the lake at their own pace – the popular self-drive electric-powered boats remain available for hire throughout the winter months.

Further Links

  • Our rowboats can be booked online and are in the water during our peak season (Easter - October)
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