Five years on, Steven Thompson finds Cockermouth has put devastating floods behind it

RIVING along the narrow, winding roads alongside Windermere, towards Cockermouth, it is easy to imagine I am Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom’s bitter-sweet BBC comedy The Trip.

The series entails Coogan and fellow comic Rob Brydon sending themselves up as they travel through the Lakes, Yorkshire and Lancashire, visiting six notable restaurants to review for The Observer.

Poetry features heavily in the programme. Odd then that a visit to Wordsworth’s home in Cockermouth was not in their script, as it was mine.

Many people will tell you they’ve been to the poet’s house — referring to Dove Cottage in Ambleside — but this place is the real deal. Dove Cottage was where he lived in later life, while the two-storey Georgian house, which is bang in the middle of Cockermouth’s main shopping street, and not far from the charming Trout Hotel, where we stayed, was where he was raised.

It is still run — these days by the National Trust – as a working Georgian house. Each room, including a fascinating kitchen and pantry, has been restored to its former glory, with workers telling gruesome tales of how life was for them in the late 1700s.

At the Trout, the rooms are bright, airy and modern, thanks, presumably, to a refurb following the floods of 2009. The terrace bar is great on a sunny spring or summer’s day, which is thankfully what the weather was like when we visited. The restaurant is good too. It’s a fine dining affair and while it is perhaps not up to the standard enjoyed by Coogan and Brydon in The Trip — you’ll have to go to L’Enclume in Cartmel for that — it is nevertheless, decent.

If you want to know more about Cockermouth, you will find a “history wall” outside the tourist information centre, giving you an eye-opening insight into the town’s past. And if that is not enough, then you can check out the Cockermouth Trail, a wander back in time around the town. If you have kids, this will probably bore them to death, but I found it jolly interesting. What your youngsters may find entertaining, however, is looking out for signs of the floods. Not signs as in discoloured walls or mouldy sandbags, but literally signs. In pubs, cafes and restaurants, you can spot small painted waves on the walls, telling you how high the waters rose in that particular establishment. It is amazing to see how quickly this intriguing town on the edge of the Lakes has recovered, just five years on from being nearly washed away.

Not far down the road from Wordsworth’s house, there is Cockermouth’s other great attraction, and one of its biggest success stories, the Jennings brewery. They do a tour and, naturally, you can sample their ale.

We wended our way back to Bolton via Great Urswick, a charming little village just outside Ulverston. Stay at the bed and breakfast at the Derby Arms (£75), where landlord Steve cooks a mean full English. Go for a walk on the hills above the village for stunning views of the tarn — as well as the lighthouse tower. Have post-walk soup and sarnies at the General Burgoyne and book in there later for dinner. The pub has won a raft of awards and is well worth a visit.

We went that way home because the races were on at Cartmel that weekend. If the weather is good, it’s a tremendous way to spend an afternoon, drinking fizz, eating Cartmel’s famous sticky toffee pudding, and having a flutter. If the races aren’t on, go to the Pig and Whistle pub in the village. It’s not quite L’Enclume, but it’s run by the same chef — Simon Rogan — and it won’t break the bank in quite the same way as his Michelin-starred restaurant.

Two hours away — head up the M6, turn left at junction 40 — Cockermouth and surrounding villages are a refreshing alternative to the Lakes.

FACT FILE n Jennings Brewery, Cockermouth, CA13 9NE. jennings, 01900 820362.

n Dove Cottage, Grasmere, LA22 9SH, wordsworth., 015394 35544.

n Trout Hotel, Crown Street, Cockermouth, CA13 0EJ. reservations@trouthotel., 01900 823591.