Going up town

Hello All

Two posts today. In my last I shared with you a walling walk around Coniston. In this walk we are closer to home.

Walk 2 – Exploring Kendal (from “Explore Kendal” by Arthur R. Nicholls)

For this perambulation there is no getting there as we are already here. J and I started our ‘tour’ by meeting outside Kendal Parish Church (more about this gem later) ready for Mr Nicholls’ ‘Exploration No. 3 Kirkland The Original Kendal’. Within minutes we were lost! Hilarious as I was born here and have lived in Kendal for almost the last 30 years… this is what happens when you take a walk on the wild side and discover a Kendalian ginnel you have ignored before.

This particular ginnel being Kirkbarrow Lane:

Known also as T’Crack (stop with the ribald humour) Kirkbarrow Lane is a walk into the past. It once provided an ancient pathway between Kendal’s first church at the Holy Well and the ‘new’ church of 1210 by the river (definitely more of that later). As you can see it is atmospheric:

Sadly, as we found along much of this walk, the olde Kendal buildings and monuments are often no longer there. Hence we got a bit muddled and roamed off piste. The detour was worth it however as we visited the Anchorite Well which according to local tales was home in time of yore to a hermit (anchorite) who as the story goes had returned from the Crusades still haunted by murdering his brother and sweetheart (deserves at least to feel haunted I’d say) and sought to salve his conscience and earn heavenly forgiveness by living the life of an anchorite. How true this is I am unsure although I am pretty certain a hermit did live here (apparently it was all the rage in the early Middle Ages). The civic society sign gives a more detailed history:

But I don’t think I would risk drinking the water ….

This is also the aforementioned Holy Well and probably the site of a wooden Saxon church. Now a housing estate the area connects to its past through the road names.

After a fair amount of zig-zagging across Kirkland (my favourite part of Kendal as it oozes character) we landed back at Kendal Parish Church a place of worship for the last 800 or so years.

The nave dates from 1201 but the church may hold some remnants from its older sister church at Holy Well. The Parr Chapel – yes that Parr family … think last and surviving wife of Henry VIII, this chapel dating from the 15th century was built (commissioned I’d say) by the Parr family – houses a fragment of a 9th century (800s) Anglian Cross possibly from Holy Well. Sorry for one of the longest sentences in the known world!

The church grew to be one of the widest in the country apparently only 7 feet less than York Minster. Go Kendal builders! Glad to say it offers some more recent gems, including an altar frontal in the Saint Thomas-A-Becket Chapel by the late Susan Foster a well known Kendal weaver:

Now faded it is good to see the design echoed amongst the fabulous kneelers:

There were sooooo many wonderful kneelers that I couldn’t record them all. Worth a visit just to see the whole merry collection if you live hereabouts or are visiting.

Of course a building of this age holds many secrets and stories. We looked out for the helmet and sword which could have belonged to Sir Roger Bellingham but more excitingly may have been the property of ‘Robin the Devil’ known as Sir Robert Philipson by his friends (if he had any) who was said to have ridden into the church in pursuit of his enemy Colonel Briggs and lost his helmet on the way out.

All this commotion apparently occurred around the late 15th early 16th century.

Kendal Parish Church has seen it’s fair share of life’s ups and downs: raids by the Scots, the dissolution of the monasteries, the reformation, Jacobite rebellions and naughty window-breaking grammar school boys to name but a few. It is hard to believe that there is an unbroken succession of ministers from 1190 to the present but here is the plaque to prove it:

In a world seething with change it is an amazing testament to the continuity of one small community. After all that history my butties were burning a hole in my sandwich box. Egg and salad cream again if you wanted to know.

Time, as we chomped, for a bit of celebrity ‘spotting’. Renowned people that are rumoured to have visited Kirkland are King Arthur (may be taking this one with several pinches of salt), Bonnie Prince Charlie (very likely) and Dickens who reputedly saw the communal bakehouse that once existed close to Nether Bridge and made reference to it in “A Christmas Carol”.

And while we are on with the famous of Kirkland we should also mention portrait painter George Romney (1734 – 1802) who lived for some time and died in a house (handily named Romney House) on the edge of Kirkland. The house is still there. Recently I visited Abbot Hall Art Gallery where a number of Romney’s paintings are permanently exhibited. Luckily I went with someone who knows much more about art history than I do. Thank you MB, I came away with a much greater appreciation of Romney than I had previously felt.

Kendal still has so much to reveal that it will no doubt appear in future posts.

But for now … until next we meet,

Moke x

Walking in them thar hills

Hello All

Bet you were wondering whether my travels and a single venture on Shank’s Pony had done for me and I was lying in a darkened room recovering. Never fear dear readers I have infact been spurred on to toddle out and about to explore bits and bobs of the fair county of Cumbria.

Friend J has done a fantastic job finding walks with heaps of local interest and beautiful landscapes (with minimal hillage …. mostly). We have even done quite well with the weather …. mostly.

Off we go.

Walk 1 – Coniston Walling Walk (thanks again to the Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch)

Following on from the Hawkshead Walling walk J and I thought we would widen our walling knowledge even further with this walk around Coniston. But first how we got there.

This time we bussed it. Boarding the Stagecoach 505 bus from Kendal Bus Station we travelled all the way to the walk start in the village of Coniston. We also used the 505 to return. It is a fabulous trip with lots to see en route but bear in mind that if you want to return to Kendal without changing buses the number of through buses is limited. Luckily I am such a potterer we filled in most of the time – the walk should only take two to three hours, we took 4! – till the last through 505.

About time we had some pictures:

Thanks to local wallers there is a demonstration wall behind Coniston’s Ruskin Museum which shows features that we would see on the walk: there were a couple of different stile types (the slippy flaggy steppy over sort and the ‘breathe-in’ model – these may not be the correct walling parlance); a smoot (or is that smout?!); and a bee bole, an alcove in which a straw beehive would be placed. I am only sorry I didn’t snap the ‘Hogg hole’ also known as a lunky or a sheep smout which allowed sheep to pass from field to field at the push of a large boulder. The hills were calling….

Slightly worryingly for me we followed the footpath for Coniston Old Man – old he may be but age has not noticeably reduced his stature – and the word ‘climb’ appeared in our pamphlet guide. But the puffing and wheezing from yours truly was definitely worth it. The path took us STEEPLY (J May use another adverb like ‘gently’) along our route past a slate engravers and UP a rocky track with compensatory fabulous views. I will just mention that the path was steep enough to need a retaining wall on the left to prevent (and I quote) “the hill falling onto the track” … good grief…. and to allow the use of cement (I have discovered a slight sniffiness about the use of cement unless ABSOLUTELY necessary) on the right to secure the large top stones stopping them rolling down into the gorge …. GORGE…. Get my drift?

However it was with a sense of accomplishment that we (me for getting there and J for getting me there) perched on the beautifully built Miners Bridge for a cuppa. In true Ruskin style I did try to capture the moment for your delectation.Moke at Miners Bridge

Alright perhaps not Ruskin. Here is what it actually looked like.


Breathe in the air, join me in grabbing a rest and taking in the scenery together with a warming cup of tea (you can of course choose your favourite tipple).

Ready to walk on?

As we continued passing cottages with slate porches and outhouses perfectly constructed using the local stone I thought about the craftsmen that built these wonderful walls. So often we saw how much skill and pride they put into their work. Lifting them from the everyday to things of beauty and creative genius.

One trick we missed so I pass it on to you should you ever venture to these hills and lakes is a fabulous place to stop and eat lunch undercover (often very welcome in rainy Cumbria). You have heard of being in the dog house? Well here it is:

Coniston Dog Kennel Folly (c1838)

Built around 1838 to house a pack of hounds Coniston Dog Kennel Folly is now owned by the National Trust and with benches and information boards inside is the perfect place to munch your sarnies. Egg and salad cream if you want to know.

As you walk on from here you can look back at a magnificent panorama taking in Coniston Old Man, Yewdale Crags and the lake. Again well worth all the puffing and mithering. I could get into this hilly thing.

I am loving the weekly walks and am so glad that I invested in proper boots as I feel safer, comfy-er and have toasty warm tootsies into the bargain. Even at the low levels that I manage it is a must to be properly prepared cos we get plenty of WEATHER and it can change on a sixpence. Health and safety warning over.

With time before the bus home the walk ended cosily with a mug of hot chocolate. Now this is heaven.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. She’s probably too busy juggling work and celebrations but just in case HAPPY BIRTHDAY LADY G. !!!!!! Mx

Shanks’ Pony – Hawkshead (1)

Hello All

What do we have here?

Walking boots (pristine), walking stick and small version backpack? Could this mean someone is getting up from their ever spreading posterior and going outdoors, the proper outdoors with fields, hills and stuff? As you can see I thought I had better capture this moment in case the like is never seen again. But after yesterday’s wonderful excursion I am sure it will be the first such outing of many. You at the back I can hear you guffawing!

Wednesday started well.

No rain, no wind and something I think might have been warmth. Perfect walking weather here in Cumbria! Wonders will never cease. My friends J and JF have kindly adopted me into their small but perfectly formed walking sorority. Discreetly ignoring the risk that they would see snails outstrip us they had come up with a walk (about 4.5 miles…yes miles!) around the village of Hawkshead. Sadly JF could not make this one but J armed with her “Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch Hawkshead Walling Walk” (nothing like a snappy title) pamphlet led her walking novice on a fantastic trail capturing not only the diversity of dry stone walling (with walls that could spin more yarns than you could shake a slab of slate at) but also the social history of the area illustrated by the buildings along the way. In case you were wondering yes there is a church but you will have to wait for that particular delight.

Let’s kick off with how to get there. As you know I usually like bussing it, yesterday I was spoilt with a lift. BUT if you want to go by bus and I will certainly be testing this out the 505 Stagecoach Bus is the one for you. It leaves from Stand C at Kendal Bus Station HOWEVER it is a blink and you missed it sort of service from Kendal so you may have to travel via Windermere using the super-bus 555 to get yourself to and from Windermere Station and join the 505 there were the service is much more frequent (roughly every two hours). By car from Kendal simply follow signs for Windermere then on to Ambleside but before entering Ambleside proper turn left following signs for Langdale then look for left turn signposted Hawkshead…keep going you can’t miss it. Too vague for drivers? Bus times can be found on the Cumbria County Council’s website.

Time to get cracking. Having arrived at Hawkshead village J took a little detour to the National Trust shop and for a £5 refundable deposit picked up a key…all will be revealed in a little while. Read on.

Off we set down Red Lion Yard. Heralded in the aforementioned pamphlet as having ‘a wealth of craftmanship’ this little cobbled yard did not disappoint. From the local slates used for the outside steps to the old granary:

To the single slate lintel shielding the porch:

And the beams holding the roofing above the first floor entrance:

As we discovered throughout this walk the local people were and are artisans skilled at using a readily obtained resource, stone.

Along the winding paths are contrasting stone walling styles – sawn slate to the right of the path and natural stone to the left:

Flag fences grown into an ash tree where once perhaps in the 14th and 15th centuries monks from Furness Abbey may have used the walls to form a boundary between arable land and an important pathway:

Hedges laid atop the flag fences:

And clever interlinking of the large slabs where perhaps recent expert hands have repaired the fencing:

One site I was keen to see was at Colthouse, a hamlet just north of Hawkshead. The simple Quaker Meeting House built sometime around 1688-9 enjoyed by Wordsworth and visited by Beatrix Potter remains an active Quaker meeting place and is a reminder of the importance of this region in the birth and spread of The Friends’ quiet pacifist beliefs.

What about the key? A little way yet to go…keep reading.

Now this is a wow of a gate, to me anyhoo:

Created at a width perfect for horses and carts rather than tractors the stone gate stoups (that was a new word for me) have holes where the gate poles can be moved to open the gate. Notice the holes in the ends of the wooden poles? These are for pegs to prevent accidental slide-idge. Clever, eh?

Goodness actual sunshine is creeping into this photograph….. Cumbrians and those that have visited this beautiful county will know that it is a sight to be treasured. Time to bask and enjoy a cuppa. J and I reached Outgate Inn and parked ourselves in a pin fold – looking not unlike the stray sheep that were kept there until their owners collected them , baaaaah. After a deal of putting the world to rights we re-engaged with our surroundings (the best way to put the world to rights I think we agreed) and I tootled to capture further use of stone in the local landscape in one of my favourite buildings, a bus shelter!

A bus shelter with its own water pump. Mmmm. Moving on.

J’s pamphlet guided us to a ‘permissive path’ (snigger) running just above the road. This took us past small quarries, all this stone had to come from somewhere, a vertical wall joint perhaps marking an ownership boundary or two different wall building contracts and a wonderful single span slate bridge with a flag bounded kissing gate.

As to that key? Your patience is rewarded we arrived at our lunch pack stop, the Courthouse.

This snug little crow-stepped gabled building is the gatehouse and all that remains of Hawkshead Hall. The Gatehouse once used as a court dates from the 15th century. And up these steps and with the use of the much mentioned key…

We got a look inside.

We parked ourselves and our sandwich boxes by the old fireplace. It’s dog-tooth design has led historians to believe it is older than the building perhaps even 13th century.

It appears graffiti is nothing new. Tut.

Altered and restored in the 1800s it is hard to escape the botch made to the main window.

But what an atmospheric and historic place to eat your sarnies in. Cheese and tomato if you are interested.

Outside the old gateway gives a hint of the entrance to the original hall courtyard:

What a delight. And look. No people!

Well done J. Bit hard to top that but we did try. Continuing across the fields we arrived at almost our final destination the graveyard (gulp) of Hawkshead Parish Church, St Michael’s.

Please note flag fencing to the left. Thank you.

Brooding landscape or what?! Clouds rolling in over hills, covering sun, shielding the land with its grey-green hues. That’s more like it.

But what a sturdy little church and inside (don’t look too long and hard at the pointing outside is all I will say) a box of wonders.

Trompe l’oeil piers and arches painted in 1680 to give a zig-zag and corbel effect. Also you can just glimpse the painted ‘Sentance of scripture’ .

The tomb of Archbishop Sandys parents (c1578) on which the learned Pevsner (he of architecture guidebook fame) comments that we should notice the remnants of colour on the face of the ‘comical lion’. Bloomin’ cheek, nothing wrong with a bit of lippy!

The Hardman window. And of course an array of

Hand-crafted kneelers. Sadly I managed to delete the picture of the fabulous communion rail kneeler in St James’ chapel which was adorned with Viking symbols as a reminder that Hawkshead (Haukr saetr – Haukr’s summer pasture) had Norse origins. Worse still I hadn’t noticed that many of the kneeler designs are of walking gear such as rucksacks, boots and water bottles…. I am sorry readers I have failed you. Perhaps I can redeem myself with this last little gem from St Michael’s.

This chest was made in 1603 from a solid beam to house the parish records although it measures almost 6 feet in length the depository inside is only 3 feet which makes the chest extremely heavy to lift and remove…in case you had any plans ….

Busy old Archbishop Edwin Sandys – once prisoner in the Tower under Queen Mary, then escaped Protestant reformer in Antwerp where he watched his wife and infant son die of plague but finally made Archbishop of York by Queen Elizabeth I – in 1585 also founded Hawkshead Grammar School (now a museum). A bonny little school with a bonny little doorway.

What a lovely note on which to finish our walk. Boots suitably muddied and me vindicated in the cost of their purchase (still makes me break out in a cold sweat) we returned to Kendal happy with a day spent in the fresh air, learning more than we ever knew about our amazing county.

Thank you J for your research and forethought in making this a brilliant walk. I raise a cup of Earl Grey to there being many more.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx