Those tricky weather gods were out and about so when deciding on our last walk we played it safe and went for a couple more explorations of our home town taken from Arthur Nicholls Explore Kendal. Keeping to the east side of the River Kent JF, J and me set off along the canal path.
Don’t get excited as there are no pictures of jolly barges and cosy boathouses to show. Our canal was filled in many years ago and while it has often been mooted that it will be reconstructed we have yet to see the diggers move in. Instead the canal provides a wide foot path, a ghost waterway still spanned by bridges from its mercantile past.
Despite the lack of loveliness the canal walk is a useful way to amble, jog, cycle or dog walk away from the busy main road. And being a canal path it is flat …. flat I tell you flat! …. yahoooooo. For me a perfect walk allowing me to get into my stride before puffing up the steep slope leading to the remains of Kendal Castle which sits atop an impressive glacial drumlin.
Described in Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England Cumbria as lining the horizon like ‘broken teeth’ Kendal Castle was apparently already falling into disrepair by 1572. Nonetheless it retains a romantic charm:
It also offers a good spot to rest your thermos and dodge the wind while enjoying a tea break.
From Kendal Castle we walked down a broad and gentle footpath to Castle Road and there we began to find gems not mentioned in Mr Nicholls little book.
J, JF and myself have all worked in public libraries so we couldn’t help but feel gleeful when we came across this adorable book box which we presume has been provided by a philanthropic householder:
What a thoughtful idea. I often wonder what to do with my old paperbacks. Some go to friends, in the past good copies went to a local second hand bookshop and others I have left in cafes with a note to read and share but I loved this beautiful book hut and am wondering if my little neck of Kendal would like one…..
A short hop from the book swap JF and her husband on a previous walk had come across a unexplored ‘gothic’ corner of Kendal. One of those places that you have to know is there or you would miss it. Opening a creaky iron gate we walked from what looked like a private drive into the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe-esque horror.
Graves sit higgledy-piggledy clustered around a lonely turreted chapel where nature appears to be re-claiming her own:
Leaving the graveyard feeling neglected and melancholy. Dark and still between the planted yews.
Brrrr. Affected by the mood of sad reflection we read the gravestones with a growing curiosity about who was buried here. Burials began with the opening of the cemetery in May 1843 (the chapel built by the Kendalian architect George Webster opened in July 1845). The cemetery is now full only allowing interments to the larger family plots. Many of the graves occupants appeared to be trades people. But as to why they are here in this lost little corner of Kendal we could not be sure. So atmospheric was the space that we started to get fanciful (perhaps that was just me!) and it felt like we were characters at the opening of a gothic horror. All we lacked was a thunderstorm … well it was drizzling.
Time to move on for sandwiches, cheese and tomato if you are wondering, and take a look back over the rooftops towards the Castle.
Thank you to IC who helped us find this vantage point.
The rest of our perambulation took in areas of Kendal that are more familiar to us. The yarn of Dickie Doodle (did he exist? Doubtful) and the creation of Doodleshire on the eastern side of the Kent together with the tales about the horrors of the ducking stool by Stramongate Bridge are well known. Dickie Doodle was supposedly sent by Richard I – you know the one with the lion heart, loved a crusade? – to bring the market charter to Kendal but having fallen drunk on the West bank escaped the angry natives by crossing the bridge to the East bank of the town where he found the residents much more welcoming (perhaps they just liked a drink). Indignant at the West Kendalians treatment of him Dickie supposedly tried to limit the market charter to the east bank and to do so founded Doodleshire on behalf of an angry King Richard (how dare those west-side varlets mistreat the king’s man). Names sound improbable? that’s because they probably are. It is nonetheless a great story and has been around for several centuries and mockingly the area that was supposedly Doodleshire annually elected a mayor until 1827. Such is the power of the urban myth.
Unfortunately the ducking stool was all too true. Its victims suffered the humiliation of being heckled by the holier-than-thou-but relieved-its-not-me mob and were then plunged into the freezing cold waters of the river. Luckily things have changed and we managed to cross the river without any such injustices.
We finished the day with another mystery. What are these ‘directions’ carved into the stonework?
We have seen similar on several of our walks. J found a possible explanation (wonderful thing this interweb thingy) in a reader’s (Ben) comment on the York Stories blog:
‘FP stands for fire plug. Prior to fire hydrants firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a hole in it – the hole would fill with water that they could use for firefighting. Once the fire was extinguished they would hammer a bung or ‘plug’ into the pipe and backfill the hole, leaving an FP mark on the building for future reference. The term stuck when hydrants were introduced and their locations were marked with FP signs. Usually a square or oblong enamel sign in purple or white I’ve never seen one like yours. Generally if there’s an old FP sign there’ll be a more modern H sign too.’
But if you know different please let me know. Think I will have to lay off the walling. So addicted are we that we started pacing the measurements out almost falling under trucks in the process. You wouldn’t believe the language… not the truckers ……
Until next we meet,