Action-packed

Hello All

I love a bookend and who can deny that a few days that start with Vikings and end with Vikings are a good thing?…ok…ok….Franks….Anglo-Saxons….Celts…..

It appears Kirkstall Abbey was ready to let bygones be bygones

And happily allowed a Viking village to be pitched outside the Nave.

The Norse looked friendly enough but the re-enactors from Ormsheim Vikings showed us their more unapproachable side too

The smiley devils!

Set inside and around the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Festival was in full swing with choirs, hawks, stalls, ponies and dogs on show when we gathered en familie for a marvellous day in the sunshine. Peanut had a particularly good time being borne on Uncle D’s shoulders to watch dancers in the nave and later racing around the cloisters to the music of the wonderful Otley Ukulele Orchestra.

After all that excitement a genteel woman of Cumbria was just what I needed and last Wednesday JG and me continued our progress around the Women of Cumbria exhibitions with a return visit to The Ruskin Museum in Coniston for the small display on Elizabeth Smith (1776 – 1806).

Miss Smith is a rather elusive figure aptly described by twentieth century Lakeland poet Norman Nicholson in 1953 as:

A shadowy form … a ghost even when she was alive…’

Although she had an extraordinary talent for languages – she was fluent in French, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew – and was a geometrician, musician and poet it was her early death that aroused the interest of the Lakeland literati, especially DeQuincey (that well known self-confessed opium eater) rather than her accomplishments in life.

Elizabeth died of consumption living her last few weeks in a tent that her father had put up in order that she could breath more easily and enjoy the glorious views of Coniston. Yet even in death she seems to have just melted away.

To me she is an icon of the many similarly gifted women of her time who were invisible. She left me a little heavy hearted for all the talented women who have vanished from our consciousness.

Ready for a gear change? After the peace and wistfulness of Elizabeth Smith I was whisked away on Saturday by No1 Daughter to London for a fabulous Animals Asia Bear-B-Q right in the heart of the busy city.

Organised by fantastic Animals Asia supporter Sarah D on the roof terrace of Knight Frank at 55 Baker Street the event was a huge success. Sarah D is an absolute powerhouse of a woman with such compassion and commitment to the Animals Asia cause. Big thanks Sarah and to your wing-man Ray.

The setting was wonderful (as were the raffle prizes)

The food was the very best vegan food I have ever tasted (the veggie option looked scrumptious too).

And Animals Asia ace ambassador actor (who knew I could get so many A’s in a phrase) Peter Egan was super lovely – as were the chefs he’s standing with…did I mention that food…?

It was a day spent with some of the most amazing passionate people I have ever met. Everyone friendly, chatty and interesting. It was also a day that allowed me a proud mum moment. Well done No1 Daughter!

London was hot hot hot so it was a relief to return up North and enjoy a quiet Sunday sitting in a local nature reserve for a relaxing picnic organised by No1 ‘son-in-law’. Thanks RP.

Looking at the colour of the grass it is not only London that has been a tad warm!

Yesterday and flowers from friends herald

The arrival of another birthday! It really doesn’t seem like a year ago that I hit that significant 60. Eeeeek. Luckily before I could get too maudlin No 1 Daughter and Peanut lifted my day.

First we stocked up on goodies for lunch from The Garden Vegan Take-Away here in sunny Kendal.

Amazing victuals – pasties, salads, sandwiches, wraps – perfect for a happy day spent wandering the grounds of my favourite haunt Levens Hall. Peanut was in her element exploring and running around the gardens (a real must see if you are in this neck of the woods, the gardens that is not the running..).

Going …

Going …

Gone!

She humoured her Omi with a sedate walk around the cottage garden.

She was captivated by the blooms (it could also be the path, she has a penchant for gravel!)

And was fascinated by the squashes and courgettes.

What a fabulous day we had.

As for those Vikings! No1 Son knows me well ….

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Something in the water

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 2: Ambleside

Leaving Grasmere, Wordsworths and Shelleys behind JG and me boarded a returning 555 bus to travel the short distance to Ambleside.

The Armitt Museum is one of the smallest but most intellectually compelling museums I know.

Snuggled within the grounds of Charlotte Mason College the Armitt is a unique combination of library, museum and gallery.

The Armitt was founded as a library by Mary Louisa Armitt – known to her friends as Louie – to foster the exchange of ideas among the local community. And what a community!

Ambleside in the 1800s and early 1900s was the centre of a remarkable intellectual culture in which many of the key players were independent women. Amongst these were Mary Louise and her sisters, Sophia and Annie Maria; Harriet Martineau; Annie Jemima Clough; Charlotte Mason and famously Beatrix Potter. A powerhouse of polymaths. But had you heard of them all? I certainly hadn’t …. and I live on the doorstep!

The Armitt’s “A Woman’s Place: Ambleside’s Feminist Legacy” rectifies this.

Here are the inspirational women we met (no photos allowed so bear with my scratchy portraits):

Founders of the Armitt Library – the Armitt Sisters

Sophia, Annie Marie and Mary Louisa Armitt were seriously gifted sisters originally from Salford. Each had her own area of expertise and talent, botany, music, English literature to name a few.

Thankfully Mary Louisa ignored Ruskin’s advice to keep to women’s activities. I don’t think he would have included in those the founding of a library and we would have been all the poorer.

There is definitely something in the Ambleside water as the talented Armitts were not the only women of note drawn to the area.

The first female sociologist – Harriet Martineau (1802 -1876)

This rather doe-eyed portrait probably belies the steely woman Harriet was. Born into a Unitarian family of Huguenot ancestry she travelled widely (in those skirts?!) and was a proponent of higher education for women. Her interest in social theory earned her the ‘first female sociologist’ moniker.

She was a woman ahead of her time:

“If a test of civilisation be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power”

… and there were more…

First Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge – Anne Jemima Clough (1820 – 1892)

While losing out in the portraiture stakes (sorry Anne) Ms Clough certainly did not lose out when they were handing out brains and humanity. Anne Clough was a suffragist (akin to a suffragette but earlier and non-violent) and like Martineau was a promoter of higher education for women becoming the first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University.

While in Ambleside (where else?) she opened a school at her home Eller How for local children. Fascinated by her stories and travels her pupils couldn’t resist being drawn to her and learning through her informal methods of teaching. Moving south to help her widowed sister-in-law she initiated a scheme for peripatetic lectures which blossomed into the development of a new Cambridge college.

Homely and good humoured, like the children at Eller How, Anne Jemima’s students cherished her. While not a natural administrator her humility and ability to admit when she was wrong allowed her to work creatively and successfully with her colleagues.

She sounds great and is a bit of Her-story I have never learned about.

Home Education and the Teacher’s Teacher – Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923)

Best known in these here parts for being the light behind the teachers’ training college set up after her death Charlotte was also a supporter of home education. She co-founded the Parents’ Educational Union to provide resources for home educating parents and published the Parents’ Review a regular publication with articles on home educating.

Perhaps because of this Charlotte is well known in North America. Infact we learned that a large number of American and Canadian home schoolers visit The Armitt to find out more about her.

Last but not least …

Naturalist, artist, writer and conservationist – Beatrix Potter

(Oh the sacrilege.)

Living in an age of change Beatrix expertly followed her own path. Through her much loved Tales of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books Beatrix an astute businesswoman ensured her financial independence. She earned enough to engage in farming, assemble a great estate and become a Herdwick sheep breeder. All this from an expert on fungi!

Beatrix supported The Armitt and thanks to her beneficence the museum holds an amazing collection of her scientific drawings. They bowl you over with their detail and some are even hard to distinguish from photographs. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to see Beatrix Potter’s academic work it is astonishing.

You still there? I couldn’t stifle the urge to share these inspirational women with you I hope you enjoyed meeting them.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Keep on marching…

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 1: Grasmere

The sun continues to shine, moors and heaths burn and reservoirs run dry. Welcome to the new California! Thankfully the Women of Cumbria are going nowhere. They are a sturdy bunch – hot? phah! – so the march of the modern women (me and JG) continues … even if I am sweating …. sorry …. glowing like a Gloucester Old Spot (oink!).

Hopping on the 555 Stagecoach Bus from Kendal – choosing seats on the shady side of the top deck – we set off. What a corker of a day. We visited two museums and ‘met’ a host of incredible women.

Settle in a comfy spot with a pot of your favourite brew – I am now mainlining green tea – a lengthy post lies ahead of you. And there is another to follow. No rest for the wicked.

Described in my trusty copy of Hyde and Pevsner as sitting in a ” Pastoral, Samuel Palmerish setting under the beetling fells…” Grasmere deserves its enduring popularity with visitors. Amongst those visitors were the Wordsworths, sister and brother Dorothy and William. Our day kicked off with a visit to their one-time home, Dove Cottage.

Once a wayside inn Dorothy Wordsworth initially occupied the panelled downstairs room in this 17th century whitewashed cottage.

Got to love the quirky terrier. What a rascal he looks.

On this hot day the cool of the homely kitchen and buttery was welcomingly refreshing.

Dove Cottage a place of “plain living and high thinking” saw Dorothy and her brother William at their most productive (1799 to 1808). However the cottage was soon crowded by William and his wife Mary’s growing family together with the coterie of the great (and often stoned) literati of their day it was no surprise that Dorothy moved to one of the smallest and coldest rooms she probably needed the peace and a good (if nippy) night’s sleep.

Up to fifteen people sometimes slept at the Wordsworth’s. Snug to say the least.

How inviting the garden would have looked. No wonder William treasured the time he spent at the top of the garden overlooking the house and fells from his moss clad retreat.

It seems that daffodils were not the only flowers on his mind.

No gardening pun intended but if I seem to have wandered from the Women of Cumbria path here I come tripping (almost literally those olden days folk had smaller feet than mine and their steps were not designed for clodhoppers like me) back onto it.

Dorothy was a wonderful writer and much ‘borrowed’ by her famous brother. William was influenced by her detailed descriptions of nature. Her “Grasmere Journal” probably inspired “Daffodils” together with William’s acclaimed guide to the Lake District.

Next door to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum and another woman who could easily have slipped under the shadow of a famous man. Can you guess who she might be?

Couldn’t get JG to pose. Can’t think why?! You of course guessed our visit was to learn about Mary Shelley in the latest exhibition in the museum’s Women Behind the Words series:

Mary Shelley (born in 1797) was a woman of many talents: a novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. It fair puts you to shame. “Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus” was born out of a stormy night’s challenge amongst friends when she was 19 years old (nineteen!!). Her other works include “The Last Man” set in the future of…the 21st century! Don’t want to worry you but we are all doomed.

Curated by Fiona Sampson to coincide with the publication of her book “In Search of Mary Shelley” the exhibition reveals an intelligent and radical woman. Mary’s life was beset by tragedy, the drowning of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and the deaths of three of her children, yet she devoted herself to looking after her only surviving child and her career as a professional writer. No mean feat for any woman in the 19th century. It is good to fly the flag for her, Dorothy Wordsworth and the other Women Behind the Words.

There’s a whole bunch of fabulous women to come…watch this space.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

I will take up my pencil

Hello All

While we are enjoying* this extended period of warm weather here in the UK it is good to get out and about. I fear all too soon we will be saying ‘Do you remember the summer of 2018?’ Much as we used to say ‘Remember the summer of ’76?’ (you perhaps have to be longer in the tooth for the latter … check with your parents … grandparents).

So at the invitation of my friend KS and her son AB I jumped on one of my favourite buses – you guessed it Stagecoach 555 – to Keswick with one destination in mind.

It is years since I visited this little gem of a museum and in the meantime it has moved out of the old factory site – production has now moved to Workington a short-ish bus ride away – to a purpose built unit in the old factory grounds.

If you wondered where pencils came from ponder no more! The first pencil was made in Keswick, here in good old Cumbria – once called Cumberland around these parts – over three centuries ago. Glad they have kept the Pencil Museum in Keswick as it is ever popular with visitors of all ages and it seems only right to keep it in the birthplace of the pencil.

For the outing I became part of KSs family (ticket) and enjoyed the delights within for free. The staff were super friendly, we all got pencils (which we kept) and opted to share a quiz sheet.

We crouched through the replica graphite mine adjusting our eyes to the darkness and watching out for the ‘miners’ frozen in their perpetual task of extracting graphite for our beloved HBs. Then all was light as we emerged into the bright and airy exhibits’ hall.

Keswick Pencil Museum boasts many quirky artefacts. Such as ….

The longest pencil in the world. It is true, it is verified by that bible of such peculiar facts The Guinness Book of Records. There is even a certificate to prove it:

Along with the huge are the small. There is a fascinating display showing how MI5 commissioned specially hollowed out pencils – to carry maps – topped with rubbers (erasers) that hid a handy compass. I learnt a lot about the humble pencil: how many are made a year (lots and lots); what sort of wood is used (clue: it comes from a tree) and what was used as an eraser before the rubber (who would have thunk it!).

Amongst the displays were many wonderful collections of pencils

The damage to this lovely old example tells a more recent tale of Keswick’s history. It shows how high the flood waters rose during Storm Desmond in 2015.

Now to another gem…literally

To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Derwent crafted a special Diamond Jubilee Pencil. Only two were made one was presented to the Queen (money always goes to money!) and the other is displayed at Keswick.

The Diamond Jubilee Pencil is a work of great skill. It is made from graphite taken from the original mine and was crafted by means of the traditional methods used before 1832. To top it off the crown is encrusted with 60 diamonds supported by white gold lilies to symbolise royalty. KS and AB wondered whether the Queen uses hers to write her shopping lists. I do hope so…I hope she writes all sorts of lists,’tis the simple pleasure of us humble folk!

We finished our tour with one of the Calvert Trust sheep which was commissioned by Derwent and formed part of the Herdwick Trail in 2016. Derwent’s sheep was decorated to resemble a dry-stone wall. A very colourful wall! each of the ‘stones’ were coloured using Derwent’s Inktense blocks and the lines between them were made with Inktense pencils and blocks.

One final look back:

before browsing the wonderful shop, drooling over the colours, pencils, brushes, pastel blocks and inks and then toddling over the road to Kat’s Kitchen for some cold drinks supped while viewing the beautiful landscape that surrounds Keswick.

I opened with a part quote from Vincent Van Gogh in the title. To close I bring you one from Stan Laurel:

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must always be led!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

* The sunny weather is not bringing joy to all. My heart goes out to the numerous firefighters, soldiers and volunteers that are working day and night in awful conditions on moors and heaths to douse and control numerous fires. Mx

Wonderful Woolfest 2018

Hello All

It’s the end of June (almost), the Solstice (almost) so it must be…

From the outset the day did not disappoint. The weather was perfect.

I set off at just after 7am in brilliant sunshine (field’s still there no houses…yet!) and the views from the 555 Stagecoach bus were a delight of green hills, glimpses of water and charming farmhouses.

Even the wait at Keswick for the X5 Gold (it was rather special!) Stagecoach bus to Cockermouth was a pleasure.

All this sun must have gone to my head.

A short free link bus from Cockermouth to the auction mart and I had reached the site of my annual crafty pilgrimage. Woolfest.

With its avenue of bunting

Gaily adorning the Wool Clip stalls only a little bit of searching was needed for me to find ….

My needle felted sheep’s head! I love trying to spot this little fella I made him over 5 years ago when the Woolfest cry went up for bunting. Once I find him I know I am home.

This year I came with a new mission in mind. My 2018 project was to find plant-based fibres that could be used for felting. I was successful too.

Uppingham Yarns also had cones of plant based yarns like ramie (nettle) on sale.

DT Craft and Design offered several plant fibres together with a good quantity of dye kits. The stall holder was very informative and had plenty of samples to show the colour ranges and which dyes to combine to achieve best results.

All the stall holders were exceptionally helpful and I was pleased to find Adelaide Walker had a good selection of fibres as she is based close to No 1 Daughter so won’t be hard to visit.

Yes I know there is a distinct lack of colour. But lucky for me DT Craft and Design offered a solution to this…

I foresee a steep learning curve coming up. Yikes. I will keep you posted.

To be honest. My finds were tinged with a little sadness. All those beautiful sheep and their dedicated shepherds. I swear my Cumbrian heart broke a little as I walked past the rare breed sheep so lovingly cared for and I had to will myself not to buy any of their gorgeous yarns and fleeces. As to our local Herdwicks a tear came to my eye.

Lucky for me that this year’s Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall showcased Izzy Middleton (aka Wildflower Weaver) who follows the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and as part of the Green Cloth Collective works with vegan fibres, recycled yarn from other garments and up cycled textiles that would otherwise go to landfill. Izzy does use both plant and animal fibres but her wools come from slaughter free herds such as those made up of rescued animals. A very inspiring and interesting woman.

Happily for me Izzy is based at one of my favourite places, Farfield Mill in Sedbergh. They too had a stand,

And a woven hanging that made me smile.

All too soon Woolfest was over for another year. But there is always 2019 to look forward to!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Next day I travelled to Penrith for a catch-up and making session with the Crafty Ladies. It seems at the moment that British railways are in meltdown (not one of the trains I saw yesterday were running on time) and the Lakes line has been abandoned by Northern Rail. But apparently there is an upside: the trains chartered to cover the route are so old that they attract hordes of spotters. Glad there is a silver lining for someone!

Well I couldn’t miss out now could I?! Mx

Happy Fortnight

Hello All

Apologies for last week’s lapse. Things are all good here at Casa Moke just a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. I warn you this is a l-o-n-g post. You will be rewarded with a cuppa if you make it to the end.

What have I been up to?

Cooking.

Delicious Beetroot, Mushroom and Dulse Seaweed Burgers. Grating beetroot always makes the kitchen look like a crime scene but the consequent mopping up was worth it for these tasty burgers packed with yummy goodness.

I love seaweed however often forget how scrumptious and beneficial it is. Thanks to Kate Humble’s BBC series ‘Back to the Land with Kate Humble’ I was reminded and have found some fabulous producers. For this recipe and the Seaweed Cookbook I turned to The Cornish Seaweed Company. The book is a wonderful resource: along with plentiful recipes for everyone (vegans, veggies, omnivores and more) it profiles a huge variety of seaweeds and gives a guide to foraging.

Crafting.

Simple patchwork and a teeny-weeny amount of quilting are helping me gain more and more confidence on my sewing machine (sorry Snail of Happiness I have still not tried stretchy fabrics!). I am also rather pleased with the results if I do say so myself. No 1 Daughter has put in an order for cushions to coordinate with her soon to be decorated living room. Praise indeed.

Hot off the press…

Another cushion made almost entirely from scraps from earlier makes including at least two outfits for my granddaughter. I am smiling looking at it.

Some of you may remember my HUGE over purchase of wool for the simple Fair Isle jumper for Peanut.

Well I have found the perfect project to use the surplus. A Guernsey Wrap.

The pattern by Jared Flood is on Ravelry here. Versions of it can also be seen on one of my favourite blogs ‘Foxs Lane‘ … but I can’t remember where! It is a fabulous blog well worth a visit and you may even stumble on the wrap along your way.

Walking.

Walking buddies JG and JF set off clutching maps (OS Explorer OL7 – The English Lakes, South Eastern area) and compasses – they are part way through learning about navigation – with me their hill-loathing chum (how am I Cumbrian?!) in tow to complete the Kentmere walk we attempted last year when snow and ice made us/me decide to turn back. With the weather much improved – a DRY yet windy day – we set off in high hopes of sitting by a beautiful reservoir to eat our lunches.

Our day started with a charming easy stroll based on No. 3 in Norman Buckley’s book “Lakeland Walking: on the Level”. However as the hills of The Kentmere Horseshoe loomed in front of us it did look as if we were walking into Mordor. But hey! We had that attractive ‘lake’ to look forward to.

With a very flat valley floor and glacial moraines it was easy to see how the Ice Age sculpted this landscape. Ice now a thing of the past…things warmed up around end of April this year…lunch was calling and thoughts of dipping my tootsies in the lapping waters of the man-made tarn were becoming increasingly pleasing.

But what’s this?!

Or should that be what is it not?!!! Where has our reservoir gone? A couple of fellow walkers seeing our dropped jaws told us, it’s the result of a leak! In the past I have had small garden ponds and yes they have suffered the odd pond lining incident but a whole vanished reservoir? That is something.

Abandoning our visions of picnicking on a beautiful shoreline we crossed the spillway. Having watched much too much Nordic Noir I confess I was looking out at the wasteland for a skeleton or two at least. Happily I have nothing untoward to report but it was a very eerie setting…movie location hunters take note.

So being a bit agile (it says so in Buckley’s book) we followed a rough and narrow path back along the opposite bank of the River Kent until the going became easy again and we could stop out of the wind for sandwiches (hummus, peppers and celery if you were wondering) and have a short rest.

The walk back was idyllic. We couldn’t help but laugh at the adventurous and frolicking lambs (I thanked their mums for the wool) some of whom had perched themselves all over this glacial ‘dustbin’.

We admired the bridges.

And held our breath waiting for the bluebells to bloom.

All this and we barely got wet. A rare occasion in them thar hills.

Marching … Women of Cumbria

JG and I managed another tick on our ‘Women of Cumbria’ spreadsheet. We boarded the 505 Stagecoach bus to Coniston and had a wonderful time at the Ruskin Museum looking at all the displays and the exhibition dedicated to Annie Garnett a nineteenth century community entrepreneur who founded a textile industry in Lakeland.

Annie was one of six siblings and while her brothers went to school she was lucky enough to learn autonomously at home and particularly through her love of gardening. Taking her vision from Ruskin’s linen ‘industry’ Garnett founded The Spinnery in Windermere which gave women homebased work spinning yarns which were then woven at the spinnery. Many of the designs were created around plant forms.

Annie Garnett’s knowledge of weaving and textile history enabled her to create new fabrics and dye swatches that reflect her love of Lakeland’s colours.

Beautiful.

Garnett was not only a knowledgeable, inspired artisan she was also an astute businesswoman. By 1899 over 90 women worked as home spinners and embroiders. These workers were given training and also loaned their equipment for free. Annie clearly saw The Spinnery as a business and not a charity and she worked hard to promote it. Her management style was most certainly hands-on!

Lastly we could not leave Coniston without a ratch around a graveyard. We were looking for two gravestones.

Ruskin’s.

And W.G. Collingwood’s. Mission completed.

Are you ready for that drink? You’ve done really well to get here.

Tea drinking.

With a lack of dairy I have missed a delicious cuppa so I went to the Mecca of tea and coffee drinking which we are lucky enough to have here in Kendal, Farrer’s. I went experimental and by serendipity discovered a delicious brew.

And here I sit supping. Time you got the kettle on too. You have certainly earned it.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

PS I receive no freebies (I can dream) nor payment (does that happen?) for anything recommended in my blog. Mx

What now?

Hello All

Safe and sound at home what to do now?

Cook.

Plentiful seasonal rhubarb from a friend’s garden (thanks JG) makes up a wonderful mixed fruit crumble topped off with a dollop of coconut cream

Craft.

Meeting up with friends for a crafty day is an immense and productive pleasure.

As is a session of solitary ‘just one more row’ late night knitting to get you to the finished cardigan.

But crucially there is always The Quest … March March!… Women of Cumbria I am back.

Time is running short on visiting a couple of the exhibitions before they finish so meeting up with ‘she of the rhubarb’ JG we were off on our latest mission.

Our destination was Penrith and Eden Museum for the “Lorna Graves: Memories of Belonging” exhibition. Truth to tell we were not expecting much. So we spent most of the day exploring Penrith.

It’s quaint emporiums.

It’s places of worship. St Andrew’s Church in Penrith is a hotch potch. The tower dates from 1397 yet the nave and chancel are Georgian

Those chandeliers by the way were a gift from the Duke of Portland as a reward to the parishioners for their efforts in defeating the Scottish army in 1745. We are on much better terms with our northern neighbours now!

I wish you could hear this clock – built by Aaron Cheeseborough in the early 1700s – a magnificently deep “tick tock ” emanated with each swing of the pendulum. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

In the beautifully blossom bedecked churchyard we went in search of The Giant’s Grave (who would want to miss that?!)

And his thumb

Turns out they are different giants. The Giant’s Grave consists of 6 ancient tombstones including the Scandinavian type Hogbacks. It dates from around the tenth century AD and has been moved from it’s original site in the cemetery. It is variously thought to be the grave of Owen King of Cumbria (920 -937) or Sir Owen Caesarius (aka Sir Hugh or Sir Ewan) a great boar-hunter. When opened in the seventeenth century the grave revealed the remains of someone with very long leg bones (sic) and a sword….but thankfully no boar. Oink.

As to the Giant’s Thumb it is a Norse Wheel Cross marking a separate burial in about 920AD. Not surprising to find such remains here. Penrith is a cross-roads for Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures. Seems like Denmark has followed me home!

Now all this is grand but will not help us with our quest. Unbeknownst to us we had saved the best till last.

Penrith and Eden Museum is housed in the old Robinson’s Church of England school

The building is something of an exhibit in itself. The school’s history dates from 1670, although the construction is probably older, and was established by a wealthy grocer named Robinson (surprise!) as a school for poor girls. These girls were to be taught to read, work lace, knit and “other matters proper for young girls to learn and practice” (ideas on a postcard please).

In return the children had to “refrain from swearing, lying, stealing and quarrelling”. Some things never change. In the late nineteenth century the building was used as an infant school and remained as such until April 1971 when it closed.

Today the building holds a Tourist Information Office together with a small museum of artefacts relevant to the area.

Not sure about the Penny Farthing’s pertinence but it certainly suited the window position.

Oh yes The Quest!

The pennant heralded the wonderfulness of the Lorna Graves’ exhibition inside. Sorry but I cannot share any photos. It is understandable that photography was not allowed (I always ask first) but also a shame as I don’t think I have ever been as moved by an artist’s work as I was by the drawings and sculptures of this local ceramicist.

Lorna Graves (1947 – 2006) was born in Kendal and grew up on the land around Hadrian’s Wall. Having studied Earth Sciences she became an artist and back home in Cumbria found her inspiration in the landforms and ancient art of the county.

Her work is simple yet striking. The Raku pieces in particular radiate an ancient and spiritual quality that reflect her words:

“I feel the past pushing up against me from below: the herds of animals and the vegetation, the people and their dwelling places, the winds and floods, the times of peace and times of war, the chanting in the temples…”

Her archaic forms of beasts, women, shrines some glinting with gold lustre all drew me in. It was quite mind-blowing.

Dragging ourselves reluctantly from the Lorna Graves exhibition (we were really surprised at how brilliant this exhibition was) we set off for the train home. But Penrith had not finished with us as who can ignore a ruddy great castle? Especially when it is right opposite the train station.

Oh well in for a penny….

Hello Penrith Castle!

A friendly cat welcomed us to this monument to Anglo-Scottish relations (honestly we are all friends now).

Built in the late 1300s the castle was altered over time becoming in the 1470s under Richard Duke of Gloucester (soon to be Richard III – some of us up North like him!!!) a major residence. Thankfully in time it’s presence was no longer required. The castle fell into disrepair and what we see today is thanks to the excavations and conservation undertaken in 1923.

Penrith is a treasure chest, of things to see and enjoy, often overlooked by visitors to the Lake District. We had a full and fabulous day and The Quest is one amazing exhibition nearer completion.

Before I go: congratulations to KC and JR on the arrival of your gorgeous baby boy SP. He is beautiful and I hope the cardigan fits soon!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx