Down at the Doctor’s

Hello All

Don’t worry I am not poorly but undertaking another excursion as part of my Women of Cumbria quest. This time me and buddy J were off by X6 bus and then train from Barrow In Furness along the west coast of Cumbria to the port of Whitehaven.

One of the bonuses of this quest is travelling to lesser known areas of this wonderful county and by using public transport taking in fabulous scenery and history to boot. Arriving at Whitehaven I can do no better than quote from Hyde and Pevsner’s description of this safe harbour:

“Noble breakwaters of interlocking pinkish stones, worn by the fretful seas…”

If you have exceptionally good eyesight you may be able to make out the very hazy outline of the Scottish coast on the horizon opposite the harbour entrance. No? It is there….honest.

There is definitely something fishy about Whitehaven and we had fun spotting the marine connections along the Millennium Promenade:

Until we got to our destination, the Beacon Museum.

This fabulous museum was quite rightly described by one member of the very friendly and helpful staff as ‘like a Tardis’. It is huge. We only had time to look around two floors!

Starting with the viewing gallery we gained an overview of the town and coast. We spotted important landmarks and buildings, and even saw Scotland (it is there I tell you).

We moved on to an exhibition by a Japanese photographer of the towns in Japan left empty after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011. The artist overlaid his photographs with drawings of monsters lurking transparent against the uninhabited buildings. Images of a lingering fearfulness made more pertinent by the proximity of the nuclear plant at Sellafield only a few miles away – we passed it on the train…

Perhaps it really is time to visit the doctor. Edith Brown: Medicine Woman here we come.

Well with waiting times going up you have to grab the opportunity when you can…!

Born in 1864 Doctor Brown started her career in different times. Luckily Edith, the daughter of a Whitehaven banker, was determined. She was one of the first women to study at Cambridge. Cambridge only began to admit women in 1869 and did not allow them to sit exams until 1881, even then when Edith passed her exams she was not given a degree because Cambridge (I thought they were clever folk there?!) did not award degrees to women until 1948 (1948!!!! Hope someone’s report card read ‘Could do better’).

As I said Doctor Brown was determined and after studying at Edinburgh, Brussels and London she qualified to practice. Driven by a childhood ambition Dr Brown travelled as a missionary to India to open a hospital for women. Realising that she could not do this alone she set about training new Indian female doctors.

I am personally uncomfortable with other countries, communities and faiths being patronised by early 20th century missionaries however there is no denying Edith had a huge effect on healthcare and brought opportunities for other women to train as doctors. She was one tough cookie. Especially when this was the sort of medicine cabinet she had to work with:

I spared you the amputation kit.

Time for some fun. J and I moved on to the ‘Changing Times’ gallery to explore thousands of years of the region’s past. I was able to indulge my love of all things Roman and Viking and even reconstructed a replica of the Norse Gosforth Cross. A lot easier than I have made it sound. But it was on board the ‘Maria Lowther’ a replica 3D ship from 1838 that we got really silly,

Struggling to steer the ship on the very effectively swaying deck and running about as giddy aunts pretending to be ship’s crew we had a hilarious time. You are never too old…

Leaving the museum there was one place we felt we needed to visit before boarding our train back to Barrow. Edith Brown’s house. Walking around Whitehaven in search of her home at 10a Coates Lane we got a feel of Whitehaven’s grid street layout. Much remains of the original Georgian housing and I understand it has a flavour of 18th century east coast America. Very quaint.

Lo and behold we found Edith’s house amongst the Georgian buildings:

Today’s mission complete.

With it’s wonderful history – including being the site of an American attempt at ‘invasion’ led by John Paul Jones in 1778 during the War of Independence – this one time major port is a gem tucked away on a sleepy section of England’s north west coast. A great day out.

Retracing our steps along the Millennium Promenade we took in the whale-tail benches with their histories and tragedies from Whitehaven’s industrial past.

And a collection of knot sculptures one of which is close to my heart, the Granny Knot.

Ironically the Granny Knot, also known as the lubber’s or booby knot, apparently has only one practical purpose…as a surgeon’s knot! Hope Edith knew how to tie one.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Bussing it – Two visit Herstory

Hello All

Had a fab day yesterday following the quest for this year. Quest? You say. Is this a great endeavour aimed at bringing about world peace? ending inequality? famine? Well…errr…. no. While these are definitely laudable aims me and walking buddy J have set our sights a wee bit lower….

Our target for 2018 is …. to visit all 11 of the exhibits at the Cumbrian museums taking part in events ‘Celebrating the Women of Cumbria’. Yahoo!

Humming ‘The March of The Women’ (could just have been me) we boarded the good old 555 Stagecoach Bus at Kendal and set off for Keswick and Herstory. In case you want to hum along* here are the words of this rousing suffrage anthem written by Cicely Hamilton with music by Ethel Smyth.

The March of the Women

Shout, shout, up with your song!

Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking.

March, march, swing you along,

Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.

Song with its story, dreams with their glory,

Lo! They call and glad is their word.

Forward! Hark how it swells

Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord.

Long, long, we in the past,

Cower’d in dread from the light of Heaven;

Strong, strong, stand we at last;

Fearless in faith and with sight new given.

Strength with its beauty, life with its duty

(Hear the voice, oh, hear and obey).

These, these beckon us on,

Open your eyes to the blaze of day!

Comrades, ye who have dared,

First in the battle to strive and sorrow;

Scorned, spurned, naught ye have cared,

Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,

Ways that are weary, days that are dreay,

Toil and pain by faith ye have borne.

Hail, hail, victors ye stand,

Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!

Life, strife, these two are one!

Naught can ye win but by faith and daring;

On, on that ye have done,

But for the work of today preparing.

Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance

(Laugh in hope for sure is the end)

March, march, many as one,

Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend!

Keswick Museum certainly did not disappoint. The staff were super helpful and friendly (even after I changed their knitting example from garter to stocking stitch … sorry) and for the sum of £4.50 we each purchased a 12 month ticket for this delightful museum.

We first had a quick tootle around the ‘old’ museum where I couldn’t resist playing (or attempting to) the huge slate ‘xylophones’ housed there. These amazing instruments have a fascinating history dating back to the discovery by Peter Crosthwaite in 1785 of his first 6 ‘music stones’ (sic). He produced a further 10 musical stones over the next six months and in later years his achievements were built on by Joseph Richardson of Keswick who spent 13 years (!!!) scouring the slopes of Skiddaw for rocks with the best tone in order to produce an extraordinary instrument which comes complete with candle holders and an 8-octave range. So popular was this instrument of percussive delights that in 1848 the ‘Richardson & Sons, Rock, Bell and Steel Band’ performed at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. The instrument was donated to Keswick Museum in 1917.

I am lucky enough to have heard a selection of these stones (35 rather than the full 61) during a performance at Kendal Library some years ago. They were played by composer Brian Dewan and Jamie Barnes who performed (in 2005, I think) seven new movements for the musical stones written by Brian Dewan with the assistance of Jamie Barnes. Atmospheric indeed. But I digress…. what were we here for? Ah yes, ‘Herstory’.

We had a marvellous time learning more about this famous Lakeland town through the stories of its women. What I think absorbed us most in this mountainous area so beloved of climbers were the brave women who scaled the local peaks often dressed in long heavy skirts, heeled boots and an ever present tipfer pinned to their copious coiffured locks. It reminded me of a description of Ginger Rogers: “sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backwards and in high heels”.

Glad to say that some of these bold lasses donned knickerbockers under their skirts and when up in them thar hills took off their voluminous skirts and carried them (annoying enough) in their knapsacks.

My cartoon was inspired by the photograph we saw of Pauline Ranken and Lucy Smith of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club ascending Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh in June 1908. Unlike my swinging lady above they were doing the job properly despite their attire and being suspended by what looked remarkably like string. Gutsy women.

We had a whale of a time and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Keswick and its friendly museum post-haste.

We have now visited two of the eleven exhibitions. We tripped over the trail in the Museum of Lakeland Life (MoLLi) at Abbot Hall where we had gone to view the Folk Art exhibit. The MoLLi definitely set us on our quest as their exhibition was so cleverly woven into the museum’s existing artifacts giving us a taste of the struggles which both suffragists and suffragettes – didn’t know about the difference till then – faced in pursuing women’s suffrage.

Next on our list is the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven where they are exploring the life of Whitehaven’s Edith Brown a trailblazer in women’s healthcare and education. Watch this space….

In any event I am sure that I will be back in Keswick soon. Not only is it – to my mind – the best bus journey in England but I have a new walking book to add to my small collection.

Happy days.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Warning!!! Don’t listen to ‘The March of the Women’ unless you want it in your head all day … Shout, shout up with your song… aaaaargh!

Keeping Warm

Hello All

Remember the lovely Christmas wools I received from No 1 ‘Daughter In Law’?

Which I had started working into a hat?

I am pleased to report that said cable hat is now complete and ready (when weather stops being so foul) for walks in them thar hills.

Hardy Herdy bear has been called in to model as I didn’t want to scare the children with a photo of myself! I love the colours of the yarn and it has made up into a beautiful cosy head snuggler.

The forecast up here (Lake District, England) is for snow and colder weather so what’s a girl/lady/woman/person to do but make use of a trip into town to stock up on the necessaries for a keeping warm and snug at home project.

Kettle’s boiled. Tea is made. Thick socks adorn feet. Chunky jumper insulates my already ample frame. Jolly Janome here I come. I may be some time.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Big and Boho

Hello All

Crafty winter projects are at the forefront of my mind after a week of very cold temperatures. When the thermometer shows that Shropshire is colder than Moscow you know there is a nip in the air. To sate my need for warmth and busy work I took a trip to the wonderful Loopy wool shop in Ulverston yesterday and stocked up with yarn for knitting projects to cheer the chilly nights.

Sadly – as I am sure I will have bewailed before – despite Kendal’s motto being ‘Wool is my Bread’ there are no longer any dedicated wool shops here. Sob! Good job Ulverston is a bustling cheery town delightful to visit and Loopy’s proprietor Andrea is everything you could wish for: helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, creative and with a marvellous stock. So what goodies did I get?

I am hoping to use the Lister pattern – which I picked up a while ago – to make my granddaughter little Peanut a Fair Isle jumper. Wish me luck this is my first attempt at Fair Isle…..gulp……

As to the fabulous ‘Fusions’ wool …. we shall have to wait and see….

The eagle eyed knitters amongst you will already have spotted my big blunder. Can you see what I did wrong? Taking only a list of what I needed (or thought I needed) into the shop rather than the patterns meant that Andrea couldn’t spot my mistake. I thought the pattern asked for 9 balls. What it actually meant was 9 ounces. By the by the pattern is pre-metrication no one report me to Trading Standards. I am such a dope. I didn’t even twig when I required less of the ‘Fusion’ wool for what is a bigger project. Peanut’s mum may end up with a matching waistcoat!

To assuage my guilt at such an oversight. I turned my mind to a request from No 1 Daughter for some Boho cushions. It gave me the opportunity to return to the selvedge yarn I used for the rug. One selvedge ball later and voila a big Boho cushion for beloved offspring.

Using my giant needles I knitted up two ‘squares’ in next to no time then using thick contrast wool crocheted the two halves together around a cushion pad. The selvedge fabric make for an even cosier cushion than usual, very snuggly. Even better the cushion was so quickly made that I have had time to get cracking on Peanut’s Fair Isle jumper

Oh goodness just remembered all that wool… I had better be off.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Three go to Kentmere

Hello All

Brrrrrr. Today has been chilly but with the insulation afforded by many layers of clothing and JF driving we three set off for a walk in Kentmere just a few miles north of the village of Staveley.

We all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that the roads had been gritted as there were pockets of solid ice towards some of the verges. Parking near St Cuthbert’s Parish Church we donned our walking boots and set off up the road towards Hartrigg the highest farm in the valley. Now not being one who would want to spend Christmas – nor anytime really – in plaster we erred on the side of caution and made our way back to the church when snow started to fall, worryingly dusting and partially hiding the icy stretches on the path.

We arrived back at St Cuthbert’s in time to help carry pine branches into the little church for its seasonal window decorations. The smell of fresh pine was evocative of winter and a roaring fire. I was also wowed by the kneelers. Not hidden away below the pews as usual but proudly displayed. How fab!

This was only one half of them, sadly my photography skills let the other half down. Sorreeee.

The church apparently dates in part from 1691 but the amazing yew in the circular walled burial ground is thought to be around 1000 years old and suggests that this was a much earlier place of worship.

I had to give this yew a gentle touch of homage. Weird tree-hugger that I am. Looking from the other side of this magnificent ancient tree the view towards the distant hills is snowily seasonal.

Within St Cuthbert’s is also a plaque to the memory of Bernard Gilpin ‘the Apostle of the North’ who was born in 1517 at nearby Kentmere Hall. Gilpin was a famous preacher in the time of Henry VIII and a leading churchman in the troubled times of Mary Tudor. He gained his rather magnificent ‘title’ for his preaching in the wild lands of the north. Let me reassure you we are no longer that wild … we have Michelin starred restaurants and everything, honest. Gilpin died when he was run over by and ox and cart in Durham market-place on 4 March 1583. Perhaps that was a tad wild.

What a treat St Cuthbert’s was. A little welcoming sanctuary especially on a very cold day.

Kentmere looks like a fabulous walk so can’t wait to come back in warmer (i.e. no ice) weather.

In the meantime I am happily sitting de-frosting with a pot of tea and comforting assortment of biscuits. Life is good.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Three go to Castle and Cemetery

Hello All

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,

Moke xxx

Amble around Levens Park and Heversham

Hello All

Now we are all out of walling walks J and I are branching out – well I am, J is a seasoned walker. Boarding the 555 bus towards Lancaster we disembarked at Levens Bridge (opposite the wonderful Levens Hall) for a circular-ish walk.

No weather gods playing tricks on us today – sorry JF you missed the sun – we started our walk with a gentle if muddy stroll around Levens Park. This deer park belonging to Levens Hall was once part of a medieval deer park or hunting enclosure which was landscaped about 300 years ago in the then al la mode ‘natural landscape style’. Wasn’t it already that?

We squelched through the avenue of oaks planted along what was once a magnificent carriage drive to the Hall. On our way we spotted Black Fallow Deer and also a herd of the rare breed Bagot goats.

Oh dear. I tried to capture the grandeur of these magnificent beasts … ermmm … and no those are not bows on his rear legs! Moving swiftly on.

We squerched to the end of the first half of the Park and after willing myself to walk over the road bridge spanning the A590 … don’t look down…don’t look down …. phew … we arrived at Force Falls near Sedgwick.

From there we strolled along the opposite bank of the River Kent, under the A590 (almost as worrying as walking over it) and after a couple of fields entered the other half of Levens Park. What a pleasure it was to have our tea break sitting on two old tree stumps like a couple of latter day pixies. OK one of us – who is not J – is a rather portly pixie. Takes all sorts. I almost felt moved to burst into vaguely remembered Girl Guide songs (ahhh, those were the days) luckily for J I resisted temptation.

Soon we were back by Levens Bridge. Too soon on such a lovely day. We therefore extended our walk to have a look at nearby Heversham village.

Apparently Heversham is a Spring-Line village. Who knew?! It grew from a settlement based by the springs occurring along the boundary of a ridge of permeable rock lying over impermeable rock. These villages became the long and narrow strip parishes typical of the Anglo-Saxon or early medieval period. And sure enough there was the ancient St Mary’s Well. It had a very tantalising pump, so hard to resist the urge to raise the arm and see if it draws water …. but don’t! One of us did (I will not mention any names) and there was a nasty moment

when the handle came over all wobbly. Dear reader do not worry we left the well and pump just as we found them, intact.

Just DON’T TOUCH THE HANDLE….EVER! Luckily there was a nearby church to visit. Some might say hide in but they would be wrong.

I have often passed the little church in Heversham so it was a treat to go inside. The tower of St Peter’s is positively modern (1869-1870) in comparison to the rest of the building. Infact Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England: Cumbria accuse the tower of being misleading as this is one of the oldest Christian sites in Westmorland. So there!

Old it is. In the porch alongside a magnificent medieval door (used on Sundays for services we were told) is the remains of a late 8th century (Pevsner and Hyde) or perhaps 7th century (church handout) Anglo-Saxon cross covered with vine scrolls and beasties.

Although the church still contains a patchwork of perpendicular (ie English Gothic – 1335 onwards – don’t you know) and Norman architecture a fire in 1601 caused by a plumber (how?!) meant the subsequent centuries saw renovation and re-building. It is a happy little building despite Norse settlers moving into the surrounding area scaring the Abbot, fire-starting plumbers and Victorian ‘improvements’. We had a lovely time spotting its most notable features.

And admiring the kneelers.

When we left blue skies were still with us. You can see them behind the J.F. Curwen 1920 War Memorial Cross in the churchyard.

What a wonderful day for a walk.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx