Three go to Ambleside

Hello All

Final catch-up post. Joined by mutual friend JF, J and I set off for another walk.

Walk 3 – Walling Walk around Ambleside (thanks again to the Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch)

For this circular walk we got there by car, parking near the main car park opposite the Armitt Museum and University of Cumbria. It is also easy to get to Ambleside by the Stagecoach 555 bus from Kendal Bus Station.

Today (being 20 November) the weather gods decided to give us a small reminder of Cumbria’s predilection for chucking wet stuff at innocent passers-by. We and the landscape spent most of the day covered in fine droplets born of a mizzle that barely lifted.

Nevertheless while our kagouls were dampened our spirits were not. Who could fail to smile at the bonkers little Bridge House where we started our walk. Chortling at my attempt to capture Moke in situ is encouraged if only to give you a feel for the light hearted mood of the day.

Strangely wet weather often adds to the camaraderie and hilarity of a ramble. It is just impossible to take yourself too seriously with rain water dripping off your nose-end while trying to enjoy an undiluted thermos of tea and keeping the seat of your trews from soaking up your body weight in ‘refreshing’ Cumbrian precipitation.

From the Bridge House we tootled on through Ambleside to the path which would take us up to Blue Hill and Red Bank Woods conservation area and lead us in a contour around Wansfell. Speaking as one who would immediately turn her ankle if pursued by raptors (watched too many Jurassic Park films!) stout walking boots or shoes ARE A MUST on this walk as it is FAIRLY STEEP (swoon) and rough and muddy in places.

The Dry Stone Walling Association … Cumbria Branch again did not disappoint and we were treated to a selection of the walling styles that feature in this upland landscape. We stumbled upon this stone hewn trough no doubt needed by the dray animals hauling materials up for the building of the Thirlmere water pipeline which took water from Thirlmere Aqueduct to Manchester.

Apparently soooooo prestigious was this Victorian project – the Bill was passed into law in 1879 – that our old grey stone was not good enough and the contractors imported sandstone posts to mark the pipeline! Bloomin’ cheek.

Of course no dry stone walling walk of any worth would be complete without a smoot (smout…?) or several. And this walk was no exception:

The weather meant finding a sandwich stop was a bit tricky however we walked into the grounds of Cumbria University’s campus at Ambleside (once known as Charlotte Mason) and found a handy bench to eat our vittles and discuss the world. Home-made fajitas if you want to know.

Now I am not sure if we should have done the above. If we shouldn’t please ignore the previous paragraph. It was all a dream (except the fajitas which were scrummy).

I have another confession to make. There is an add on to this walk that takes you up a road known as ‘The Struggle’ (you know what’s coming) to some amazing views. Guess who (it wasn’t JF nor J) demurred against this extra climb? In my defence I would say I was pretty wet – I am getting good gear in stages, boots came first – and the said views would not have been visible through the drizzle to make the aforementioned struggle (oops Struggle) worth it. But we have made a pact to return in the better weather and take in the panoramic scenery offered by this extra leg.

Even without the extra couple of miles this was a splendid outing. I felt that I had done a proper (ie rigorous) walk and got some much needed exercise (ie hilly) with the bonus of fresh air (ie weather). Sadly this is the last of our dry-stone walks but what we have learnt will inform all our subsequent excursions in the wonderful Cumbrian countryside.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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.

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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

Hope you like your greens

Hello All

I said that I would be practising with my new camera app. As you know photography is not my forte so it couldn’t be any worse, right? Well you are right! Definitely sharper and clearer. Sorry turns out a good camera doesn’t help my sense of composition or subject. If you are allergic to green look away now. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to come back.

I have a penchant for allotments. There I have admitted it. I love the thought of all those superb tasty veggies growing in small scale patchwork ranks. Mmmm satisfying.

On my way through to Oxenholme Station I like to wander from the main road and walk through allotment land.

Yummy goodness. Gorgeous fruit tress. No scrumping was undertaken. Honest.

Everyone has their own style. From slightly chaotic to serried ranks. You. Leeks! shoulders back, stand up straight.

Anyone remember ‘The Flower Pot Men’ ? Bill and Ben and most especially Little Weeeeeed? Those were innocent times!!!!!

Productive way to recycle old window units.

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.

If you are ready for some new recipes for all those scrummy, crunchy, luscious veggies… (oh yes… you can look back greeniness is over … sort of).

I spotted this book yesterday and thanks to a kindly friend JH and her gift of a book voucher I was able to buy it and bring it home. At first I thought it might have too many fancy clancy ingredients that this country mouse would struggle to get. But as I sat drooling at all the tastiness within I realised the recipes were heart-warming, stomach-filling and easily made. In addition to the glorious food are tales of the rich Middle Eastern culinary heritage beautifully and humorously written.

Definitely got p166 Imam Biyaldi (The Swooning Imam … apparently) lined up for a warming supper. And warming is the order of the day here in the Cumbrian summer. Don’t know about anyone else but I have been ffffffffreezing lately. So much so it has been even more of a pleasure to work on one of my ongoing projects, the scrap blanket.

Thankfully it has reached the stage where it is large enough to cover my legs and toes. And the scrap mountain is going down. Win win.

Hope your week is going well. What are you and your weather up to?

Until next we meet,
Moke xxx

Book on a train – “The Lady’s Slipper” by Deborah Swift

Hello All

Time for a book review methinks. So if thou wilt follow me let me introduce thee to the wonderful debut novel of Deborah Swift “The Lady’s Slipper” (2010, Macmillan New writing, London. ISBN 9780230746879).

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In 1660 Alice Ibbotson of Westmorland risks everything to collect for propagation the rarest of British orchids the Lady’s Slipper. By stealing onto the property of ex-soldier turned Quaker Richard Wheeler to lift the plant Alice sets herself on a path from which there is no going back.

Through this one act Alice is estranged from Thomas her husband, becomes disenchanted with her botanical patron Sir Geoffrey Fisk and through the machinations of housemaid Ella could forfeit her life for the murder of herbalist and wise woman Margaret Poulter.

The story is largely set in Westmorland against the backdrop of a country struggling to heal the wounds of civil war. It is an era of suspicion, fear and intolerance.

I never met either of my grandmothers they both died when my parents were young. My mother’s mum had been a Quaker and I have always been interested in this thoughtful and peaceful religion. Deborah captures the early days of Quakerism when this radical pacifist movement was considered a dangerous hotbed of dissent needing to be stamped out and ridiculed. In times of political and religious violence a belief in peaceful resolution is a brave stance, where fear is coupled with bigotry it is a dangerous one.

It’s exciting to read a story set in your home county. Even more so when that county is called by its old name of Westmorland – rather than the bland Cumbria by which it is known today. Deborah has an incredible eye for detail enabling the reader to visualise, smell, hear and touch, the heady mix that was turbulent seventeenth century life.

Eager to follow the adventures of Alice and Richard through this atmospheric and cracking tale the pages turned all too quickly. With relief I am glad to see that Swift has published more books so it won’t be long before I immerse myself in “The Gilded Lily” and then “A Divided Inheritance”.

Happy reading.

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS To read Deborah Swift’s blog follow this link https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3297217.Deborah_Swift/blog

Return of Gert

Hello all

Just as I am playing the Minimalism Game and reducing the stuff in my life- its going well by the way – I hear a fluttering of felt wings…

I should have been suspicious that day in Windermere. The sudden extra weight in my backpack. 10277777_10152376762610751_2471691499372400836_n

 

That strange bird on a train

It could only mean one thing. The return of Gert! …hope she paid for her ticket. At first I thought that she’d heard about my house clearance and had come to protect some of her assets. DSCI0191

But no. A whisper had spread around the world of felty creatures that there is a new kid on the block and she’d come to sneak a peek and welcome Drekie

who is in the early stages of being ‘sculpted’.

I’m working my little dragon friend from basic white fleece and once I’ve got a shape I’m happy with – its lovely that needle felting is so forgiving – I’m going to give him a layer of coloured fleece. Thinking shades of Herdwick (I’m not going anywhere with the shades thing…) with a dash of something brighter (red?) thrown in. I’m glad Gert returned to see him. And while she’s here there are a couple of other projects she can keep an eye on.

In the midst of all the getting rid there have been a couple of up-cycling opportunities.

First there was the crochet basket I made. It was always a bit too saggy but now I’ve run my stash down its completely flopped – in at least two senses of the word (are there more?). I was on the point of throwing it (I’m being ruthless) when I looked at the base. I loved its symmetry and noticed the pleasing fleck of green that gives it a tweedy look.DSCI0181

 

It couldn’t go. Instead I rewound the sides and ended up with a sizable ball of multi-strand yarn DSCI0182

that I am now using to continue as an ever increasing circle to make what should be a cosy rug. DSCI0183

I’ve upsized the stitches from UK double crochet to UK half-treble but I’m not quite sure. What do you think? Mmmm I’ll keep going and see if it blossoms. I can always pull it back…..

While on the rug front. Remember my t-arn rug?

Well the upside of clearing the airing cupboard is that it is revealing old t-shirts DSCI0186

that soon will be part of the slow-growing rag/t-arn rug. Is that a trag?!

Before I make up any more dubious words and ruin the beautiful English language I had better scarper…

Until next time. Moke (and Gert).

A diverting sort of a day

Hello All

Yesterday was wonderful. Cast your mind back…way…way back and you might recall me leaving the library and the lovely gifts my kind and thoughtful colleagues gave me. Amongst those presents was one I have long anticipated using Wool Clip Voucher

and May 13 was earmarked as the day! But when my good friend JG offered to take me I don’t think either of us anticipated what a diverting sort of a day it would be.

It all started well. Straight up the M6 and turn off at Junction 41 but then… images

we were diverted all the way up to Junction 44. Now that’s some diversion. Infact if we hadn’t seen the signs

(there were plenty of them) we would have doubted ourselves. But after a few worrying moments and turnabouts we arrived at Caldbeck DownloadedFile-5

in time for a much needed relaxing cuppa in the Priest’s Mill cafe. Eldorado awaited. DSCI0007

But not for long Wool Clip here we come…. DSCI0014

Oooooooh the joy of wool…….what a pleasurable time looking around and selecting my purchases, what a staunch friend JG keeping tally and what thankfulness to everyone at the library that allowed me this deferred delight. Sooooo what did I get….

I got two sets of needle felting needles, Herdwick and Ronaldsay fleece for felting, Herdwick rug wools both natural and dyed, buttons and sheepy notelets. I bought the latter because No 1 daughter lives away and we are pen ‘friends’. These pretty little cards will remind her of home.

My head is still buzzing with what I can do with these goodies… needle felted sculpture, rugs, cushion covers….. that should keep me out of mischief….

Having spent up my voucher and stored everything safely in the boot of JG’s car it was time to explore the beautiful village of Caldbeck.

The Wool Clip is based in an old water mill and running next to it is the picturesque Cald Beck river,

further along there are picture postcard cottages and a babbling brook,

But no self respecting village would be complete without it’s church and antiquarian graveyard. Caldbeck did not disappoint.

Infact it even provided JG and I with a guide, an elderly gentleman who in his gentle Cumbrian accent regaled us with tales of the tombs and ghostly goings on in the village pub where of course he had found himself by accident… he left us with a smile and a warning not to lean on the tombstones because they would probably fall over!

Famously the churchyard of St Kentigern in Caldbeck houses the grave of farmer and huntsman John Peel. It has been said that the song which immortalises him,

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay? D’ye ken John Peel at the break o’ day? D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far, far a-way. With his hounds and his horn in the morning?

is the Lakelanders’ anthem,

perhaps not so good for a veggie Lakelander…..but hey the times they are a changin’.

Leaving the churchyard to go for a bite to eat we passed the Roughton Stone

which our ‘guide’ had informed us is extremely rare so I thought I had better snap it for posterity and your better knowledge…..

Feeling educated? quick bring on the wooly stuff for a short crochet intermission. In case you thought I was just expanding my wool stash never fear I have been striving to use up some of my oddments. Thanks to Lucy at Attic 24‘s idea to make a Blooming Flower Cushion I turned to the 1946 Pretty Petals Potholder pattern a couple of days ago and started practicing the stitches I want to use with my Herdwick wools,

it was very addictive and now I have a round large enough to make a cushion in it’s own right. All I need to make is a plain circular back,

and in a day or two I should have a colourful cushion gracing my rather staid sofa.

Meanwhile back in Caldbeck refreshed by more tea and victuals JG and I thought we had better start the return journey. You would think that having survived the diversions to arrive in Caldbeck unscathed getting back to Kendal would be a doddle. Think again. It seemed like our destination was getting further and further away and losing track of where the interminable signs were sending us I couldn’t tell whether we were just going around in circles…

then, at last, the hum of traffic… I have never been so glad to see a motorway in my life! and all seemed well as we neared home in south Kendal but then what is that I see NOOOOooooooooo, images

the last turn off was CLOSED!!!!!  We just had to laugh!

I’m off to dream sweet dreams of Herdwick wooliness without a diversion in sight.

All the best Moke.