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

Little and Large

Hello All

A quick secondary post in case anyone is worried about my apparent current lack of craftiness.

I have been working on a special blanket for a new arrival and until it was given to the parents and brand new little person I could not say too much about it. The blanket was a simple pattern but slow because it used such a small hook. Hence the seemingly long gap in craft posts.

I am pleased to report that mum loved it and as it has turned very chilly I am glad to have sent an extra layer for Baby A.

That was ‘Little’ now to ‘Large’. I have been longing for a rug to put in the nest I laughingly call a study and yesterday grabbed the opportunity to put to good use the giant needles AJ gave me and the selvedge yarn I bought at Yarndale.

I popped the balls into a rough colour order

But found after one ball that the rug was knitting up really fast and big

So only two balls and a few hours knitting later I had the perfect cosy rug for my very shabby (and not so chic) study.

With three balls left I am scouting spots in the house suitable for another satisfying rug make.

I can throughly recommend making a rug like this as the result is very pleasing. Only one word of warning: it is hard work for wrists and hands so take plenty of breaks.

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

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

Going up town

Hello All

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

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

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

This particular ginnel being Kirkbarrow Lane:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now … until next we meet,

Moke x