Category Archives: local history
I’ve been waiting since Christmas day for the weather to be fit for a walk, we have had gale force winds and driving rain, but today the sun shone, the temperature was mild and the wind has dropped.
We took the footpath along the estuary, someone has layed the hedge where last October we picked Elderberries, the Elder bushes have been cut to the ground, disaster, we’ll have to find somewhere else to pick next year.
As we were walking and chatting, I heard a rustling in the bushes, and saw a Robin, my Dearest kept talking and whenever I moved to get a better view, he moved to stand in the way, typical man!
I waited to get a picture , after a little shyness the Robin must have guessed I wanted a picture because he hopped out of the undergrowth and literally posed for me, getting closer and closer with every shutter click.
There wasn’t much else to photograph but I had vowed not to go home till I had at least one shot I was happy with. I even waited till the sun came out from behind a cloud to get this shot.
We all as tourists may travel many miles and even cross continents to see the wonders of the world, but are less willing to be impressed by what we can find at home. This summer my Dearest and I, being unable to afford a foreign holiday, or indeed the fuel to take us very far, decided to explore what we had at home, or nearest to it. The plan was to improve our knowledge of what is on our very doorstep which can be enjoyed for free or near as, any time we like.
One day we went to Levens Hall just south of Kendal and probably only 15 miles from our front door. The house is mainly Tudor but dates back to 13th Century in parts, and was extended in the 16th Century. Inside the house is the OLDEST Patchwork Quilt in England dated to 1708. There is no date on the quilt or the bed hangings but the family claim it was made by the lady of the house and her step daughters in that year, the quilt is made of fabrics contemporary with that time. They are imported Indian cottons hand printed with exotic designs of birds and flowers in reds and greens which would have been incredibly expensive at the time.
I like to think of those wealthy but thrifty ladies making a Patchwork quilt to make best use of the scraps and left over fabric from the elaborate gowns made for them or by themselves in the fashion of the day. The fabrics are cut and pieced simply to show off the pattern, set in plain sashing and quilted quite closely with a simple grid of squares set on point in red thread. Each row of blocks alternates between a snowball block and a simple cross shape, a smaller lozenge shape fits between each cross , working diagonally across the quilt in both directions and each shape is set into a plain background fabric.
It was not possible to take my own picture of the quilt or the matching bed hangings which are displayed in a bedroom in low light, so I bought a post card, which gives a fairly detailed view, sadly although I could scan the post card I cannot publish an image of the quilt without permission of the owners.
The quilt is not Levens’ only claim to fame; it also has the most sublime Gardens designed for the house in 1694. The topiary gardens are the oldest surviving and the best in the world. I only wish we had arrived earlier and had time to give the garden its fair share of attention. We have agreed we need to go back another time, but when? Spring perhaps, or in June when the roses are at their best.
The café is open to the public, without having to pay to go into the house and gardens, the shop also is open to the general public so perhaps another day when we are passing, we can stop for a coffee and a browse, some Christmas shopping or whatever.
Another unusual feature is a smokehouse in the farthest corner of the garden, not for the smoking of food, but a place of banishment for those members of the early 17th Century household who had taken up the filthy habit of tobacco!
There is a walk I’d like to do from the house, into the Park on the other side of the A6, up the old avenue of trees which would have been the original approach to the house, I believe there is a waterfall and a picturesque bridge to be seen. It sounds like a perfect walk for an autumn day, and if we go on a day when the café is open we can plan tea and stickies as a reward at the end of the walk. That sounds like a plan.
What a lovely day I had today, with nothing planned and a promise of mixed weather, we set off to Morecambe to collect my winnings, not a lump sum, sadly but a novel written by a local author, and offered as a competition prize in my local newspaper. Having collected it and noting that the clouds had rolled back, the sun was shining and the tide was high, we drove north along the promenade looking for a suitable place for lunch. We turned off the coastal road and headed for the shore at Red Bank Farm.
Red Bank Farm has a very enviable setting being sited at the very point where the sea meets the land, any further west and it would be in the sea. A High bank protects the land from being encroached upon, I guess when the Farm house was built perhaps the sea was not so close, but then the date stone over the door says 1680, so Red Bank farm has weathered many a storm since it was built.
My Dearest had a Bacon Buttie, no change there then, and I had a baked potato, butter and salad, being on the Hay diet limits my choices as I don’t eat protein at lunchtime, still I could have just had a bowl of chips, I restrained myself. They did look good though, thick cut and crisp cooked with the skin on.
A footpath passes behind the farm house, right on the edge of the beach, ancient steps form a style between the building and the wall which borders the property.
We drove on to Silverdale, a place of outstanding Natural Beauty, visited a little gallery we know and then on to Jack Scout for a walk, the sun was very hot and the day humid, so we did not walk far before my Dearest wanted to turn back. I snatched a couple of pictures near the cliff edge looking up the Kent Estuary towards Arnside.
Not wanting to set off home just yet we turned the car northwards up the A6, a route we had taken several times already this week, but stopped at Beetham, it’s one of those villages which is by-passed by the road and so is rarely seen or investigated by passing traffic but I knew there was a Pub the Wheatsheaf, which had been recommended to me for good food, so we stopped to check out the menu.
What a charming little village, with fine old houses, a set of stocks on the green, a good pub, a beautiful church (The Church of St Michael and All Angels, parts of which date from the 12th century) , it still boasts a Post Office and general store, but more than that it has its own theatre! ( The Heron Theatre, a 80 seat theatre housed in the listed 18th century grammar school ) I believe the village has its own amateur theatre group, who put on productions, and it is otherwise used as cinema, “Quartet” is showing this weekend.
There is apparently The Heron Corn Mill, a working watermill, which we did not investigate. We went home via Morecambe again to walk on the promenade, and enjoy the cool sea breeze. Whilst promenading we saw a BBC news team about to record a piece live for that evening’s news, we didn’t stay to find out what it was to be; given the lateness of the hour, and having left the 13 year old alone all day, we decided it was time to go home and feed him.
The day had been unexpectedly sunny, almost cloudless and very warm, we even got to sit in the garden till it went dark, and then the rain which had been promised but which we thought we had escaped, came down suddenly in great big drops and soaked us as we ran across the garden from the terrace to the back door, if only it would always rain through the night, and allow us clear skies during the day.
We drove over Kirkstone Pass, the route known as The Struggle into the Ullswater Valley, I can easily understand why it was called The Struggle, so steep and for miles; at times a gradient of 1 in 4, a fully laden pack horse, or person for that matter would really struggle to take that route, and it’s no wonder there is an Inn at the top, you’d need to stop and rest. The Kirkstone Pass Inn stands close to the summit of the pass. Formerly an important coaching inn, It is the third highest public house in England.
The BMW took it in her stride, although my Dearest, being a nervous passenger did not, I get the feeling it was a bit of a white knuckle ride for him, particularly when I was driving close to the edge of sheer drops. We drove through Patterdale while my Dearest recounted his usual tales of mis-spent youth, toga parties in the snow, on New Year’s camping trips, swimming in the lake so early in the morning that the mist had yet to lift from the Lake. It may sound romantic to the young; I can’t help but to shiver. A hotel room for me please, hot shower, all the necessary facilities.
Spring must have come very late to Ullswater, I found a Rose Bay Willow Herb in its first flush and picture perfect, elsewhere in the world it is already setting seed and looking ragged, it was more May than the last days of July. We walked by the Lake in the sunshine, considered whether we could run a bed and breakfast here in Glenridding, and decided we could not, it might be a very precarious business, no matter how beautiful it is when the sun shines or the snow falls, it also rains…a lot.
Glenridding has a special place in my heart, it was the place my Dearest and I went to on our second date, to Aire Force, a famous waterfall just north of Glenridding, then to the St Patrick’s boat landing for a celebrated bacon sandwich, as we left the sun was low and the trees were bare, it was a snowy January. My favourite piece of Beethoven (Piano Concerto no.5 in E-flat major Op73, Adagio Un Poco Mosso) was playing on the CD player, bliss.
This time, no Beethoven but Pink Sheep! Yes I thought my eyes deceived me too, I insisted my Dearest pulled over, I had to get a photograph of this, no-one was going to believe it without.
A whole flock of pink sheep. As we pulled in another couple of walkers were stopping to photograph them on iphone, I carry a Canon 350 DSLR when out walking. I do sometimes wonder if I’d find it easier just to have an iphone, but I digress, Pink Sheep! Have you ever seen anything as sweet as these pink sheep?
So as I was saying, my Dearest and I had come to the conclusion that if we were to get any fun out of the coming weekend we had to put fun first. It was going to be sunny on Saturday and Sunday , but then pour with rain all day Monday, (typical Whitsuntide Bank Holiday then!), and probably Tuesday as well since I’d booked a day’s leave to take my Dad to a hospital appointment.
Saturday was to be fun day. I called my sister and planned to take her with us but she had better things to do, which is OK. Getting My Dearest out of bed, dressed, medicated and ablutions performed before lunchtime is always a challenge at the weekend, so we set off for the Lake District by 12.00, picnic packed and fuel tank filled. We took my little precious, my Mazda MX5, top down, hats firmly attached to heads and, in my case at least, sun block applied.
There is an easy walk I’m very fond of from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge, it’s not more than 2 and a half miles and flat most of the way and yet it passes from Lakeland village to babbling brook and marshy ground, from ancient Beech wood, to open meadows full of wild flowers and sheep, a Lake with distant views of the Langdales, and then more Beech wood with cascading waterfalls, and finally to a very nice café with retail therapy opportunity for the very long of pocket.
I poked round in the shop, admiring the pretty things I had neither wherewithal nor intention to buy, while my Dearest considered whether there was anything on the menu he might eat, there rarely is in these expensive and rarefied places, he won’t eat anything he can’t pronounce.
Then we wandered down to the bridge itself, sat on a slate bench under a majestic mature Beech tree whose leaves were all newly opened and as perfect as they could be, and unpacked our picnic.
Then walked back the way we had come, there are other walks which can be taken from Skelwith Bridge, and perhaps next time we’ll trek back another way but I wanted more time in that Bluebell wood, and to enjoy the wild flowers en route.
We called in at Ambleside on our way home for coffee, I scored two more 100% cotton checked shirts in the Oxfam charity shop, £2 each, bargain. We returned home tired and someone a little sun burned, but having had a Day Out.
What a beautiful day we had today the sun shone, but better than that the air was warm, no arctic breeze blowing in from Scandinavia to spoil the fun. The morning began with a quick mission to the nearest shop, the 13 year old is cooking at school tomorrow and generally asks me to come up with the ingredients the night before about two hours after the local shops have shut. Today even though it is a bank holiday I’m ahead of him so Fajitas will be made tomorrow…. they may not get eaten but at least I’ve done my bit.
Then my beloved and I set off to Wray to see the scarecrows, we hit a queue of traffic 3 miles from Wray all going our way but for once we didn’t mind, it was too nice a day and we were happy just to be out in my precious, with the top down, and the smell of spring in the air.
The hedgerows are bursting out everywhere bright green hawthorn leaves, frothy cream blackthorn flowers on bare black stems, and field maple leaves which begin a pinky red before turning green as they mature.
Ahead of us in the queue was a brand new Bentley continental GT, sleek black , cream interior, I’m not often envious of what other people have but …sometimes… I think it would be nice to have beautiful things… but then they are only things.
We parked in a farmer’s field , £1.50 for all day, bargain! The smell of grass crushed by tyres and many feet, so redolent of spring. As we walked up the field towards the fair my mobile phone rang, Mum calling to say Dad was home from hospital, and relieved to be home, and I was able to stop worrying about how we would get him in the car to bring him home if he was still on hip precautions.
May Day Bank Holiday Monday is not the best day to choose to visit the Scarecrow Festival, It’s Fair day so there were thousands of families many with small children wandering about this tiny village. The one thing My Dearest cannot abide is jostling crowds with whining children underfoot. As the scarecrow from the wizard of OZ would say, if I only had a brain I would have had more sense than take him there, from the moment we arrived I knew he needed to leave..
The Scarecrow Festival is celebrated every year over the week before and culminating with a Fair on the May day Bank Holiday, a theme is chosen, and individual households in the village make their own s are crows and display them in their gardens or at their doors where they can be seen by passers by. Prizes are awarded
There be giants too, and dragonslayers. Great constructions made to be carried about the streets by someone who stands inside the construction to make it appear a living thing, walking amongst us,
each made to represent a mythic person, St George, the Green Man, or the Sun perhaps?
Yesterday I planned to go to The Scarecrow Festival at Wray, an annual event with a fair which takes place in a little village in the Lune Valley a few miles North of us. The sun was forecast to shine late afternoon so on our way there we stopped by to see my Mum and Dad.
Dad had a hip replacement 20 years ago and sometimes it pops out, he generally manages to pop it back in but not this time… so his afternoon included a painful and worrying time while we considered what to do, a 999 call, a visit from two lovely young female paramedics carrying a bottle of Entanox and a stretcher, a ride in an ambulance, a lengthy wait in A&E, an X-ray, a general anaesthetic, his hip relocated where it should be and a weekend break he hadn’t planned in the local hospital. My poor old Dad.
My Beloved and I then went for a walk in the sunshine, but only in the local park, Williamson Park; built and given to the citizens of Lancaster by a local Philanthropic Mill owner, it was laid out in the 1860’s to make work for the mill workers laid off due to the cotton famine during the American Civil War, an early form of poor relief.
It stands high above the city and can be seen for miles, particularly the Williamson Memorial; a folly built by James Williamson, son of the philanthropist, in memory of his second wife Jessie, I believe the third wife spent her entire married life trying to get him to tear it down. Thank goodness she didn’t succeed.
Having planned to go out on Sunday with our cameras, we took the 16 year old to Churchtown an ancient village nearby, mainly because although the sun shone and the day was mild and dry, there is still little evidence of spring to brighten the day and gladden the heart.
I do enjoy wandering about a country churchyard occasionally, this one made me think of Victorian lady novelists, Charlotte Bronte would not have looked out of place wandering amongst the gravestones outside this grand old dame with her tiny medieval doorways and leaning walls.
The crocuses are just blooming and still picture perfect.
We walked down the high street and found a house, old and uncared for almost derelict, how I would love to get my hands on that when it finally comes up for sale, what a development project, how beautifully and sympathetically I would love it back to life. Sadly I won’t have the wherewithal, no doubt some property developer will buy it and “modernise” the heart out of it, and sell it on for a King’s ransom. Such is life. Beside it we found a strange thing, an old red phone box, of the type which generally no longer exists in villages. This one is a free to use phone, not economical to run as a pay phone, the phone company BT have simply left it operational but no longer empty the coin box, so allow it to be used, Gratis!
Opposite is this picturesque post box set in the brick garden wall of the house which in turn faces the Old Post Office now a private house, it still has its Victorian shop front.
This tiny village boasts two public houses one a famous gastro pub, The Punchbowl, I haven’t been inside for 30 years but remember very clearly being accidentally squirted in the eye with a lemon by my friend, ouch! The other pub has lain empty for some time now, so I was really pleased to see it reopened and spruced up, perhaps I’ll take the old folks for lunch, on the way to the Quilt Exhibition in a couple of weeks time.
We came across a delightful young couple, who were working on a little mini car, they were renovating it meticulously, the interior was all new leather, the body work resprayed, and they were polishing the chrome fittings the grill and headlights. They looked so young; the car they were working on must have been older than both of their ages, combined. I hope they enjoy having such a great little car.