Posted in Cumbria, History, Local stuff, Monday Mystery

Two walk by the river

It’s a Bank Holiday here in England and we thought the traffic in the Lake District might be horrendous, so we went the opposite direction and ended up in Kendal. Rather than just mooching round the shops, we headed for the river and had a lovely walk all the way from Abbot Hall park to Gooseholme park and back over Miller Bridge.

This whole area of the town is absolutely stuffed with history. Walls and buildings are festooned with heritage plaques and there’s always something new to see, even in roads we’ve walked along many times before. Today we spotted the impressive Victorian frontage of Tower Building (?) on Stramongate with gables, a turret, some fun ornamental windows and a coaching arch, most of which are hidden from view if you’re walking along the same side of the road.

And on the way back to the car we spotted these cute little mice carved into a paving stone. It’s something of a visual pun so I’ve turned it into a #MondayMystery and you can find the answer, and some more information, over at my Instagram account. Squeak!

Posted in Cumbria, Events, Music

Two go to a concert

A rare evening out and a real treat, too. This was part of the Lakes Summer Music Festival, which normally takes place every year but which was cancelled thanks to the virus last year.

This year the organisers bust a gut to get as many events and concerts back on, subject to increased Covid security measures, and last night we’d booked to see an Eastern European band called Paprika perform in Ambleside parish church.

And it was great. The venue, a typical Victorian gothic church with soaring arches and a high altar lit up purple for the evening, was a super setting. And the music was quite unexpected. We’d assumed it would be ‘world music’, perhaps with an Eastern European flavour, but Paprika are actually Balkan (four Serbians and a Hungarian in the line-up we saw last night) and the music definitely reflected that.

We heard everything from old Rumanian dances to a Serbian rumba, plus tunes with a distinct Jazz flavour and even one or two pieces that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Russian Jewish wedding. All of it was lively and all skillfully played on an unusual combination of guitar, bass guitar, two accordions and a violin. The band members also took turns to compere, announcing the various pieces and giving some fascinating snippets of the history of music in their countries. Apparently the Balkans have long been a meeting place between east and west, with influences from the Ottoman Empire, Jewish traditions and the Romany culture to name but a few.

The end result is a fascinating mix and made for an entertaining night out. The only slight downside was having to sit in face-masks for nearly two hours, in a very stuffy atmosphere since the organisers had closed all the doors and windows. To be honest, though, after so very long without live music that was a small price to pay, and I found myself getting quite emotional at the return of something we love so much.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Cumbria, Gardening

Two lunch by the lake

In all the years we’ve lived in the Lake District, we’d never been to the national park visitor centre before. Until yesterday, when we met friends of ours for lunch on the terrace overlooking Windermere, followed by a mooch round an exhibition in the main house.

The visitor centre is housed in a large Arts & Crafts style ‘big house’ on the shores of Windermere called Brockhole. The house was built in 1897 as a ‘summer house’ for Manchester silk merchant William Gaddum and was designed by the architect Dan Gibson, who specialised in Arts & Crafts. Similarly, the local Arts & Crafts garden designer Thomas Mawson was brought in to give the house the garden it deserved, and the design mostly survives to this day.

We had a pleasant wander round the gardens, which include a sweet little pavilion designed to match the house and surprise views of the lake. Given how many people were visiting the centre it was surprisingly quiet – but most of the tourists seemed to prefer the Tree Top Trek aerial ropeway, the grassy areas sloping down to the lake shore, the archery, the bug hunts and the various other activities.

The exhibition, about the local Lakeland Horticultural Society based at Holehird gardens a couple of miles down the road, was small but beautifully displayed with paintings, collages and other artworks by both members of the LHS and the local artists’ cooperative Green Door Artists, based in Kendal. We were sorely tempted by a couple of the paintings but decided to be good this time and not spend any more money!

It was lovely to finally see what this place has to offer, and it really is something for everyone, whether it’s vast grounds, lake shore, fun for the kids, or a more sedate stroll around the house and gardens. We’ll almost certainly be back, but we might wait until later in the season when everything is a little quieter.

Posted in Architecture, Cumbria, History, Local stuff

Two get on a train

My first trip on a train in over 18 months thanks to the pandemic, lockdowns, and the rules on travelling by public transport. Sadly, it wasn’t on this beauty (above), just an ‘ordinary’ train to Carlisle, but it was still wonderful to have that freedom and it’s an amazingly scenic route over the (approx) 1,000 feet-above-sea-level Shap Summit with the Lakeland Fells on one side and the high Pennines on the other.

The reason for our trip was to meet up with our good friends, who were travelling up for the day all the way from Birmingham – and they were the ones who were lucky enough to be on the steam train. We’d arranged to meet them on the platform at Carlisle station and managed to get shots of the train as it pulled in. After that we strolled into the city centre and had a lovely lunch at the Thin White Duke bar.

They were only in Carlisle for a total of three hours so there wasn’t much time, but we also managed a wander round some of the older parts of the city centre including a brief look inside the cathedral, which dates from the twelfth century and is spectacular (and delightfully wonky) inside. After that we legged it back to the station for the return trip: the romance of steam again for them, the rather more mundane diesel for us! All in all a super day out.

Here’s a detail of the cloisters from the Augustinian priory which pre-dated the cathedral:

Posted in Art, Cumbria, Events, History

Two go Japanese

Another first – this one our first trip to an exhibition in months. It was showing at Blackwell, a wonderful arts-and-crafts style house not far from us, and centred on the way Japanese art and culture inspired the arts-and-crafts movement in the UK – and vice versa.

There were some amazing exhibits including ceramics from followers of Yanagi Soetsu and Bernard Leach; art (including one ukiyo-e woodblock print by the iconic Hokusai – think The Wave); a fun trail of “Yokai” (mischievous creatures from Japanese culture) hidden around the house; and a beautiful and historic kimono.

We combined a look round the exhibition with lunch with some friends of ours in Blackwell’s lovely cafe, and it all made a super change. No photos, though, as I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to take them or not. So I’ve used a picture from instead.

Posted in Cumbria, Events, Fun, Local stuff

Two go to an event

This title doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But actually, it was a lot more special than it sounds – because this was the first event we’d been to in almost two years, thanks to the pandemic.

The event was a cut-down, socially responsible and completely outdoor version of CountryFest, a nice “fayre” held on the Westmorland County Showground near Kendal for the past few years. We’ve been to a couple previously and they’ve been great fun, with terrier racing, tug-o-war, a pets’ corner, kite flying, Women’s Institute displays, music, and lots of craft and artisan food stalls to mooch round.

This year, they couldn’t have the big enclosed marquees, so some of the above had to be abandoned. No terrier racing, no pets’ corner, no Women’s Institute. What they did have was lots of rare breed sheep and goats, a sheep show, the kites, the music, and the craft and food stalls. And although it was smaller than before, it was still fun, and absolutely lovely to be allowed to visit something like this again.

We ended up spending far too much money on some super gifts, but it was hard not to when the stall-holders were so happy to be back. We also munched some Jamaican street food for lunch, watched the kites, looked at the sheep, and had a good wander round everything. And enjoyed every second, frankly.

The picture above is of some of the kites, which are always impressive. We loved the baby shark forever chasing the scuba-diver!

Posted in Cumbria, History, Holidays

Lockdown blues…

Thanks to my good friend Jay Mountney for this meme, which I’ve cheerfully stolen from her blog. Thankfully, the lockdown blues are just starting to ease as we’re all allowed to travel that little bit further afield, but there are still restrictions and it’s still easier to dream than it is to actually travel. So here are my answers – feel free to pinch this and have a go yourselves!

1) What’s the furthest place you’ve travelled to in the last 12 months?
Thanks to those pesky lockdowns, it’s only Birmingham. We usually go there to see family and friends but have only managed the friends recently. Hoping to put that right very soon.

2) What’s the most interesting small town within driving distance?

This would have to be Kendal. It has Roman origins (the remains of a fort, and odd traces of road) and a lot of Medieval history including a ‘new’ castle dating from the twelfth century, and one of the widest parish churches in the country (pictured above). There’s also a lovely river, the Kent, which flows through the town under a series of bridges (and, um, tends to flood all too regularly) and lots of quaint old buildings and steep, sometimes cobbled, streets.

3) What’s the coolest tourist attraction in your city?
Probably the Beatrix Potter Experience! Full of life-size or even larger figures of the characters from the books including (of course) Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Squirrel Nutkin. If that doesn’t float your boat, the cruisers on Windermere might, with frequent round-the-lake trips in gorgeous scenery.

4) What was your favourite road trip you took as a kid?

Probably the trip from our home near Liverpool to the coastal town of Grange-over-Sands, where we had many happy holidays. I still remember the excitement of setting off, and counting off the landmarks along the way – and the lump in my throat when we set off for home again. Close second was the trip to Derby to see my grandparents.

5) How often do you feel like you’ve got to get away?

I like to get out of the house every day if I possibly can, even if it’s only a stroll to the local shops or the lake shore, or one of the walks that wind up the hills at the back of town. I also need to get further afield at least once a week – including trips to museums, interesting towns, or nice scenery. I can take or leave longer trips away but we usually have a holiday at least once a year. We missed out on that last year, but are hoping to get to Bath later this year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Posted in Cumbria, Gardening, History, Local stuff

Two go to a frosty garden

Holehird Gardens, the home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, are only about four miles from our doorstep, and given that they’re completely outdoors they’d have been a wonderful place to visit during lockdown. Sadly, they took the decision to close.

This week we noticed that they were open again to local visitors, so on Monday we drove over there really early to beat the crowds and had a good mooch round.

The gardens originally belonged to a large Victorian house, but after World War II they were allowed to fall into disrepair and only rescued by LHS from 1969 onwards. Nowadays the house is a Leonard Cheshire home for disabled people (although apparently about to close), and the garden is a separate entity open to visitors for a small donation.

It’s very lovely, with a large walled garden, lots of glasshouses, and terraced woodland and rock gardens spilling down the hillside along with a lively stream. Much of it is north or west facing, and because it was still early when we were there, the frost hadn’t fully melted off the grass. It was noticeable that the flowerbeds that regularly catch the sun were much further out, while those in the shade still looked as though it was winter. And it certainly still felt like winter, too! But there were some early tulips, and lots of daffodils underneath the trees, and even a gorgeous camellia.

Posted in Cumbria, History, Local stuff, Nature, Photography

Two go to the seaside – again

Nope, still estuary! But at least the sun shone today. This time we were on the other side of Morecambe Bay, at Grange-over-Sands, looking south towards Arnside where we were about two weeks ago. Grange is known for its mild climate – there are palm trees growing along the promenade – and for its stunning views out over the bay to the town of Morecambe, and even to the Pennines beyond.

It was clear enough today to see all that and more. The tide was well out when we arrived, but what we could see of the sea sparkled and the air was brisk. We walked along the prom, stopped for a takeaway cuppa at one of the cafes and even perched on a bench to drink it, watching the world and lots of small dogs go by.

Suitably hydrated we marched along the rest of the promenade, past lots of flowers including tulips and early violets (and those palm trees), then carried on along the footpath most of the way to the neighbouring village of Kents Bank. It’s quite a level walk and you end up going further than you think, so we had a sudden panic when we realised we were about 2 miles from the car and the parking ticket was running out… But we made it back, with about two minutes to spare, and had a pretty drive back past lambs and along lake Windermere.

In Grange we parked on Windermere Road, opposite an attractive terrace of limestone cottages. I noticed one of them had a black plaque on it so went to have a look, but the text was too small to read, apart from the heading of ‘Eggerslack Terrace’. I’ve just looked it up on the website, and apparently the name Eggerslack is Norse, and refers to the maximum height the tidal bore reached along this shore, before the railway embankment was built. It’s a scary thought that it came so high up into the town, but apparently the terrace used to be fishermen’s cottages so presumably they could launch their boats from the front door!

These days thanks to a change in the path of the river channels through Morecambe Bay, the golden sands of Grange-over-Sands have been replaced by salt marsh. It’s a bit less scenic, but still fascinating – and a magnet for wading birds and other wildlife. And as if on cue, while we were walking I heard the increasingly rare sound of a curlew crying out in the bay. Pure magic, and a lovely reminder of childhood holidays in the town.

Posted in archaeology, Cumbria, History, Local stuff, Photography

Two go on a coppery trail

One of the nicest things about lockdown easing is that we can now get about locally rather than just staying in our town. We’ve made the most of it over Easter with several trips out, including a lovely one to Coniston on Saturday.

We expected the area to be madly busy thanks to the sunshine and the holiday weekend, but it was actually surprisingly quiet. We got a space in the main car park and headed for the Coppermines Valley, following an old miners’ track which climbs steeply up from the village into a large ‘hanging valley’ left over from glacial times. Nowadays it’s remote and wild, criss-crossed with streams and dotted with Herdwick sheep, but from about the sixteenth to early twentieth centuries it rang with industry as the site of several vast mines that burrowed into the mountains in search of copper ore. The ore was then loaded onto trucks, trundled back down to the village and loaded onto boats to be sailed down the lake (Coniston Water) towards the coast.

Since our last visit (which must be over a year ago) the owners, who also run a series of holiday cottages in and around the valley, have been busy conserving and restoring the amazing industrial heritage the miners left behind. They’ve put up interesting information boards, installed a trail of copper-painted boulders and re-erected a colossal water wheel at the side of the remaining mine buildings.

We poked about happily, soaking up the sun, taking lots of photos of the various exhibits, and enjoying the fresh air and wide open spaces which we’ve missed so much during lockdown. It really was a treat.

You can just see the newly refurbished water wheel behind the building in this photo, along with a copper boulder, a copper-painted mine truck and lots of other bits of mining paraphernalia. It’s a fascinating place to explore! And there’s a Herdwick hiding in this photo. Can you spot it?