Two go exploring in Glenridding

We used to call in at Glenridding quite often, usually to go walking. There are some great paths on the lower fells between the village and the slopes of Helvellyn which dominate it, and some pretty amazing industrial archaeology left over from the area’s lead mining heritage. But for the last couple of years we haven’t been.

Partly this was due to lack of time, but also partly because the village (and indeed the whole area) was so badly devastated by Storm Desmond that it was too upsetting to go back. However, Desmond’s catastrophic floods, and the three more that followed so quickly afterwards, are more than two years ago now, and repairs have been going on in the village for the whole of that time. The Tourist Information Office, almost completely washed away, has been rebuilt, the beck which overflowed to such terrible effect newly lined with thick stone walls, and the Glenridding Hotel, which flooded four times, has been dried out and re-opened. So on Saturday we decided to go back.

It was a bitterly cold day with a wind strong enough to whip up waves on Ullswater. We started off by the water, with a coffee at the Pier House. This is really a glorified ticket office for boat trips on the lake, but it a few tables and chairs, teas, coffees and cake, a tiny gift shop, and the most amazing views.

After defrosting over our coffees we pottered round the pier, taking photos of the boats, the water and the village rooftops against a backdrop of the high snow-clad fells. It was too cold to hang round for long, though, so we marched back to the village and explored the lanes on both sides of Glenridding Beck. One leads to the village hall and a wonderful farmhouse whose round chimneys suggest a fifteenth or sixteenth century date. The other side passes the Travellers Rest pub then continues past lines of isolated miners’ cottages to the old Greenside lead mine, site of a disaster in 1927 when a dam burst on one of the reservoirs used to run the machinery and, er, flooded the village. It seems to be rather prone to that!

We didn’t make it quite as far as the mine this time but we had a good wander about and I took loads more photos of the cottages, and the fells which were bathed in dramatic, stormy light.

There are still a few scars on the village and the surrounding landscape which will take time to fade. But given the scale of the flooding, and film footage I’ve seen of the beck in spate, it’s wonderful that they’ve come this far with the recovery efforts. We’ll definitely be heading back.

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Stormy light over the head of Ullswater, with the high fells in thick cloud.

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Mine workers’ cottages on the way to Greenside mine.

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An unusually helpful Herdwick posing to have its picture taken…

 

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Mirror, mirror…

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the spookiest book of all?

Well, I don’t actually know the answer to that one, but I couldn’t help thinking of it when I saw the template for this picture on the photo editing site photofunia.com recently.

I just had to try it with Got Ghosts?, and this is the result. What do you think? It certainly puts the ‘fun’ in photofunia!

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Two go exploring in the sleet

Saturday brought a nice crisp sunny morning with snow on the high fells so we ditched the chores and shot out to take advantage of it. We headed to Coniston again because it’s not too far, and perfectly situated at the foot of the magnificent Coniston fells so there’s plenty of options for photographs.

Although everywhere looked stunning there was a knife-like wind blowing sleet flurries across the valley and the outside temperature was only about 2c, so first port of call was a café for a hot drink. This time we chose one at the far end of the high street, which used to be called something cosy like Daisy’s or Mrs Tiggywinkles, but is now the Green Housekeeper. Sadly, the welcome was rather chilly, and the assistant sneered when I chose not to make use of the loo in an unheated outhouse. Given the selection of other warmer and more cheerful establishments, I don’t think we’ll be hurrying back.

Onwards to the lake. The village of Coniston is set back from the water’s edge, so it’s a half mile (or so) walk along a lane and by the side of a tumbling beck. This leads to the rather grandly named Coniston Pier, really just some open ground with lovely views across the lake, some boat moorings, and a lovely modern café called the Bluebird after the boats the Campbell family used to set speed records here.

Annoyingly, the minute we got the maximum distance from the car the heavens opened with torrential, diagonal sleet. Dave had a hood but I didn’t, and had left my brolly in the car. We sheltered at the boat tour ticket office for a while, then set off on a long wet trudge back to the village, during which I got absolutely soaked. And the minute we got back to the main street, it stopped and the sun came out. Typical!

Never mind, I did manage to get some nice shots of the water in the mist, and of the snowy fells. We also came home with some sticky cakes from the Bluebird café, and some amazing artisan bread from a new little baker we’d not tried before. And very moreish they all were too.

Coniston (lake) in the sleet, still managing to look beautiful:

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A snow-covered Coniston Old Man looming over the village rooftops:

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Two go exploring in Keswick

We had a lovely crisp sunny autumn morning yesterday, so hopped in the car and headed for Keswick nice and early before too many crowds got there.

Keswick is one of our favourite Lakeland towns. A few years back it suffered badly during the Foot & Mouth crisis, and it’s been hit by flooding several times as well. Luckily it’s managed to bounce back, and is now home to a wide range of shops and cafes, many of them on the artisan side. On top of that the scenery is stunning, with a walk down to the shores of Derwentwater, and the Skiddaw fells looming over the rooftops.

We started with a mooch round the Saturday market stalls, then had a quick coffee at the Wild Strawberry (not so much wild as livid, to quote the old Not the Nine O’clock News sketch), and then walked to the lake. Here, instead of going to our usual spot by the landing stages, we turned off over some National Trust land to get a different range of views/photographs. I also managed to snap a few interesting bits and bobs around the town, which will no doubt turn up on my Instagram account in the days to come!

By now it was getting pretty crowded and we were running out of time on the car park ticket, so we grabbed some nice grub from the market and set off through yet more sunshine and scenery for home.

Strange wicker sculptures framing the view across Derwentwater:

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Seagulls perched in a line:

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Lights in the sky

We had a bit of an adventure last night. About 10pm Dave got an aurora alert on his mobile phone, which showed we were right in the middle of an active aurora event. Since neither of us has ever seen the Aurora Borealis before we decided to grab some warm clothes and a camera, and hop in the car.

The Northern Lights, as their name suggests, appear in the northern sky. This is a problem for us because we live in the Lake District and between us and the north there are all these socking great mountains in the way! However, we drove (carefully, it’s a tricky road at the best of times let alone after dark) to the top of the Kirkstone Pass, where we hoped the view north would open up.

Of course it didn’t, very much. Even from the Kirkstone Inn car park we could only see a narrow ‘v’ of sky between Red Screes and Caudale Moor. However, it was blissfully dark so the stars stood out like Christmas tree lights. And down in the lower part of the northern sky, there was indeed a weird bright glow.

We’re still not sure if it was the aurora, or something to do with moonlight on mist. However, it was in the north, and there’s nothing in that direction for miles that would light the sky up so brightly. Dave took some long-exposure shots which show the Plough, the mountains, and a definite pool of greenish-white light just above the horizon.

Even if it wasn’t the Northern Lights it was utterly beautiful, and quite exciting to be out in the fells so late at night. If we get another alert, with a bit more notice this time, we’ll try heading for Dunmail Raise (the pass just north of Grasmere) or even the A6 over Shap, where there are much wider views north. But as a brief taster, it was rather fun.

Friday Five – daft birds

Birds can be really difficult to take good photographs of – just as you click the shutter they move, squawk, waddle away or fly off. But over the years I’ve been lucky enough to snap a few memorable, and unusual, shots, which I thought I’d share with you here.

Seagull, Windermere

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This seagull was cheerfully ignoring the local parking regulations at Lakeside, on the shores of Windermere, but flew off before anyone could fine it.

Pigeons, Liverpool

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Even the pigeons looked fed up on a recent trip to the (otherwise brilliant) Liverpool waterfront in non-stop pouring rain.

Cormorant, River Thames

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These birds perch on anything to dry their wings after a fishing trip…

Doves, Windermere

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Sleepy, puffed-up doves braving the promenade on a freezing cold morning in Bowness.

Pigeons, V&A

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Who needs waiting staff or cleaners when you can just get the pigeons to tidy up for you? Taken at the V&A museum café in London a few years ago.

Friday Five – Windermere ‘peaks’

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I’m cheating a tiny bit with this one. There is indeed a flippantly-named “Windermere Three Peaks Challenge” which takes in three of the low hills at the back of the town (Orrest Head, School Knott and Brant Fell). However, two others are so close to the route that they might just as well be on it, so five it is.

Orrest Head

This was the very first Lakeland fell that Alfred Wainwright climbed, during a day trip to the area on the train. He was so bowled over by the view from the top that he vowed there and then to move to the Lake District and write a series of guidebooks to the fells.  The rest is history. The view is spectacular for such a low hill; it’s one of the few places you can see most of England’s longest lake from. The local council and/or charities are in the process of making the summit fully accessible – no bad thing as there’s a tricky, scrambly rock section just below the top which invariably defeats me. Although pushing a wheelchair up the steep hairpins to reach the top might be quite a feat.

School Knott

You can see the prominence of School Knott from almost everywhere in the town, poking up above the rooftops. It’s not massive at 760′ above sea level but the walk up it is surprisingly steep and goes through some varied and stunning scenery. I actually prefer the ‘back route’ via the old Droomer farm and bridleway, which takes you up to the pretty School Knott Tarn before heading up a grassy slope to the top. The view of the Lakeland Fells, and parts of Windermere lake, is lovely.

Grandsire

This oddly-named fell is separated from School Knott by the tarn, and by a horribly rickety stile which you really don’t want to tackle twice on the same walk.  It’s higher (818′) than its neighbour, and also rockier, and you get a real feeling of having ‘climbed’ something once you get to the top. The view is less of the lake and more of the eastern fells and the low undulating countryside between Windermere and Troutbeck, but no less beautiful for that.

Post Knott

A lovely Sunday afternoon stroll up the steep streets at the back of Bowness, then through woodland dotted with slate benches set into the thickness of the stone wall, takes you to the top of this locally-popular look-out point and picnic site. There’s a lovely view of the lake and the rooftops of the old bit of Bowness, lots of rabbits, and a small tarn where deer sometimes come to drink.

Brant Fell

Down a bit and then up a lot from Post Knott is the abrupt little Brant Fell, which looks almost like a tiny volcano from some directions.  It’s a steep climb and you need plenty of puff to get to the 629′ top, but again the reward is stunning views, plus some odd bits of stonework which are all that remains of an old summerhouse, destroyed by fire (according to the small print in Wainwright’s ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’). Combining this with Post Knott (actually it’s quite hard not to) makes an enjoyable walk on a sunny afternoon.

Here’s a shot of the view over Windermere (town) to Windermere (lake) from School Knott.

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Why the devil helped to build a church

I was going through some old holiday photos the other day and came across this cheeky little fellow:

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I posted him on my Instagram account, but couldn’t remember much about him, except that I’d snapped him in the northern German town of Lubeck several years ago.  (There’s an umlaut on that ‘u’, by the way, but my WordPress account doesn’t stretch to non-British punctuation. Sigh.)

So I turned to Google for a bit of research, and found this charming post which explains the myth beautifully.

Apparently back in 1250 the townspeople of Lubeck were starting work on their new church, the Marienkirche (St Marys).  The devil saw all the commotion and believed they were building a tavern, so came swooping down to help.  It wasn’t until the building was quite well advanced that he realised he’d been tricked.  Needless to say he was a bit cross, but was prevented from destroying the church when the people promised to build a tavern across the road instead!

The church, the tavern, and a boulder that the devil threatened to destroy the church with, are all still there.  As is this little statue, perched on a stone at the side of the church.  As the author of the blog I quote above says, he may very well be the cutest devil in the world.  He certainly brought a smile to my face.

Two go exploring in Kendal

Saturday was a day of what’s optimistically described as ‘intermittent showers’, which means it alternates between thick drizzle and bucketing.  We didn’t fancy kicking our heels round the house all day, so buzzed into Kendal with our brollies to do a bit of poking about.

Although the town is only around 10 miles away, and although we pop in and out like the sun on a showery day, we’re usually too busy heading for appointments, or rushing round the shops, to bother exploring.  However, every now and again it’s worth taking the time for a closer look, as this is an ancient and fascinating place.

There was a settlement on the River Kent nearby in Roman times, and the town easily dates from the early Middle Ages.  The market charter dates from 1189, the church is over 800 years old, and the town (often called the ‘auld grey town’ because of its beautiful soft grey limestone walls) still retains its medieval street pattern of high street, market place, and dozens of old ‘yards’.  The latter are a real feature, often opening up into hidden spaces containing old warehouses, cottages, or alms-houses.  And everywhere you look, there’s intriguing details: artwork, old milestones, intriguing signs and plaques, and a plethora of blue, green and brown plaques placed by the local heritage society to mark places of special interest.

This time I deliberately took my camera, and spent a morning (in between showers) happily snapping away.  I took around 30 photos and have barely scratched the surface, so there’s plenty more material for future visits.  Here’s a couple of pictures to give you some idea of the town.  Top is the steep section of Branthwaite Brow; middle is the ‘New’ Shambles!  And the third is the Highgate Hotel, with its wonderful inscription which reads in full ‘To the dwellers in this place God grante peace’.  I’ll be posting more soon, on my Instagram account.

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