Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, Nature, Photography, scenery

Two have a convalescent walk

A rare sunny (and mild) day combined with us both starting to get over the worst side-effects of Covid meant we decided to head for the promenade at Grange-over-Sands for a walk.

It’s in the open air, so no chance of infecting anyone. It’s level, with benches to collapse onto at regular intervals in case we hadn’t quite got our legs back yet. And there are two cafes for a cuppa along the way.

We only managed about half of our shortest usual distance (and yes, I had to make use of a couple of those benches) but it was wonderful to get out into the fresh air again. The sun was surprisingly warm and there were flowers bursting out everywhere, as well as an egret pacing around on the salt marsh and a curlew crying in the distance.

It would have been nice to go further, but we didn’t want to push it. After a cuppa and a cake each at the old Promenade Cafe (dating from Edwardian times when it served passengers alighting from boats at the nearby pier), we turned tail and headed for the car again. But we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and the views across Morecambe Bay, and the light on the reedbeds. We’re lucky to have places like this on the doorstep.

The photo shows Arnside Knott (the flat-topped hill) across the estuary of the River Kent, with the aforementioned reeds in the foreground. There’s a nice walk up the Knott; when we’ve got legs and lungs back we might try it and I’ll take some photos looking back the other way at Grange.

Posted in Art, Cumbria, Nature, Photography

Two go on a sculpture trail

Grizedale Forest in the Lake District is a perennial favourite of ours. We love it because it’s a huge area of woodland, heath and moorland criss-crossed by walking trails. We love the views. And most of all, we love the sculpture trail, which changes every now and again so you never quite know what you’re going to find hiding amongst the trees.

This time I’d heard that the three artworks featured in the ‘northern’ episode of Sky Arts’ new series Landmark were on display. We took a breather from work, had a coffee in the sunny courtyard, and set off to explore. This time, we didn’t find those particular pieces. That’s not to say they aren’t there; with almost 6,000 acres of forest to explore the chances of coming across them by chance are quite remote! We’ll pop back again soon, and do some research to see if we can narrow down the area where we need to look.

In the meantime we had a nice stroll along the shortest trail, past some rather odd sheep, a set of musical bamboo poles, and these deer (pic) which are balanced on the roof of a structure and beautifully silhouetted through the trees if you know where to look.

Posted in Books, Gardening, History, Photography, romance

Two don’t go to a garden

Biddulph Grange Chinese garden, courtesy of

I mentioned in my last post that we’d taken a rain-check on our plans to travel this week. The upside to that is not dying! But one major downside is not being able to visit Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire on our way back.

This once stately ‘big house’ is home to the most wonderful Victorian gardens I’ve ever seen. They’re laid out as a series of ‘rooms’, each with a different nationality including China, Egypt, and Italy, as well as a Dahlia Walk, a rock garden and a ‘stumpery’. I last went as a 20-something with my parents many years ago but the gardens made such an impression on me that I still have fond memories of them, and even used them as inspiration for the backdrop to my paranormal romance December Roses.

When I say ‘many years ago’ I really mean it. The visit pre-dated the advent of digital photography and all I have is a handful of rather poor photographs taken on a film camera, which probably wouldn’t even scan properly. So ever since I re-wrote and re-published December Roses I’ve been hoping to get back to the gardens and take as many pictures as possible, particularly of some of the gardens that feature in the book.

Needless to say that hasn’t been possible during the pandemic, but now travel is permitted again and we wouldn’t even need to book tickets to get into the garden (which is now owned, as in my book, by the National Trust). Now we won’t be in the area after all, and I’ll have to make more plans to visit at some point in the future, hopefully later in the year but before the property closes for its winter break.

In the meantime, here’s a single photo of the Chinese garden – complete with the bridge and bells which play a part in December Roses, which I cheerfully nicked from It’s only a small hint of the glories of this amazing garden but will hopefully give you some idea why I chose this location as the main setting for my book.

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?

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

Watery Reward

You’ll have noticed I haven’t been posting much about trips out lately. There’s a good reason for that – thanks to the latest lockdown, we haven’t been allowed to make any. However, yesterday we had an errand to run in the neighbouring town of Ambleside, and while we were there it made sense to combine the trip with our usual Daily Walk.

We chose a quick gallop up the lane that leads up to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall (‘force’ being the local, Norse-based name for a waterfall). It was amazingly quiet – I think we saw a couple of dog-walkers on the entire walk – and although the weather was showery we had some lovely views out across the surrounding countryside. The beck was quite high after all the recent rain and the sound of rushing water followed us up the hill. And there were daffodils, and catkins, and even one small pink flower coming out on a bush that I didn’t recognise.

And at the top, we were rewarded with the waterfall itself, which is one of the highest in the area at around 70 feet high. It’s also very beautiful, nestled in a steep-sided wooded valley (the ‘ghyll’), which is lined either side of the beck with scrambly paths. We didn’t have long to linger but I managed to grab one quick photo of the falls before turning round and dashing back home again. Hopefully it won’t be too many more weeks until we can get out and about on a regular basis again.

Here’s the pic of the falls. The area has a surprisingly industrialised past for somewhere that looks so quiet and picturesque now, and you can find out a little more about it on the WalkLakes website.

Posted in Cumbria, Nature, Photography

Two find some early snowdrops

Yesterday’s Daily Walk (TM) took in some of the maze of back lanes and footpaths around the town of Windermere including Birthwaite Road and Old College Path. It’s a fascinating area dotted with old cottages, streams and ponds, trees, rocky outcrops, views across fields of sheep – and snowdrops. These pop up without fail along the verges of Birthwaite Road every year and in spite of the almost constant bitter weather since Christmas, there they were again.

We were glad of the chink of brightness and suggestion of spring they provided, because it was sleeting the whole time we were out. Of course, the minute we got back home and clambered out of big coats and boots, the clouds rolled away and the sun came out again! But it was an interesting walk with lots of fresh air, and we were glad to grab the opportunity as the forecast for next week is even worse. I just hope the snowdrops don’t get snowed in, or blown away.

Posted in Books, Gardening, History, Photography

Even goats have statues…

I’ve been hunting high and low for this photograph for simply ages. Although the original was a print made from 35mm film, I knew I’d scanned it but it didn’t seem to be on any of the folders on my computer. And then early this morning I got a flash of inspiration, checked a different folder, and there it was!

This was taken in the mid 1980s inside the Palm House in Sefton Park, a wonderful green open space in the middle of Liverpool. I used the park extensively as a setting for my short story Lonely Sky, which eventually became vampire romance Echoes of Blood, mostly because of the Palm House and the many intriguing statues dotted around both inside and out. (There’s a copy of the famous Peter Pan statue, the original of which stands in Hyde Park, for instance. I used that in Lonely Sky, where all the little animals came to life, but couldn’t see how to translate that successfully into the updated book.)

These days on a digital camera you’d be able to take shot after shot, changing the focus and the angle. Back then I couldn’t afford to waste that much film (not to mention the processing costs), so this one shot is all I got. It’s a bit fuzzy and the statue itself is out of focus, but I’ve always liked the way it caught the light filtering down through the tropical plants and palms. So much so that this exact statue even turns up in the book!

In spite of the heat Daniel shivered and hugged himself.

‘Second thoughts, my boy?’

‘I… no, not really. It’s just…’ Just what? He wasn’t sure. Didn’t know what was coming, knew only that he wasn’t coming out of it unchanged. He shivered again. ‘Never mind.’ They pushed through the leaves, past a twinkling fountain and a statue of a goat, to a small bower beneath the central palm. The others must have gone ahead, although he hadn’t been aware of it. They waited in a group, all three of them.

If you like the sound of that and want to know how the Palm House fits in with the rest of the book, then why not treat yourself to a copy on Kindle, or free on Kindle Unlimited?

Posted in Cumbria, Nature, Photography

Two get (very) muddy

Hunting around for new hobbies that might get us outdoors during lockdown, we decided to give geo-caching a go. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, it’s a kind of modern-day treasure hunt, where people try to track down hidden containers (often filled with tiny knick-knacks) based on grid references and hints.

There are thousands of these caches dotted around the countryside; some are relatively easy to find from the safety of a car park while others involve a hike. We tried our first last week on one of our walks around the backwaters of Windermere and failed miserably to find anything. But on Sunday we were ready to have another go.

We set off for Low Sizergh Barn, a well known farm/farm shop/tea room near Kendal, which also has a walking trail which is apparently dripping with geo-caches. Armed with map, grid references, and a few clues to the size of what to look for, we headed off into the great outdoors.

The trail must be lovely in decent weather, but we’ve had a lot of rain recently and the end result was mud. Lots of it, in fact. Thick, squelching, slippery black mud several inches deep on virtually the entire route. We oozed our way to a nice little pond fringed with doors for fairy folk, then slithered through fields on a ‘path’ (river?) with an electric fence on one side and a barbed-wire fence on the other, and not so much as a tussock of grass to keep our footing on. I ended up clinging to the barbed-wire at one point, and we couldn’t really see much of the scenery because we spent all our time watching our feet.

Needless to say we failed miserably again on the geo-caches, but we heard a buzzard, and at least we scouted out the terrain and will hope for a better result next time when we can actually stand up straight! In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures of the pond, and a nice stream flowing through the woods.

Posted in Cumbria, Local stuff, Nature, Photography

Streams large and small…

One of the things I love about Windermere is the sheer number of streams that wriggle their way down through the streets to the lake shores below. One or two are large enough to have names – Wynlass Beck to the north of Windermere and Mill Beck which forms the boundary between neighbouring parishes in Windermere and Bowness. Most, though, are tiny and nameless, and often culverted underground. Here and there they break cover, if you know where to look. There’s even one at the end of our back yard somewhere, although you’d be hard pushed to know it was there. Except in Storm Desmond, when it got blocked, overflowed, and flooded eight houses including ours! 

The one above is visible for a short stretch on the Annisgarth estate and looks very pretty as it cascades over its tiny waterfall. It’s usually a little fuller than this, but we’ve had a lot of dry weather recently so when I went on my daily walk earlier in the week there was only a trickle coming over the lip. Not that it seemed to bother the duck you can just about make out, pottering about in the background.

There’s a lovely footpath along the side of Mill Beck not far from our house, which passes an impressive waterfall. There wouldn’t be much point photographing it in such dry condiitons but if we get more rain I’ll dash out and capture it and post a picture of that.