Staying indoors as much as possible during the current heatwave, I thought it was a good opportunity to write my July blog! Despite the heat the farmers are working hard in the fields cutting and baling hay. There’s a low hum of tractor noise from very early morning until late evening and there is a pervasive smell of new mown hay everywhere.
The other scent that is very distinctive in July is that of the meadowsweet. I was down at Crummock very early this morning and you could smell the meadow sweet before you reached the water meadow beyond the pumphouse: it is particularly abundant this year.
Continuing with scents I went to Lowther Castle the other Sunday to see the rose garden having watched it develop over the past couple of years. It was designed by Dan Pearson inspired by the Sleeping Beauty myth and planted in the shape of an old English Rose: it is absolutely beautiful, well worth a visit.
On my way back from Lowther, I made a detour at Eamont Bridge to visit Mayburgh Henge which is a large and impressive Neolithic henge. Its banks are very high and it is said to have been constructed of pebbles collected from the nearby river.
I have become interested in Cumbria’s neolithic past having read two fascinating recently published books, one by Adam Morgan Ibbotson, Cumbria’s Prehistoric Monuments and the other Stan Abbott’s Ring of Stone Circles.
On a local level I had often wondered about a tree in Holme Wood which is on its own on a raised mound: I am told this was a neolithic burial chamber and there is a second similar mound a bit further along the path.
Back to Foulsyke, the view towards the lake one morning last week was rather special and then when I turned round towards Foulsyke I was surprised again.
The main event throughout the country at the beginning of June was the Queen’s Jubilee and Loweswater joined in the celebrations.
A cherry tree was planted at the Grange at the other end of the lake. Chris Todd, a local farmer, did the heavy spade work and Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic triple jumper who has a house in the valley, added the final spade of soil. Local residents watched happily on, a glass of fizz in one hand, a flag in the other. We then moved to a beautifully decorated village hall for lunch followed by cake which was cut by two older residents who attended the village hall in the 1940s when it was the local school. It was a very happy and friendly occasion.
Sarah, one of my Saturday helpers, is a great cake maker and she brought in an amazing cake for us all to share at our lunchtime break on Saturday changeover. Needless to say, it was delicious.
Lorton marked the occasion by creating a beautiful Jubilee Garden next to the Yew Tree Hall: its opening was celebrated with Pimms and afternoon tea.
The West Cumbria Rivers Trust working with local landowners and farmers are continuing to create wildlife ponds in the valley. The four in the field behind Foulsyke are now looking very established. A new more extensive pond system has just been created in the field in front of Foulsyke. I am looking forward to seeing what wildlife it attracts, I have already seen some ducks checking it out.
Thinking of wildlife, we have so many birds visiting the feeders at present, today I counted six young bluetits on the nuts at the same time and there are also woodpeckers, including young, visiting several times a day. I was very excited the other morning as I walked the dog along the river path at Crummock to see a goosander swimming along with two chicks. I wondered if it is the same one that I used to see flying around the beech trees in the front garden.
It is particularly beautiful walking by Crummock at present as the meadow along the shore between the pumphouse and the kissing gate is full of grasses and wild flowers. The views along Crummock towards Gable are very special but it can also look very attractive in the other direction.
Rannerdale bluebells are magnificent this year. Many visitors come to see them and for those who come by car parking is a problem. The bluebells themselves however are more protected now as the National Trust rangers have waymarked the path through the valley.
I am lucky enough to be able to go on foot from Foulsyke, about an hour’s walk from the door, going along Crummock shore which is a lovely walk even without the bluebells but I think the best way must be to come down through the valley at the end of a long day’s walk on the fells.
There are many places with beautiful bluebells at the moment. Holme Wood by Loweswater always looks lovely and Brackenthwaite Hows is a quiet place to enjoy both the bluebells and the views.
I was thinking the other day whilst walking the dog about flowers that get all the attention in Spring such as bluebells, primroses and cowslips and how other flowers seem to get overlooked. The delicate stitchwort on the verges is particularly lovely this year.
and the poppies along the wayside are looking particularly colourful.
Away from the flowers, I managed to visit our latest attraction, Bassenthwaite Lake Station, for lunch with friends earlier last week.
It is good to see the station revitalised and lunching in the train that was used for the film of Murder on the Orient Express was quite an experience! An added bonus was a quiet walk afterwards through the Silver Meadows Nature reserve – a place I have always wanted to go to but never made it.
It’s Easter and in Cockermouth there are daffodils everywhere, as well as gardens and verges shop windows have daffodil themes and the streets have been beautifully decorated by schools and local organisations.
Looking through my photos over the past month there are several of trees, at this time of the year you can really appreciate their structure before the leaves appear.
The one along our lane is a beautiful old oak
And I always like the trees by the kissing gate at Crummock because their shape has been so determined by the weather over many years.
Although the sky has been a beautiful blue on several occasions we have also been subject to snow which stayed on the high fells for some time.
I don’t seem to have had a picture of Foulsyke for a little while so here is one taken on a beautifully clear morning looking across the Loweswater valley towards Foulsyke from the top of Brackenthwaite Hows
It has been a gloriously suuny day today in Loweswater, these daffodils and crocus are making a beautiful display in Loweswater churchyard: it does really feel that Spring is here. The weather recently has encouraged me to take my camera with me when I’ve been out and about so for this post I am going to share some photos I have taken locally over the past couple of weeks.
I always smile at this time of year when I awake to bleating on the radio, it’s Radio Cumbria advertising their ‘lamb bank’ to help find homes for orphaned lambs. The main time for lambing in the valley is April but I found this little flock at the far end of Loweswater.
On the same walk I found these primroses by the roadside – you can even see the tarmac in the picture.
Most days I take the dog up into the woods behind Foulsyke and go past the new wildlife ponds – guess what! Frogspawn!
Last Sunday I walked round Buttermere and met the Buttermere belties at the the far end. Coming back round towards the tunnel there were some herdies in the field beautifully set against the crags behind. Before I came home I stopped at the Syke Farm tea room for coffee and also to buy one of their super pies for later in the day.
I usually go down to Crummock early morning but one day I happened to walk down later in the afternoon and caught the sun coming across onto the lake from the west. The stone is a good marker for the level of the lake, it can go from being totally submerged to being part of the beach.
Finally, a photo of Loweswater Church I took this afternoon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little snapshot of Loweswater in the Spring.
It’s half-term, it’s raining and the first guests of the season are in the Cottages so it’s time to get back to writing my monthly blog. Amazingly I have got some small daffodils out in the garden, they are a bit soggy but hopefully are a marker of the Spring to come.
January was a busy month working on maintenance and checks in the Cottages in preparation for this year’s visitors. There is always so much to do from big items such as a new heating system for Loweswater to making sure we start the year with the right number of tea spoons.
My walking recently has generally been fairly local. If I remember to take my phone with me when I take the dog for his walk I can often get some interesting pictures.
Late afternoon sun on Grasmoor on a still day is amazing and watching the sun start to appear early morning over Melbreak from Loweswater bothy is quite special as well.
My big excitement one morning at Loweswater however was seeing a Great Northern Diver, sadly I didn’t have my phone with me that day.
Very often people think that not much goes on in rural areas but at present there are quite a lot of changes to our local environment. We have the lovely wildlife ponds developed in the field behind Foulsyke and there may be another to be created down the fields in front. However the most concerning development at present, and that which will have the greatest impact, is the felling work that is to be undertaken in Holme Wood. Sadly some larch trees have developed Phytophthora ramorum which necessitates the felling of many trees including, I believe, the Loweswater pheasant, which was designed by Johnston Edwards, former Forester to the Queen. Holme Wood is home to a wide range of flora and fauna including the red squirrel so hopefully the work will not be carried out until after the breeding season. The implications and logistics of the work are wide ranging and concerning for everyone and we are already seeing preparation regarding access for the vehicles and equipment that will be required.
Looking ahead on a more positive note, Theatre by the Lake at Keswick is open again and they have a full season of drama and events. Their Spring production is the play ‘Kes’ based on the story by Barry Hines and later in the year we have ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ and an all time favourite ‘Brief Encounter’ in September. There is much else besides.
I started this blog with Spring flowers so I will end with another, the first flower of Spring, the snowdrop. My first ones appeared in the garden around the middle of January, now they are everywhere carpeting the verges and lanes as well as gardens and churchyards.
Several people have been in touch concerned about last week’s heavy rainfall. Yes, it was bad and worrying at times but overall we were very lucky that there was no major flooding or damage. Over 12 inches of rain fell on Honister Pass! Keswick and Cockermouth did not suffer too badly, flood defences were effective and the towns were also protected, apparently, by Thirlmere being six metres lower than normal so the lake was able to hold more water.
I had my daughter, Clare and her two children for half-term so on Thursday we abandoned our rainy day plans to go to the Senhouse Museum at Maryport and opted for a walk/paddle down to Crummock Water. The roads locally were generally passable but not good, the dustbin men didn’t make it, Stephen the postie, did!
The water had started to come across the bridge at Scale Hill from the flooded field which two swans had taken advantage of.
The car park was flooded and the United Utilities ‘house’ next to the car park was an island.
The lake was very high and there was, and still is, a lot of debris. The seat in the picture is the one by the lakeshore.
The worst of the flooding started to recede by the following day and in the afternoon we went along to Buttermere for a walk. Sour Milk Gill was looking spectacular. Sykes Farm café was open and we all enjoyed an excellent cup of hot chocolate before coming home. We decided it wasn’t an ice cream day!
Although the end of the week was not what we were expecting we had a super time at Muncaster earlier in the week. They really know how to do Hallowe’en there.
This year’s theme was based on the Mexican Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, so it was very colourful, even the witch who flies over the castle was in coloured robes!
As the children are now a little older we stayed until the evening and walking past the ‘graveyard’ on our way out, the girls were well and truly spooked!
Now we are into November, the sun is shining again and the autumn colours are beautiful. Even the Loweswater pheasant is developing more colourful plumage.
Autumn is very definitely here although we haven’t got the colours yet, there was quite a gathering of swallows and house martins around Foulsyke a week or so ago, if you enlarge the photo you can just about see them along the top of the window frame. They have now left for sunnier climes and their place has been taken by the geese flying noisily overhead as they sort out their flying positions. At a lower level the hedge cutters are steadily working through the local lanes.
Autumn generally throws a lot of weather at us from beautiful misty mornings to downpours. I went down to Crummock yesterday morning in the rain which didn’t seem to have stopped for a couple of days, a wet changeover on Saturday – not my favourite conditions! The lake and river were high and the path to the bridges was flooded with the water coming almost horizontally over the weirs.
The skies cleared briefly and suddenly it all looked very different.
Earlier this year in the Spring my son Ian gave me one very small pumpkin plant to put in my vegetable patch. I had never tried to grow a pumpkin before and did wonder whether it would be possible here. However this little plant took over my raised bed and then trailed over the wall into the flower border, it also produced four pumpkins! As the forecast was rather wet for this weekend I harvested them during the week and put them on the table outside for a photo to send to Ian.
Then it rained followed by the sun shining again creating a startling bright rainbow over towards Grasmoor and Whiteside but perhaps the pot of gold was to be found on Brackenthwaite Hows.
Hopefully the pumpkins may feature in a later blog as Hallowe’en lanterns.
St Michael and All Angels church at Mosser, otherwise known as the fell church, has not held regular services for many years. The church does not have electricity, it is lit by gaslight and candles. There is still an annual Carol Service which in the past the local tractors in the fields lit by shining their headlights into the church. It was the Saints Day for St Michael last week and this year there was a sung evensong to celebrate this. I had never been into the church as it is normally locked and so it was a good opportunity to go inside and also to experience something of the church’s past. We were even sprinkled with Holy Water!
I have been having a bit of a clear out in the store, old pots of paint, broken electrical equipment, old fluorescent lights etc all of which required a visit to the tip. I don’t think there are many tips which have a view like the one at Frizington towards Ennerdale.
During the last week or so, there have been hints of the coming autumn, the swallows have started gathering to prepare for their long winter migration south and there have been some beautiful misty mornings.
The blackberries are ripening and the mountain ash berries are a startling red.
There were also some very delicate cobwebs along the path towards the boat house at Crummock
and one day I found that someone had been carefully building stone stacks.
It has been a busy summer with many visitors which on the one hand is lovely but the number of vehicles has been difficult for our narrow winding roads to cope with. However there have been some positive efforts to help with these problems. The Rugby Club car park in Keswick offers a deal of £4 all day parking with 15% off Keswick launches: this aims to help alleviate the pressures on parking near Hawes End to climb the ever popular Catbells. There is a shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere to help with access to Buttermere and at Loweswater, as well as many other places, there are temporary ‘pop up’ car parks in farmers’ fields. This all helps in the short term but the whole transport and access issues needs to be seriously looked at for the long term. The problem has been with us for some time but the current influx of visitors has really brought it to the fore.
Back to more mundane local happenings…… the ponds in the field behind Foulsyke are filling up and I regularly see dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the water. There was a resident sheep in the enclosure for a week or so. We think she jumped over the fence at a point where the ground was higher on the outside and she was unable to jump back out. Unfortunately she could not be persuaded to go towards the gate at the other end of the enclosure. The gate was then left open for her for several days until eventually some friends/family from the next field came to visit and she agreed to join them.
What incredible weather at the moment, wall to wall sunshine and so hot! I tend to write my blog of an evening or on a wet day but it’s not very often that it’s because it’s too hot to be outside!
The dog is getting walked very early morning. We went down to Crummock the other day via the stone age fort rock, the sheep were still resting on the top. I wondered if they were descendants of some earlier Neolithic flock.
The wild flowers are beautiful at present and there are some of my all time favourites, meadow sweet, harebells, foxgloves. Sometimes I find it difficult to name flowers, particularly ones that look similar so I have now got an app on my phone to help distinguish them so hopefully I will improve, I now know fox and cubs and can distinguish common valerian which apparently was used in WW1 to calm people’s nerves.
I seem to be having a wildlife week, much to my initial horror I found an 8” slow worm on my kitchen work surface yesterday, I do not know how it got there. I tried to take a pic when a friend helped me put it back in the garden but it was too speedy! Later in the day I had to evict a toad from the kitchen. The red squirrels are delighting visitors and some guests in Loweswater saw a family of five playing in the courtyard, it must have been an amazing sight. There is also a thrush who is singing its heart out from the tops of trees, from first thing in the morning till late at night.
The wildlife ponds behind Foulsyke have started to fill up and green shoots are appearing on the sides. There are also some very nice reflections developing.
Many of you who are regular visitors or who visit the Hiley’s local website were saddened to hear of Ann’s death last December. As funeral numbers were limited because of the pandemic Roger and their family decided to have a celebration of Ann’s life in the summer. This took place on Monday with a gathering on the top of Rannerdale Knotts where Ann’s ashes were scattered followed by a tea party at Oak Cottage. It was a lovely occasion, I’m sure Ann would be very proud of Roger and her family.
25 July – Since posting this blog, one of last week’s guests sent me this beautiful photo of a red squirrel going across the roof of the old dog kennels – isn’t it lovely? Thank you Simon.