July

It’s July and the harebells and meadowsweet are out – two of my favourites!  Meadowsweet is all along the hedges and there are great swathes of it in fields and meadows but you can often come across harebells unexpectedly; I found this little patch in the field by Park Beck and there was another clump growing out of the church wall as I passed by.

The main summer season is well underway now at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. ‘Handbagged’, a play about the meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher, is excellent, very funny but also gently reminding us of serious issues. ‘As you Like It’ started last week and is a very modern take on Shakespeare’s play, very imaginative with lots of music and dancing, very enjoyable. We had an excellent pre-theatre meal in the café on a limited choice menu; it was very nice and relaxed and you don’t have to worry about getting to the theatre on time.

My most exciting news at the moment is that after nearly a year without a dog I have now got Max, a rescue border collie. He is very friendly with both people and dogs and even accepts that he is Peggy, the cat’s, new best friend. As a rescue dog he does have some problems, he is very nervous and doesn’t seem to have been used to going out for walks but he is gradually learning it can be fun. This morning we made it down to Crummock with Andy and Jenny, my neighbours, and their dogs. Clare, my daughter’s comment on his reluctance to go for walks was that he had heard on the doggy grapevine how far I walk!

I often put in a photo of the view from my garden but this month I am putting in a picture of my garden as it is looking so colourful at present.

June

In June the road along to Foulsyke becomes even narrower than usual as the cow parsley and ferns grow too tall and lean over into the road. The meadow sweet is almost out and higher in the hedges roses and honeysuckle are flowering. The foxgloves are looking particularly splendid as well.

I have got swallows nesting in Crummock store and there have been various attempts to build a nest under the canopy by Buttermere. It’s a tricky build as there is so little to attach to to but the current effort is holding so far.

It seems a long time since I wrote my last blog and a lot has happened since then including a General Election. I always find it amusing when I go to vote at the village hall to find the polling station notice tied to the rubbish bins!

I had an old friend staying for a few days at the end of May and we decided to head for the coast one day and walked out to Grune Point on the Solway – the tide was out, it was quite desolate and we didn’t meet anyone at all but we heard a linnet singing.

The summer season at Theatre by the Lake has got off to an excellent start with a stylish performance of Terence Rattigan’s ‘After the Dance’ and a very funny production of ‘Handbagged’.

Also in Keswick there is a new exhibition which at Keswick Museum based on Terry Abrahams documentary on Blencathra. It is a very friendly small museum with lots of interesting exhibits and the small entry fee is valid for a year’s visits!

Although my walking activities are mainly in local or easily accessible places, every now and then I go further afield and a couple of weeks ago we went to the far reaches of the Duddon valley to climb some of the Coniston fells from the other side. It was a super day and the views towards the Scafell range were stunning.

But just in case you think I am neglecting the local sights here is The View one misty morning

and Buttermere earlier today.

May

In the past week or so the trees and hedges have really greened up: I took this photo  of the oak trees along the lane from Foulsyke the other evening as I was walking down to the village hall: they looked so beautiful in the evening light. However if you asked me what is special about May I would say three things; lambs, cuckoos and bluebells.

There are so many lambs in the fields now and they are starting to charge around in little gangs sometimes finding their way onto the lanes through tiny gaps in gates and hedges and then having difficulty getting back. Lambs, like most animals are not easy to photograph as they tend either to hide behind their mother or scamper off just when you think you may have the perfect shot. However I was in luck last Sunday: Judy and I were out for a walk having our picnic lunch when we were surrounded by a flock of inquisitive lambs and their mothers – photo opportunity.

There seem to be cuckoos everywhere, there are certainly some in the wood behind, and also in Lanthwaite Wood. Last year I didn’t hear a cuckoo until 5 May which was a bit later than usual but this year I heard my first cuckoo on 28 April and some guests said they had heard it earlier in the week.

Rannerdale bluebells are quite early as well this year and there have been several pictures in newspapers and on television. They are very special and part of their attraction is that they are on open fellside rather than in a wood so there are large swathes of blue across the valley. I find this very difficult to capture on camera but what one can never do is to capture their very distinctive and evocative scent.

April

The daffodils are still out in Loweswater and probably will put on a good show for Easter. Several guests have remarked that there has not been such a marked difference in the flowering times between the South and here this year which is quite interesting, maybe they had it colder than us this winter.

The daffodils have now been joined by primroses and there are also a few shy violets to be discovered. There were even some  bluebells which were almost out along the lane today. A neighbour had some swallows inspect her barn last week which she says is earlier than last year.

We are also starting to get some lambs in the fields around Foulsyke and there are some beautiful ones at the end of the lane, I am told they are Kerry Hill sheep – very pretty.

Another sign that Spring is really here is having Tony and his icecream van, looking very pristine, back on Surprise View on Whinlatter – the best ice cream there is!

I have been promising myself for ages to go to the Henry Iddon exhibition at the Keswick Museum  and I finally made it today! Henry Iddon has done a series of photographs, many of them of climbers using the Abraham brothers Instanto camera. It is a fabulous exhibition, beautiful photographs and the actual camera is on display. I knew it was large and cumbersome but I was still surprised by how big it actually is. How the Abraham brothers got it up onto the climbs is almost beyond belief. There was also a small room with short films (and a snoozing old lady – not me!) One of the films was of the Abrahams brothers climbing Napes Needle, incredible footage. Apparently when they started climbing they used their mother’s washing line – and there’s a photo to prove it. The exhibition is on until mid May – well worth a visit.

Another fascinating ‘must see’ exhibition is ‘The Word-Hoard, Love letters to our land’ at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth. This is an exhibition of photographs by John and Rosamund Macfarlane, curated by their son, Robert Macfarlane, illustrating the language that evolved to describe the world around us. Many of the photographs are of local places and as well as many old dialect words there are some amusing modern terms such as Witches’ Knickers for plastic bags caught up in trees. The exhibition is on until September.

I went on a visit to Liverpool the other week and found some sheep, superlambananas, which reminded me of last year’s Go Herdwick sculptures: as they were sheep I obviously couldn’t resist taking a picture.

March

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The snowdrops and crocus are now giving way to daffodils which makes one feel Spring is really here. The birds’ plumage is so bright now, the yellow-hammers are amazing, and they are all singing their hearts out. However their singlemindedness at this time of year can lead to a lack of caution as they dart between hedges across the lanes oblivious to any approaching vehicles. I have recently had one or two near misses with low flying blackbirds.

I have just had my annual Visit England inspection: the inspector was very satisfied with what she saw and what I was offering to guests and I retain my Five Star status with Gold Award for all three cottages. Good to have that accolade.

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At the end of February Clare and her family came to stay for a week and Poppy (aged four) declared she wanted to go to the top of Brackenthwaite Hows which she could see from the front window. She climbed all the way up, Edith (not quite two) needed a few carries. Poppy was surprised by how small Foulsyke looked and delighted to see the post van going along the lanes – just like Postman Pat! The cave in Lanthwaite Wood on the way down was an added bonus.

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I seem to have been walking down to Crummock Water quite a lot lately. I particularly like going down via High Park and over the brow of the hill to Sandy Yat from where there are such lovely views towards Gable.

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There are so many paths to take but particularly at this time of year it is nice to go via the churchyard with all its spring flowers so I will finish where I began.

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February

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As those of you who have visited know, the view from Foulsyke is stunning and is so reactive to varying light and time of day. I took this picture one morning last week as the sun rose low in the sky towards Buttermere.

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The snowdrops are now at their very best, they are tucked into  hedges and gardens and there is a wonderful display by the top gate into Lanthwaite Wood. The churchyard is carpetted with them: they will soon be followed there by purple crocus and daffodils. I like the way this little clump seems to be sheltering behind one of the crosses facing Grasmoor.

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At the beginning of January I visited to the Armitt Museum in Ambleside to see the ‘Beatrix Potter, Image and Reality’ exhibition which contains a large number of her botanical watercolours: it is a fascinating and very informative exhibition, well worth a visit. After we had been to the museum my friend, Hil and I obviously needed a walk and we did a very nice circuit of the High and Low Sweden bridges. Apparently the term Sweden comes from the Old Norse for ‘area cleared by burning’ not from Swedish involvement in the bridge building. Below are some very friendly Highland cattle we met en route.

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Coming back home from the lake a few days ago, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of these Beltex sheep with Melbreak as a backdrop. They look a bit different from our more familiar Herdwicks and Swaledales.

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January 2017

A Happy New Year!

I saw the New Year in standing out by the seat with friends, a glass of champagne in our hands, watching the Kirkstile’s fireworks in the pouring rain. By morning we were in glorious sunshine and so went down to Crummock to enjoy our first picnic of 2017.

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The view wasn’t too bad either!

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One of my friends was recovering from an injury so could not walk very far. This posed a bit of a problem for me as walks and picnics are my usual fare for guests. However we spent a very enjoyable, if somewhat different, time together. We visited Holme Cultram Abbey near Wigton, which is an amazing historic place and used to be an important abbey, well worth a visit. This was en route to Silloth for a gentle stroll along the prom and lunch at Mrs Wilson’s café where Kathleen Ferrier once lived. Unfortunately it was closed, but we discovered the Fairy Dust Emporium round the corner, which will be a ‘must visit’ when the grandchildren next come – the paninis were excellent.

I have always wanted to take the train down the coast route, so the next day, armed with our railcards we headed for Workington station to catch the two coach DMU to Barrow. A fascinating journey, the train hugging the coast very closely most of the way and passing through places I had not even heard of. In Barrow we visited the Dock Museum  which is situated in an old dry dock. All very interesting and as both Lynn and I were born and bred in Sunderland we really enjoyed the shipbuilding history.

The beautiful New Year’s Day weather continued into the next day and after my visitors had gone I took a quiet gentle stroll down to Crummock and up onto Brackenthwaite Hows.

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The sun was getting very low in the sky as I reached the boat house where two swans were feeding before settling somewhere for the night.

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December

We had some wonderful weather in November, cold with clear blue skies; no wind, so fabulous reflections; beautiful snow on the higher fells and autumn colours at lower levels – what could be better!

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My friend Hil and I met up to visit  Claife Heights viewing station on Windermere. We were not disappointed, stunning views framed with coloured glass, what a concept. We followed this by a walk to Moss Eccles Tarn which was a favourite spot of Beatrix Potter and her husband.  It was beautiful with trees reflected in the ice.

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Looking back I seemed to visit quite a few tarns last month, including Blea tarn in Langdale……

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….and Alcock tarn at Grasmere. We walked there via Nab Scar and were in deep snow at the top.

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We can’t forget the local fells in such wonderful conditions and Judy and I walked along the ridge from Gavel to Blake and Burnbank. We had our photos taken by the photographer of the Whitehaven News on the top of Blake but I’m not sure whether we appeared in the paper.

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Crummock is always excellent for reflections and I can’t resist walking down and taking pictures.

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Whilst thinking about Crummock, our local National Trust ranger, Mark, lead our walking group’s Christmas walk through Lanthwaite Wood and around Crummock shoreline. We learned about woodland management, and were shown evidence of charcoal burning, lead ore mining and smelting. The recent floods, disastrous for so many, had revealed fresh evidence of these activities. Beyond the woods, Mark showed us the remains of long abandoned farmsteads and iron age earthworks and solved a mystery for me. I have always wondered why there was a fence going into the lake by the kissing gate – it was in fact a Victorian jetty. Now my daughter says I will bore everyone telling them about it whenever we go down to the lake! Which I probably will as I am so delighted to know what it was!

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas!

 

November

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We have got an amazing combination of beautiful autumn colours (they always tend to be at their best the first week or so in November) and snow on the fells! Last weekend the first snow arrived on the tops of the high fells but yesterday it was much lower and when I went over to Keswick in the morning there was snow on the road over Whinlatter. The combination of coppery beeches and snow resting on the branches of the fir trees was stunning!

I had my son, Paul, and his family visiting over half-term and at the end of the week we went down to Muncaster Castle.  There was an impressive Hallowe’en theme there with lots of families dressed up and enjoying a great day out. Paul’s children are a bit young for spooky things but they had fun having their faces painted and mixing spell drinks! We all were very impressed by the witch flying on her broomstick over the castle – you could not see any wires at all!

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Judy and I decided to take full advantage of the beautiful autumn weather last week and maximised on the shorter days by starting off very early (we convinced ourselves our bodies hadn’t at that point adjusted to the clocks going back!) We drove down to Eskdale and climbed Scafell and Slight Side. A long walk on a glorious day!

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The Melbreak Communities run a Coffee and Cakes morning every month which is hosted by a local group. Last Saturday, it was the turn of our local walking group. We had a very successful morning: well over eighty people came along to support us and together with the money we took on coffees and donated cakes, and John and Rosamund Macfarlane’s sale of their beautiful photographic cards and prints we raised around £450 for Fix the Fells.

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October

We have had some glorious weather over the past week or so but it is becoming quite autumnal. When I was walking up to the woods one morning I saw (and heard) the first skein of geese overhead: I always feel these migrating geese are an evocative marker for this time of year. I’ve also today seen some fieldfares attacking the rowan berries! The view towards the lake has been amazing particularly in the early morning when there has often been low level mist.

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Walking on these early autumn days is very special. Last Sunday I was on the High Stile Ridge, one of my favourites, the reflections on Buttermere remained there all day.

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As it had been so clear the previous Sunday a friend suggested walking Black Coombe in the far South west corner of the Lake District. The views were incredible in all directions and we could even make out Snowdon, 90 miles away on the distant horizon (no photo of that though!)

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Several visitors to the Cottages this year say they have enjoyed visiting the café at Lingholm on the far side of Derwentwater where Beatrix Potter used to go for holidays when she was young so I thought I had better investigate! You can make a nice gentle day of it taking a launch over from Keswick and incorporating a walk as far as you wish along the lakeshore returning by boat from wherever you wish. The coffee and cakes were good as well! And it is dog friendly!

While on the subject of cafes, it is so good to have The New Book Shop in Cockermouth back home: good to browse the books with a coffee stop!

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SAD NEWS…………..

For those of you who know me I  have to tell you that Wattie died this week.

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It’s hard to lose your best four legged friend, they leave pawprints on your heart.