May

The May blog always seems  to include the arrival of the cuckoo and the local bluebells! This year I first heard the cuckoo on 30 April but neighbours had heard it earlier in the week.

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.

April

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

March

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.

 

February 2022

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.

 

 

 

October half-term

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.

October

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.

 

 

September

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.

July

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.

 

 

June

I am beginning this month’s blog with a picture of Crummock Water on this morning’s dog walk. The lake was incredibly still and even the clouds are reflected clearly.

It is mid June, the cuckoos are still calling across the valley, the cow parsley has taken over from Jack in the hedge and the hedgerows are closing in over the paths and lanes. The grass has not been cut in the churchyard apart from little footpaths winding through the gravestones and there is a carpet of wild flowers, bistort, dog daisies …..

Down by the lake I always look out for ragged robin in the boggy meadow between the kissing gate and the pump house.

The yellow iris were flowering in the wooded area but I didn’t get a very good picture of them.

On checking my previous blog I realise I wrote it before bluebell time at Rannerdale, like many other early flowers they were a little later this year. The bluebells cover wide swathes of the sides of the valley but I like this picture as it shows the density of the flowers.

The creation of the ponds in the field towards the wood behind Foulsyke is progressing apace. There was a Himalayan balsam bashing session a couple of weeks ago then the diggers moved in …..

and the ponds are starting to take shape.

If you go on the road over Mockerkin Heights there is an old, ruined building at the top on the right. I often wondered what it was – I learned recently it was the old Mockerkin School established in 1781 which remained open until the late 1800s. I went to have a look at it on a cycle ride this week and was amazed by how small it was. There is also a stone from the school on Mockerkin Green which reads:

‘Mary Mirehouse of Mockerkin founded and endowed this school in the year 1781. Remember now the creator in the days of youth’.

There is a fascinating article by Walter Head about the school in an old History Society newsletter, many of the family names of the children who attended are still familiar in the area. I think I need to find out more.

May

Just returned this morning from a walk along the Loweswater terrace path and met this sheep on the road up from Maggie’s Bridge, she did make me smile as she jumped agilely onto the wall!

I heard the first cuckoo on Thursday 22 April which was quite early, I usually note it more towards the end of the month. There are swallows and house martins about looking for nest sites and I have also seen the goosanders who I noted flying around last year: one of them tried to get into the hole in the tree where the jackdaws nest and was very speedily evicted.

The weather has been interesting over the past month with some beautiful still days, great for reflections but frost almost every night so no good for planting out in the garden.

It also didn’t rain for quite a while so my little local walking group (Now we are Six) took advantage of it being drier underfoot and went on what is usually a very boggy walk over the back of Gavel to Banna Crag and Floutern Kop returning via Hen Comb. Our boots remained clean and dry!

I went on a favourite walk around Drigg (south of Sellafield) last Wednesday. It is a lovely walk across rough pasture to the Esk estuary and then returning across the sand dunes to the beach. There had been a lot of snow on the high fells, (perhaps you saw the footage of people skiing on Helvellyn), and the Scafell range in the distance was white but the sky and sea were blue, some nice fluffy clouds as well – beautiful.

Those of you who know Foulsyke may be interested to hear that the Rivers Trust, working together with the local farmer, are going to create a wetland area and series of ponds for wildlife in the field behind leading up to the woods, this will also allow for water storage during floods. It will be fascinating to watch the project develop.

Finally a photo of the Kirkstile with its beer garden open!