Let the winds blow

Before I go and lie down in a darkened room a little catch up post on life here at Casa Moke and the wild British weather.

Since Covid and all the on-off lockdowns we have been conscious of the time missed with family and good friends. This week gave me one of those special windows (it’s half term for Peanut) to enjoy a few days with No 1 Daughter and her two girls as they decided to stay with me in Cumbria for some fun and frolics in the lovely Lakes.

Of course the weather – I have lost track of the storms swinging through the UK! – had other plans. The wind blew, the rain and hail fell and despite our best efforts we spent two days very close to home. This happily meant a re-visit for me to one of the Auld Grey Town’s treasures, The Quaker Tapestry. But first of all there had to be food. Right away you will know this is my kind of place:

The Garden Cafe is run by the wonderful Nikki and is all vegan so we could relax knowing we could eat and drink everything on the menu. No 1 and I first found Nikki and her fabulous vegan fayre a few years back when she set up a trailer in her garden (hence the name) and it is wonderful to see her business has blossomed. Her ethos and vegan menu fits perfectly with the Quaker meeting house next door. And the Victoria sponge?! Amazing. As for Shrub … she discovered french fries!

The face says it all!

Suitably refreshed, Baby Shrub strapped into a carrier and Peanut hopping and skipping alongside we turned left and straight into the Meeting House to see the world famous Quaker Tapestry. I have visited many times and yet this beautifully sewn piece of community art never fails to impress. Made up of 77 panels embroidered by groups from 15 countries and involving over 4,000 people in its design and creation it is a warm yet powerful evocation of the good that people can do.

This I think is my favourite panel (I even have the tea-towel):

Underneath the panel was a children’s book for the younger clientele to read and Peanut treated us (and the embroiderer sitting behind a Perspex screen greeting visitors) to a rendition of the tale of the two mules in the picture. Jane the lady who sat so patiently was lovely and made Peanut feel a very special little girl. Thank you Jane.

That summed up the warm welcome and kindness we found at the Tapestry. There is something for everyone and I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever here-about or have chance to see some of the panels when they go on their Summer tour (if that is back on this year).

I confess it had not been our original intention to visit the Tapestry – but we are so glad we did – we had been trying to get to Keswick and three times we failed. Water, water everywhere and the prospect of getting caught on the wrong side of a flooded road home saw us turn back at either Rydal or Grasmere.

Becks were over flowing all along our route and feeding mainly on to the roads.

Eventually we took the hint and decided the weather gods wanted us to go to Grasmere. Our Keswick trip was abandoned and this small but busy village became our destination instead. As always No 1 Daughter had done her research and found us a vegan-friendly cafe so in a pattern that must now be familiar we started with food. Shrub is always a handy ‘excuse’ as she needs her regular feeds … as do we!

Again our chosen eatery, Green’s, did not disappoint.

Cooked vegan breakfast was delicious and certainly set up us for a walk around the village and then up to Allan Bank.

Grasmere is a lovely traditional Lakeland village. It’s only downside is that it can be a victim of it’s own success and can sometimes be very full with visitors. But not on this trip as the weather had reduced numbers and we had chance to admire the beautiful church of St Oswald’s – there has been a Grasmere church since 642AD! St Oswald was a busy chap – see Dorothy and William Wordsworth’s graves, walk around the daffodil garden and swing by the Gingerbread shop (still sobbing cos they have changed their recipe and it is no longer vegan…what?! Why?!).

We finished our visit to Grasmere with a bracing walk up towards Allan Bank, once home to William Wordsworth and Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the three founders of the National Trust. With the high winds the house was closed but as it does not have any exhibits and has been left empty after a fire anyway we were not too disappointed. What makes it truly special are the views and fresh air and we could enjoy both to our hearts’ content. Peanut had a great time clambering on the rocky outcrops and we all gushed over the amazing panorama.

We ended a lovely day with a quick visit to what is becoming one of my favourite Cumbria Wildlife Nature Reserves, Foulshaw Moss, for a bit of birdwatching and an amble around the board walks with Peanut.

We slept soundly that night! Good job too as next day saw us hare off to nearby seaside town Morecambe. With the winds still on the … erm … windy side we attempted a promenade walk …

…. But gave up in favour of … (whispers) … an amusement arcade. Which of course Peanut LOVED!!! Especially as she came first in the Mario carts game and could scream her head off on the simulated roller coaster. Think my ears are still ringing.

For me the best part of the day came with a walk around Happy Mount Park. We have visited Happy Mount for decades and seen it’s fortunes ebb and flow. At present it seems in a happy place, it looks well cared for and despite everything being shut Peanut had an amazing time with a new found friend: clambering all over the playground equipment, shinning up a tree and even kicking a football about. The wind may still have howled and the sea kept churning but she was as happy as Larry. I am sure Happy Mount will become a firm favourite with her just as it was with her mother and uncle.

Bet you are ready for a lie down in a darkened room too after reading through this. But I hope the fresh air, view and happy faces give you a boost, they certainly did me.

Mx

Walk in the woods – two go to Craggy Wood Staveley, Cumbria

Hello All

While the Mexican Tinga (spicy lentil sauce) simmers on the hob I will relate a lovely day out walking with friend JG.

As you know we are attempting all the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport. Last time we visited Foulshaw Moss and today we went to visit Craggy Woods in Staveley by the 555 Stagecoach bus from Kendal.

Staveley is a friendly large village and behind it lies some beautiful native woodlands. I have recently sponsored three trees there – for my granddaughters – through Cumbria Wildlife Trust as part of a project extending Craggy Woods through some newly acquired land to join with Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood and create a larger Staveley Woodland. It is a rare opportunity and well thought through. If you want to join in the fun here is the link.

We started well by catching the 555 Stagecoach bus at our respective stops and after I got over the news that Craggy Woods is hilly (the clue I suppose is in the name) we arrived at the Wood.

Initially we walked up the road that skirted Craggy (it looked steep and muddy in there) and reached the top of the hill to look across the woodland. However we thought we were missing out on the full Craggy Wood experience so retraced our steps and went back to the gate. I think the map that JG created captured our rather strange back-and-forth route.

Through the gate we went and .. it was mud-gate meets fallen tree-gate! Storms Arwen and Barra had certainly wreaked havoc. Broken branches littered the paths and yesterday’s heavy rainfall added the hazard of slippy slidey mud. But as the book – ‘We Are Going On A Bear Hunt’ – says ‘We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We have to go through it’. And so through it we went. To me it looked like the battle of the Somme thankfully without the tragic loss of life, although there were times when I thought I might be a gone-r.

Friend JG is like a mountain goat so I knew we were in trouble when she was clutching tree stumps and grasping on to rocks as we made our way up, across and down. Thanks to all the fallen branches I managed to use one as a make-shift staff and steadied my wobbly self through the descent.

It did afford many a laugh (the hysterical sort) as we descended from the top of the wood and I am really glad we did it. Craggy Wood is beautiful even if damaged at present. Sadly none of my pictures captured the muddiness of our walk, but they do show some of the storm damage and the magnificent – if misty views – from the hilltop.

It also revealed some glorious moss and bracket fungi (possibly Birch Polypore … but I am no expert) who just seemed to scream ‘photo opportunity’.

We had a fabulous if slippery walk and it was good to see where the new saplings will be planted in 2022. I think we can say that we covered Craggy Wood. Satellites don’t lie.

Having walked down the last few steep fields while wishing we had sheep hooves we reached the River Kent and Barley Bridge. The river was in full spate and quite stunning.

We briefly sojourned in the pretty church of St James’s with it’s William Morris east window

before reaching the Elderado of any walk around Staveley, Wilf’s!

Wilf’s is famous among locals, it is a friend to cyclists and walkers and serves hearty fare. We felt we had earned our veggie burgers, mine with vegan ‘cheese’, and we tucked in with relish. Yummy. Perfect end to a perfect New Year’s eve. Thanks JG for being in charge of maps and statistics: we walked 3.62 miles with 520’ of elevation.

Happy New Year to all. I hope 2022 is a good one for you.

Moke x

And it rained

When you are Cumbrian rain is a part of life. You never go anywhere without a kagoul and the web feet we are surely born with come in very handy! Over the last few weeks it has certainly rained. And as I have a partially rustic walk home my dress code has changed somewhat.

Dressed in over trousers, trusty walking boots, kagoul, hi-vis armbands – those motorists take no prisoners – carrying my backpack and wielding a walking stick I look more like I am about to conquer Annapurna than walk home from work. I have walked along what I now consider ‘my verge’ several times and have even ‘hiked’* home across fields through flocks of sheep and small herds of cattle. Welcome to my country life!

Just shows what a difference a mile makes. Not three weeks ago I was cycling town streets to work now I look more like Bear Grylls. Infact I have rather come to see motorists as softies – skimming over the fact that I have super friends who drive me to work on their way to their own jobs in the morning – afraid to face the elements outside their tin-cans on wheels. Sour grapes on my part I am sure but growling helps me get to the end of the nobbly grass verge when the rain is horizontal and definitely aimed at me. Now who’s the softie?!

After years of resisting the temptation of the posh wellington boot – I always thought it akin to buying a 4×4 vehicle when you only drive in the middle of a city – I am considering my first pair of Hunters! Whatever next?! For the uninitiated Hunters are the aristocrats of the wellington boot world. With almost every bone in my body I yearn for the comfort and dryness of a walking welly. Upon advice I am lusting after a pair of Ladies Balmoral Hunters to make my walks home an absolute pleasure, rain (most likely) or shine.

I don’t mean to be disloyal to my present pair of welly-bobs. They do their best bless ‘em but they are not really up to a trek back and forth along a mix of lumpy, bumpy, muddy paths and tarmaced pavements. They are more comfortable in the garden or jumping in puddles with Peanut. Rest assured they will always have a role in my life.

Love you welly-bobs!

Mx

* ‘hiked’ may be a slight exaggeration ….

Action-packed

Hello All

I love a bookend and who can deny that a few days that start with Vikings and end with Vikings are a good thing?…ok…ok….Franks….Anglo-Saxons….Celts…..

It appears Kirkstall Abbey was ready to let bygones be bygones

And happily allowed a Viking village to be pitched outside the Nave.

The Norse looked friendly enough but the re-enactors from Ormsheim Vikings showed us their more unapproachable side too

The smiley devils!

Set inside and around the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Festival was in full swing with choirs, hawks, stalls, ponies and dogs on show when we gathered en familie for a marvellous day in the sunshine. Peanut had a particularly good time being borne on Uncle D’s shoulders to watch dancers in the nave and later racing around the cloisters to the music of the wonderful Otley Ukulele Orchestra.

After all that excitement a genteel woman of Cumbria was just what I needed and last Wednesday JG and me continued our progress around the Women of Cumbria exhibitions with a return visit to The Ruskin Museum in Coniston for the small display on Elizabeth Smith (1776 – 1806).

Miss Smith is a rather elusive figure aptly described by twentieth century Lakeland poet Norman Nicholson in 1953 as:

A shadowy form … a ghost even when she was alive…’

Although she had an extraordinary talent for languages – she was fluent in French, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew – and was a geometrician, musician and poet it was her early death that aroused the interest of the Lakeland literati, especially DeQuincey (that well known self-confessed opium eater) rather than her accomplishments in life.

Elizabeth died of consumption living her last few weeks in a tent that her father had put up in order that she could breath more easily and enjoy the glorious views of Coniston. Yet even in death she seems to have just melted away.

To me she is an icon of the many similarly gifted women of her time who were invisible. She left me a little heavy hearted for all the talented women who have vanished from our consciousness.

Ready for a gear change? After the peace and wistfulness of Elizabeth Smith I was whisked away on Saturday by No1 Daughter to London for a fabulous Animals Asia Bear-B-Q right in the heart of the busy city.

Organised by fantastic Animals Asia supporter Sarah D on the roof terrace of Knight Frank at 55 Baker Street the event was a huge success. Sarah D is an absolute powerhouse of a woman with such compassion and commitment to the Animals Asia cause. Big thanks Sarah and to your wing-man Ray.

The setting was wonderful (as were the raffle prizes)

The food was the very best vegan food I have ever tasted (the veggie option looked scrumptious too).

And Animals Asia ace ambassador actor (who knew I could get so many A’s in a phrase) Peter Egan was super lovely – as were the chefs he’s standing with…did I mention that food…?

It was a day spent with some of the most amazing passionate people I have ever met. Everyone friendly, chatty and interesting. It was also a day that allowed me a proud mum moment. Well done No1 Daughter!

London was hot hot hot so it was a relief to return up North and enjoy a quiet Sunday sitting in a local nature reserve for a relaxing picnic organised by No1 ‘son-in-law’. Thanks RP.

Looking at the colour of the grass it is not only London that has been a tad warm!

Yesterday and flowers from friends herald

The arrival of another birthday! It really doesn’t seem like a year ago that I hit that significant 60. Eeeeek. Luckily before I could get too maudlin No 1 Daughter and Peanut lifted my day.

First we stocked up on goodies for lunch from The Garden Vegan Take-Away here in sunny Kendal.

Amazing victuals – pasties, salads, sandwiches, wraps – perfect for a happy day spent wandering the grounds of my favourite haunt Levens Hall. Peanut was in her element exploring and running around the gardens (a real must see if you are in this neck of the woods, the gardens that is not the running..).

Going …

Going …

Gone!

She humoured her Omi with a sedate walk around the cottage garden.

She was captivated by the blooms (it could also be the path, she has a penchant for gravel!)

And was fascinated by the squashes and courgettes.

What a fabulous day we had.

As for those Vikings! No1 Son knows me well ….

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Something in the water

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 2: Ambleside

Leaving Grasmere, Wordsworths and Shelleys behind JG and me boarded a returning 555 bus to travel the short distance to Ambleside.

The Armitt Museum is one of the smallest but most intellectually compelling museums I know.

Snuggled within the grounds of Charlotte Mason College the Armitt is a unique combination of library, museum and gallery.

The Armitt was founded as a library by Mary Louisa Armitt – known to her friends as Louie – to foster the exchange of ideas among the local community. And what a community!

Ambleside in the 1800s and early 1900s was the centre of a remarkable intellectual culture in which many of the key players were independent women. Amongst these were Mary Louise and her sisters, Sophia and Annie Maria; Harriet Martineau; Annie Jemima Clough; Charlotte Mason and famously Beatrix Potter. A powerhouse of polymaths. But had you heard of them all? I certainly hadn’t …. and I live on the doorstep!

The Armitt’s “A Woman’s Place: Ambleside’s Feminist Legacy” rectifies this.

Here are the inspirational women we met (no photos allowed so bear with my scratchy portraits):

Founders of the Armitt Library – the Armitt Sisters

Sophia, Annie Marie and Mary Louisa Armitt were seriously gifted sisters originally from Salford. Each had her own area of expertise and talent, botany, music, English literature to name a few.

Thankfully Mary Louisa ignored Ruskin’s advice to keep to women’s activities. I don’t think he would have included in those the founding of a library and we would have been all the poorer.

There is definitely something in the Ambleside water as the talented Armitts were not the only women of note drawn to the area.

The first female sociologist – Harriet Martineau (1802 -1876)

This rather doe-eyed portrait probably belies the steely woman Harriet was. Born into a Unitarian family of Huguenot ancestry she travelled widely (in those skirts?!) and was a proponent of higher education for women. Her interest in social theory earned her the ‘first female sociologist’ moniker.

She was a woman ahead of her time:

“If a test of civilisation be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power”

… and there were more…

First Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge – Anne Jemima Clough (1820 – 1892)

While losing out in the portraiture stakes (sorry Anne) Ms Clough certainly did not lose out when they were handing out brains and humanity. Anne Clough was a suffragist (akin to a suffragette but earlier and non-violent) and like Martineau was a promoter of higher education for women becoming the first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University.

While in Ambleside (where else?) she opened a school at her home Eller How for local children. Fascinated by her stories and travels her pupils couldn’t resist being drawn to her and learning through her informal methods of teaching. Moving south to help her widowed sister-in-law she initiated a scheme for peripatetic lectures which blossomed into the development of a new Cambridge college.

Homely and good humoured, like the children at Eller How, Anne Jemima’s students cherished her. While not a natural administrator her humility and ability to admit when she was wrong allowed her to work creatively and successfully with her colleagues.

She sounds great and is a bit of Her-story I have never learned about.

Home Education and the Teacher’s Teacher – Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923)

Best known in these here parts for being the light behind the teachers’ training college set up after her death Charlotte was also a supporter of home education. She co-founded the Parents’ Educational Union to provide resources for home educating parents and published the Parents’ Review a regular publication with articles on home educating.

Perhaps because of this Charlotte is well known in North America. Infact we learned that a large number of American and Canadian home schoolers visit The Armitt to find out more about her.

Last but not least …

Naturalist, artist, writer and conservationist – Beatrix Potter

(Oh the sacrilege.)

Living in an age of change Beatrix expertly followed her own path. Through her much loved Tales of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books Beatrix an astute businesswoman ensured her financial independence. She earned enough to engage in farming, assemble a great estate and become a Herdwick sheep breeder. All this from an expert on fungi!

Beatrix supported The Armitt and thanks to her beneficence the museum holds an amazing collection of her scientific drawings. They bowl you over with their detail and some are even hard to distinguish from photographs. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to see Beatrix Potter’s academic work it is astonishing.

You still there? I couldn’t stifle the urge to share these inspirational women with you I hope you enjoyed meeting them.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Keep on marching…

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 1: Grasmere

The sun continues to shine, moors and heaths burn and reservoirs run dry. Welcome to the new California! Thankfully the Women of Cumbria are going nowhere. They are a sturdy bunch – hot? phah! – so the march of the modern women (me and JG) continues … even if I am sweating …. sorry …. glowing like a Gloucester Old Spot (oink!).

Hopping on the 555 Stagecoach Bus from Kendal – choosing seats on the shady side of the top deck – we set off. What a corker of a day. We visited two museums and ‘met’ a host of incredible women.

Settle in a comfy spot with a pot of your favourite brew – I am now mainlining green tea – a lengthy post lies ahead of you. And there is another to follow. No rest for the wicked.

Described in my trusty copy of Hyde and Pevsner as sitting in a ” Pastoral, Samuel Palmerish setting under the beetling fells…” Grasmere deserves its enduring popularity with visitors. Amongst those visitors were the Wordsworths, sister and brother Dorothy and William. Our day kicked off with a visit to their one-time home, Dove Cottage.

Once a wayside inn Dorothy Wordsworth initially occupied the panelled downstairs room in this 17th century whitewashed cottage.

Got to love the quirky terrier. What a rascal he looks.

On this hot day the cool of the homely kitchen and buttery was welcomingly refreshing.

Dove Cottage a place of “plain living and high thinking” saw Dorothy and her brother William at their most productive (1799 to 1808). However the cottage was soon crowded by William and his wife Mary’s growing family together with the coterie of the great (and often stoned) literati of their day it was no surprise that Dorothy moved to one of the smallest and coldest rooms she probably needed the peace and a good (if nippy) night’s sleep.

Up to fifteen people sometimes slept at the Wordsworth’s. Snug to say the least.

How inviting the garden would have looked. No wonder William treasured the time he spent at the top of the garden overlooking the house and fells from his moss clad retreat.

It seems that daffodils were not the only flowers on his mind.

No gardening pun intended but if I seem to have wandered from the Women of Cumbria path here I come tripping (almost literally those olden days folk had smaller feet than mine and their steps were not designed for clodhoppers like me) back onto it.

Dorothy was a wonderful writer and much ‘borrowed’ by her famous brother. William was influenced by her detailed descriptions of nature. Her “Grasmere Journal” probably inspired “Daffodils” together with William’s acclaimed guide to the Lake District.

Next door to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum and another woman who could easily have slipped under the shadow of a famous man. Can you guess who she might be?

Couldn’t get JG to pose. Can’t think why?! You of course guessed our visit was to learn about Mary Shelley in the latest exhibition in the museum’s Women Behind the Words series:

Mary Shelley (born in 1797) was a woman of many talents: a novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. It fair puts you to shame. “Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus” was born out of a stormy night’s challenge amongst friends when she was 19 years old (nineteen!!). Her other works include “The Last Man” set in the future of…the 21st century! Don’t want to worry you but we are all doomed.

Curated by Fiona Sampson to coincide with the publication of her book “In Search of Mary Shelley” the exhibition reveals an intelligent and radical woman. Mary’s life was beset by tragedy, the drowning of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and the deaths of three of her children, yet she devoted herself to looking after her only surviving child and her career as a professional writer. No mean feat for any woman in the 19th century. It is good to fly the flag for her, Dorothy Wordsworth and the other Women Behind the Words.

There’s a whole bunch of fabulous women to come…watch this space.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

I will take up my pencil

Hello All

While we are enjoying* this extended period of warm weather here in the UK it is good to get out and about. I fear all too soon we will be saying ‘Do you remember the summer of 2018?’ Much as we used to say ‘Remember the summer of ’76?’ (you perhaps have to be longer in the tooth for the latter … check with your parents … grandparents).

So at the invitation of my friend KS and her son AB I jumped on one of my favourite buses – you guessed it Stagecoach 555 – to Keswick with one destination in mind.

It is years since I visited this little gem of a museum and in the meantime it has moved out of the old factory site – production has now moved to Workington a short-ish bus ride away – to a purpose built unit in the old factory grounds.

If you wondered where pencils came from ponder no more! The first pencil was made in Keswick, here in good old Cumbria – once called Cumberland around these parts – over three centuries ago. Glad they have kept the Pencil Museum in Keswick as it is ever popular with visitors of all ages and it seems only right to keep it in the birthplace of the pencil.

For the outing I became part of KSs family (ticket) and enjoyed the delights within for free. The staff were super friendly, we all got pencils (which we kept) and opted to share a quiz sheet.

We crouched through the replica graphite mine adjusting our eyes to the darkness and watching out for the ‘miners’ frozen in their perpetual task of extracting graphite for our beloved HBs. Then all was light as we emerged into the bright and airy exhibits’ hall.

Keswick Pencil Museum boasts many quirky artefacts. Such as ….

The longest pencil in the world. It is true, it is verified by that bible of such peculiar facts The Guinness Book of Records. There is even a certificate to prove it:

Along with the huge are the small. There is a fascinating display showing how MI5 commissioned specially hollowed out pencils – to carry maps – topped with rubbers (erasers) that hid a handy compass. I learnt a lot about the humble pencil: how many are made a year (lots and lots); what sort of wood is used (clue: it comes from a tree) and what was used as an eraser before the rubber (who would have thunk it!).

Amongst the displays were many wonderful collections of pencils

The damage to this lovely old example tells a more recent tale of Keswick’s history. It shows how high the flood waters rose during Storm Desmond in 2015.

Now to another gem…literally

To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Derwent crafted a special Diamond Jubilee Pencil. Only two were made one was presented to the Queen (money always goes to money!) and the other is displayed at Keswick.

The Diamond Jubilee Pencil is a work of great skill. It is made from graphite taken from the original mine and was crafted by means of the traditional methods used before 1832. To top it off the crown is encrusted with 60 diamonds supported by white gold lilies to symbolise royalty. KS and AB wondered whether the Queen uses hers to write her shopping lists. I do hope so…I hope she writes all sorts of lists,’tis the simple pleasure of us humble folk!

We finished our tour with one of the Calvert Trust sheep which was commissioned by Derwent and formed part of the Herdwick Trail in 2016. Derwent’s sheep was decorated to resemble a dry-stone wall. A very colourful wall! each of the ‘stones’ were coloured using Derwent’s Inktense blocks and the lines between them were made with Inktense pencils and blocks.

One final look back:

before browsing the wonderful shop, drooling over the colours, pencils, brushes, pastel blocks and inks and then toddling over the road to Kat’s Kitchen for some cold drinks supped while viewing the beautiful landscape that surrounds Keswick.

I opened with a part quote from Vincent Van Gogh in the title. To close I bring you one from Stan Laurel:

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must always be led!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

* The sunny weather is not bringing joy to all. My heart goes out to the numerous firefighters, soldiers and volunteers that are working day and night in awful conditions on moors and heaths to douse and control numerous fires. Mx

Bussing it – Two visit Herstory

Hello All

Had a fab day yesterday following the quest for this year. Quest? You say. Is this a great endeavour aimed at bringing about world peace? ending inequality? famine? Well…errr…. no. While these are definitely laudable aims me and walking buddy J have set our sights a wee bit lower….

Our target for 2018 is …. to visit all 11 of the exhibits at the Cumbrian museums taking part in events ‘Celebrating the Women of Cumbria’. Yahoo!

Humming ‘The March of The Women’ (could just have been me) we boarded the good old 555 Stagecoach Bus at Kendal and set off for Keswick and Herstory. In case you want to hum along* here are the words of this rousing suffrage anthem written by Cicely Hamilton with music by Ethel Smyth.

The March of the Women

Shout, shout, up with your song!

Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking.

March, march, swing you along,

Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.

Song with its story, dreams with their glory,

Lo! They call and glad is their word.

Forward! Hark how it swells

Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord.

Long, long, we in the past,

Cower’d in dread from the light of Heaven;

Strong, strong, stand we at last;

Fearless in faith and with sight new given.

Strength with its beauty, life with its duty

(Hear the voice, oh, hear and obey).

These, these beckon us on,

Open your eyes to the blaze of day!

Comrades, ye who have dared,

First in the battle to strive and sorrow;

Scorned, spurned, naught ye have cared,

Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,

Ways that are weary, days that are dreay,

Toil and pain by faith ye have borne.

Hail, hail, victors ye stand,

Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!

Life, strife, these two are one!

Naught can ye win but by faith and daring;

On, on that ye have done,

But for the work of today preparing.

Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance

(Laugh in hope for sure is the end)

March, march, many as one,

Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend!

Keswick Museum certainly did not disappoint. The staff were super helpful and friendly (even after I changed their knitting example from garter to stocking stitch … sorry) and for the sum of £4.50 we each purchased a 12 month ticket for this delightful museum.

We first had a quick tootle around the ‘old’ museum where I couldn’t resist playing (or attempting to) the huge slate ‘xylophones’ housed there. These amazing instruments have a fascinating history dating back to the discovery by Peter Crosthwaite in 1785 of his first 6 ‘music stones’ (sic). He produced a further 10 musical stones over the next six months and in later years his achievements were built on by Joseph Richardson of Keswick who spent 13 years (!!!) scouring the slopes of Skiddaw for rocks with the best tone in order to produce an extraordinary instrument which comes complete with candle holders and an 8-octave range. So popular was this instrument of percussive delights that in 1848 the ‘Richardson & Sons, Rock, Bell and Steel Band’ performed at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. The instrument was donated to Keswick Museum in 1917.

I am lucky enough to have heard a selection of these stones (35 rather than the full 61) during a performance at Kendal Library some years ago. They were played by composer Brian Dewan and Jamie Barnes who performed (in 2005, I think) seven new movements for the musical stones written by Brian Dewan with the assistance of Jamie Barnes. Atmospheric indeed. But I digress…. what were we here for? Ah yes, ‘Herstory’.

We had a marvellous time learning more about this famous Lakeland town through the stories of its women. What I think absorbed us most in this mountainous area so beloved of climbers were the brave women who scaled the local peaks often dressed in long heavy skirts, heeled boots and an ever present tipfer pinned to their copious coiffured locks. It reminded me of a description of Ginger Rogers: “sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backwards and in high heels”.

Glad to say that some of these bold lasses donned knickerbockers under their skirts and when up in them thar hills took off their voluminous skirts and carried them (annoying enough) in their knapsacks.

My cartoon was inspired by the photograph we saw of Pauline Ranken and Lucy Smith of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club ascending Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh in June 1908. Unlike my swinging lady above they were doing the job properly despite their attire and being suspended by what looked remarkably like string. Gutsy women.

We had a whale of a time and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Keswick and its friendly museum post-haste.

We have now visited two of the eleven exhibitions. We tripped over the trail in the Museum of Lakeland Life (MoLLi) at Abbot Hall where we had gone to view the Folk Art exhibit. The MoLLi definitely set us on our quest as their exhibition was so cleverly woven into the museum’s existing artifacts giving us a taste of the struggles which both suffragists and suffragettes – didn’t know about the difference till then – faced in pursuing women’s suffrage.

Next on our list is the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven where they are exploring the life of Whitehaven’s Edith Brown a trailblazer in women’s healthcare and education. Watch this space….

In any event I am sure that I will be back in Keswick soon. Not only is it – to my mind – the best bus journey in England but I have a new walking book to add to my small collection.

Happy days.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Warning!!! Don’t listen to ‘The March of the Women’ unless you want it in your head all day … Shout, shout up with your song… aaaaargh!

Three go to Ambleside

Hello All

Final catch-up post. Joined by mutual friend JF, J and I set off for another walk.

Walk 3 – Walling Walk around Ambleside (thanks again to the Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch)

For this circular walk we got there by car, parking near the main car park opposite the Armitt Museum and University of Cumbria. It is also easy to get to Ambleside by the Stagecoach 555 bus from Kendal Bus Station.

Today (being 20 November) the weather gods decided to give us a small reminder of Cumbria’s predilection for chucking wet stuff at innocent passers-by. We and the landscape spent most of the day covered in fine droplets born of a mizzle that barely lifted.

Nevertheless while our kagouls were dampened our spirits were not. Who could fail to smile at the bonkers little Bridge House where we started our walk. Chortling at my attempt to capture Moke in situ is encouraged if only to give you a feel for the light hearted mood of the day.

Strangely wet weather often adds to the camaraderie and hilarity of a ramble. It is just impossible to take yourself too seriously with rain water dripping off your nose-end while trying to enjoy an undiluted thermos of tea and keeping the seat of your trews from soaking up your body weight in ‘refreshing’ Cumbrian precipitation.

From the Bridge House we tootled on through Ambleside to the path which would take us up to Blue Hill and Red Bank Woods conservation area and lead us in a contour around Wansfell. Speaking as one who would immediately turn her ankle if pursued by raptors (watched too many Jurassic Park films!) stout walking boots or shoes ARE A MUST on this walk as it is FAIRLY STEEP (swoon) and rough and muddy in places.

The Dry Stone Walling Association … Cumbria Branch again did not disappoint and we were treated to a selection of the walling styles that feature in this upland landscape. We stumbled upon this stone hewn trough no doubt needed by the dray animals hauling materials up for the building of the Thirlmere water pipeline which took water from Thirlmere Aqueduct to Manchester.

Apparently soooooo prestigious was this Victorian project – the Bill was passed into law in 1879 – that our old grey stone was not good enough and the contractors imported sandstone posts to mark the pipeline! Bloomin’ cheek.

Of course no dry stone walling walk of any worth would be complete without a smoot (smout…?) or several. And this walk was no exception:

The weather meant finding a sandwich stop was a bit tricky however we walked into the grounds of Cumbria University’s campus at Ambleside (once known as Charlotte Mason) and found a handy bench to eat our vittles and discuss the world. Home-made fajitas if you want to know.

Now I am not sure if we should have done the above. If we shouldn’t please ignore the previous paragraph. It was all a dream (except the fajitas which were scrummy).

I have another confession to make. There is an add on to this walk that takes you up a road known as ‘The Struggle’ (you know what’s coming) to some amazing views. Guess who (it wasn’t JF nor J) demurred against this extra climb? In my defence I would say I was pretty wet – I am getting good gear in stages, boots came first – and the said views would not have been visible through the drizzle to make the aforementioned struggle (oops Struggle) worth it. But we have made a pact to return in the better weather and take in the panoramic scenery offered by this extra leg.

Even without the extra couple of miles this was a splendid outing. I felt that I had done a proper (ie rigorous) walk and got some much needed exercise (ie hilly) with the bonus of fresh air (ie weather). Sadly this is the last of our dry-stone walks but what we have learnt will inform all our subsequent excursions in the wonderful Cumbrian countryside.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Walking in them thar hills

Hello All

Bet you were wondering whether my travels and a single venture on Shank’s Pony had done for me and I was lying in a darkened room recovering. Never fear dear readers I have infact been spurred on to toddle out and about to explore bits and bobs of the fair county of Cumbria.

Friend J has done a fantastic job finding walks with heaps of local interest and beautiful landscapes (with minimal hillage …. mostly). We have even done quite well with the weather …. mostly.

Off we go.

Walk 1 – Coniston Walling Walk (thanks again to the Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch)

Following on from the Hawkshead Walling walk J and I thought we would widen our walling knowledge even further with this walk around Coniston. But first how we got there.

This time we bussed it. Boarding the Stagecoach 505 bus from Kendal Bus Station we travelled all the way to the walk start in the village of Coniston. We also used the 505 to return. It is a fabulous trip with lots to see en route but bear in mind that if you want to return to Kendal without changing buses the number of through buses is limited. Luckily I am such a potterer we filled in most of the time – the walk should only take two to three hours, we took 4! – till the last through 505.

About time we had some pictures:

Thanks to local wallers there is a demonstration wall behind Coniston’s Ruskin Museum which shows features that we would see on the walk: there were a couple of different stile types (the slippy flaggy steppy over sort and the ‘breathe-in’ model – these may not be the correct walling parlance); a smoot (or is that smout?!); and a bee bole, an alcove in which a straw beehive would be placed. I am only sorry I didn’t snap the ‘Hogg hole’ also known as a lunky or a sheep smout which allowed sheep to pass from field to field at the push of a large boulder. The hills were calling….

Slightly worryingly for me we followed the footpath for Coniston Old Man – old he may be but age has not noticeably reduced his stature – and the word ‘climb’ appeared in our pamphlet guide. But the puffing and wheezing from yours truly was definitely worth it. The path took us STEEPLY (J May use another adverb like ‘gently’) along our route past a slate engravers and UP a rocky track with compensatory fabulous views. I will just mention that the path was steep enough to need a retaining wall on the left to prevent (and I quote) “the hill falling onto the track” … good grief…. and to allow the use of cement (I have discovered a slight sniffiness about the use of cement unless ABSOLUTELY necessary) on the right to secure the large top stones stopping them rolling down into the gorge …. GORGE…. Get my drift?

However it was with a sense of accomplishment that we (me for getting there and J for getting me there) perched on the beautifully built Miners Bridge for a cuppa. In true Ruskin style I did try to capture the moment for your delectation.Moke at Miners Bridge

Alright perhaps not Ruskin. Here is what it actually looked like.

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Breathe in the air, join me in grabbing a rest and taking in the scenery together with a warming cup of tea (you can of course choose your favourite tipple).

Ready to walk on?

As we continued passing cottages with slate porches and outhouses perfectly constructed using the local stone I thought about the craftsmen that built these wonderful walls. So often we saw how much skill and pride they put into their work. Lifting them from the everyday to things of beauty and creative genius.

One trick we missed so I pass it on to you should you ever venture to these hills and lakes is a fabulous place to stop and eat lunch undercover (often very welcome in rainy Cumbria). You have heard of being in the dog house? Well here it is:

Coniston Dog Kennel Folly (c1838)

Built around 1838 to house a pack of hounds Coniston Dog Kennel Folly is now owned by the National Trust and with benches and information boards inside is the perfect place to munch your sarnies. Egg and salad cream if you want to know.

As you walk on from here you can look back at a magnificent panorama taking in Coniston Old Man, Yewdale Crags and the lake. Again well worth all the puffing and mithering. I could get into this hilly thing.

I am loving the weekly walks and am so glad that I invested in proper boots as I feel safer, comfy-er and have toasty warm tootsies into the bargain. Even at the low levels that I manage it is a must to be properly prepared cos we get plenty of WEATHER and it can change on a sixpence. Health and safety warning over.

With time before the bus home the walk ended cosily with a mug of hot chocolate. Now this is heaven.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. She’s probably too busy juggling work and celebrations but just in case HAPPY BIRTHDAY LADY G. !!!!!! Mx