Wild wide seascapes – two go to South Walney, Cumbria

It was perfect weather for me and friend JG to carry on the project to visit Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport and Shanks’ Pony. And on our visit to South Walney yesterday Shanks’ Pony was certainly key!

We started with the 7am X6 Stagecoach bus from Kendal Bus Station (I snuck on a couple of stops later) our first and longest bus journey of the day. It took 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Barrow Town Hall. This used to be my daily journey to work, believe me I was having flashbacks, no surprise that back in those days I finished many a sock, glove and a particularly important baby blanket on my commute to and from the office!

Once at Barrow we crossed over the road and hopped on our next bus, the number 1 to Biggar Bank. We got off at Biggar Bank Biggar Garth (Carr Lane) and then the walking began. As always in this neck of the woods people were tremendously friendly and helpful. I have always loved this about the people of Barrow and Walney. Spotting our walking boots a passerby immediately warned us of flooding on one of the routes to South Walney and pointed us in the safest direction and wished us a good walk.

Off we set to a magical reserve of eerie but beautiful magnitude, home to rare and wonderful wildlife, wide majestic seascapes and the whisper of Piel Castle on nearby Piel Island (if you squint you can just see it).

We thought we had a three mile walk to the reserve but it soon became obvious that we had a little-ways further to go, 5 miles infact. JG has a gizmo that measures such things as well as creating maps of our route.

Cool, eh? The road ahead was flat but there were quite a few vehicles and the occasional horse. At least the cars were slowed by travelling through Biggar village which gave me a break from leaping on to the verges.

Not yet March but I saw my first lamb – looked very young – as we tootled on our way.

Must be hardy sheep here on Walney. We had arrived on a good day but it is known locally as ‘Windy Walney’ because of the ferocious winds that whip in from the Irish Sea. Walney Island is certainly a place that is open to the elements. Interestingly we spotted a Barn Owl on the way (sorry but I am as slow a photographer as I am walker) clutching it’s breakfast. We learned later that they are stalking in daylight because the recent heavy rains have limited their hunting. Wonderful to see this beautiful bird (not such a welcome sight for its prey).

As the ‘three’ miles stretched out we saw hopeful signs that we were nearing the reserve.

We arrived to be greeted by two kind and friendly volunteers and shown into the cabin where we were offered a hot drink and could have a look at the artefacts and information about the reserve. There is a car park at South Walney so you do not have to walk there and yahoo there is also a toilet!!!!

With my feet holding up reasonably well at this point and JG being a keen walker we opted for the Red Route (3 miles) which covers the whole reserve. There are also the Blue Route (2 miles) and Yellow Route (1 mile). The signage was brilliant and the colour coded posts kept us to the path – this is vitally important to the birds and other wildlife that breed here.

You really feel you are getting the best brine filled fresh air and I still have a healthy glow – i.e. I am red – from the light wind and sun. There were useful information boards to read. I had not realised that there is a working oyster farm on the island, and definitely did not know that the oysters go on little excursions around Morecambe Bay.

The sea is ever present. Cumbria’s only grey seal colony resides on South Walney’s beaches. They can be watched from the hides or from the comfort of your own home via the Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s seal web-cam. Amazing to see. We didn’t manage to glimpse the seals (I really must get some binoculars!) but the views were tremendous.

Several hides pepper the reserve affording shelter and great views of the landscapes and the wildlife. We utilised a couple to watch the wild world go by while enjoying a cuppa and our packed lunches. Happy days.

South Walney is also home to some precious dunescape habitats which are vital living spaces for many species including common lizards and other sand-loving creatures. Dunes should have areas of exposed sand but troublingly they are increasingly being covered by vegetation that drives out the usual sand dune wildlife. I learned dunes are the most threatened habitat in Europe for biodiversity loss. Thankfully at South Walney Cumbria Wildlife Trust have embarked on a project to restore the fixed dunes and are creating and improving the dune ponds.

For our last little lap of the reserve we walked along the newly installed boardwalk, admiring the views and also the fun hide with all it’s peep holes.

With a long walk back to the bus stop (my feet were twinging) it was time to leave but we grabbed a quick chat with the fabulous, friendly volunteers and the South Walney reserve officer, Jake. They were all so knowledgeable and we learned a lot from meeting them. What a super way to end our visit. Thanks Team South Walney.

With spirits still high from our visit to the reserve and spotting what we thought were a curlew and a little egret en route we set off on the walk back to Biggar Bank. Sadly for me it was soon obvious that my poor old feet were suffering and I confess quite a bit of this journey was jolly painful, a bit like walking on sharp red-hot needles.

My comfortable walking distance is around 6 miles and my absolute maximum was 8 miles. On this excursion I had thought I would push that up to 9 miles but when JG’s machine had done it’s calculations we had actually walked …. drum roll please … 13.2 miles. Oh my aching feet. Once I had taken my boots off, peeled off my socks (I thought a bit of my feet would come with them, I was not far wrong) I could see the full horror wrought to my tootsies. OOOOOUCH! All my own fault for not checking the distances more carefully.

Luckily super walker JG was fine, for her this was one of her longer training walks but nothing out of the ordinary. I am now carefully teetering around the house with feet that would not be out of place in ‘The Mummy’ they are so well strapped up with plasters.

None of this sullied the day. South Walney is exceptional and I would recommend a visit without hesitation. But if you want to bus it be prepared for a very long walk to and from the reserve.

Here’s another map of our walking route.

All the best from Madam Sore-toes-a x

Lovely Leeds

Leeds has been close to my heart for several years since both my children migrated to Yorkshire following career opportunities and then settled there following their hearts. Now between them they are raising the Tribe of Doris my gorgeous trio of granddaughters who are all Yorkshire lasses.

Last weekend I had a mini-visit to one of my favourite cities to visit No 1 son and his family. I started out as always with the bus and then the train from Carnforth.

Where’s Postman Sam and his black and white cat?

I may have mentioned this before but I am sad that this famous little station didn’t have the best of years in which to celebrate it’s 75th anniversary.

2020? Not the World’s greatest year ….

But I am soon off to Leeds and a small – but beautifully formed – family gathering. It was so lovely to see R and Munchkin waiting to meet me off the train. News flash: the train was early!

We spent a happy Saturday exploring things metropolitan. I have become quite a country mouse and have forgotten how amazing graffiti can be.

Confession time. I am not the biggest fan of graffiti, sad little scrawls with spray paint do nothing for me but when it is done right: it is art.

My son thought I had wandered off while having a senior moment to take this photo! Anyhow I was soon rounded up and we toddled – Munchkin is only two – into town.

Loving the mix of old and new!

Arriving at my Elderado, a museum.

We headed to the top and visited the world of the ancients with Munchkin enjoying building her very own temple.

Next I reminisced about the good old bad old days in the temporary exhibition ‘Money Talks’. Decimalisation is a really vivid memory to me. I was away on a school trip at the time and came home to a whole new currency. I still have a soft spot for half-a-crowns. They seemed like a fortune at the time but must have been about 25 pence in ‘new’ money.

No 1 was particularly shocked by the restaurant prices … think I visited this particular eatery as a child with my father around this time. I was partial to a prawn cocktail at eight, spoilt only child that I was. Now I look at the menu as a vegan and wince.

We had only ‘done’ one floor of the museum so we have plenty to return to. The ‘Money Talks’ exhibition was a great discussion starter and if you happen to be in Leeds I would recommend a visit to see it.

After all this looking at menus what else to do but go to lunch and finish with a hot chocolate at the Everyman cinema before boarding the train back to the woolly wilds of Cumbria.

Perfect end to a perfect visit. Thanks and love to D, R and Munchkin for a super visit.

Mx

Crossing the road

Good news! My lovely MP Tim Farron sent me a copy of the reply he received to his request from our local bus company. Yes there is indeed a request stop on my outward journey (not shown on the website so no wonder the driver didn’t know) and the drivers have been reminded of this. Yahoo!!! I and others can use the bus to get to lovely little Plumgarths on Crook Road from Kendal. No scary, wibbly wobbly walk needed.

Unfortunately there is no corresponding stop for Plumgarths travelling from Windermere towards Kendal. So there will still be a wibbly wobbly walk home. BUT hero that he is Mr Farron has not finished. He is pushing for the infrastructure (I suspect a crossing) to make a safe stop on the opposite side of the road for the return journey. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I think I may have to dust off these beauties…

No 1 Daughter sent me a congratulations card for the new job. She couldn‘t have chosen a more apt card.

‚Autumn Hedgehog‘ by Linda Richardson (printed by Orwell Press)

The card is both a hint as to my new employer and also a bit of telepathy on No1 Daughter‘s part. I have – unbeknownst to her – registered for a Cumbria Wildlife Trust online event entitled „Why did the hedgehog cross the road?“. I have previously enjoyed a Cumbria Wildlife event on bees and pollinators in Cumbria. It was fab. I am really looking forward to seeing what Mrs Tiggywinkle is getting up to.

Moke x

P.S. for the one reader expecting a cyclist’s rant, apologies for it‘s non-appearance. The rant was long, oh so long, and dull, watching paint dry would be far more exciting. I decided it would have been completely self indulgent to inflict it on the lovely readers of this here blog … but the next time a motorist beeeeps at me for no good reason …. Grrrrr. ….. Mx

Ripple Effect

Been a busy old week with preparations for my new job rippling as I look into how I will get to my new workplace through the depths of Winter. Shout out here to local MP Tim Farron who has supported my call for a request bus stop nearer to my new employers.

On my way to my interview I discovered that the nearest bus stop was almost a mile from where I needed to be. That would have been great if that meant a stroll along an easy pavement or footpath BUT the walk was along a narrow sliver of vaguely trampled tall grass between a verge and a busy road. It was a very wobbly walk where I needed to step into said busy road in order to walk around the trees. Infact when a police car drove past I thought someone had called me in as inebriated and looking likely to fall in front of traffic!

Walking boots will be needed. It is certainly an unsuitable walk for any less sure footed travellers. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely not calling for the verge to be trampled down or even worse put under tarmac! Eeeek. THE VERGE MUST STAY. It is a wonderful habitat and home to all manner of plants and wildlife. However it should not be ‘home’ to commuters, visitors nor revellers. All that is needed is an extra request bus stop.

If the new stop is possible and is agreed it will benefit not just me but anyone working at or visiting the nearby cafe, small shopping hub and rather splendid hostelry. Never fear I still plan to cycle but when the weather turns nasty – and it inevitably will – it would be lovely to know that there is a snug, safe bus to rely on.

I would not dream of forgetting my trusty steed Hecate, unless of course there are high winds, heavy rain, snow and ice, overwhelming laziness ….

Phew. That was one long, drawn out ripple effect. Here is a much more homely and crafty ripple ready to be picked up.

This is the second baby blanket I have made using this Debbie Bliss pattern designed by Emma Varnam. The first was for my first granddaughter Peanut. It is satisfying to see the ticks appear in my project book as I roll along the rows.

This blanket had to include the colour orange and meant me working with a colour palette I am not used to. I was not sure about it at first but it has really grown on me. It is almost ready for the border and I think that will set it off very nicely.

This is one ripple effect I am pleased to see grow.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

The man who met Yuri Gagarin

Don’t strange and amazing things happen when you travel on trains? Or in my case bus train bus train. They certainly did on my latest trip to Yorkshire to see my family. And here I am curled up in my eldest granddaughter’s bed – rather like Mama Bear sleeping in Baby Bear’s cot – tapping out these few words to tell you all about it.

The journey started in it’s usual peaceful way with me hopping on the 555 Stagecoach bus to Carnforth. I love this bus route, it has to be one of the best in the country. It was comfortingly familiar to be swirling through the glorious green countryside even if the impacts of Covid 19 are still with us. I particularly liked the sign on the open window, got to love a low tech solution to a world pandemic.

Getting off the bus I had a little wait at Carnforth railway station before my train. Time to take a few of my wobbly pics and feel a little sad that Carnforth couldn’t enjoy it’s celebration in 2020 of 75 years since the making of the film “Brief Encounter” in which the station features.

I did notice that Carnforth Station Heritage Centre has re-opened and seemed almost as busy as pre-pandemic. “Brief Encounter” is a film classic adored by many. I have a confession, I don’t like it! I love the station and the Heritage Centre which displays a wealth of social and industrial history. The film however leaves me cold. Perhaps I am being harsh “Brief Encounter” is a creation of it’s time. But controlling men and simpering women do nothing for me.

Moving on before the fans – some of whom are dear friends – turn nasty! I also had a chance to look at some of the posters that adorned the walls of my platform. They have been there a while and I had begun to overlook them. They are really good. Here are a couple. These celebrate the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss. I will try and share the rest next time I am at the station.

So far so normal journey to Yorkshire. Things began to change when I got to Skipton and I hopped aboard my second bus of the day the 64 to Ilkley (the X84 no longer seems to run from Skipton straight through to my daughter’s village. Grrr). It was full of people and happy chattering filled the air. My phone rang. It was a call I really really had to take.

“Pardon? … What?” I mumbled to the caller, muffled by the face mask I was still sort of trying to wear. “Sorry I can’t…quite…hear you” I continued with my finger pressed in my free ear trying hard to concentrate on what the caller was saying. “ I HAVE THE JOB?!!!” I almost shouted with glee (frankly I am surprised that the bus didn’t give me a cheer as I was so loud everyone must have heard). Well I had got the job and I said YES straight away. It was a marvellous moment in the strangest setting.

What I am up to and who I will be working for will have to wait. But hopefully the coming months will be filled with wonderful information about my new employer. Don’t worry it’s not MI5 … although I would say that wouldn’t I?

This journey was definitely out of the ordinary. First the job offer then I met a man who had met Yuri Gagarin. Honestly I am not with MI5. Or am I?

As I got off the bus at Ilkley to catch the train to Burley In Wharfedale I got chatting – as you do – to a lovely man. He told me about how he had met his wife. For my money this was a much better romance than that in the aforementioned film. It all started when he met Yuri Gagarin.

In 1961 at the height of the Cold War Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first person to travel in outer space – was visiting Britain. He crossed paths with my gentleman when they were both visiting an art exhibition.

Gagarin was a huge celebrity at the time and attracted very large crowds everywhere he went. During this visit he was threatened with being crushed under the weight of people wanting to touch the man who had been in space. My fine fellow had linked arms with the cosmonaut’s KGB guard to protect the spaceman. Gagarin had been pushed against him and thankful for his services had shared some time with him and even pressed into his hand his medal for space travel so my gent could have a good look at it.

Where’s the girl? We are not quite there yet. My friendly chap told me that meeting the Soviets made him realise that, despite the propaganda, the Russians were just ordinary people not the monsters they were portrayed as being. He became curious. But it was hard to find out anything positive about the Soviet Union in those chilly days so he decided he would have to visit Russia. Ah so he met a Russian girl and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast my friends.

Why did he share his tale with me? It was because of my connection with the Lake District. Didn’t see that coming did you? Before going to Russia this charming friendly man had gone hill walking in the Lakes and been talking to fellow hikers about the lack of information on the Soviet Union. He was pointed in the direction of a young woman. Unusual for the times she had spent some months in Russia learning about the people and culture.

Yes you are right this was ‘the one’. They met and after what I gathered was a whirlwind romance he proposed to her on Cat Bells (a popular fell to the west of Derwentwater in Cumbria) and they did live happily ever after. Poignantly his lovely wife died only a short time ago. I think this is why he told me their beautiful story too. It was a way of remembering happy days and passing on his wife’s memory.

We did not exchange names and I hope that anyone who may recognise this tale will forgive me any errors I have made in the re-telling. It was a heart warming story of love and also of gaining understanding through learning about those we have been led to fear. This kindly man’s story further lifted my already high spirits. I hope it lifts yours too.

As I relate this I realise I had my own brief encounter! And on that bookend I will bid you adieu.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS I may have been ‘tipped the wink’ about the job offer as one of my fantastic references KC had text me while I was on the Skipton train to say she had been contacted by my new employer. Big thanks KC for what must have been an amazing reference. Mx

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

Wonderful Woolfest 2018

Hello All

It’s the end of June (almost), the Solstice (almost) so it must be…

From the outset the day did not disappoint. The weather was perfect.

I set off at just after 7am in brilliant sunshine (field’s still there no houses…yet!) and the views from the 555 Stagecoach bus were a delight of green hills, glimpses of water and charming farmhouses.

Even the wait at Keswick for the X5 Gold (it was rather special!) Stagecoach bus to Cockermouth was a pleasure.

All this sun must have gone to my head.

A short free link bus from Cockermouth to the auction mart and I had reached the site of my annual crafty pilgrimage. Woolfest.

With its avenue of bunting

Gaily adorning the Wool Clip stalls only a little bit of searching was needed for me to find ….

My needle felted sheep’s head! I love trying to spot this little fella I made him over 5 years ago when the Woolfest cry went up for bunting. Once I find him I know I am home.

This year I came with a new mission in mind. My 2018 project was to find plant-based fibres that could be used for felting. I was successful too.

Uppingham Yarns also had cones of plant based yarns like ramie (nettle) on sale.

DT Craft and Design offered several plant fibres together with a good quantity of dye kits. The stall holder was very informative and had plenty of samples to show the colour ranges and which dyes to combine to achieve best results.

All the stall holders were exceptionally helpful and I was pleased to find Adelaide Walker had a good selection of fibres as she is based close to No 1 Daughter so won’t be hard to visit.

Yes I know there is a distinct lack of colour. But lucky for me DT Craft and Design offered a solution to this…

I foresee a steep learning curve coming up. Yikes. I will keep you posted.

To be honest. My finds were tinged with a little sadness. All those beautiful sheep and their dedicated shepherds. I swear my Cumbrian heart broke a little as I walked past the rare breed sheep so lovingly cared for and I had to will myself not to buy any of their gorgeous yarns and fleeces. As to our local Herdwicks a tear came to my eye.

Lucky for me that this year’s Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall showcased Izzy Middleton (aka Wildflower Weaver) who follows the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and as part of the Green Cloth Collective works with vegan fibres, recycled yarn from other garments and up cycled textiles that would otherwise go to landfill. Izzy does use both plant and animal fibres but her wools come from slaughter free herds such as those made up of rescued animals. A very inspiring and interesting woman.

Happily for me Izzy is based at one of my favourite places, Farfield Mill in Sedbergh. They too had a stand,

And a woven hanging that made me smile.

All too soon Woolfest was over for another year. But there is always 2019 to look forward to!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Next day I travelled to Penrith for a catch-up and making session with the Crafty Ladies. It seems at the moment that British railways are in meltdown (not one of the trains I saw yesterday were running on time) and the Lakes line has been abandoned by Northern Rail. But apparently there is an upside: the trains chartered to cover the route are so old that they attract hordes of spotters. Glad there is a silver lining for someone!

Well I couldn’t miss out now could I?! Mx

Yorkshire Days

Hello All

Grandchild-sitting called with its joyous, exuberant and sometimes exhausting song. Bags packed I set off to help out for a few days in Yorkshire. Sitting at my usual bus stop I took in the view of the field opposite. Over many years I have watched this field change through the seasons. Sadly it is soon to be built on. I am savouring it while I can.

A bit of excitement followed while I awaited my Skipton bound train at Carnforth… famous acting couple Timothy West and Prunella Scales were filming! I really hope it was for another of their wonderful canal journey documentaries. These have been a huge hit here in the UK. We shall have to wait and see. Fingers crossed.

With baby-care handed over to me I found that I had a free day before picking Peanut up. Ilkley (of On Ilkley Moor bar t’at fame) was the day’s Elderado.

I had a short shopping list of sewing goodies to get and started with a visit to the lovely little Eme, in Brook Street.

This tiny shop has a wonderful selection of fabrics and is filled with inspirational patterns and projects. I couldn’t resist a couple of fat quarters for my patchwork stash. Keeping to a blue colour range I especially loved these.

And good old Boyes satisfied my interfacing needs. Fusible don’t you know! Useful for ‘holding’ patchwork before adding wadding and backing fabric ready for quilting.

Do any of you have Boyes shops? I think they are an ‘up North’ British thing. Boyes stores are an absolute hotch potch of goods – fishing tackle is next to card making and crafts; bird food near to toiletries – yet they have a fabulous haberdashery section and if I can’t find something anywhere else Boyes usually have it. To my mind Boyes may be slightly bonkers but it is always worth a look see.

Sewing needs met there was enough time to try out a local eatery

Daniel’s Cafe and Bistro had a great website (honestly read the bit about why is is called ‘Daniel’s’ it’s heartwarming) and more to the point there were plenty of vegan suitable goodies. The waiter was super-helpful and offered to adapt where possible anything on the menu. As it was there was no need as I went with the scrumptious home made veggie burger.

It was lovely to nibble my way through a leisurely tasty lunch with my latest read (thanks MB for the loan) and be ready for Peanut on my return.

Post-nursery swings and slides were demanded by my diminutive charge…oh how it took me back and oh how wonderful it was to have charged up my ‘batteries’ for a whole heap of pushing, lifting and spinning. Those playgrounds are brutal when a two-year old is in charge!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx