Short walks and flying visits

Hello All

Funny little week this one with a veritable variety of small delights. The weather and remnants of the ever-lasting flu bug has limited my walking recently. With yet another forecast of f-f-f-f-reeezing high winds accompanied by a deluge (think BBC Weather marks it with charming two raindrops under a too fluffy cloud, its a deluge to me) the intrepid three J, JF and me decided that perhaps meeting for a cuppa would be enough for this week’s walk day. But we are not intrepid for nothing and decided on a short walk before the luxury of a warm coffee shop.

When I say short I mean short. Today’s walk was along one side of Kendal’s main shopping street Stricklandgate. For a Kendal walk we of course turned to Mr Nicholls and in this instance his Exploration No.1 Around Stricklandgate. To reduce the need to refer to Arthur Nicholls’ book in the everlasting downpour I made a quick (ie not very good) sketch of our half-a-street walk with all the highlights jotted down which I could preserve in a waterproof ‘envelope’.

For such a diminutive amble Stricklandgate (one half) packs a historical punch. Kendal Town Hall is presently being restored after the damage wrought by Storm Desmond (2016) so a little interior shot is all I have to give to an idea of its grandeur.

Passing up the opportunity to burst Maria-like into song we girded ourselves for a walk on the wild side of Cumbrian weather (I begin to wonder if there is any other type!).

We quickly trotted to the top of Finkle Street.

There has been much conjecture about the name Finkle. I like the old Kendalian story that it is from the Norse word meaning elbow as it does have a dog-leg as you walk downbank. My extensive research (I Googled it) is not entirely supportive of this theory and whatever you do don’t look up the definition of ‘finkle’ in the urban dictionary …. you have been warned.

Moving on. What has always intrigued me is the fact that Stricklandgate was lined with buildings on both sides (remember we are only looking at one half…) and the Pump Inn which lay across the top of Finkle Street fascinated me. I was imagining something grand like the Pump Rooms in Bath but the reality appears to have been a far cry from this. The fact that a fish market ran down Finkle Street behind it should have given me a clue. We are lucky that there are archive photographs of the Pump Inn. Here is my representation of one of them. I am afraid as it was all grey even my grey-heavy palette gave up.

Doesn’t that fish-wife look familiar?!

Tootling on we wistfully wandered on past Farrers Tea and Coffee. Ahhhh the smell of freshly roasted coffee that comes from this old coffee house is amazing. If you are up this way it is a must to visit Farrers with its wobbly timber floors and stairways. The coffee and tea are tasty as are all the home baked treats. You can also pick up Farrers’ goodies to take home. The building is fronted by the iron doorway which was put in when the building was refronted in the 18th century. Prior to this Farrers was a hostelry called the Waggon and Horses Inn.

Farrers had whetted our appetites but we carried on paying our respects to Kendal’s historic past: the buildings that survive – like the Working Men’s Institute and Globe Inn – and those long gone – like the Corn Market Hall with its grim prison named the Black Hole underneath. Further down the road (but not much further) we gave a nod to the old yards and burgage plots that now lie long forgotten under the modern Westmorland Shopping Centre which at least has hung on to our old County name.

Almost at our destination we skirted Blackhall Yard which originally housed a 16th century mansion for the first mayor of Kendal Henry Wilson and later became Hodgson’s Black Hall Brush Factory. There is a replica of the hog with bristles sign still hanging near the yard but one of the original wooden hogs can be seen at the Museum of Lakeland Life at Abbot Hall.

Finally Charlies and that long (er-hum) awaited cuppa but before we could enjoy the delights of an Earl Grey tea or three there was one last historic footnote. Charlies cafe is sited in the old house that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have stayed in on his retreat from Derby in 1745 and is where he was cared for by the Misses Thompson (make of that what you will). Ironically the house is said to have provided the same bed to the Bonnie Prince’s pursuer the Duke of Cumberland the very next night. Hope they changed the sheets … were there sheets…?

Amazing what a short walk can reveal. The same is true for a flying visit.

Yesterday I was in Carlisle to meet up with friends at Tullie House museum. I love this museum and the fact that I picked up a season ticket for £6.50 on my last trip has helped me appreciate it even more.

Having had a super catch up and lunch in the museum cafe I enjoyed an hour looking at the Percy Kelly retrospective. The work of this amazing artist is right up my street. Driven to draw everyday he generally had a linear and angular style with all those clean lined edges I find so satisfying. In addition to the drawings, paintings and prints I discovered textile prints and multi-media examples of his work. All wonderful but for me the most beautiful exhibits are his letters. He was an inveterate letter writer writing in a clear copperplate hand around the drawings he incorporated into his correspondence. His letters are erudite and incredibly illustrated how fortunate were his friends to receive them. No wonder so many survive they must have been treasured. If you have a chance to see this exhibition (which I hear is now staying in Tullie House until mid-February) I would thoroughly recommend going.

Understandably no photos were allowed of the Percy Kelly exhibition however elsewhere in Tullie House you are generally allowed to take snaps and I grabbed one of Tullie House’s latest acquisition, Driggsby.

Sadly Driggsby a rare Fin Whale was found in 2014 by a dog walker at Drigg in West Cumbria. The young whale had already perished but has been kept in the county to illustrate the wonderful sea life we have around our shores and to act as a reminder to care for the environment that sustains these amazing creatures.

Lest I leave you on a sad note here is something that made me smile. Having completed our walk down Stricklandgate J, JF and myself trotted into Kendal Library and popped our heads into the colourful children’s library where we were bowled over by our talented friend AW’s fabulous display.

Hope her hard work leaves you smiling too.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Three go to Castle and Cemetery

Hello All

Those tricky weather gods were out and about so when deciding on our last walk we played it safe and went for a couple more explorations of our home town taken from Arthur Nicholls Explore Kendal. Keeping to the east side of the River Kent JF, J and me set off along the canal path.

Don’t get excited as there are no pictures of jolly barges and cosy boathouses to show. Our canal was filled in many years ago and while it has often been mooted that it will be reconstructed we have yet to see the diggers move in. Instead the canal provides a wide foot path, a ghost waterway still spanned by bridges from its mercantile past.

Despite the lack of loveliness the canal walk is a useful way to amble, jog, cycle or dog walk away from the busy main road. And being a canal path it is flat …. flat I tell you flat! …. yahoooooo. For me a perfect walk allowing me to get into my stride before puffing up the steep slope leading to the remains of Kendal Castle which sits atop an impressive glacial drumlin.

Described in Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England Cumbria as lining the horizon like ‘broken teeth’ Kendal Castle was apparently already falling into disrepair by 1572. Nonetheless it retains a romantic charm:

It also offers a good spot to rest your thermos and dodge the wind while enjoying a tea break.

From Kendal Castle we walked down a broad and gentle footpath to Castle Road and there we began to find gems not mentioned in Mr Nicholls little book.

J, JF and myself have all worked in public libraries so we couldn’t help but feel gleeful when we came across this adorable book box which we presume has been provided by a philanthropic householder:

What a thoughtful idea. I often wonder what to do with my old paperbacks. Some go to friends, in the past good copies went to a local second hand bookshop and others I have left in cafes with a note to read and share but I loved this beautiful book hut and am wondering if my little neck of Kendal would like one…..

A short hop from the book swap JF and her husband on a previous walk had come across a unexplored ‘gothic’ corner of Kendal. One of those places that you have to know is there or you would miss it. Opening a creaky iron gate we walked from what looked like a private drive into the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe-esque horror.

Graves sit higgledy-piggledy clustered around a lonely turreted chapel where nature appears to be re-claiming her own:

Leaving the graveyard feeling neglected and melancholy. Dark and still between the planted yews.

Brrrr. Affected by the mood of sad reflection we read the gravestones with a growing curiosity about who was buried here. Burials began with the opening of the cemetery in May 1843 (the chapel built by the Kendalian architect George Webster opened in July 1845). The cemetery is now full only allowing interments to the larger family plots. Many of the graves occupants appeared to be trades people. But as to why they are here in this lost little corner of Kendal we could not be sure. So atmospheric was the space that we started to get fanciful (perhaps that was just me!) and it felt like we were characters at the opening of a gothic horror. All we lacked was a thunderstorm … well it was drizzling.

Time to move on for sandwiches, cheese and tomato if you are wondering, and take a look back over the rooftops towards the Castle.

Thank you to IC who helped us find this vantage point.

The rest of our perambulation took in areas of Kendal that are more familiar to us. The yarn of Dickie Doodle (did he exist? Doubtful) and the creation of Doodleshire on the eastern side of the Kent together with the tales about the horrors of the ducking stool by Stramongate Bridge are well known. Dickie Doodle was supposedly sent by Richard I – you know the one with the lion heart, loved a crusade? – to bring the market charter to Kendal but having fallen drunk on the West bank escaped the angry natives by crossing the bridge to the East bank of the town where he found the residents much more welcoming (perhaps they just liked a drink). Indignant at the West Kendalians treatment of him Dickie supposedly tried to limit the market charter to the east bank and to do so founded Doodleshire on behalf of an angry King Richard (how dare those west-side varlets mistreat the king’s man). Names sound improbable? that’s because they probably are. It is nonetheless a great story and has been around for several centuries and mockingly the area that was supposedly Doodleshire annually elected a mayor until 1827. Such is the power of the urban myth.

Unfortunately the ducking stool was all too true. Its victims suffered the humiliation of being heckled by the holier-than-thou-but relieved-its-not-me mob and were then plunged into the freezing cold waters of the river. Luckily things have changed and we managed to cross the river without any such injustices.

We finished the day with another mystery. What are these ‘directions’ carved into the stonework?

We have seen similar on several of our walks. J found a possible explanation (wonderful thing this interweb thingy) in a reader’s (Ben) comment on the York Stories blog:

‘FP stands for fire plug. Prior to fire hydrants firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a hole in it – the hole would fill with water that they could use for firefighting. Once the fire was extinguished they would hammer a bung or ‘plug’ into the pipe and backfill the hole, leaving an FP mark on the building for future reference. The term stuck when hydrants were introduced and their locations were marked with FP signs. Usually a square or oblong enamel sign in purple or white I’ve never seen one like yours. Generally if there’s an old FP sign there’ll be a more modern H sign too.’

But if you know different please let me know. Think I will have to lay off the walling. So addicted are we that we started pacing the measurements out almost falling under trucks in the process. You wouldn’t believe the language… not the truckers ……

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx