Dogs really are man and woman’s best friend

Super weekend here at Casa Moke. No 1 Son arrived last Thursday to be swiftly followed by one of my oldest friends GF – who had made her way to the north from her home in the beautiful city of Exeter – on Friday. Good timing too because I had just received my first delivery of tester products from Sainsburys and needed some (un)willing victims erm … tasters to try a couple out with me.

Glad to say both meals – mild vegetable curry and minestrone soup – were a success. Truth be told the curry mix got top marks with No1 Son and I thoroughly enjoying yomping it down while, due to the fact I need new specs and concentration levels, the minestrone soup mix turned into a wholesome lentil stew as I threw in far more of the mix than I should have done. Nonetheless with the aid of a glass of red and crusty baguette the soup/stew was very tasty and filling and went down nutritiously well.

As you can see it was certainly substantial! It turned out to be the perfect meal after a day in the lakes.

Back in a time when cars were a rarity and we were school girls GF and I used to visit the Lakes to stay with my Aunty May. As eager teenagers we found the best means to get around the amazing landscape of Cumbria was …drumroll please …. the 555 bus. And guess what, it still is!

Yesterday we clambered aboard the 555 bought our Explorer tickets (£12 for a full days travel in the Lakes) and set off for Keswick. At almost two hours door to quirky dog-loving Lakeland town it might seem to some a rather long journey but the bus passes through the most stunning scenery and the trip is an absolute stress free pleasure. Without the worry of driving we could enjoy the glorious views from our top deck seats unabated.

I have visited Keswick many times and talked about it in this here blog including describing a trip to see one of the ‘Herstory’ exhibitions at Keswick’s friendly museum https://itllbereet.com/2018/01/31/bussing-it-two-visit-herstory/. Here is a little reminder of the scenery that surrounds the town.

There is always something new to see. And this time for me it was Max the Miracle Dog.

Keswick is the most dog friendly town I have ever visited so it should be no surprise that they have this wonderful bronze – put up in summer of 2021 – to celebrate a local furry hero.

During lockdown English Springer Spaniel Max and his four legged buddies Paddy and (Prince) Harry brought comfort and hope to people across the world. These wonderful dogs did what dogs do best, enjoy life. Millions followed their outdoor adventures around their home town of Keswick and in recognition of Max’s ability to bring solace to so many animal welfare charity the PDSA awarded Max the Order of Merit, the first time a pet has ever been given this highly esteemed award.

Sadly (I have just discovered) Max died only a few days ago on 6 April. His Instagram obituary reads ‘Our beautiful Max fell asleep in Manesty Woods today with Paddy and Harry, his two adoring brothers overseeing his onward journey.’ I hope he is chasing celestial butterflies on heavenly Lakeland fells.

To find out more about this outstanding dog and his buddies please have a look at Instagram https://www.instagram.com/maxoutinthelakedistrict_/. On that note there is nothing better that I can do but leave you with a dog that gave so many heart when they most needed it. Max may you rest in happiness.

Mx

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

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

Call of the wild – two go to Foulshaw Moss

It is time for a new quest. Some of you may remember back in 2018 friend JG and I attempted to visit all the Herstory exhibitions held in the museums around Cumbria by public transport. Can’t remember? have a look here if you want a reminder. It was a great reason to travel around the county, we went to museums I had never visited before and learnt a lot about the women of this corner of north west England.

Now its edging into winter what do we decide to do? Go outdoors, ‘cos we are sensible sorts…, and start a new quest to visit all 37 of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport! Crickey, where are my thermals?!

When I sat at this bus stop in June 2018 en route to baby-sit in Yorkshire

there was a field opposite but now – one pandemic and many missed bus trips later – it has become an ‘executive’ housing estate.

Skimming over that – stop sobbing M! – as you can see the weather is glorious and I have a bus to look out for, the 11:08 am Stagecoach X6 Kendal to Barrow which should already have JG on board. She was there and ticket bought I settled down for the short hop to our stop next to the entrance to Foulshaw Moss nature reserve.

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust guidebook tells us why lowland raised mires like Foulshaw Moss are so important, they are one of Europe’s most threatened habitats. In the UK 94% of this habitat has been destroyed. To go to Foulshaw is to visit a rare landscape and feel thankful to see it being restored.

We were the only humans visiting the reserve but we were not alone. Although from my photography from the first ‘hide’ you would think we were!

Honestly this was teeming with birds until I tried to take a photo!

Wait, who’s this little fellow?

“Darn it she snapped me. Worms are on me guys!”

Not sure what s\he is, answers on a postcard please. Sparrow? Reed bunting? But truly there were SO SO many birds. We saw all sorts including a couple of pheasants … or maybe corncrakes (you can tell our bird watching skills are honed, cough)… and a magnificent Great Spotted Woodpecker that settled briefly on a feeder. I am afraid my rendering of this bird in pencil and Biro does not do it justice.

Oh dear …

We could have happily stayed in this ‘hide’ all day watching the comings and goings. It was hard to tear ourselves away but the moss called. And what a call it is when you start out along the boardwalks.

The moss is wet and small pools of water show that it is soaking up the water and keeping wet just as it should be. In addition to the surviving mire Cumbria Wildlife Trust are restoring the moss lands into the area that had been planted over with trees for the war effort back in the mid-twentieth century.

Thankfully nowadays there is a lot of talk about protecting and planting trees for their carbon capturing qualities but much less is said about the carbon munching qualities of mires like Foulshaw Moss. I have read that Cumbrian peatland stores five times as much carbon as all of Cumbria’s trees put together. This habitat not only sustains a myriad of amazing plant and wildlife it helps keep us alive too! Gotta love it.

One word of warning, The decay of the plant life – like the famous sphaghnum moss – is what creates peat. It is a slow process and it can take 1,000 years to create 1m of peat so please please use peat-free composts like Dalefoot wool composts (other brands are available) for your gardens.

The board walks make this a wonderful habitat for everyone to visit and enjoy. There is also a fantastically (deliberately) wobbly bridge that I know my granddaughters will love.

As we walked around the reserve it was so beautifully sunny and dare I say warm that we even saw a couple of common darter dragonflies. Yes you know it, they were here and gone before I had wrestled my iPad from my backpack (time to start thinking about a smart phone with a good camera function).

While the moss is reclaiming its home the dying trees give it an eerie yet photogenic feel. Nature however abhors waste and the tree stumps play host to amazing fungi.

We had such a super time exploring the moss I was sad to leave but the days are shorter and we needed to try and find the elusive A590 underpass so that we wouldn’t have to cross the scary, busy and fast road. I was empathising with hedgehogs at the mere prospect of this. But hey! Those little spiny mammals much loved by readers of Beatrix Potter’s “Mrs Tiggywinkle” do have an underpass! Good stuff.

We however were not so lucky. After following what I thought might be a path on the map but wasn’t – it turned out to be the dash-dot line for electricity pylons (shocking) – we had to re-trace our steps. This left only one course of action – other than dive headlong across the road – we had to navigate the verge (you know how much I l-urve a verge).

We shouted over the traffic and I wrestled with several hawthorns – why did I think putting a crash barrier between myself and the cars would be safer? – much to the amusement of JG who had been bolder and walked traffic side of the barrier. But finally, trying not to trip over the detritus thrown from passing vehicles, we made it to the underpass. Yeah!

It was worth being entangled by those hawthorns. Safely on the other side of the road we enjoyed a throughly lovely walk in the golden autumnal light following the cycle-way to our bus stop for home at Gilpin Bridge.

Aaaaaah, breathe in the calm.

What a splendid day. We walked 5.5 miles, JG measured it. A very short walk for JG but perfect for me, I am done at about 6! Here’s where we walked … I think!

Have happy outdoors days all.

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

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