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

Waggy tailed visitors always welcome

It is lovely to get together with old friends. These visits have been in short-supply lately so I was over the moon when KS braved the atrocious weather and possibility of floods to come to mine for a crafty morning and catch up. She also brought a bonus guest, one of her three cocker spaniels the elder of the pack, the gorgeous Bagel.

Spaniel eyes anyone?

As you can see in the background KS brought the travel blanket she made for Bagel so that he would be comfy and cosy. He is an older gent and deserves every creature comfort.

Made of re-cycled tea towels and quilted for extra snugness, Bagel was of course keen to show off his transportable bed.

My human is so kind and clever.

It was difficult for me to stop admiring the wonderful Bagel (you can see why, those eyes!) But at least one of us managed some crafting.

KS – being far more industrious than yours truly – is knitting a beautiful cable scarf for a friend and had brought it along to get a few more rows done. I love the colour and the cabled texture. Someone is going to be very happy when they receive this superb handmade present.

As you can see we had cakes and nibbles to keep us going. The lemon and berry cakes were scoffed before I got to taking pictures. They and the remaining boxed cakes were from Ginger Bakers at Plumgarths and were super delicious.

We must have chatted a lot as Bagel got back home and straightaway curled up with his favourite toy for a well earned snooze. He was no doubt dreaming ‘knit two, purl one”.

Cast on … knit two … purl one ….

Shhh let’s leave him in peace ….

Mx

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

Where have all the flowers gone?

This used to be what my entire garden looked like, at least the bit that had previously been covered by a very scrappy lawn. Two years ago inspired by Alys Fowler of “Edible Garden“ fame I thought that I too would love an edible garden.

I had visions of supplementing neighbours’ larders by sharing my copious harvests and of cycling along with hair flowing (cycling helmet only abandoned for the visualisation not my actual journeys you understand) carrying bunches of herbs and flowers to any poor soul needing the solace of rosemary, bay and lavender twined into a beauteous fragrant rustic bouquet and requiring a swig of home brewed elderberry wine (medicinal purposes of course).

Scratch all that. The harsh reality was a lot of kale – please God no more – but only 5 potatoes and a handful of rather pitiful looking beans. The garden was not the abundant source of produce (except for the kale) I thought it was going to be. For why? I hear you ask.

It couldn’t possibly be my total lack of gardening knowledge … could it? I have religiously watched “Gardeners’ World” every Friday night surely by some osmosis all that green fingered know how should have seeped into my very being … shouldn’t it? Obviously not.

Apart from my lack of ken (knowledge that is, not the chap) the biggest clue to my gardening limitations is very obvious to anyone that has seen my garden. It is a limitation that I am more than happy to live with. My garden is dominated by a very large tree.

And she has several smaller friends.

I really do count myself lucky. My nearest neighbour is a sycamore – I call her Cyra – who must be at least 150 to 200 years old. When you look up into her branches there is a whole planet of life – including the occasional woodpecker – and there will be another in her sturdy trunk and yet another in her roots.

Thankfully nothing grizzly appears to have happened around Cyra. She is a field marker tree – planted at the junction of several fields – who lived a quiet rural life until the 1980s when a housing estate was built around her. I sometimes feel sorry for Cyra but I think she maybe likes the company and if she doesn’t she gets her own back in autumn by burying us in her leaves (don’t tell her but they are very handy as a mulch) and hurling the occasional small branch on very windy days.

Despite my love of this marvellous tree SHADY is the best way to describe my garden. So what am I and the mud patch beneath her to do? Trumpet fanfare!!!! Friends and family to the rescue. Thanks to JG and the Kendal Conservation Volunteers I have been donated several woodland loving plants: red campion, foxgloves, violets, forget me nots and primroses.

Brace yourselves and if you are in any way prudish look no further. [whispers] PF and AF brought me some [hushed whisper] … titter (unfortunate word) … naked ladies … Oooh er missus! Alright I will stop now, we are all adults here. Aren’t we?

I popped a few of the gorgeous russet coloured bulbs in a small trough. I didn’t think they would appear until next spring but as you can see they are making a valiant attempt. Slightly wonkily I admit. Those pesky blackbirds had scratched out most of the soil. Is it wrong for a vegan to shout at birds?! But these brave little bulbs are illustrating the reason for the nakedness, they don’t have any leaves. Ooh er …

In case you think I have contributed nothing to the moonscape that once was lawn brace yourself. I managed to propagate some english lavender. Yahoo! Now along with my home grown sweet marjoram, thyme and chives the lavenders have been popped into terra firma. As you can see fallen leaves are a constant in my garden.

To be honest my veg have not been a total disaster this year. I still have some tomatoes struggling to ripen – I stripped away most of the leaves to help them – and I have had success with chillies. The lesson here is I am much better at growing vegetables in pots. In addition the rhubarb that I thought I had killed off last year because it was planted under too much shade seems to have crawled along the bed and like a phoenix risen anew.

Nonetheless what the last couple of years has taught me is that the flowers needed to be in first and then the veg could follow … maybe … perhaps. Friends and family have helped me along the road and with a bit of judicious purchasing the ex-lawn – still bare in places – has many new inhabitants: anenomes, geraniums, salvia, echinacea, asters to name a few (you guessed it I can’t remember the names of the rest). These latter were all delivered in beautiful condition by Crocus Garden Centre and are all pollinator friendly.

Crocus’ website gives full information on the height and spread of the plants, where and how they like to live and what they will get up to over the course of a year. I have planted as best as I can by their instructions but any failures will of course be all mine. I could not afford to buy them all at once so the planting may be a little higgildy piggildy. Just how I like things.

But what’s this? Some new arrivals?

Hellebores and oriental poppies

Better get planting. I am sure the aches and pains from the bending and digging will be washed away by the thoughts of how the garden will look this time next year. I can but dream … and weed …. and hoe … and rake … and mulch …. Where’s that elderberry wine?!

Until next we meet,

Moke x

P.S. Before you worry. I am a peat-free compost gal and have used Dalefoot Compost’s wonderful Lakeland Gold to mix with the top soil and mulch around the new plants.

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

The Tribe of Doris

Hello All,

When I left .. deserted … you in 2019 I had one amazing granddaughter, Peanut. P is now the magnificent and all-wise age of 5 years. Five?! Yes 5! She keeps us straight on all things vegan – “Omi, is this vegan?” – is an animal welfare activist and a budding expert on bears. A perfect bundle of eco-warrior and caring human being.

During my long blog-sleep Peanut was joined by a brilliant cousin and gorgeous little sister. Collectively the three girls are to me The Tribe of Doris (psst this was the name of an fabulous all female drumming band … don’t tell them I stole it).

First to join the party was A, daughter of No 1 Son and No 1 Daughter In Law.

Munchkin is over 18 months old and as you can see is very happy to be donning her welly-bobs for country walks and splashing in mud. I have missed her sooooo much during the various lockdowns and was really pleased that No 1 Daughter In Law’s parents were near at hand and able to be there as part of her childcare bubble. As things have eased I am getting to know A again and it is wonderful to meet the beautiful, reflective and intelligent little girl that has blossomed from the newborn I remember pre-pandemic.

In case you wondered, Munchkin is sporting a Clothkits jacket I managed to smuggle to her during the Christmas lockdown lift. Yes a tad on the big size… but she looks adorable and she will get her wear out of it. I was happy to find that Clothkits are still very much alive and kicking as I loved them when my own two were children and they continue to make gorgeously printed kits along with complete items and fabrics that are irresistible. One word of warning the binding was a devil to get right. Although this could just be me and my cack-handedness.

Then there were … three. Earlier this year P got her wish of a baby sister. Shrub was a bump through much of the pandemic and arrived as a little ray of sunshine in a year overcast by the clouds of Covid. It seems she knew this because I swear she was smiling by 2 weeks old.

Now you have met the tribe. It is a wobbly old world they have arrived into but as with all children they are our hope for the future and they make me even more determined to work to rectify the problems we have so far bequeathed them. After all I don’t want this fearsome bunch coming after me in my dotage (not long off) asking “WHY?!”

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Return of the native

Hello All

Wow! That’s what I call a sabbatical. Over two years. Now the native of these here posts has returned and is hopefully here to stay.

I have no good reason for the long absence. I just puttered out of steam and didn’t feel I had anything relevant to say in a world in such turmoil. As we know the turmoil has not gone away but has worsened tremendously. My heart went out to all who suffered through the Covid pandemic, war and the effects of climate change. What use cosy pictures of my sedate life cushioned amongst the Lakeland Fells?

Then I hit the age immortalised by the Fab Four. “When I’m 64!” is here. I am not losing my hair (my teeth are another story) and I am just about clinging on to my marbles (my memory is again another story). Still I do sit beside my metaphorical fireside crafting, cooking, reading and seeking better ways to live. Most importantly I have after two years of hand wringing got over myself. At 64 I realised that if just one of you is interested in my ramblings I am more than happy to share them.

So what’s occurred in the intervening years … where to begin? Make a cuppa, curl up in a favourite chair while you await further bloggage. Here’s a clue to some of the goings on.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Knitting together

Hello All

Spending much of Friday with a crafting friend was a real treat. We enjoyed a few uninterrupted hours of tea, food and (yahoo!) knitting. Friend KS is working on a beautiful project but I can’t reveal what she is up to ‘cos it is a gift for another of our friends. Sorry to disappoint but I hope you will be satisfied with my own wee offering.

As it looks like Winter is creeping up on us – not in a tantalising (can creeping ever be tantalising?) way but with cold snaps nippy enough to engender weather warnings – what better than to knit a chunky wool hat to keep Granddaughter Peanut warm?

I am eternally thankful to AJ for this really useful book. Over the years my Big Book of Knitting has rescued me from many a knitting calamity and has provided me with some great patterns.

The Chulla Earflap Hat was exactly what I had in mind to keep little Peanut’s ears warm. It used less than a 100g ball of chunky wool and was finished in an afternoon. There was virtually no sewing up as the hat is knitted on double pointed needles and the ear flaps are incorporated into the casting on for the body of the hat. Oh joy! Win, win, win.

And yet I felt something was missing.

Aah, that’s better!

Keep warm … or cool depending on your season.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Festive Greetings

Happy Yuletide All

We have left out a little tipple and snack for Santa to enjoy (the extra mince pie is for Mother Claus) and a carrot with some special food for those hard working reindeer.

Peanut is tucked up in bed. Presents are wrapped and under the tree. All the grown ups are settled with mugs of hot chocolate. Peace reigns. While we have a quiet moment I just wanted to say: whatever your faith or belief (or lack of) love and festive greetings from Casa Moke. I hope the year to come brings you peace, health and happiness.

Until next we meet

Moke x