Difficult to stay indoors and do my work today!
Difficult to stay indoors and do my work today!
One of the benefits of looking for a property to buy is that we visit places we’ve never had cause to visit before.
One Sunday afternoon, Best Beloved and I tootled along the western edge of the Lake District National Park, seeing what we could see.
There were lovely views across West Cumbria toward the Irish Sea, the Solway Firth and Scotland. Along the feet of the fells were hidden hamlets, quiet rural views, and winding waterways.
Our northernmost stop for the day was the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Isel. The sign states that the present church dates from c1130, and is built on a Pre-Norman site.
It isn’t a grand building, but it is a welcoming one.
Settled into the curving bank of the River Derwent, the church is surrounded by impressive sandstone monuments and gravestones.
A beautiful resting place for generations of local families.
Swallows nest in the porch and swoop about catching insects. The body of believers at St. Michael & All Angels have kindly provided benches for resting and reflecting, and watching the swallows.
Just to the north and a little further downriver, Isel Hall dominates the ridge above.
Known for its c1400 Pele Tower and sunken gardens, the hall is a private home and has very limited opening times.
Victorian renovations didn’t destroy the clean Norman simplicity of Isel’s church. Nor have recent floods caused irreparable damage.
We’ll have to plan a second visit to Isel, in the spring.
Rumour is that the graveyard will be covered in bright, twirling daffodils. A sight to see.
Best Beloved and I often find struggling bumblebees on garden pathways and the lawn. They may be exhausted by flying in the wind, have worked too hard without rest or refreshment, they may be sick, or even too cold. (If their wings are ragged, they may simply be very old.)
The quickest way to revive a struggling bumblebee is with a sugary solution. (Never a honey solution, though. Bees can catch viruses if they eat honey from other hives.)
While enjoying a lovely spot of tea outside at Syke Farm Tearoom, BB and I took note of a large bumblebee’s drunken descent to our table. When it landed, it remained immobile.
Emergency rations were called for. A handy sugar cube with a couple of drops of water was quickly administered.
Ms. Bumble liked it.
She liked it very much!
Why do we think she’s a female? Well, she’s a White-tailed Bumblebee. White-tailed queens and workers have a pure white tail and two lemon-yellow bands. The males have more yellow hair on the abdomen, and yellow tufts on the head and face. Males have longer antennae, too.
When she’d lapped up her fill, Ms. Bumble took it upon herself to make friends with BB.
She climbed up and had a bit of a walkabout on his hand.
So comfortable and full was she, that a nap was in order. She found a warm spot, folded down her antennae and nodded off.
Luckily, we had plenty of time to sit in the sun and relax with Ms. Bumble before she buzzed off to the autumnal blooms of Syke Farm.
BB, the Bumblebee Whisperer. He has me charmed, too.
P.S. We cleaned up the sugary puddle before leaving.
Whenever possible, Best Beloved and I wander down unknown lanes and chase whatever has caught our fancy. It’s our version of a gallivant.
So, when the outline of a castle beckons along a much travelled route…
Close to the intersection of the A66 and the A685, is the village of Church Brough.
And on the edge of the village is a picturesque ruin.
When the Normans conquered the non-mountainous bits of Cumbria around 1092, they built a defensive tower at Brough.
They chose a high spot, one already bearing the earthworks and remains of a far older Roman fortification, Verteris. (One of a series along the main Roman road from York to Carlisle.)
A few generations later, thick curtain walls and a strong stone keep were added.
Later still, luxurious residential digs were built, altered, and rebuilt.
The site commands a far-reaching view.
Brough Castle is now managed by English Heritage. They don’t charge an entry fee, which is a pleasant surprise.
Entry is via a path crossing a field dotted with sheep, and then through a simple turnstile.
When you look back through the gatehouse, all is peace and rural beauty. It certainly hasn’t always been this way.
The current stone keep was built more than 800 years ago, replacing another that was destroyed in a siege – courtesy of some fiery Scots.
Even in ruins, it is imposing.
Fire, violence, and time have done much damage.
That it can stand so tall whilst bearing massive wounds is a testament to those who built the tower’s walls.
From our cosseted modern life, it is difficult to image the strife that would have caused such a building to be built.
And not just the one building – successive fortresses.
From the inside looking out, toward the west.
It’s a good place for a quick visit.
No day out is complete without a bite to eat. Again, this place delivers.
Independently owned, Brough Castle Farm (Ice Cream Parlour and Tearoom), has all the savouries or sweets you might need to sustain your exploration. And it is accessible directly from the castle.
BB and I ate sandwiches and then partook of some delicious Butter Pecan Ice Cream. (A flavour that reminds me of my Pa. One of his favourites.)
Altogether, an atmospheric and inexpensive place to enjoy a bit of a wander.
Beautiful, exhausting, endearing, numbing, wonderous, uncertain, inspiring, ugly, finite.
And so much more.
We can walk in the midst of loveliness, and forget to enjoy it. Not see it. Or not even bother to walk.
How foolish. Wasteful even.
One Herdy Girl, and a faithful, happy dog – just taking a brisk morning walk.
Refocusing, recalculating, recalibrating.
I remember my dad teaching me that when riding a bicycle, we tend to drive toward where we’re focusing. Same with a life.
This Herdy Girl needed nudging, needed to stop navel-gazing, needed to mind where she was steering.
As paraphrased by E. Peterson, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
My focus today? Gratefulness, companionship, faith, health.
What have you been focusing on?
Observant followers will have noted that there have been no Herdy Girl posts for three weeks.
There’s a simple explanation. (Though, in the midst of things, it feels complicated.) The beautiful place we’ve come to call home has been put up for auction; the hammer falls tomorrow.
It was a shock.
And now we’ve less than two months to buzz around and find a new place to live. Thus the lack of posts.
Before you ask why we are not going to bid on the property ourselves, let me show you the specific Lake District location.
That arrow? It is pointing to our not-for-much-longer abode. Stunning, isn’t it?
Who wouldn’t want to live in a postcard view? That’s why we forewent jumping on the property ladder and risked renting here by Crummock Water, in spite of flooding and an old house with all sorts of issues.
That said, a property such as this is well beyond our current budget, especially when you factor in the difficulty of getting any sort of mortgage for a house that floods.
All that said – It has been worth it.
The caring community of Buttermere, Loweswater and Lorton have made it doubly so. (When they heard of our plight, a call went out for any options to keep us in the community. My heart swells thinking about it. I love these people, and this place.)
As getting on the property ladder is a huge endeavour, this Herdy Girl will be heading back into full-time employment, as well.
It’s a lot of change. Thank God Best Beloved and I have got each other.
We are determined to maintain a positive attitude, to remember to live in the moment, and to remind one another that God’s got this.
Like bees in the blossoms, we will draw from this beauty some sustenance, some sweetness. And I will share what I glean with you here on Herdy Girl.
If you’re a praying person, please remember us in your prayers – both for the right home and the right job for this next chapter. If you are not a praying person, please hope for the best for BB and I as we travel a new, and possibly bumpy, patch of road.
On the 23rd of April, 1778, American revolutionaries took their fight to the western coast of Britain. An audacious move.
It would have been a cold, dark evening when John Paul Jones and thirty of his men rowed into Whitehaven harbour.
Our recent visit couldn’t have been more different, with a summer sunset painting the port in soft watercolours.
Most of Whitehaven’s piers, tongues, and quays were already standing 239 years ago, and their weathered stones give the impression of age and solid steadfastness.
John Paul Jones, ‘Father of the American Navy’ was very familiar with Whitehaven and may well have walked these very routes, since it was his home port for the first season of his sailing career. He knew the fortifications, the pattern of days, and where the watchtowers were.
In 1778, Whitehaven was the third largest port in all of England. Only London and Bristol exceeded it in size and capacity.
There were as many as 400 British merchant ships anchored there on the day American revolutionaries landed.
Their plan was to disable the port’s cannon and, while the tide was low, set fire to the ships, perhaps engulfing the town’s vast warehouses of coal, rum, sugar and tobacco.
The invaders would have shimmed up walls and across decks, feeling the effects of adrenaline, anxiety, hard physical work, and the need to go unnoticed.
Half the sailors, sent for extra fuel for the fires, were distracted by the delights of a pub and stayed for hours. (Fancy that.) And one sailor abandoned his mates, to alert the townspeople because he didn’t want to “destroy poor people’s property.”
In spite of these things, the Americans did manage to burn one large and important ship, the Thompson, a fine new vessel filled with coal.
Jones and his men rowed hastily to their ship, the USS Ranger, while the people of Whitehaven rushed to douse the fire before it spread beyond the Thompson.
Historians speculate that this attack on British soil fanned the fears of the British public and may have contributed to England’s losing the American colonies.
John Paul Jones became an infamous pirate and bogeyman to the British, and a brave American hero to the colonists. Such was the power of media and rumour even then.
Jones was formally pardoned by the Commissioners of the Harbour of Whitehaven on the 27th of June, 1999. Today, you’ll find a variety of pleasure craft and a few fishing vessels sheltering in the harbour.
I’ve yet to meet one American who was taught the story of John Paul Jones’ attack on Whitehaven. I’d never heard it until I moved to Cumbria myself. Curious.
So many lessons to learn from stories like this one. Not least of which is that you shouldn’t stay too long in the pub!