Having eaten a delicious dinner, and cake for dessert, Best Beloved and I thought that walking a couple of miles might be a good idea. Especially since the evening was a lovely one.
We headed up the road toward Buttermere, with Crummock Water to our right and the petite valley called Rannerdale to our left. Where the narrow road meets the rocky face of the fell, we climb up, up, up Rannerdale Hause.
‘A Dictionary of Lake District Place Names’ by Diana Whaley says that, “Hause comes from Old Norse hals meaning ‘a neck of land.” And so it is, as Rannerdale Hause stretches forth toward Crummock Water from knobbly Rannerdale Knotts.
Walking up Rannerdale Hause takes you not-quite-halfway to the peak of Rannerdale Knotts. (Can you spot the Herdwick in the photo?)
It still amazes me that we get to live here.
I was so busy enjoying the views that I didn’t realize that BB had moved ahead!
Once you get to the top of the Hause, the walk is easy. Not what I would call ‘accessible’, though.
Even in the height of summer, evenings are fairly quiet. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional herdy friend.
And don’t forget to turn around once in a while. You wouldn’t want to miss something like the sun skimming the top of Melbreak.
Which meant its light travelled right along Crummock Water toward Buttermere. It was lovely and warm, and the midges weren’t too bad.
We made it down to the road.
I enjoyed the contrast between the dark trunks of these tall pines and the sun-kissed field in front of Wood House.
BB had found a spot to sit and think.
I found my own spot to do just the same.
Then I put away my phone camera and spent the walk back home holding hands with BB and soaking in the evening.
The Wordsworth House and Garden, a National Trust property near the centre of Cockermouth, is one of my favourite spots to while away a couple of hours.
The National Trust presents the house as it was in about 1770, when William Wordsworth was born there as the second of five children.
William Wordsworth is best known for I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, a poem often memorized in classrooms across the world:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
I had garden and house almost to myself on Tuesday morning.
It’s an impressive Georgian house that stands aloof from the busy main street, all sash windows, formal garden, and solid portico.
The dining room was designed and decorated to impress. As it does, even now.
Beautiful, especially with sunlight streaming in those large windows.
There’s an approachable elegance to this house.
Jane Austen was a contemporary of Wordsworth. Can you envision her characters in these rooms?
Even as a modern day visitor, the kitchen’s crackling open fire draws you into the heart of the home. The scent is inviting too: warm spices and fresh herbs, woodsmoke and baked goods.
On every visit, there’s a tasty treat to sample. Often you’ll be offered gingerbread, oatcakes, or rum butter. Delicious.
The family’s bedrooms, though less ornamented, still enjoy the good proportions and natural light that fills this house.
Viewed through the windows along the back of the house, the enticing garden promises to be special.
And it delivers. Such a magical feel on this summer’s day.
This garden is a lesson in restrained abundance, its carefully laid out beds filled with fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. New plants, like the Verbena bonariensis above (introduced in 1726), began flooding into Europe during this time period. Exciting stuff!
I could totally bore you with photos of this garden, but I will restrain myself.
You do need to see the view toward the house from the terrace above the River Cocker, though.
Today, this stately Georgian house is peopled by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and volunteers. In the kitchen, in the garden, at the harpsichord, in the shop and in the café – these folk bring a moment in history back to life and welcome you to enjoy it.
‘The Doom of the gods’ is not something you expect when you visit a village church. St. Mary’s in Gosforth has many of the normal requisites: church bells, stained glass, tombstones, and more.
It also has some very unusual and rather special things.
Chief among these is a fourteen and a half foot tall ancient cross. This slender sandstone wonder has been standing here since between 920 and 950 AD. That makes it the oldest and tallest Viking cross in England.
Amazing, isn’t it? That it is still standing in this small churchyard, that you can still see the carvings on the weathered stone, that it isn’t in a museum somewhere.
You can touch it, feel the grains of blushing sand and wonder who carved it, and what stories it could tell.
Nearby is the base of what was, presumably, another similar cross. Remnants within the church, and old records, tell that there may have been as many as four such crosses of a similar style and size.
The cross starts off with a cylindrical stylized tree base thought to represent Yggdrasil, ancient Scandinavia’s mythical ‘Tree of Life’. It is carved with dragons, Loki, Thor, beasts and monsters. Oh my.
Yet it is undeniably a cross, and it also carries carvings of Christ’s crucifixion.
We can only wonder and surmise what this and the other bits and pieces mean. The Vikings quickly converted to Christianity as they settled the west coast of Cumbria.
Could the cross(es) have been used to explain the story of Christ in terms that the new inhabitants understood?
There has been some sort of Christian place of worship on this site since the 8th century. That’s near enough to 1,300 years!
The current church building is late Victorian, 1897 AD, if the front edifice is correct.
The Victorians are known for preserving ancient sites or buildings; they destroyed quite a bit with their ‘improvements’ up and down the country. They did preserve some of the ancient stonework from the previous Norman (12th century) church, most notably the sandstone arches throughout.
You might think it unremarkable, and not explore further.
Don’t make that mistake. There are other treasures.
There are two splendid ‘hogback’ stones. Unique to northern Britain and thought to be shaped like Viking boat-shaped houses. Historians and archaeologists generally agree that hogback stones served as grave markers.
There are further smaller treasures dotted throughout St. Mary’s. You’ll have to visit yourself to see them.
There’s so much to see, learn, enjoy in Cumbria. Hope you enjoyed this Viking history teasel, I mean teaser. (I’m a silly Herdy Girl, sometimes.)
Anyone needing a preview of the beauty and the activities available in the Lake District need look no further than Keswick. Even on an overcast day, it is a charming town.
We had time this weekend to gallivant and share some views with new visitors to our neck of the woods. We took them over Honister Pass, through Borrowdale and along the River Derwent and Derwent Water to Keswick. After a quick trip up the main street, we headed toward the water. En route, we took the requisite Hope Park photo.
The tightly clipped hedging, the venerable Victorian rooftops, and the towering bulk of Blencathra. Who could resist?
Nor could I not try to capture a photo of the buzzing Bumblebees on a patch of one of my favourite perennials, Japanese anemone. All sorts of insects were having what looked to be a fantastic time, a veritable Pollinator Party.
I’m surprised that there are no Japanese anemones growing in our garden. They are so pretty and easy to grow. Must remedy that!
To the left of the photo, you can see the jetties where boats can be rented from the National Trust. To the right, further into the lake, is Derwent Island. It is the only inhabited island in the entire Lake District National Park. Both island and house are open to a limited number of visitors five times a year.
Accessible only by water, it’s on my list of places to go.
If you find yourself in Keswick, please take the easy and accessible walk down to Friar’s Crag. The path is maintained, and there are plenty of seats along the short route.
Friar’s Crag was one of John Ruskin’s favourite views and the place of his earliest memory. Ruskin was a writer, a poet, an artist, an art critic, and a philanthropist. Though plagued by scandal in his love life, he is considered one of the great figures of Victorian social revolution and one of the first proponents of environmentalism. He was a great thinker. Due to his close associations with Keswick, you’ll find a slate memorial dedicated to John Ruskin on the crag.
If the bench at the tip of the crag isn’t already occupied, you can sit and do some contemplating yourself.
It was a quick visit for us. It needn’t be for you.
Where did Cockermouth get its just-shy-of-rude name, you may wonder?
Simple, it’s situated just where the River Cocker flows into the River Derwent. The mouth of the River Cocker, said name apparently derived from a Celtic word for crooked. (As for whence it flows, there are four River Derwents in England. The others are in Yorkshire, Durham and Derbyshire. I’m sure this never causes confusion… )
So, off to Cockermouth I toodled this morning. It’s our closest town and I’m growing rather fond of it. I had a couple of appointments with an hour to fill between them, so decided to clock up a few steps and treat myself to something not baked in the Red AGA.
Cockermouth is a pretty market town, its shopping streets lined with a rainbow of old buildings, hanging baskets, and celebratory bunting. There are lots of independent shops and restaurants. They’ve struck a very happy medium between these smaller businesses and the larger chains, allowing Cockermouth to maintain choice and encouraging originality.
Did I mention that I intended to treat myself to something while out? I headed to the Coffee Kitchen, just off the beaten track. In truth, it’s not a very photogenic place, but the coffee and bread and lemon curd are delightful. (They have a bakery on the next street over, at which they offer baking classes. Interesting… )
I decide to break from my norm and choose a fruity flapjack with my coffee.
Here in England, a flapjack is sort-of like a granola bar which has gone to the buttery and sticky, chewy dark-side. Not health food: they are basically oats + butter + golden syrup + sugar. (Golden syrup, deliciousness that it is, deserves its own post.)
British friends, flapjacks are synonymous with American pancakes in the US. This may be helpful information when you’re ordering breakfast on holiday in the States.
I did somewhat regret not getting the toast and lemon curd which I previously relished. A bit too crumbly, and too sweet for me. Even with the coffee. Never mind, live and learn, my friends. Now I know.
With all of that caffeine and carbohydrate fuel, I power back up the street.
I wonder if the people who have lived here all their lives notice how pretty their shopping streets are?
The rainbow colours and Georgian fronts of some areas remind me very much of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC. I like this happy coincidence.
En route, I may have done a quick bit of window shopping.
I have a soft spot for tea cosies/cozies. Look at these handmade cuties in the window of the Percy House Gallery!
Thanks for joining me on my quick jaunt into town!
The weather today is predicted to be quite changeable, so we headed out this morning to walk off a little of yesterday’s cream tea. Let us not waste the sunshine!
We’ve walked a lot of open hillside recently, so decide to go to Lanthwaite Wood for a change. This walk is part of the Lake District National Park’s ‘Miles Without Stiles’.
Today, we parked in the National Trust car park at the edge of the wood. Very convenient.
Said National Trust have provided signage with general information.
The dogs were excited to go somewhere different. Lots of new smells.
I love it when a forest or wood pulls you into it’s silence. I don’t know about you, but these moments give me back a little of my childhood wonder.
Trees, ferns, sunlight dappling your path. And then you are suddenly on the shingled beach at the head of Crummock Water. Or is it the foot? One or the other!
Our two dogs don’t mind the water, but they’re not the kind who are difficult to keep out of it. They’re happy to putter along in the shallows.
There were other smiling folk enjoying a sunny moment – a lovely lady who drove an hour to walk her collie and enjoy the lakes, a young family with picnic and pups, and a chattering group of people possibly headed toward the western shore.
The walk to this beach is quite easy. From here, there are plenty of choices for setting out further. Should you turn right, you’ll come to the source of the River Cocker. There are some lovely walks that way, toward Loweswater and the Kirkstile Inn, or Melbreak and Scale Force.
We head off the other way, along the eastern shore of Crummock Water.
There are plenty of resting or picnicking spots along this walk. It’s quite civilized. The bench in the photo above has a lovely view across Crummock.
We’re not stopping today, though. Just passing through.
The sun is really shining. Beautiful. The heather is just starting to bloom on the heights; soon purple will tinge the fells.
If only you could smell the clear air and hear the gentle lap of water on the shore.
This is our turning point today. Across the water, past the boathouse, you can see the beach we were on earlier, right of centre in the photo below.
Were we to continue along the eastern shore, we’d leave Lanthwaite Wood and enter High Wood with it’s towering conifers. Not for today, though. Best Beloved wants to get back home while the sun is still out – he claims that he wants to work in the garden.
So, we head back to the car park.
The dogs are a tad slower on the route back – don’t know if they are a little weary or if they wanted to explore more… Actually, it could be that they are super relaxed. That’s certainly how I feel.
Walking behind BB and the dogs, I keep an eye out for Red Squirrels. It’s a bit late in the morning for them to be about; probably too many visitors, too. But I remain hopeful.
Plenty of flora to enjoy, as well as a slowly-decaying pile of logs – presumably part of the National Trust’s forest management. They look as though they may be home to all sorts of woodland creatures.
It doesn’t take long to get two humans and two small dogs safely situated back in the car. We’re soon tootling up yonder road.
I feel fortunate to spend time in this lovely part of the world.
Lest you think that the sun always shines here, please note that an hour after we’d returned home, the weather had altered considerably.
And a slightly different viewpoint, across Crummock Water, shows that today’s weather can be confirmed as ‘changeable’. Indeed.
Today is Friday and, more importantly, it is National Cream Tea Day here in Britain. Though it is only a minor holiday, I feel that failing to celebrate it would be rude.
The precise origin of the cream tea is unknown and disputed, especially between the two most south-westerly counties in England, Devon and Cornwall. Historians in Devon claim to have found proof of monks serving bread with clotted cream and strawberry jam amongst the eleventh century manuscripts of Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey. Definitive proof? I think not.
I’m of the mind that, in a land blessed with good dairy cream and glistening berries, the combination of baked goods with cream and preserved fruit was eaten long before someone thought to write down the fact.
Besides, look at the variations between cream teas: Whipped double cream or clotted cream? Fruited or plain scone? Jam first (Cornwall) or cream first (Devon)? What type of jam? Tea in cups or tea in mugs?
Oh my… There isn’t even agreement on how to pronounce the word ‘scone’. Should it rhyme with ‘gone’ or with ‘throne’? A study by Cambridge University tells us that if you’re from The North (orange) it’s the former, which is the pronunciation I notice used by most Cumbrians.
Some folk in Cornwall would say a cream tea should only be enjoyed with a traditional sweet bun called a Cornish Split, not a scone at all. (See! It’s almost as contentious as barbecue!)
At least aficionados can all agree on one thing – Cream Teas are delicious. Make that two things – it has to be served with tea. (This is where Tavistock’s 11th century claim really fails. No tea. Sorry, Devon.)
Syke Farm is a working farm in Buttermere, and is owned and run by a local family. At milking time you can watch the red-brown and white Ayrshire cows (of ice cream fame) going to the barn to be milked. And there are sure to be farm dogs around and about. Or sheep. Or chickens.
They offer seating inside and out. Today was a bit cloudy, so we chose inside and upstairs.
It has been a long week, and we’re ready for a relaxed bit of caloric intake!
Syke Farm Tearoom is dog friendly, has a wood-burning stove downstairs, and serves a good selection for breakfast, lunch and in-between times. And the ice cream selection is ever-changing and really good.
They’re often busy, but always friendly.
Ahhh, the cream tea. Not afternoon tea. That is an altogether different affair requiring dainty sandwiches and pastries. No, not today.
Today’s cream tea is a lightly fruited scone, clotted cream, raspberry jam, and a bright cup of loose-leaf tea.
Clotted Cream is made by heating whole milk, then letting it rest until cooled clots of cream collect on the surface and the liquid drains away. It’s considered clotted cream once there is a golden crust above and thick, silky cream below. You’ll find it rich and almost-buttery.
I do have a personal preference for my cream teas. Plain scone. Cream on bottom, if clotted, or on top, if whipped. As for jam I like something with a sweet-tartness, say damson or a sharp raspberry.
Personal partialities aside, both BB and I really enjoy the cream teas at Sykes Farm Tearoom. Especially when there is a sofa free to lounge upon, as we swirl the cares of the world away with tea and scones. Happy days.
Right. Cream tea enjoyed, now we’ve got to do a bit of moving about.
If you’re in the Lake District, take the A-591 toward Grasmere, a picturesque village situated by the lake of the same name.
The A-591 runs almost-but-not-quite up the middle of the Lake District. Those fortunate enough to be spending time in the northern lakes may turn off of the A-66 and head south. If this is you, please turn on some stirring classical music or something from the Lord of the Rings movie soundtrack. The landscape from that point on is dramatic and memorable.
Once you’re in Grasmere, your first place of pilgrimage should be the Grasmere Gingerbread shop in Church Cottage. (Their post code is LA22 9SW, if you’re navigating electronically.)
A sign on the building notes that Church Cottage was the village school for two-hundred and twenty years – 1630 to 1850ish. It also says that famed romantic poet William Wordsworth taught there.
By 1854, Sarah Nelson lived in the cottage. She perfected a mighty recipe and set up shop to sell her unique version of gingerbread to Victorian travellers. The new railways brought a lot of people to the Lake District, many of whom would visit the graves of Wordsworth and company in the adjoining churchyard. Thus, word of Mrs Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread spread throughout the land.
Warning! You may have to queue (that means get in a line, for folks on the other side of the Atlantic) to get inside. There is fair compensation for your wait – the powerful smell of ginger, butter and sugar fairly wafts out the door.
If they bottled that stuff…
Inside the teeny, tiny shop, you’ll be surrounded by many delicious things, including the gingerbread that is sold no where else but from this bijou shop.
Did I mention the amazing smell?
Surrounded by the wonderful aromas, sidle up to the counter and buy a piece to eat immediately and a package or two for the journey.
Perhaps buy a jar of their award-winning rum butter as a gift – for that person whose gingerbread gift you will eat because you cannot help yourself.
Packages of six and twelve pieces are wrapped in crisp paper with their trademark blue label. Tins are also available, and I understand that you can set yourself up with monthly deliveries. I’m tempted to purchase a bag of the ginger crumbs to sprinkle on my porridge…
Make yourself a memory: walk around this pleasant village, eating your delicious gingerbread and not minding the inevitable gingery crumbs. Let it be a full-sensory experience.
Sarah Nelson lived until she was 88 years old, a much-loved member of her community and an early example of a successful business woman. She is buried in the adjoining churchyard of St. Oswald’s.
Her handwritten recipe is a tightly held secret, and the method for making them is passed from baker to baker. According to their website, only one living person knows the full recipe! (This makes me strangely proud of them, in this current age of mass marketing.)
Grasmere Gingerbread is not like any other gingerbread, ginger cake, biscuit or parkin that I’ve eaten.
Sublimely gingery throughout, Mrs Nelson’s gingerbread flaunts a firm, yet chewy, base topped by spicy sweet crumble. There are visible pieces of preserved ginger under the addictive crumbly topping.
Did I consider attempting to make my own homemade version of this tempting treat? I did. Then I decided that some things are better enjoyed within their own time and place, and that I’d take any excuse I could to visit Grasmere and The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.
More on Grasmere Village later. For now, I’m going to polish off my last piece of Grasmere Gingerbread with a cup of tea!