What’s the Buzz?

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.

Bee happy.


Herdy Girl


An Unfriendly American Invasion

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!


Herdy Girl


Over the Hause

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.

Time to just ‘be’ for a while.


Herdy Girl

Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake

A small bowl of summer berries and a lonely lemon were languishing on my countertop this morning…

And it’s Monday. If any day needs cake, it’s Monday.

I have been a little leery of baking cakes in the two-oven AGA.  Today, I set out to conquer my fear, and with one of my favourite cakes – a Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake. It’s a simple cake, and ideal for building confidence in AGA baking skills.

Fragrant lemon and ripe berries are the stars of this buttery, light cake. And I love the polenta-crunchy edge.

When asked his opinion, my Best Beloved described it as, “A light, lemony sponge with fruity flavour bombs. Yummy.”

Guess I’ll go with that!


Herdy Girl

Print Recipe
Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake
This is a light, lemony, fruity, delicious cake.
Course Cakes
Course Cakes
  1. In a two-oven AGA, position a rack at the bottom of the Roasting Oven, and have the plain shelf ready to use. Or set conventional oven to 350f/180c.
  2. Lightly butter a 25 cm cake tin (10 in cake pan) and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment. Lightly flour the sides of the pan, tapping out the excess. Set the pan aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk or sieve together the dry ingredients - flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended.
  4. In a large bowl (using a stand mixer or hand mixer), beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time and stir until just blended. Don't worry if it looks a bit 'curdled', it'll be okay!
  6. Using either a large metal spoon or a spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients, then add milk & lemon juice, then fold in the final half of the dry ingredients.
  7. Pour batter into prepared tin, spreading evenly.
  8. Place cold Plain Sheet on second set of runners in Roasting Oven, and put the filled cake tin on the grid on the oven bottom. Close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes.
  9. During those 15 minutes, combine the berries and the remaining flour and sugar. Also, you may want to have a cup of tea, or check your social media.
  10. When the timer alerts you that 15 minutes have passed, carefully slide the cake out of the oven, leaving the door ajar. Scatter the berries over the cake, evenly. (Discard any remaining flour mixture.
  11. Carefully slide cake back into oven and continue baking it for another 15 minutes. Then turn cake around and back another 5 minutes, or until a cake tester (skewer, toothpick...) comes out clean from centre of cake.
  12. Cool cake in the tin for 15 minutes. Then gently run a knife around the inside edge of the tin to make sure it is loose. Invert the cake over a rack and peel off the parchment.
  13. Lay a flat serving plate on the bottom of the cake and carefully flip the cake once more, so that the berries are on top. Lovely.
  14. Serve the cake warm (if, like us, you have been overwhelmed by buttery fumes and cannot help yourself) or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You could substitute buttermilk for the milk.  You could also use other fruits: maybe fresh figs with orange instead of lemon, apricots with blackberries... Or you could leave the fruit out and enjoy a beautiful, simple lemon polenta cake.

Share this Recipe

Birthplace of a Poet

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.

Their sense of humour is also appreciated.

A delightful place to visit.


Herdy Girl

Ragnarok in a Cumbrian churchyard

‘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.)


Herdy Girl



Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside…

A sunny, warm day off. What’s a soul to do?

Gather the family and head to the coast.  As we’d not been there in a while, we headed down to Seascale via the scenic Cold Fell route.

We arrived to this view from the car park.

Standing on the path, I looked to my left.

And then to the right.

Best Beloved and the dogs wasted no time at all; they put feet to sand first.  As usual, I lag behind, admiring wildflowers and snapping photographs.

There’s a dip in the ‘pier’.  When the tide is high, the paler portion is under water.

Walking south along the beach, you can see Black Combe in the distance.

BB and the dogs have been playing a joyous game of fetch on the packed sand. (And through the rock pools.)

A very happy spaniel.  Is it just me, or is she smiling?

And this fella, this westie, he is in his element.

What a backdrop for this beach walk.  Zoom in on the photo below and you’ll see the Scafel Pike, the highest mountain in England at 3,209 feet / 978m.

On a much smaller scale, a factoid: in the south-west of England, rocks covered with seaweed are called ore-stones. I wonder if there is a Cumbrian term for them?

The tide began to turn, and the dog’s were due for a drink. Time to walk back to Seascale.

We indulge in an ice cream cone from Mawson’s Ice Cream Parlour.

Happily, they’ve placed a bowl of fresh water outside for the dogs .  BB and I take turns going inside for our treats.

Mawson’s always have imaginative flavours. Among the Snickers, Honeycomb Crunch, and Strawberry Cheesecake, we find Unicorn.  Thank you, Internet.

I chose Panacotta & Forest Fruits. It was a good choice – gentle dairy sweetness balanced with sharp berries. BB had a double scoop, both the Panacotta & Forest Fruits and some Strawberry Cheesecake.

My cone crumbled a bit, but it was delicious.

Song filled drive to the coast – check. Relaxing sound of waves and fresh coastal breezes – check. Sandy and wet game of fetch – check.  Ice cream eaten on a bench in the sunshine – check.

Memories made.

Goals met, we jumped into the car and started the journey home.

What are your favourite beach memories?


Herdy Girl


Friars Crag

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!

From the field at the head of Derwent Water (site of the Keswick Mountain Festival), the view along the length of the lake is one to share with family and friends who haven’t seen it before.

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.


Herdy Girl

Playing in the Garden

In between the weeding, pruning, planting, and cups of tea in the garden, I take the occasional random photo.

The climates of our homes in South Carolina and this one in the Lake District could not be more different.

It was too hot in SC for us to successfully grow Fuchsia, yet we’ve two shrubby trees of it here. The largest is underplanted with Astilbe, Crocosmia, Heuchera, and Alchemilla .

There were roses here already, but we planted Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ last autumn. Best Beloved and I have had one of these in all but one of our gardens together.

In addition to being a beautiful rose, it is very fragrant.

I also have enjoyed this single rose that was already here. It leans over one of our paths. Simple is good, too.

This spring we planted floral fireworks, better known as Alliums.

I’ve discovered Astrantias. How did I not know about these? Must grow more.

We also enjoy the odd butterfly fluttering by.

One of my favourite spots in the garden is a formal box circle. There was nothing on the centre plinth when we moved in. It was overgrown and a bit sad.

I think we’ve done it proud.

We’re growing more herbs on the sunny southern side of the house. There were a few here, but no where near enough. I’ve a bit of a thing for herbs and have planted a couple of dozen different ones. Most are in pots, but some are planted in the stone wall.

Sweet peas also call this area home. The rabbits ate all the peas, sweet peas and beans that we planted elsewhere. Cheeky bunnies.

Even the shed doesn’t look too bad when the window reflects the evening sky.

Right, well, I’m going to head out into the sunshine.  There’s more work to do in the garden!


Herdy Girl