Table for one, Madam?

I looked up from my work yesterday and saw something unexpected in the back garden.

A herdwick sheep, munching at the lawn. Enjoying a garden buffet for one.

She was as surprised as I was, to see someone watching her through the window.

So, I put on suitable clothes and headed outside.  My plan was to open the three gates and shoo her back into the wide open park. It’s worked before!

Forty minutes later, I returned indoors.

She’s still here this morning.

Sheep 1, Human 0.

Off to put on my wellies. If at first you don’t succeed…


Herdy Girl

Bumblebee Rescue

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.

Absolutely adorable.

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.


Herdy Girl

P.S. We cleaned up the sugary puddle before leaving.

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


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

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


Rubby Banks Cottage (NGS)

With the generosity of garden owners, the hundreds of volunteers, and the willing participation of those who visit the gardens, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) are able to donate record amounts to nursing and caring charities throughout England and Wales.

Best Beloved and I travelled to the banks of the River Cocker for the final of six gardens on their NGS open day in Cockermouth.

Rubby Banks Cottage didn’t allow vehicle access, so we parked and walked along the narrow, paved track that topped the steep west bank of the river.

At the end of the lane a left turn takes you through an iron gate and down toward the river.

We recognized the effects of flood on this garden, having experienced the same ourselves. It takes time to recover from the loss of soil and the silting of paths. Rubby Bank Cottage is well on its way to recovery.

This half of the garden sits on the site of an old water mill. The owners say it was torn down in the mid-1970’s.  Evidence of the site’s industrial use is most evident in the remains of the rubble-filled mill race canal.

Back at the entrance to the garden, you’ll note the only standing portion of the former mill building. Vine-covered, it now functions as an outbuilding.

Through the gate and, again, to the left lies a more formal garden.

Rubby Bank Cottage’s garden rooms are separated by a series of arches. The owners must spend a lot of time tending to their pruning. Their hard work gives lovely bones to the garden.

Interestingly, two of their metal arches are not clad in vines, but are used as forms for espaliered apple trees.

The area between them is edged with mixed herbaceous borders.

The end of the path led to a small wildflower meadow, currently home to what I think are some common spotted orchids.

The threatening sky finally started to produce some drizzle, so we finished admiring the fruitfulness of the gardeners’ labours at Rubby Bank Cottage.

We are thankful to the NGS, to it’s volunteers, and to the owners of the six lovely Cockermouth Gardens.  Many happy and successful returns.


Herdy Girl




Sunscales House (NGS)

You know those gardens that catch your eye? That offer intriguing glimpses when you’re passing by? The ones you would like to explore, but they belong to someone else – someone you don’t know?

This was one of those gardens for me. I feel such a lucky Herdy Girl!

Thanks to the National Garden Scheme (NGS), these kinds of private gardens are made accessible in order to raise funds for charity.  Of the six Cockermouth Gardens open on 9th July this year, Sunscales House would be the fifth for us. (You can pay your £4.50 pp at any of the gardens, and tour them in any order you please.)

It lies on the road between our home and the Cockermouth shops, and the main road toward West Cumbria.

The front garden is visible from the road, and it looks a Right Proper Gardeners’ Garden.

The NGS notes call this a medium sized garden, and so it is.  A very well-appointed medium sized garden.

It has the feel of two gardens, and I wonder if this is a ‘his and hers’ situation, or if the gardeners’ tastes are changing. It may well have been a simple choice, as the layout and micro-climates lend themselves to their current use.

Entering from the drive, there are plenty of hard surfaces, strong lines, and the ‘vibe’ is Asian with a touch of the Mediterranean on their large patio.

Someone clearly enjoys their bonsai. A lovely collection filled the area between the patio and the green house.

Then you pass a wildlife pond, and step down into their vegetable and fruit growing area.  The strong lines are still there, but the edges of the garden are softening.

Note again, the walls and hedges enclosing and protecting the garden. And we turn down a beautifully placed pergola.

Covered in lovely vines.

At the end of which we meet the path to the front door. This area is packed with bulb, shrubs, perennials, many kept in bounds by ‘step-over’ espaliered apple trees.

A well-struck balance between orderly structure and exuberant plant growth.  Much thought and planning and skill has gone into this garden.

The garden at Sunscales House was a case of thoroughly met (high) expectations.

Clouds were beginning to gather for the forecasted ‘light rain’ and we knew it was time to move along.  The owners kindly told us the best place to park for our sixth and final garden visit of the day.

Onward to Rubby Banks Cottage.


Herdy Girl








At High Moor (NGS)

In the National Garden Scheme’s (NGS) first year, 1927, six hundred private gardens opened to raise charitable funds for district nurses.

In 2017, an astounding 3,800 private gardens are opening their gates to visitors across England and Wales, all to provide financial support to nursing and caring charities.

Not a bad way for the NGS to celebrate its 90th Anniversary, eh?

This past Sunday, Best Beloved and I spent a few relaxed hours touring six Cockermouth Gardens as part of an NGS open day. The fourth garden we visited was High Moor.

The official description notes that High Moor covers around 3/4 acre, which gave it a wide-open feeling.  When you first enter the property, you are greeted with a lawn that beckons you to wear wide-brimmed hats and play croquet.

That’s not to say that High Moor doesn’t offer intimate spaces as well.  It certainly does.  In fact, look how well a potentially forgotten in-between space is utilized as an inviting seating area below.

We enjoyed walking around their well-appointed vegetable and fruit garden.

Who wouldn’t want to dry their clothes in a strawberry patch?  Well done, High Moor owners, well done!

Or pick garden peas supported by recycled agricultural fencing? (I suffered a moment of extreme pea envy here… sigh.)

Although High Moor’s vegetable garden is overlooked, it feels a friendly space and doesn’t suffer from the nearness of others.

What lucky neighbours they have, with such a view out their back windows.

The space is also shared by hives of bees and a flock of chickens. No chicken photos, sadly, as they were penned away for the open garden. We did get to watch, from a distance,  as the bees busily buzzed to and fro from their shelter.

As with the White House garden, plenty of walls and hedges mitigate the effects of Cumbrian winds. High Moor also offered a pergola. It was a heavier affair of brick and timber, along which ran a water feature.

At its end, the owners took advantage of a warm sun-trap by adding a built-in barbeque grill and seating.

Alongside that area, greenhouses sheltered grapevines, figs and more. It was properly reminiscent of times when such luxury was a lot harder to find – no supermarkets when this property was built.

And in a hidden nook around the corner, a sheltered seat to rest weary bones and quietly contemplate.

A gregarious group were enjoying light refreshments alongside the house, but we had two more of the six gardens to visit and decided to keep going.

The next two properties were a bit further away, but closer to our route home.  We hopped in the car and tootled over to the Lorton Road.


Herdy Girl