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

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

The White House Garden (NGS)

As we headed up the hill from the garden on Holmewood Avenue, smiling people were walking in both directions.  Every one of the happy walkers was wearing a yellow National Garden Scheme (NGS) sticker. They were chatting about plants, pets, and the weather. All quite civilized.

After all, the NGS has been raising charitable funds for ninety years.  Through the public opening of some of the loveliest private gardens in England and Wales, the NGS is the most significant charitable funder of nursing charities in the country. Civilized indeed.

Crenelated garage en route. Made me quietly giggle.

So, it was with genteel anticipation that we walked up the lane toward the third garden on our Cockermouth Gardens  tour.

The White House stands on a hill. The house and garden are protected from the Cumbrian wind by a series of walls and hedges.

Upon entry to the garden, refreshments beckoned. Tea, coffee, and a fine selection of homemade cakes. Best Beloved chose a slice of Victoria Sponge Cake, and I decided upon a piece of Lemon Drizzle Cake with my tea. We relaxed in an arboured seat for a moment with neither camera nor agenda.

It was a good moment in a good afternoon.

A long, vine-covered pergola crosses the garden.

It separates several garden ‘rooms’ filled with borders and beds, provides visual interest, and gives further protection from the prevailing southwesterly wind.

The Edwardian house itself is set in what were once the Victorian gardens of Holmewood, now a residential care home on the other side of the garden wall. Remnants of that layout can be seen in the terraces, and in some of the hard features.

An adjoining stable block is incorporated into the garden.  The owners have future plans for this area, to take advantage of it’s sunny warmth.

This is the roomiest of the gardens thus far.

En route to the vegetable garden and petite orchard, an ethereal scent drew us toward a lovely old fashioned ‘Blush Noisette’ climbing rose.

My goodness, it is an astoundingly gorgeous thing!

Having finished visiting the third of six gardens, BB and I were half way through our NGS tour.  We’d had refreshments, and were ready to walk to the next property.


Herdy Girl


On Holmewood Avenue (NGS)

Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to spend time enjoying and ambling about in lush summertime gardens?

Best Beloved and I certainly appreciated visiting the National Garden Scheme (NGS) open day in Cockermouth.  Six private gardens were graciously shared with visitors to raise money for charity.  And all were blessed with perfect weather for garden touring – sunny, but not too hot, with a gentle breeze.

The back of the map (given upon payment of our entry fee) notes that the garden on Holmewood Avenue in Cockermouth is approximately 1/4 acre.

We arrive at this second garden to find that these folks have squeezed A LOT into  1/4 acre plot.

They’ve seating areas, mixed beds and borders, two ponds, raised veggie and fruit gardens, a few fruit trees, a greenhouse, a summerhouse, and a nice composting set up.  And that’s just around back!

The owners seemed to enjoy interacting with their visitors and were friendly and knowledgeable gardeners. Their garden has grown and changed alongside their family, evolving to suit their changing needs and wants.

The Holmewood Avenue garden is productive, packed full of plants, and not adverse to a spot of fancy.

Full of ideas and plants to try in your own patch.

Happy plants abound, like the Erigeron in pots on their front porch, which have self-seeded and escaped to soften the hard surfaces nearby. (The owner said that this particular plant is quite apt to spread itself around, but easily pulled up.)

Visiting other peoples’ gardens makes a person want to rush home and get to work in their own bit of soil.

But we weren’t finished our NGS garden tours.  Two down, but four to go!


Herdy Girl

A Jewel in The Parklands (NGS)

This Scepter’d Isle is known throughout the world for it’s patchwork fields, green landscape and glorious gardens.  Since 1927, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) has leveraged that beauty by inviting owners to open their private gardens to raise money for charities in England and Wales.  According to their website, over £50 Million since the scheme began.

A couple of months ago, I picked up an NGS brochure at the train station in Penrith and noticed, with pleasure, that there were several open gardens within a reasonable distance from our valley home. Yay!

This past weekend, six Cockermouth gardens were open to visitors. For a mere £4.50 per person, visitors were allowed to wander around all  of these beautiful and personal gardens, speak to the owners, and possibly enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  (Pay at any of the 6 gardens. No charge for children. Refreshments available in two of the gardens.)

We paid, received our stickers and (not-quite-to-scale) map, and cheerfully began exploring.

The map led us into The Parklands housing development and to a modern brick two story house. Immediately, you can tell that this is the home of a serious home gardener- the plants are all well-tended and thoughtfully placed.

A peek down either side of the house tempts you into the piece de resistance, a tightly planted jewel of a garden.

This particular back garden surrounds a lovely conservatory, and takes full advantage of planting vertically on the fence and within the garden itself. It is very much a sheltered, green embrace.

Pulled together by it’s hard structure, this small garden’s paths and raised beds make every inch of space contribute to the whole.

The beds were very closely planted, with obvious thought given to placement within the scheme.

It would be interesting to see how the garden looks in the winter, when the riot of blooms has quieted.  Will it fare well and continue to provide a pleasurable view from the owner’s conservatory?

All of the garden owners were welcoming and a pleasure to meet. So much so that one of the best parts of the NGS is the people you meet and their enthusiasm for plants, gardens, and their community.

Onward and upward, we leave this tidy garden in its modern neighbourhood and head uphill toward the next garden.

See you there!


Herdy Girl

Streets of Cockermouth

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!

Smile inducing.

Thanks for joining me on my quick jaunt into town!


Herdy Girl


Short walk in Lanthwaite Wood

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’.

01 Lanthwaite Wood Parking
The car park is Pay & Display.  Free to National Trust members.

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.

So you know where you are, if not where you’re going.

The dogs were excited to go somewhere different.  Lots of new smells.

They shot off ahead; I dawdled behind.

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.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one to the waterside.

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!

05 Lanthwaite at Crummock
A young lad admiring the cold water and clear views.

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.

06 Lanthwaite at Crummock
Not a bad view at all.

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.

A place to rest, should you be weary.

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.

This view would have to make your picnic taste better…

We’re not stopping today, though. Just passing through.

Quick trot down to the old boathouse. It was the bumpiest part of the path.

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.

10 Lanthwaite Wood toward Melbreak
Sunny Melbreak.

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.

11 Lanthwaite Wood toward 1st beach
Looking toward Scale Hill and Low Fell.

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.

How did I miss this beauty on the way to the boathouse?

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.

13 Lanthwaite Wood
Love this motley wee crew.

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.

14 Lanthwaite Wood
Mossy pile of logs or pile of mossy logs?

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.

The Road Ahead

Lest you think that the sun always shines here, please note that an hour after we’d returned home, the weather had altered considerably.

Shrouded in mist
Descending mist and cloud

And a slightly different viewpoint, across Crummock Water, shows that today’s weather can be confirmed as ‘changeable’.  Indeed.

A cloudier Melbreak!

Sunny or cloudy, life is still good.


Herdy Girl

National Cream Tea Day 2017

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.

Map showing that British pronunciation of scone is probably related purely to geographical location, as released by Cambridge University.
Image: Cambridge University

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.)

In honour of this most delicious day, Best Beloved and I are heading to one of our favourite local spots, Syke Farm Tea Room, also home to the delectable handmade Buttermere Ayrshires Ice Creams.  (Post code CA13 9XA.)

Syke Farm, in scenic Buttermere.

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.

A convenient stop for walkers and day-trippers.

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!

Our view before the room filled.

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.

They even let me take a fresh-from-the-oven photo!

Ahhh, the cream tea.  Not afternoon tea.  That is an altogether different affair requiring dainty sandwiches and pastries.  No, not today.

Today, this:

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.

Testing Devon vs Cornwall styled scones.

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.

My half of the scone. Nearly finished off!

Right.  Cream tea enjoyed, now we’ve got to do a bit of moving about.

Happy Cream Tea Day!


Herdy Girl