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!
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.