Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Two days...

Friday last, it was my turn for visiting the sick.  I left the house at 9am, caught the community bus to the station and the 9.23 to Liverpool Street.  Across London to Paddington, and a longish wait for the train to Cheltenham.  Taxi from the station to the hospital, for a forty-five minute visit with the step-mother.  Then, all the above in reverse, arriving home at 8.45 pm.

How can you tell that someone is on the mend? Well, a resumption of cantankerousness  - (is there such a word?) - probably proves it.  A point to be borne in mind for one's own future, perhaps.

On the journey, time enough to read a whole novel - "Quiet as a Nun" by Antonia Fraser, not a challenging read.  And to knit a pair of mittens, for a Lakota child.

Sunday, we were in a different mode.  In the morning we made a quick trip to a garden centre to pick up the ubiquitous folding chairs.  After lunch we were assigned to the Coffee Shop at Paycocke's  for the whole afternoon, serving up cream teas.  Home and a quick change, before we set off again, this time as visitors, for the Music Evening. 

Sitting in that lovely garden as the sun set, eating a plate of lasagne and drinking chilled white wine, while a string quartet played popular classics - ah, yes!  What it is to be retired and not to have to think of Monday on Sunday evenings.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Visiting my husband's stepmother, who is in hospital - long story - we found ourselves overnighting in Broadway, a quintessential Cotswold village.  There are worse places to be, although it is overrun with day-trippers on fine days. 

We dined at the Lygon Arms which we had long wanted to visit.  The furniture designer, Gordon Russell, learnt his trade by patching up antique pieces for this hotel where his father was the hotelier.  Now, there is a museum dedicated to his work, in Broadway.

On the knitting front, two cabled hats for the second-graders in Rapid City.

And the progress made on the back of the Porridge cardigan.  The wool was in a pack with a printed label stating that it was Scottish Tweed.  Ravelry shows all the colourways of this discontinued yarn, the nearest of which is called Porridge.  I'm more convinced that it is a Rowan yarn having found the same faults as others describe - occasional sections of loose spinning and thick slubs.  Odder is the presence of quite vivid tweedy flecks, tiny but vivid, in a base yarn which is fawn with a gingery blend to it.  I'm quite pleased by the wooliness of it, which should be just the job in winter.

As we drove back from our visit this afternoon, through a truly scary deluge, I thought how earlier Elizabethans would have seen this weather:  the disturbance of the macrocosm, given recent events.  But we know all about the water cycle, and cannot lose that knowledge.

Friday, June 10, 2016


At last, a bit of knitting! 

First, the hats and mittens I made while on holiday.  These are being shipped out to South Dakota for primary aged pupils this winter.  I am still using up yarn I have had for some time.  The pink are a pairing of Jaeger Merino and Langora.  Lovely yarn and should be warm, but not in colours which appeal to me. 

The lime green are in Drops Nepal, an alpaca/ wool mix.  Lovely handle to this yarn, and a quick knit.

While in Cumbria, I spotted a pack of what was described as Rowan Scottish Tweed in a charity shop.  I just could not leave it there, although I do have some doubts.  There were no ball bands.  Scottish Tweed is a discontinued yarn, but Ravelry suggests that the balls were of a different shape to these.  The colourway is Porridge.

However, it knits up into an authentically rustic fabric.  I found this pattern in a magazine and am planning a shawl collar.  It's a while since I made something to wear myself.  I suppose it can always go to Knit for Peace if it does not work out.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Green Gable

While we were in Cumbria for these two weeks we saw no less than sixty-five species of birds, many more than in May of previous years.  Rarities for us were the ring ousel, heard, but not actually spotted, high on Green Gable, sandpipers on the lake shore and eider ducks out at sea in the Solway.

I am not really  a bird-watcher but poddling about up the coast, or in the little nature reserve, makes a very pleasant change of pace after some fell-bashing.

Next on our list was a walk starting from Honister Slate Quarry, high above Buttermere.  We took the steep path up to Grey Knotts, over the moor to Brandreth, then on to Green Gable.

  Ahead loomed the bulk of Great Gable, with Kirk Fell off to the right.  It looked eminently accessible, but my husband decided to save it for another trip. 

We descended to Windy Gap by a badly eroded path: larger pieces of loose material this time, but just as treacherous.

Later, I read the report of the Mountain Rescue Service for the area.  106 callouts in the year, mostly for leg and ankle injuries.  It certainly gives you pause on paths like these.

Our last walk was to an inconspicuous top called Hen Comb, presumably because it looks like one from some angle.  This is one for those who do not like crowds, or even a proper path.  A rare photo of me, because my husband was now using his camera. 

We finished the walk sitting by this stream, watching a grey wagtail - it's yellow - go about its business.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Rydal Mount

After our soaking, we opted for a quieter day, visiting Rydal Mount, the gentleman's residence rented by Wordsworth for many years, after they outgrew Dove Cottage.

It is a lovely house, with a splendid garden.

Wordsworth had a study in the attic, with extensive views.

The property has a very compact parking area. Just as we were leaving, an enormous coach arrived.  We were impressed by the driver's skill at reversing in such a confined space.  But then my husband had to manoeuvre our car out between two others, watched by a crowd of pensioners who had just debussed.  I'd have panicked, but he is made of stronger stuff.

So then we moved on to our own cottage, already "walked in".  It's never a good idea to move from Essex walking - flat - to Cumbrian walking - mountainous - in one go.  But on Sunday we were ready and headed for Buttermere.

The couple parking next to us were setting out to walk around the lake.  Ten years ago, that would have been us.  But not now.  We were headed up the Scarth Gap path, then turning right on to High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike - the row of tops along the South side of Buttermere.

As you ascend, so you join a different range of people.  From a neighbouring top, hang-gliders were taking off.

Several times, fell-runners passed us coming down.

And what about these three?   Note the mountain bikes slung across their shoulders.  This is a very rough, boulder-strewn path.  They were going to "drop down into Wasdale, then go over into Borrowdale," as the young man breezily told me.  That's a lot of carrying over mountain passes.  The one in the lead was a girl.

We climbed steadily on, then followed the ridge route.  The views from here are outstanding.

Finally, we plodded up Red Pike.

The path down is clearly visible in this picture.  It is one of "those" paths, very steep, heavily eroded and consisting of loose, red grit.  We clung on to the rocks at the side, hoping not to slide too far with each step.  When we reached more solid ground, our hands looked as though we had been doing the front step with  Red Cardinal polish.

We recovered with a drink in the Fish Inn.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scaling the heights

As our holiday progressed, so the weather became unreliable.  We followed Pike o'Blisco with a gentle stroll around Loughrigg Tarn, down the valley and a visit to Grasmere, the village.

The next day, the forecast continuing to be uncertain, we walked over Hunting Stile Crag to Grasmere, the lake, passing these very ancient sheds on the way.

Obviously, one would use a large slate as a wall.

The view looks over to Dunmail Raise, the road over which has just reopened after months of repairs to damage caused by last winter's floods. 

As we came down to the lake, we heard a tremendous honking of geese.  The fields were full of Canada geese grazing with their goslings.

The next day, we decided on a walk up the Langdale valley and set off from the cottage with that intention.  All the tops were still shrouded in mist but, as we walked further, this cleared.

The previous day our friends had climbed the Langdale Pikes, and the weather had brightened for them. We decided to make the ascent ourselves.

The path we took was steep, but had benefitted from extensive work, with imported boulders creating rough steps all the way.  It was like climbing an enormous staircase, with just a little scrambling where the natural rock had to be crossed.

We reached the top and sat down to eat lunch, just under the improbable summit of Pike o'Stickle.

Then the rain started.

We made a quick tour of all but one of the Wainwright tops accessible from the plateau, but then the mist began to filter in and we decided to descend before visibility was threatened.  Rounding the corner of Pavey Ark, we saw a path marked by huge cairns and made our way down to the tarn.

Well, I say "path" - what I mean is a gully filled with enormous boulders, fortunately stable, over which we lowered ourselves, often resorting to that technique favoured by toddlers of sitting down and using the bottom as a fifth point of contact.   The rain got heavier.

By the time we reached Stickle Barn, we were in a condition best described as "drowned rat."  Several times I wrung the water out of my gloves.   We got the bus back to our base.

It was a memorable day.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Langdales

Our annual walking holiday with friends, this time in Chapel Stile in Great Langdale.  This was once a centre of quarrying operations - and there is still a working quarry - but the big industry now is tourism, with almost every picturesque cottage bearing a sign to say it is for rent.  On Fridays and Saturdays - changeover days - a coach brings in teams of house cleaners and bed-makers to service the cottages.  Close access to major walking country must mean that there are few months in the year of off-season.

We began by taking a gentle stroll down the valley, past Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge.  Everywhere a dusting of bluebells blued the woodlands.  We sat down for a coffee break and spotted a song-thrush sitting bolt upright in the field opposite.  It sat there completely still for some minutes.  Most curiously, about a hundred yards away, another was behaving in like fashion.  What could they have been doing?  Were they watching us and wondering the same thing?

We ate our sandwiches just by a bridge above Skelwith Force. We had already spotted a dipper operating in the stream, but now we saw that there was a pair, and that they were servicing a nest built right under the bridge, apparently undisturbed by the intermittent tramping of feet overhead.

The weather holding fair, we planned a more challenging walk: Pike o'Blisco.  In this area the roads are also a challenge, and we began by driving up Wrynose Bottom to the Three Shires Stone.  (I realise that this sounds like something out of "The Hobbit.")

The stone marks the ancient border between Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmoreland.  It's all Cumbria now.

From here, a path leads out over the fellside to Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, two of the big names in walking terms.  Our objective was more modest; we turned right. 

Which is not to say that the views were not astounding, especially that over to the Langdale Pikes themselves, robbed of their unmistakeable profile from this angle. 

On the way down, rocks showing sedimentary layers.

And this detached needle, like a crazy sculpture.

It was a good first hike.