Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Yes, I know that this sounds like a programme featuring Mary Berry, but, in fact, it is a mountain at the back o' Skiddaw.

After we left Ambleside we headed north for a brief visit to our own base in  the north of Cumbria. The weather cleared for us and we drove up beyond Bassenthwaite, parking at Peter House Farm.  We followed the little road leading to Skiddaw House, up past Dash Falls.  Many other walkers were on the move that day.

Bakestall has a face known as Dead Crags, which loomed above us as we walked.

Dash Falls drops into its precipitous gorge.

From the turning from the road up on to the fell it is two-thirds of a mile to the summit of Bakestall, with 900 feet of ascent in that distance - so it is kind of steep.  Half way up this slope we could see sheep on the move.  This is sometimes a bad sign, as it can mean that a walker's dog is on the loose.

Soon, however, we saw the farmer.  He was on a quad bike coming down that slope - I guess he does it often enough to be safe.  But it did not look safe to us.

From the top of Bakestall the views are extensive - right out to the Solway and across to the Scotch Hills.

Over to Blencathra - from the top of which many, many hang-gliders were enjoying the thermals.

It was a memorable walk.

Few things are more evocative of the phrase "Winter Is Coming" than the sight of skeins of geese on the move.  Three times we heard that honking sound, looked up and saw large numbers moving south to warmer wetlands.  The next day, we too drove south.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Silver How

Our last day at Ambleside dawned bright and sunny, so we were determined not to waste the day.  For some reason, going for a long walk now seems like a totally valid way to spend the day  - it even seems like the only way to make the most of good weather.  I think this must be a reaction to all those Septembers when lovely weather meant noses to the grindstone, not emerging until the best of the day was past.

We started from Grasmere, up past Allen Bank, and on to Silver How.  A youth passed us, listening to his MP3.  Strangely, he soon passed us again, on his way down, commenting that it was a bit slippery.  Of course, he was wearing shoes without cleated soles. 

From the top we were delighted to be able to see seven bodies of water, starting with Grasmere and Rydal Water. 

So, what knitting was done on this trip? This probably looks a lot like deja vu, because I am still turning out baby jackets for Pine Ridge.  One on the ten hour journey north - we had some traffic jams -

And one on the way back:

A variation done in the middle:

And a hat and mitts just for a change:

An Aran weight Sophisticate:

One last cardi, knitted by a dear friend from my knitting group for the same cause - inspired choice of buttons:


Monday, October 05, 2015


We are generally fair weather walkers.  We really like to see a view from the top, so we don't set off if there is mist -  certainly not in rain.  However, with a fine morning and a forecast of patchy showers, we decided to attempt Holme Fell.

The route took us first past this colourful display, along a minor road.  Sheep were being treated for something at a farm along the way.

We climbed up the fell, congratulating ourselves on a dry walk.  At the summit, the shower arrived.  We took shelter under a crag and were able to watch these spectacular light displays.

Rain set in more heavily, so that we ate lunch by a tarn, standing up.  Then we tried to find a direct route down, but there were many tracks and some boggy ground to avoid.  We came down through bracken, reaching a slate wall, collapsed in several places.  It was not a path, but others had walked there, and we knew that if we followed the wall we would reach the main track across the field.

Suddenly, I felt the ground move rapidly towards me. I landed on a pile of slate debris, on both hands and my right shin.  My goodness, but it stung!  If you are going to fall, slate is not a good choice of landing material.   My main concern, of course, was to be able to walk back to the car, and this proved possible.  I had a gash on one palm and a huge swelling on my shin, which resolved itself into a bruise the size of a saucer, but otherwise no harm was done.

We were able to have tea in Coniston to gather our wits.  We visited the churchyard where stands John Ruskin's wonderful memorial cross.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Great Langdale

A few miles from our rented cottage lay the valley of Great Langdale, including the settlement of Chapel Stile.  This village reveals very clearly that the central Lake district was once not just a base for Wainwright enthusiasts and trippers, but a serious industrial workplace.  Strung along the valley are these little rows of quarrymen's cottages.

Our walk began by crossing the working yard of a quarry still processing slate for paving-stones and road materials.  All day we could hear the work proceeding.

Soon the path rose, into more classic scenery, with tempting glimpses of the Langdale Pikes.  We were aiming for Lingmoor Fell and its summit, Brown How.

Striding across the landscape are the drystone walls, such a feature of the Lake District and sometimes in improbable places.

From the more moderate summit where we ate lunch, sheltering from the stiff breeze, we had a wonderful view of the Pikes.

 On the only thoroughly wet day we visited the Armitt Museum in Ambleside.   The town itself is over-run with trippers but the exhibition showed us a new side of Beatrix Potter, who was a serious student of fungi.  The exhibition featured some of her exquisite drawings.

This is the famous bridge house in Ambleside.

Thursday, October 01, 2015


It's many years since we last visited Dove cottage and the Wordsworth museum.  Friends had kindly given us Art Fund cards recently, allowing us free entry to all sorts of interesting places, so we planned visits on the damp mornings we had.

On our guided tour of the little house we were struck again by the stone flags and pegged mats downstairs, while upstairs it was all more genteel. A woman in our tour group felt that Dorothy had had a raw deal: why had she not inherited money, or been allowed to live independently?  One thinks of households in Jane Austen's novels where single women had different expectations to today.  Did Dorothy really think it drudgery to copy out Wordsworth's poems?

In the gift-shop, a gruesome and inexplicable offering: bags of gummy sweets like false teeth.  The current exhibition features Wordsworth's reactions to Waterloo and Napoleon.  He had visited the battle-fields with Dorothy some five years after the event.  "Little was to be seen, but much was to be felt," she recorded in her journal.

But there, in the exhibition were the teeth.  Apparently, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the main source of false teeth was the battle-field.  Teeth pulled from the corpses at Waterloo supplied dentists for years to come.  The toothless preferred the teeth of "ploughboys" who had died for their country to those of disinterred criminals.  Pretty macabre, eh?

From a base outside Grasmere we were able to walk along Loughrigg terraces and then climb up on to Loughrigg Fell, the first of several climbs offering wonderful views.

Dunmail Raise, rising out of Grasmere.

Mixed woodland, just beginning its turn to autumn colours.

The unmistakable Langdale Pikes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Analgesia and exercise

Two weeks ago, working on our allotment, I ricked my back pretty badly.  We had collected nine bags of FYM, and while my husband barrowed them down to the plot, I upended each one to spread on the onion patch.  Somewhere during this process I wrenched a muscle in my lower back. After I had sat for any length of time, I simply could not straighten up.   It was the kind of thing where you find out what being eighty-five will be like, and also realise how close that day now is.

All the more tiresome as we had booked a week in a cottage near Ambleside, for some extended walking before the weather closes in.

However.... After a week I realised that a dose of ibuprofen first thing settled the pain, and then it was sitting,  not walking, which caused problems.

 We began by lunching at Blackwell, on Lake Windermere.  A party of older people were visiting.  One lady sat in that glorious white drawing-room, with its unrivalled views, and commented on how unjust it was that some had money to spend on holiday homes like this in 1900, while others did not know where their next meal was coming from.  This is certainly true, but not what most visitors think while there.  Most of us would just like to live there ourselves.

The next day took us to Brantwood, home of John Ruskin, overlooking Lake Coniston.   On the lake, the steam gondola plies its trade, very Edwardian - but, in fact, Coniston is most known for its use by the Campbells for the speed records in "Bluebird" - and that terrible crash.

Brantwood is another house with fabulous mountain views, this time of the Old Man of Coniston.

And, up behind the house, acres of garden.

Later, the weather having cleared, we walked around Tarn Hows,

On the way, we noticed this odd fallen tree-trunk.  These are not bark-scales but coins, wedged into the cracks in the wood. We saw several like this on this trip, something we have never come across before.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Baby Sophisticate

Yes, unusual name for a pattern, but quite appropriate.  This one has proved less versatile, for me.  However, it's a great way to learn some new skills, and it is really quick to knit.  Designed by Linden Down, it's a free pattern on Ravelry.

It's in an Aran weight, and can be done in two day's knitting time - less than five hours.

You start at the top and knit down, increasing for the raglan sleeves as you go.  Then you set stitches aside for the sleeves and knit down the body.

You can adapt the stocking stitch to a textured stitch.

Once you have done the sleeves, you pick up for the front bands and collar, using wrap and turn short rows.  It's really easy and the collar sits beautifully.  I like to do the cast off row in a contrast, to look like the braid on a blazer.

Stitch on four buttons and you are done.