Lakes October 2020

I’m writing this in bed in the Barbara Cartland Suite, LangAr hall, Nottinghamshire. Michael in Burgundy pajamas is making tea. ‘Not just ordinary tea but Newby Tea with Meadow Churned Milk’, he says, bringing the mug to bed, headtouch on forehead for the morning read of Wilding to start our day.

We were delayed departing – there is much to do to close up two homes and one wood. Air bnb coming to East Lodge, sunflower heads and seeds to keep dry and mouse free for next year in wood cabin, and walnuts on Magnolia’s walnut tree to rescue before the squirrels found them while we were away. Let alone packing and clearing out the fridge and remembering to turn off the Aga. No wonder I left behind my hat.

Along the familiar to us both for different reasons, A17. While Michael replays his history, (travelling up to Edinburgh perhaps) I replay childhood journeys up to my family in Hull, and more recent past with Bob up to Langar, recalling that same reflection of isolated enclaves of Laylandii behind which would be a homested, all within the huge flat landscape of reclaimed land, agriculturally rich, this time of year a blue green carpet of cabbages. Delicious cream tea in a cafe M remembered (naturally).

Arrived Langar at tea time in light rain, welcomed by one who knew me, but is unrecognisable in a mask. We’d almost forgotten the pandemic and that Nottingham lilt. The Barbara Cartland room is not pink but appropriate for us for many reasons is wall-pappered with a forest of trees. Michael is in awe and is delighted with being here. ‘You said it was a hotel, but I hadn’t imagined this!’

Dogs and I walked down to the lake and swing, the arch of willow, the cabin, and of course the Giant Hogweed (planted innocently years ago by one of Louis’s ancestors who fell in love with the big heads). I turn and coming up the field meadow (no sheep) find the old Sycamore, hollow now, with broken limbs but surviving, strong as sycamore, and I see my own interest in trees growing, as I notice more. Passed the stump to wonderful Toby, Shine On, seeing in my minds eye his walk, his love of Louise, his ambivalence to Bob, impatience with fools, his mantra ‘look out for the Koreans’, his respect of Imo (Where is Bob’s film on Langar I wonder). His death and funeral. Louis and my road trip to Inverness with Imo’s blessing, my last sight of her was waving to her out of the campervan window, until she too lay in the Langar earth, also Shining on, I see on her tomb stone. Past memory, present and future rolled into one.

Turning there is Louise. We hug. ‘I was wondering if you would or not’, she laughed.

We met for an early dinner (Covid curfew at 10), at 6 in the bar, enjoyed a naughty roll up outside in the light rain, Michael joining us, not wanting to miss out. ‘I must tell you a secret’ she said, and she did.

We ate in the little budda enclave, the food was delicious, but I was far too distracted to justify. Telling some of her story to Michael, who she meets for the first time, Louise reminds me of this moment. ‘I’d been traveling around India for 3 years and when I returned to Langar, Imo said ‘It’s no good just aimlessly travelling, you’ve got to have a purpose…. I hear yoga is very fashionable these days.’ A year later Louise returned to Langar, pregnant. Who with? asked Imo. A yoga teacher! said Louise. Sharat.

We catch up on the surface doing news. Langar is doing well despite lockdown. Some staff let go, others furloughed, now returned, only 5 days a week and less hours (closed on Monday Tuesday). Leila happy, engaged, and will live and settle in Stockholm. Alfi, who had been the site chowkidar in Lockdown, now kitting out a Mercedes van to go off travelling in. Langar future? Uncertain. But Louise has a home, her own home, her pod, which we will see tomorrow.

Fascinated by our Socratic Dialogue experience, Louise ended up giving me a question for the next dialogue: can you have a friendship with one who has diametrically opposite views? Michael attempted to tempt her view out but she did not rise, and instead posed this question. It was a benign and fine elephant, content to be with us in the room, because as she said, we had so much other to share.

Clearing out a room, Louise had found her mothers diary written in the 1980’s when she followed and attended workshops with Depak Choppra. ‘It’s all about love, love and compassion’ she wrote then. Forward to 2017, in Majorca in an argument with Louise she said: Stuff and nonsense, when Louise said life is about love and compassion!

She is an observer, Louise, I hadn’t noticed that before. ‘Your finger nails are still with soil in them’. Ah my soul sister, I love her so much.

Langar Thursday

Avocado and scrambled egg breakfast before we hit the road to case the market in Campervans, five places, including ‘the largest campervan park in Britain’. All had the same story – since the pandemic had grounded us they’d been inundated with requests, sold out, with a turn around 8 to 20 hours. From the last place came the knowledge that the small medium length ones were the first to go – just the ones I am interested in. We learned much. I am determined not to make a hasty decision and sleep on it.

It was not difficult to stop on the way back at Cropwell Bishop and be woed by their bargain half Stiltons at 10 quid, and a Melton Mowbury Pork pie, which we ate immediately on our return to Langar, outside on the lawn in September sun, where Louise took this fine photograph of us. It was the most delicious pork pie I have ever tasted. With the dogs beside salivating, Louise, in sympathy for them, found some raw meet rejects from Langar kitchen for them.

Louise’s pod is a space of light and beauty. Single story, sitting neatly into the landscape of the Vegetable garden, the porch leads into the living space of kitchen looking west into the garden, and ‘lounge’, a word which does not fit, the area peppered with Toby’s chest and Indian days. The gravel garden is being colonised with seeds of marjoram. It is her first year, and already it looks settled. It is above all a space, secure and intimate for her.

With dinner on the house (one of Louis’s many generosities I found later) both Louise and Alfi joined us, with conversation turning to travelling tales of Eastern Europe.
‘Alfi’s done every job here at Langar including bar work at the age of 12’ reported Michael later. Through Lockdown Alfi had lived in the Cartland suite, alone in the house, listening to the house noises which was extraordinary to experience, he said. Just as it would have been when it was a family home, I thought. ‘It was a privilege’, said Alfie.

Friday Journey North

Michael with morning tea brings news that Trump has Coronavirus. What great news was my and no doubt many others response. I don’t want him to die, no not a martyr to a Christian tribe, but to suffer has his people have suffered to be part of the system he otherwise seeks to divide in his terrible bullish way.

Leaving Langar we come away from mine into Michael’s story. Bob used to say he only knew what I was thinking by reading my logs, and Louise once put a mirror up to my reluctance to talk of myself. How I have changed with Michael. The honesty and openness of our relationship touches me as well as enables a comfort and confidence that is a new experience. I am, however, now looking forward to putting my story away, and exploring his.

Well nourished on a full English, a brief walk with the dogs, Kali Bobji Sid, Louise, Michael and I down the avenue of Limes, when we talked about Wilding, and hedge laying. Louis’s parting gift to me is beetroot, raw, good for blood clots, thins the blood.

Birkhampsted School

Like New Hall, it is now Co-educational and like any one returning to their school, appears so much smaller than it did then, back in the days of short trousers. With COVID-19 regulations, we cannot look round further than a view across the playing field to the Chapel, and the many new buildings.
‘Only prefects were allowed to cross the green’, said M. ‘I remember the trill of walking across it the first time’. He was head boy after all.
Both Michael and I fitted into our private schools, we were not the rebelious ones, the ones who challenged.
‘I was a goody goody’, said M laughing at himself. ‘I was shocked when fellow pupils swore’.
We acquiesced to the the private school caste system, and were rewarded by the status quo with privilege. While I was a house captain, he was head boy.
Ahead of us was the chapel in which it was the first duty of a head boy to read the lesson the first day of term. Yes, he sung in the choir, and was confirmed by the Bishop of Chester. Beside it the Gymnasium which held the annual boxing competition, which he hated, and hosted prize giving where his mother presented the prizes after, mother of the head boy and next head boy, Richard, Michae’s brother who was to suceed him (and she’d just lost her husband)
The head was Kenneth Robinson, the head after Mr Burrel who’d been the caretaker head during the way. Robinson himself had been a Major on active service. He said of Michael ‘The thing about Michael is he is too modest’.

Michael’s home.

We drove the route Michael would cycle, down Winston Hill, cycling with Mike Herrington, who also lived in West Kirby, a good 7 miles up and down hill. We walked the dogs at Caldy Hill, which M is shocked to find is now far more over grown with self seeded sycamore, and bramble once rich with blackberries. In his day it was heath and heather land, with fine views across to the bay.

Down at the Marine Lake, we walked boarder, now tarmaced, and with Comerants, looking across to Little Hibre Island, which you can walk to at low tied. It’s a well known bird watching area. Across the Irish sea, we can see West Kirby, and further still the North Wales coast and further still Great Orme and beyond that Anglessey. Back along the sea front, passed the swimming baths, now dismantled, where M learned to swim.

In need of a loo we enter a cafe on the sea front. The waitress asks us where we are from. ‘I know Halesworth’, she says, I’ve relations there, the Brodie Murphy, used to run the florisst by the White Hart, John and Jan.’
M said – yes, it took a while to get used the sun rising not setting out of the sea.

We are on the eve of Lockdown here, and our air B&B hostess greets us with distance and full facemask out side. She assures us all surfaces have been wiped down, and she has cancelled all future bookings, and was tempted to cancel us. Dogs in the car. Main road busy. Home a converted room doubled as a gym. We dined in the local pub, full on this eve of Lockdown, and we admire the speed and energy of the waiters to serve us all before the 10 curfew.

LAKES Nibthwaite

I am not in a good temper. Awake since 3am, the only good news was that Trump has been taken to hospital. Wrong time to look at campervans on line. A short dog walk on the busy road. A swift drive through Liverpool in which we see nothing, as on main thoroughfares, I ommitted to take a photograph of a massive warehouse with bricked in windows.

Crosby Sands was on my bucket list, and M brings me here. It soften the short temper. Another Place consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. The figures face the the ebb and flow of the tide, the ones further have become homes to barnacles, inhabbiting this human form. The ones closer rust particularly on the north side.
Gormley: In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.
Dogs in ball heaven.

At Southport we have an unexpected breakfast in a Weatherspoons, COVID ready with its App. Popular with various degrees of breakfast, some of which is left on plates and I snaffled for the dogs, who turned their noses up a the veg sausage rolls.

At Ambleside while M shopped in Co-op, I bought a rain coat sold to me by a fine Hungarian.

We arrive along the east side of Conniston, a single track, moss on slate stacked walls, verdent green, contrasting with the bronzing of the bracken and beach, all of it revelling in the wet, which is delicious after the dry of East Anglia.

Joanna gives warm welcome and gives useful practical advise. The house is in fact two homes into one of which we will only use a small part. The fire is welcome. Books stacked up to the ceiling with a pair of step ladders handy if we wanted to reach the collection of Jilly Cooper on the top shelf. We recognise so many from our own lives. Salmon Fishing in the Yemon, Lee Child, Larsson, Grisham, etc.

Nibthwaite SUNDAY

Wilding – the whole ethos starts from the land plants, the grassland and trees. The theory of closed canopy was evidently debunked by the Vera Theory based on pollen identification. Later debunked by beetle and litchen experts, in favour of open savanna with herbivores to much on. The word Forest appears first in the C7th and relates to uninhibited wilderness, and area outside, applied to wilderness in general. Who is Alexander Vera?

The Vera hypothesis is that large herbivores maintained an open landscape in the primeval landscape of lowland Europe. The significance of Vera’s (2000) hypothesis lies in the contention that, if it is valid, then forest conservation policy across much of Europe, and by analogy, parts of North America, is misguided where the conservation aim is to maintain the forest close to its natural condition prior to human impact. The publication of Vera’s (2000) hypothesis has already prompted a major investigation by English Nature into the future management of large‐scale reserves in Britain using naturalistic grazing (Kirby et al. 2004), drawing on the existing experience of this approach at the 5000‐ha reserve at Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands (Vera 2000). British Ecolological Society

Shopping at Booths is like Waitrose, expensive and quality. Fascinating conversation with Joanna before we set off which sets the sceene here in this landscape around Conniston. It was a trading land, hence all the barns, storing not only slate but also copper and tin from the hills. Joanna is writing the localhistory, not only her family (of which I had seen a glimpse last year in Lake End house) but of the village here. She has a naturally curious mind.

The sun shone. It was a perfect day for a socially distanced picnic with Healther and Ken, who drove from Ulveston (rife with COVID, said Joanna), to join us on Joanna’s hill, where I had found a good raised spot for us to sit. We ate the last MM pork pie, begun the Stilton, and finished the banana cake, while Heather and Ken relayed their Annus horribilis. Ken spoke matter of fact of his cancer, later saying it being the second time around, he felt more sanguine, and Healthers son had just had his first Chemo treatment. We never got round to New Hall. Instead Heather spoke of her vital work as safeguarding and whistleblower protector in the National Health. Most whistleblowing is done by patients, and with no visitors allowed this potentially jeopardizes this witnessing.

After they left M and I walked the road. Once again the necessitating slow speed gave time and space for much more observation, the detail that I had missed as I strode purposely on that morning. The richness of the live of a biforkating oak, with not only ferns and litchen living on it’s skin, but in the fork, a sycamore seed had landed and taken root to a 2 foot seadling. I stretched out those aging aching legs, and marvelled at the Marathon runners – this year running marathons in individual places, the local one here around Conniston, and this path. Karen Prime back in Halesworth accomplished hers.

While M settled in, I walked up hill, finding once again a shortness of breath, first noticed here exactly one year ago. Ah measurement of time. This year I am wearing glasses to look at a screen, this year I am far far stiffer, and far slower to ascend. On the way up, applying the Paulo Coelho principle of talking to one stranger a day, the group of strangers responded with interest in Kali and Bobji (naturally impressive), which led to a spontaneous learning of how to identify Magic Mushrooms, which were plentiful at the top, if you are into that sort of thing, they said!

Kedgeree left overs for dinner and bed.

MONDAY – Return to Dudden Valley and Hard Knott Pass

We settled into work in the morning, M I could tell reluctant as the sun shone outside, and actually he was right, but I did get much done, to clear the slate, and that evening I burned 4 notebooks, now all transferred to this blog – satisfaction.

Finally we went out to re-visit the lonely valley we lived in for our week last year, Wood End, Dudden Valley. For ease of walking we parked and walked to Devoke Water, our regular place of pilgrimage then. M was right, the rain came, he saw it. By the time we reached the isolated Bothey, we were both wet, although not as wet as M remembers being when he and his father climbed …

A little damp we made our way back, up the Hard Knott Pass. I’d said I wanted to drive this pass again. Enough now. We had heart stopping moments in the comfortable but automatic Honda. So relieved at the top and way down, I didn’t notice a pot hole, and half way up the Wrynose pass, the inevitable puncture manifested. We pulled in. No phone signal. In slanting rain, I walked up, found a signal and got through to the AA. The description was comic. ‘Are there any distinguishing features around you?’ asked the woman somewhere in the south of England who didn’t know where the lake district was.
After over an hour, I hitched a lift up the hill with 2 very kind Indians, who i’d flagged down (yes, on the steep Wrynose pass uphill!) They had to make an immediate asssessment of my predicament, and if COVID safe, invited me into the car, took me up to the top pass, waited for me to get a signal and through before contining down. I thanked them in my most ebullient Hindi.

The AA man from Preston rocked up at 9.30, boy were we glad to see him. Yes, he’d been stopped by an car with Indians inside who told him that a ‘very nice lady’ with broken down car was waiting for him, and they could provide co-ordinates.

Back at 10, we feasted on bacon and egg and lit a roaring fire.


It was Joanna’s idea, that if we were to Ulverston, we may as well drive on to Furness Abbey. It was a very impressive Romanesque ruin with huge archways, and elabourate choiriste. Founded almost 900 years ago, Furness Abbey was once the largest and wealthiest monastery in north-west England, originally Order of Savigney then Cistercians. The abbey was a major landowner, its abbot occupying an important place in the administration of the region, and one of the first to be disolved by Henry in 1537. After it’s decline, it had a moment of revival with the C19th growing appreciation of its picturesque and romantic qualities. Etchers and poets described it, including Wordsworth.

While we were there English Heritage were carrying out emergency conservation work to stop the ruined Abbey church sinking into the soft ground. Medieval masons used large pieces of oak in the foundations and after 500 years, this timber is now gradually giving way. It was a perfect walk on easy pathed ground, around a fabulous Amphitheatre. Partly it is made by the remains of a quarry once used by Monks to cut stone for the Abbey walls.

Wednesday Brantwood

The home of John Ruskin. I’ve been reading Kenneth Clark’s Ruskin Today, which begins: No other writer, perhaps, has suffered so great a fall in reputation as Ruskin’

The once popular moralist and preacher and while our ancestors enjoyed a good sermon, today we find them embarrassing and incredible. As Clark says: whenever I have seen a biblical quotation in the offing I have begun to loose interest because I know that at this point Ruskin will cease to use his own powers of intelligent observation.’ Second reason his inability to concentrate – which was part of his genius. Father a Scottish wealthy Sherry merchant, his mother deeply pious. Home educated, going on European tours with his father. Love interests unconventional, thwarted and sad. Love of scenery his saviour from his mental struggles, alpine, and Turner. 1858 probably his happiest year of life, after which two factors had begun to unsettle his mind – his love for Rose La Touche and his whole hearted engagement in social and economic problems. (wickedness and stupidity of laissez faire economics. Today diagnosed as a manic depressive, his greatest work written in his manic times. His depression dark and empty of work.

In 1875, whilst working in London, Ruskin introduced Rawnsley to his friend Octavia Hill, a social reformer. Rawnsley and Hill were two of the founders in 1896 of the National Trust, whose origins can be traced back to Ruskin’s influence. Ruskin took up the cause of conservation with much passion and vigor, and many of the issues on which he campaigned are still valid today – town and country planning, green belts and smokeless zones. He also campaigned for free schools and libraries.

He bought Brantwood without having seen it, and went to live there 1872, Climbing up the terraces we saw a fascinating diversity of ferns, and i am reminded how little I know of these primal plants. The house being closed, I asked the gardener (how long have you worked here? since 8 this morning he replied, used to the question, before saying 15 years), if the rooms in the house were indeed available to rent, and they are. One of Michaels bucket dreams. Over a cream tea we were engaged in conversation by a couple of eager to talk caravaners, who loved travelling cruises, and were inquisitive enough to exchange country visits.

Thursday Grassmere

We are back on Michael’s life. He and Richard and parents arrived in Grassmere most often by bus, and being stationed without further transport, spent many glorious days exploring around the area, famously described by Wordsworth as…..

Indeed in 1799 William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved in to Dove Cottage, until 1809, and where Wordsworth wrote ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’, among others.

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

Before finding the town and Dove cottage however, we walked Loughrigg Terrace (which was a favourite walk of the Wordsworths), and a relatively easy climb for us. M knew exactly where to park (after all 70 years!) dogs delighted to be clambering up hill side. Bracken golden, picture box perfect landscape. We took a photo at exactly the spot of one he had of his parents, and no doubt Candy took of M just a few years back.

M also knew where to park for the town, where we naturally enjoyed a cream tea (not as good as yesterdays) by the river, observing the persistent Jackdaws. In M’s day, like the ginger bread place, it was once just a shack. Today, smart glass covered.

St Oswalds’ churchyard was an obvious where the Wordsworths and their relations, Sara Hutchinson and Hartley Coleridge, are buried.

Now on the theme of graves, on the way back we visited Ruskins wonderful grave in Conniston Church yard. A stunning Celtic cross of local green slate bedecked with arts and crafts motives and symbols pertaining to Ruskins life, from top to toe. It was designed by Ruskins friend and old Oxford pupil W.G. Collingwood.

Like many before us we failed to find Blue Bird driver Donald Campbell but as M found a pub dogs and I found the further grave yard and Cambells grave, complete with teddy bear and extraordinary dates. Cambell famously died in the crash On 4 January 1967. Royal Navy divers made efforts to find and recover the body but, although the wreck of K7 was found, they called off the search, after two weeks, without locating his body. Campbell’s body was finally located in 2001.

Campbell was buried in Coniston Cemetery on 12 September 2001 after his coffin was carried down the lake, and through the measured kilometre, on a launch, one last time.

Mr Whoppit, Campbell’s teddy bear mascot, was found among the floating debris and the pilot’s helmet was recovered.


A bad night, uncertain why, but finally fell asleep at 6 and slept in to 11, so missed the morning. M, concerned made enquiries so we could stay an extra day – what a glorious thought, but we must to scotland and the rest. All day I regretted leaving. We walked the tarmac road up to to the tarn, but turned back when tarmac ran out and we out of time. We did pass two unusual dramatic pollarded and laid Ash, and what I’m pretty sure is a sisal oak.

Nigel lives in a triangle of land in the remote valley near Hawksmore, just across the range from us, in high Nibthwait. I hardly recognised his house, where I’d last stayed one christmas may be 30 years ago, with Bob. We drank wine in the magnicient extension that Nigel had built on his Victorian home (1857 above the door), with high huge windows looking south east across the valley, underfloor heating, and a radical change from the victorian rooms of the main house. It is unusually furnished with pillars, toped with tropical plants – classical feel. I offered some nibbles from my tiffin, and so we danced around the interveening years, Michael kicking off asking how Nigel came to operating a fishing business here. I hadn’t realised how the decision had been so strategic. At a business course (a Thatcher initative to encourage entrapreneurs) , he pin pointed fish, and up here was a place he knew from childhood, in which he could operate, build a business, that was seasonal, which would allow him to travel to South America or where ever in the winter. He has the same ritual now.

Now a grandfather, (his first grandchild), having retired from the fish business only 8 years ago, he now deals in property, his pension. I was impressed with his stillness and concentration as he had listening to Michael of his past.
‘You shone through’ he had the grace to say of the anniversary I arranged for Bob, a year after his death. I bought out some old bones of that painful story. Nigel had stayed with Caroline down in Scull, West Cork, last year, saw that J was building a house with the gift of inheritance from Bob. I turned the corner away from the pain, saying I was happy now, in a much more honest relationship more open, more loving with Michael. ‘Well done Michael’, said Nigel! We talked while the dusk settled across the valley, saw that from Nigels great windows he would have a fine view of Jupiter and Saturn when the clouds lifted. Home to roast chicken and M reading the beginning of his story.

Saturday drive up the Kirkstone pass, Michael’s find, and what a brilliant way to exit the lakes, with a hint of the Hard Knott, and a doddle now. We came out exactly where Bob and I had walked 40 years ago, between Helvellyn and High Street. The light was stunning.

Our Air Bnb gave warm welcome, loving the dogs, who were transfixed by their very brave cat who immediately dominated them. A near by park for dog walk, and we settled down in a very clean and comfortable sitting room to east yesterdays chicken leftovers and watch The West Wing, which M introduced me to. Got totally hocked immediately. What a contrast, a good President! Impossible to imagine today. (Trump still denying if he is CORVID negative)

Sunday – Tamsyns Sister, Shelley, Zoe and

After Michael beavered away at his story in the morning, we transported the Staffordshire pottery to its new home. We met Shelly at her daughters home and sat in her garden. I saw Shelly, Tamsyn’s sister from her profile, and immediately felt the warmth of Tamsyn there. Like Tamsyn, she was central to the moment, fully engaged in whatever we were talking about or doing. Zoe, her daughter, was the ease maker. A vet by trade, she had adopted two dogs, Zac a collie cross and the Miss Piggy a Staffie, which danced around my two. They gave us an easy welcome, before we all drove off to lunch in a delightful outside cafe. I sat next to Shelly who talked most easily of Tony, her husband who’d died 2 years ago.


Despite a 7am up, and leave, we were late arriving at Julie Marie’s, but that did not deter the most spectacular lunch that Patrick had prepared. Washed down with Portuguese wine, butternut squash dip, followed by Sweet corn potatoe (cumin and turmeric) soup. Style and content equal, good conversing, stimulating company, we were sad to leave.

The Air BNB is outside York in Tadcaster, the town of John and Sam Smith brewery a well known family battle (tradition and technology).

A zoom occupied our time, with a supermarket planed for Halesworth being discussed by the town council on Zoom. No doubt a classic pot pouri of views, concerns, prejudices, and fears. I added a few ideas in and classically afterwards thought of all I could have mentioned. A rough night with restless dogs.

Our journey south, after dog walk by the river, included a very brief stop over in New York, M’s idea, he is brilliant at recalling, and bought the book, New York to California. It was a one street village, but what shocked us both was the author, travelling on a bicycle with his friend Harris, hadn’t mentioned the relentless traffic – the lorries transporting the agricultural produce from these flat lands. Unpacked, and with a glass of wine, we watched 3 episodes of West Wing! What luxury. Both slept well.

Dear Joanna It was a delight renting your cottage for a week – although far too short a time. You gave us our first window into the land sharing your research into the local history, explaining the many barns for the trade that once plied the lake, Old Man, and roads around here, of not only slate but also copper and tin. After that first glorious picnic on a ridge in your timeless field, we settled into a routine of writing and reading, before an afternoon adventure. You recommended Furness Abbey, unusually a place Michael had not visited before but a highlight for me was Grassmere because it was Michael’s past, picturing him arriving here by bus with his mother father and brother, and playing in the idyllic nocks and crannies around the wooded lake. The fire warmed us most evenings, the heart of any home, when we’d listen to music (delighted to find no TV), or pick out a book from the rich with pickings bookcase. I found Voices, published in 1965, last seen around then in my school days, a revolutionary collection of poetry and ‘very modern’ for the time images. Many of the books were old friends, like Verse & Worse, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, PD James, Headlong…. Step ladder essential for reaching Jilly Cooper on the top shelf. Our only offer of a suggestion for an addition would be an uplight for a softer evening light, with a reading light perhaps? Such comfortable chairs.

The kitchen was a pleasure to cook in, with quality saucepans and dishes for all occasions. I couldn’t keep the oven closed when it heated up so used the earthernware jar which was a perfect weight in front. Loved the stainless steel and slate and oak mix of materials and the luxury of oodles of piping hot water.

After the easy challenge of the Kirkstone pass we left the Lakes and journeyed on to Stirling to visited Michael’s sister in law to deliver the family Staffordshire pottery. We were lucky with glorious sun shine so we could eat safely outside and had a generous afternoon with them. We called into a friend in York to break the journey down and arrived back safely yesterday to a mound of stuff to attend to.

Hope to see you next year. A photo of you, in your timeless field attached

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