Madness to set off when we did – the day after landing from New York, still to catch up with jet lag, we departed at 5pm for the first leg. Dogs, food, Michael packed up. A few clothes thrown into a bag. No maps! Imagine that – we forgot the maps.
With a 10 mile margin, full fast rain, by 9.30pm we decided it was too risky to continue on to our night hotel, so found our first and easy charger at a motorway service station somewhere outside Birmingham. There we filled up the motor with EV energy and ourselves with burger king hamburgers, which reminded me of their existence long after. Finally rocked up at 11pm to very smart hotel not the holiday inn Michael thought he had booked, but with EV chargers, which as it happens did not work, so we had to stay for breakfast while I got it to work in day light.
Late again, therefore, in setting off, we got a puncture immediately. Pulled into an unpromising shell station on busy junction, checked tyre pressure, found the nail, called AA, who said no problem, but a 2 hour wait. While Michael slept, I explored, and found to my and dogs delight a tow path along a canal eventually leading to what was well named, stairway to heaven, a series of 21 locks close to each other ascending or descending a hill – the famous Hatton Locks. Will I ever, no I’ll probably never, ride a barge along a water way system. Once a definite must do aim, now the height looking down, that would have been an adventure, was unsettling, made me nervous; oh age.
AA man arrived early, but no spare tyre (evidently the modern way) so a make shift repair, and off we go to find the nearest Kwickfit garage The first one didn’t have the correct type, the second one did, an unexpected detour to Lemington Spar. After stopping for the final charge, we finally rocked up at Lakes End, around 10pm, exhausted, but happy to be back here, first recommended by Jenny 4 years back, owned by Joanna, away in London.
Morning walk up the familiar slate lined track above us. I almost called Michael and said I’m off for rest of day, but knew I must return for practicalities.
As it happens, the best charging point in all the lakes is at Boothes – Michael’s favourite shop to shop in. We stock up, on far too much, just in case. Followed by a bit more retail therapy in Mountain Warehouse shop, where we both buy jackets and I a pair of boots, all in the sale, all made I China.
Jenny had told us if a walk near by to Ness Nest. It was a fine track, hedgerows full of blackberry, but after a while I realised it would be too long for Michael, so returned and drove down instead, parking at where the Ulverston canal empties out into the sea, where at convenient pub The Bay Horse we ate soup, and watched sparrows fly in and out of a bush in front of us, and below us a pair of swans with 6 signets.
The evening spent glued to the computer, finally at 2am, finished opening all emails. SFCP invitation to dialogue in November sent off, Pit Stop Facebook and media alerted. Emails from Kally regarding Elders responded. Meanwhile Truss, after a mini budget exclusively worked out by her and her chancellor based on growth, tax cuts and growth, which rocked financial markets, sending the pound plummeting, has had to do U-turned on tax cuts for the super-rich. She appears to revel in her fresh role of Prime Minister at the Conservative Conference, giving the reasons as ‘global economic climate’ and going too fast for people to comprehend, and her vision is right. She has an arrogance I do not like.
Monday – measurements, moss, Brantwood and dinner
The traditional walk to the eminent Victorian John Ruskin’s gaff, Brantwood House. This time with regular contact with Michael, who would pick me up at the end. Glorious easy walk, very few sheep. It was the walk of moss. This is the joy of returning to a place, the ease of measurement between this time and last and even the time before, all of my 4 year history here. Measurement of change on so many levels. With myself, my body fitness, for it was here 4 years ago that I first noticed a shortness of breath, got checkout and found embolisms on the lung. Now with New York Cheese cake belly, recently smoking the occasional rollup too often, and far more blind with a necklace of glasses and dog leads. The same with Michael who was so much fitter last year, but now is far more unsteady, although just as determined.
Measurements of change with myself where I’m at, missing my friendship with Louise and Sara, both have strong resonance here, calling at Langar on the way and Sarah and J staying with us last year, swimming together in the lake, climbing the Old Man. Both friendships have gone by the by this year as I’ve got lost in the woods of puppies, Michael, and far too many other things.
Measurements of different themes. The book I read this year Gathering Moss, invites me to look at moss all along the way, draped like toupes over stones, on mossy banks, gentle fern moss, feather moss… The stuff on the boundary layer, between earth and air, gathering moisture, rootless, the ancestor of algae, the primal establisher of plants and trees on land.
Natural measurement of difference between two and three dogs: Kali last year to this year, is far more deaf and blind; Bobji is more interested in sheep, more grown up now she is a mother; and Brow, the new addition this year, wild and untamable, and I feel inadequate at dealing with him, after the ease of Bobji.
But it’s Kali I struggled with on this journey over the moor. When spotting sheep or needing to stop, I gave the command Stop Down. Not that Brow when down but he did stop. Then the command, Come, and one we walk for 10 minutes or so before I realise that I have not released Kali, who is Stopped and Down 10 minutes back waiting to hear the command he cannot. Back we go. The journey contained many relays in this way, as I get caught in my mind the reliving the time last year I thought Michael had fallen dead on the kitchen floor, called Joanna who called Owen who found Michael alive with his phone in another room. The first outing with new walking boots – they fitted like a glove.
Delightful dinner with the Halesworth clan, at Lake End, Jenny, Meg, Imogen and Brin. Brin asked such good questions, taking me by surprise. Delicious vegetable crumble. I shared my childhood ambition of marrying a farmer and having 6 children, with the realisation that exactly this had materialised in a novel way – I was the farmer and Bobji had birthed 6 pups, and I was the mid-wife. I related this to to my joy joy of returning here, and Jenny exchanged that she’d been returning for over 60 years to my 4! She first came as a child to a teenager. A gap between that and her family born, which she bought up here to meet and cavort with the cousins, then another gap, between when they fled the nest and Jenny started coming up with her Halesworth friends, for the last 20 years or so. The evening ended upstairs in the elegant sitting room, the dogs entertaining us, with musical chairs, in a David Attenburgh way we observed their behaviour, particualrly Brow and Kali looking at moments aggressive with teeth bared, but tails wagging and in full play mode. I was worried that it was all about the dogs and tried to change the subject, but they were magnetic.
Tuesday Water Yeat and Ambleside
Our conversation from last night ringing around my head, I set off on Jenny’s recommendation again, to the tarn above Water Yeat called Beacon Fell tarn. ‘There is only one lake in the Lake District. The rest are meres or waters.’ Which begs the question what is the difference, but its all in the name.
Rain came, the first this time, and I put on waterproofs, and began the gentle ascent. Almost immediately I was reminded of walking through rain on the Coast to Coast with Bob, now 30 years back, and an unexpected feeling of great affection arose for him. He who introduced me to the Lakes, here we fell in love if that’s what it was, on the 14 days hike across England. He made this small venture possible, I’d not done anything like this before, and loved it, the getting up each day to walk 12-16 miles, rain or shine, up and down. He gave me this vista which I look at now.
The dogs put up one sheep, who nimbly swam to to the nearest cove, after which dogs on leads. Walking across boggy land and Sphagnum moss, so beautifully described in the Moss book…..Not only does it produce waterlog, it changes the PH, making it inhospitable for other plants. Once it was widly used as bandages for wound dressing. 1/20 Only the top 2 inches of the Sphangm is alive. Beneath is the peat, partly decompossed Sphangm. Of course, I’d almost forgotten peat is moss.
To Ambleside to buy extension lead. Michael walked up the Waterfall walk, but it was too uneven a trail and we gave up after a short while.
We ate the field mushrooms I’d collected from the field i’d climbed into on the way to Water yeat.
Wednesday, risk and lichen, Michael unwell
It was the day i’d planned to climb the Old Man, but rain clouded the hills. Instead a glorious walk in the rain today, on a new path, often making mistakes retracing and eventually finding and including few moments outside comfort zone. The first the need to jump a stream. What’s the worst that will happen! I said out load, I get feet wet! Oh for Louis Bacon’s upbringing of risky trip wire challenges while at school. My life has been far too unchallenged physically. The next was coming across a field of cows with their calves. Dogs on leads, we took the long way round.
Ferns, lichen and moss, all here co-habit with each other, the stone walls, carpeting the forest floors, seamlessly co-existing from earth floor to ceiling of tree, yes, I see ferns and lichen grow out of limb joints of larch.
I return to find Michael is ill, and in bed all morning. I settle down to read The Black Echo by Michael Connelly. What is it about the joy of reading a story of murder in Los Angeles? I so enjoy moment when I sit in front of the fire here, 3 dogs scratching beside, and read, transported away from Elders and rivers of emails, a desire for a cigarette, feeling inadequate about training Brow, cross I’ve called him Brow and not Denis. All of that gone, as I dive into the character of Hieronymus Bosch, fault lines as marked as his acute observations, that tempt me on and on.
Interesting drive back from Ambleside (Michael’s knickers and the left behind electric extension) via Hawshead, into a beautiful valley, (reminding me to find contact with Nigel) which ended in a dead end – only 4 wheel track vehicles. Sat Nav got it wrong. Later I’d almost walk this valley.
Scrambled egg dinner – delicious – read in front of fire, despite New York log nor this log complete. Will I ever catch up?
Thursday friends and punctures
The day of our now traditional lunch with Heather and Ken. The Undercrag, at Tover recommended by Heather, was a surprising delight. A barn converted by an artist, with the upstairs offering organic wholesome food Thursday to weekends, it was immediatley friendly and youthful and novel. On reflection we spoke relatively little of our contemporaries at New Hall but rather of where we all were now, and mostly with our bodies. Ken, who’d regularly biked or walked past the Christie cancer hospital as a child, would now be re-visiting it for 3 month chemo treatment, plus surgery. He was sanguine about the re-diagnois, albeit disappointed that the imuno thereoy was not available to him. Meanwhile, Heather had had one knee joint replaced, and would wait on for the second. Both these constraints, limited their usual trips to Europe, to walk and enjoy the Mediterranean life there, but they were happy, healthy and with each other.
The food was delicious – I had Enchilada Celariac and Chard – some of the best food I had tasted. We had to sample the famous flap jack.
The remainder of the day and evening unexpected. It began with gingerbread. Michael’s desire to buy some from Windermere so at Water Yeat we swapped round driving, I walking with the dogs back to Nibthwait, he driving on. Except I took with me the key. He found this out on after he’d hit a stone, got an immediate puncture, luckily pulled over into a lay-by, called the AA and then found he could not turn the engine on. I needed to get there. Not a taxi or Uber or bus to be found, I set off walking to the main road, and began hitching. A very kind couple – retired teachers in a very nice Ford camper- stopped and took me all the way, well out of their way, all 14 miles. The AA man arrived at dusk, put a temporary wheel on, we all drove to Kendle Kwick Fit, where he replaced his wheel, leaving the car there, and then he drove us back to Nibthwait. It was a long evening. We returned to a patchwork of loo roll, torn no doubt by Brow awaiting our return.
Out of sorts. Started on New York blog. So needed and wanted to stay another week, so much still to do, and mountains of stuff accumulating on email to react to when back. Brief walk up the hill with dogs, little did they know they’d be 6 hours locked in the house.
L’enclume at Cartmel was booked by Michael, unexpectedly they had space for us this Friday lunch time. Touch and go if we’d make it but we did – to Kendle via taxi £90, at Kwick fit paid for tyre £115, and and back with the car to the quaint Farrow and Ball village of Cartmel. We were early which gave us time to meander.
Simon Rogan opened L’Enclume exactly 20 years ago, based on home grown local produce, grown at the farm near by. We are having the same as everyone else, the Taster Menu, 10 courses. I have no idea of the cost, as Michael has paid for it in advance with the words – no need for you to know for you wouldn’t have allowed it. Appropriately Michael first came here near on 20 years ago, with Tamsyn of course, when it had but one star, then about 7 years soon after it got its 2nd star, and here we are 2022, with its 3rd star.
Naturally we compare to our experience of Guy de Savoir, and in that same way make up some stories of our fellow diners. He is a spy, and she is a Russian Agent. No they are definitely married, there is a silence between them. Next do us was a young Lancashire lad, who was glad for our unashamed questions.
From the start, we were attended to by a possy of young girls and boys, who were no doubt trained to ask us questions, like, are you having a good day? Have you been here before? How’s it going for you?
I choose a Tokaji Dobogo as the white wine, the waiter is glad, he is from Hungry, and we warm to him for the rest of the courses. He is fluent in wine, and reels off the elements of each wine.
The uniform is tan Brogues. Staff and client, all with a few exceptions, port this shoe. We can monitor this as we are at the entrance exit where we see the clients come up to pay their bill.
On the wall are 3d reliefs so reminding me of the lichen. ‘Yes, it is far more modern now. I think they had paintings there before. The taste is so much better, says M. Before the first time the food far more eccentric, or theatrical – they were more into form than function.
Men in pony tails, girls with plated back hair, all are acquanited with the story of the place, the cuttlry, the person, the farm.
We are almost the last to leave and as we do they are preparing for the evening sitting. The man rolls the napkin around a bottle to make a perfect circle for the table presentation. Brogue shoes naturally. My Suffolk friend commented ‘rediculous’ on the 10 photos of each course, but this as much as anything is part of life’s rich tapestry as the saying goes
We’d left the dogs 6 hours, but they did not sulk, greeting with exuberance, no toilet roll or furniture destruction. A glorious walk up the hill for the last time, and finally the blog, with a phone call from Kevin, updating on Halesworth drama news.
Last walk to finally go to and goodby to the lake, last photos of the remarkable co-habbitation of moss, ferns fungi and lichen, all primal plants. Particularly fascinated by the Cladoniaceae, trumpet like orchestras growing out of the moss.
On our way out of the Lakes we called in at Witherslack, recommende by Jenny, an exhibition of local artists and craftespeople in the local church. It was impressive, and inspirational. We set too buying christmas gifts, and 2 beautifully thrown and glazed cups for ourseves.
Motored down the familiar and safe M6 (EV charging points) back to Warwickshire, where the following day we visited Coventry. In the ruins of the bombed cathedral, I finally see in its flesh Eco Home, by Jacob Epstein, last seen on a 35 mm slide in VI form building ground floor, displayed by the wonderful Mrs Hall, our history of Art teacher , now over 40 years ago. It is squatter than I imagined, Neanderthal in its appearance, huge hands .
It being Sunday, there is the theatre of a mass in the famous cathedral. Can we stay for a while, I asked the humanist Michael. He agrees but he cannot hear welland we leave after a while but after a good zip of the ritual. Over breakfast in the still warm sun outside , I asked Michael how he found the mass. ‘I felt sad’, he said surprisingly, then explaining, sad that they believed in something so clearly wrong, that they were deluded. This provoked on an animated discussion. Would you say the same when seeing a Buddhist ritual? Or seeing a Conservative Party Conference? Both systems you do not share the belief for. But belief and religion have caused such suffering, so many wars, he argues. Tribal I say, not to do with spirituality. I am surprised at my animation.