Monday, April 21, 2014

Onwards and upwards

All the way round the Newlands Valley walk we looked up to the distinctive summit of Causey Pike.   This is the kind of thing that elicits all Wainwright's superlatives - the climb, the summit, the views...

On the Tuesday, our last day, we knew the weather would be the best we had had, and so it proved - one of those rare Lakeland days when the sky seems so far above Skiddaw and Blencathra that it is impossible to imagine how they could be hidden in cloud.   Very little wind, so unlikely to be a repeat of the Barrow experience.  And we both felt that we could climb Causey Pike and its neighbour Scar Crags without feeling the need to continue on to Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head, which we had climbed previously.

We set off from Braithwaite, skirting the side of the mountain and crossing this beck.  Parties of teenagers were just starting beck scrambling down in the ravine.  We slogged on upwards.  I would like to say that all those gym visits made this a hop, skip and a jump, but I'd be lying.  Climbing up steep paths surfaced in loose material, or eroded scree, is still a huge challenge, but we probably stopped less frequently to admire the emerging view.

Before the final push to the summit, we paused to eat Kit-Kats and draw breath.  Just then, a lean figure in running gear emerged from the much steeper path which we had avoided, and trotted on upwards, her long grey hair revealing that she was in our age-group if not older.  I doubt if we will ever take up fell-running, but I would have said that about the gym ten years ago.

Causey Pike has a very prominent "Bobble" on the top, which has to be climbed.  It's twenty metres of exposed rock where you are on your hands and knees, but it isn't actually a cliff and hundreds of people go up and down it each day in summer.  We pressed straight on, only pausing for photos at the top, both grinning like loons at having managed it. 

From there we traversed the arete - or narrow exposed ridge - not that narrow to be honest - , avoiding the truly vertiginous views.

 Once over Scar Crags we turned right, taking this rather scary path, which crosses scree on its way down.

Over the other side of the valley are the workings of the last lead mine.  Once this was an industrial area - heavy industry at that.

Through Barrow Door - is it just me or does that not sound like Tolkien? -  and back down to Braithwaite, where the sheltered gardens are quite lovely.


Saturday, April 19, 2014


As the weather improved, so we planned more adventurous walks.  From the car park at Mirehouse, on the shores of Bassenthwaite, we began the ascent of Dodd.  This must be one of the most civilised Wainwrights:  plenty of parking, tea-room and toilets right there - and a broad, tarmacked forestry type road virtually to the summit.  We began in woodland, and were startled to see two young women coming down with a baby in a pushchair.


 The summit has wonderful views of Keswick and Skiddaw, and is marked by this memorial to two scouts.  We would have liked to know more.

Dodd summit.

 All over the Lake District one comes across benches and other amenities bearing memorial plaques, often marking the location as special to the lost loved one, sometimes memorialising where they met their end.  One of the most moving we saw was engraved on a piece of slate next to a footbridge, dedicated to someone who did not reach twenty.  The words; "And death shall have no dominion" could be just made out on the weathered stone.  Memento mori, indeed.

Bassenthwaite from Dodd

On the way down, we called at the osprey viewpoints and were very pleased to get a sight of the two birds in their tree across the valley.

Keswick and Derwentwater from Dodd

Our second expedition, Barrow, was said to be on a par with Catbells, where groups can be seen queuing to ascend all through the summer.  We set off from Braithwaite, a village near Keswick.  It was a dull day but not rainy, nor particularly breezy.  Just ahead of us was a large family group: several generations, two young girls and a small infant in a back-carrier.  As we climbed up the broad ridge, the wind seemed to get up and we battled to stay upright.  When the oldest member of the party ahead fell over, buffeted by the wind, we very rapidly saw how challenging it can be on the mountain, especially for those responsible for others.  Fortunately, they were able to turn around and make a quick descent to more sheltered sections.  We carried on, but were glad to reach the pass at Barrow Door, where we could descend.

My husband on Barrow summit

For our third walk we played it safe, walking around the Newlands valley.  This was absolutely delightful:  almost level paths, lots of sheep and little farms, hedgerows just coming into bloom and birdsong.  Oh, and ice-creams at the farmhouse at Little Town where they offer "Licensed accommodation".  It looked especially lovely at the end of a six-mile hike.

In the valley is a lovely little church with a tiny schoolroom attached to one end.  This only ceased to be the school in the 60s. What a great life, one thought, being the sole teacher in such a place for twenty years.  However, the school log tells a different story: recording in mid-February that at last they could write for the first time since Christmas as the ink had been frozen.  Regular inspectorial visits observed that student behaviour was a problem, with constant chatter disrupting work.  Not much change there then.

Memorial in Newlands Church

And this, just off the needles and resting after a wash.  It is an imaginative use of the two trees motif, adapting a throw published by Nicky Epstein and offered by Detroitknitter on Ravelry.  I used the charted trees in Barbara Walker's "Third Treasury" instead of the line by line instructions.  The yarn is a cotton/acrylic mix, just right for a summer-born infant, I'm thinking.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Train Trips

In Cumbria for a longer break this time, but the weather stayed rather dour for longer than we would have liked. 

We like train trips.  The track north is unspectacular, but the one running south, meandering along the coastline, and across estuaries, to Barrow in Furness and beyond, is well worth the journey.  First we went north to Carlisle.  We visited an exhibition of paintings by Martin Greenland at the museum, Tullie House.  These were naturalistic landcapes, often including odd man-made features.  The artist had helpfully provided a set of notes expounding the metaphorical "Meanings" of each piece.  Quite a good notion, we thought, although we enjoyed the paintings themselves.

After lunch, we walked round by Shaddongate to the Linton Tweed factory shop.  Linton Tweed design and weave fabrics for couturiers.  Half their production is exported to Japan, and it is a very thriving business.   Hanging up is an array of wonderful tweed for statement jackets - £60 for three metres.  Metallic threads and sequins have been big this last season, apparently, although perhaps not in my world.

Skirt lengths are £15, but it was two for the price of one. I just love the subtle variations of colour in this one.

 Then there is the £5 bin.  This looks like a straightforward brown and green stripe but it is shot through with lurex threads.  I'm thinking that this will recover the dining chairs in the cottage.

Shore from the train south.
St Bees Head, seen from the train.
Our second train trip took us south to Drigg, from where we walked across country to Ravenglass.  On the way we passed this barn, with its unusual spotted construction -  red sandstone and beach boulders, perhaps.

And crossed this packhorse bridge - I love little bridges like this.

During the summer holidays of my teens, I worked at the hotel in Ravenglass as a chambermaid.  It was a 7.30 start, finishing at 4pm, six days a week, and for that we were paid just over £6.  Of course, that just tells you how long ago it must have been.

We walked around the little peninsular south of Ravenglass, noting the huge amount of debris washed up by the winter storms.

Just outside Ravenglass is an amazing ruin.  This is a Roman Bathhouse, still standing to first floor level and still showing remnants of Roman plaster. 

Ravenglass has had its ups and downs, but seemed particularly well-kempt in the sunshine as we had a cup of tea before the return journey.

Mosaic at Ravenglass - note fishermen in slate.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

On the road again...

Last Saturday it was a balmy spring day: the world and its wife were on the roads.  Some time ago, my husband was given a bike carrier for fixing on the back of a car.  But it was not that simple.  To allow other traffic to see the indicator light we needed an extra lighting bar, and, for that to work,we needed an extension socket from the rear lights...  Not just a matter of setting off, then.  But on Saturday we loaded up the bikes on to the car and drove to Sudbury.  We took the road to The Belchamps - this is Belchamp Otten church.

Then, we cycled out to Clare, a small, ancient town.  Note these chimneys, on a property so huge its gardens seemed to be on the opposite side of the main road from the house.  We had lunch in a tiny tea-shop, where I failed to take a snap of the goat-burger my husband enjoyed. 

Some years ago we visited an Antiques Centre in Clare and bought a coal scuttle and an Art and Crafts stool there.  Signs indicate that the Centre survives, but most of the shops in Clare have succumbed to the "Vintage" trend.  On a  recent visit to Colchester, I was amazed to find that the charity shop supporting the local hospice now specialises in "Vintage", by which it seems to mean the fashions of one's youth - bat-wing sleeves, moth-eaten fur coats and all.

After lunch, on to Cavendish, with its wonderful village green.  By now a wind had got up and the going got tougher.  Soon we joined the trail back into Sudbury, which uses the old railway line, a lovely, traffic-free ride.

A pause in my knitting while  I consider my next project.  To fill the gap, a pair of socks in Regia Garden Effect.  I can't decide whether these are very ugly or a nice colour combination.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The High Life

This weekend to Basildon Park, a National Trust property near Reading.  We were looking for an interesting garden walk and a civilised coffee stop en route to lunch with friends.  Some years ago, we toured the house and were massively impressed by the fact that much of the interior was assembled after the war, using features rescued from other country houses which were being demolished.  Somewhere, we read that the couple had been looking for a Georgian property - and there just happened to be one, standing empty, on the family lands - something we can all relate to!

   Now, there is a little film feature of Lady Iliffe describing her first sight of the house, standing empty before the war, and then again seeing it in a much more perilous state after lead had been stripped from the roof when it had been in the hands of the Ministry of Works. More recently, the Christmas special of "Downton Abbey" was filmed in the house.

This time we enjoyed the sunshine outdoors, while it lasted.  We saw red kites nesting in a tree: huge birds when directly overhead.  Near the house, this mysterious group of very mature trees.

Following on from the completion of my Celtic Throw, I made this cushion, again using Nennir by Lucy Hague.  This one is made of Drops yarm, a mixture of wool and alpaca.  I started by knitting one repeat of the pattern and then took some time to grasp that I needed to knit it to fit a cushion pad.
I picked up stitches at each end and knitted to match the length, and then picked up the edges and knit outwards for two and a half inches to fit the width.  With the cabling centred like this it looks like a fragment of masonry, as in the Viking crosses.

I backed the cushion with a piece of Donegal tweed - I love tweed.  I particularly like the coloured slubs on this piece.  I back-stitched this together, while watching last week's "Sewing Bee."  Something about watching people customise items in set time limits.  Could this format work for knitting?  With clever editing, I'm sure it could.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bas relief

So, what can this be?  A giant's Aran sweater? Or this?
Interesting how even cream looks different in different light.

 Here is the central panel of my latest throw.  It's a cable panel called Nennir, designed by Lucy Hague and available to print off for free from Knitty.  It's flanked by two cable panels, one from Barbara Walker and one from another stitch directory.

It's hard to take a picture of the whole thing: here is one end.  I decided to use two mirror image Celtic cables for the end panels.  These are spirals based on imagery from the "Book of Durrow", no less, and charted some time ago by Monsterknitter.

This is the other end of the throw.  The last strip to be worked was this simple zig-zag, and, if you look carefully, you can see the ha'porth of tar, not that I think it really spoils the ship.  I bought a number of different lots of the main yarn, Hayfield 100% wool Aran, and they did vary quite a lot, not only in colour but also in texture.  I thought this was unlikely to matter if each complete section used the same dyelot.  On this final strip I ran out of yarn about four inches from the end and used two different oddments to finish it off. I don't think you would notice it on this view, for instance.

Or this.

 I am very pleased with how it turned out.  This will be the fifth throw I have made, and perhaps my last for now.  Although, I do wonder how one made from wool from different rare breeds would turn out...

Friday, March 14, 2014


One of my closest friends is out in South Africa at the moment, taking in the Victoria Falls, Cape Town, a big game safari...

Meanwhile, my husband and I planned an expedition to Sudbury, a small market town some fifteen miles north of here.  The plan was to take the train there  - and cycle back.  Trains go off on a little branch line which must have once been the norm over most of Britain.  How this one survived is a mystery.

The day dawned to thick fog, but this was promised to burn off by late morning so we set out to cycle to our local station.  Our faces stung with cold as we reached the platform.  Then we saw that the train we had planned to take had been cancelled.  What to do?  In the end we just whiled away the hour until the next train, probably allowing the fog to burn away.

Once at Sudbury, we made our way to the Henny road, down the valley of the Stour.  This concrete structure is a pill-box, one of many put there to protect against threat of invasion.

We enjoyed the many ancient farms, cottages and churches on the route, but were most pleased to see two hares running across a field, something we have never seen before.  March hares, perhaps?

Half-way home is the Thatchers' Arms, and very welcome it was too.   We had bubble and squeak with a fried pigeon breast, black pudding and a poached egg - the kind of food one could imagine local cottagers eating for supper on good days. It certainly hit the spot as expedition fare.

After another hour's cycling, down into the Colne valley and then up and over into the valley of the Blackwater; we were on the home stretch.  It gave us ideas for further trips - once the saddle soreness wears off.


This is half of my latest throw, now nearing completion.  The length of the most complex panel - Nennir by Lucy Hague -  had to dictate the length of all the strips, so extra repeats have had to be added to some.

A thought did occur to me about the significance of the Celtic knotwork, with its illusion of infinity.  Some religious buildings include a maze, to aid meditation.  What if these designs were to be used like mazes, only without the need to walk the lines?