Category: The Lakes


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About 200 years ago the renowned poet,William Wordsworth, wrote probably his most famous poem about a host of golden daffodils he saw by Ullswater in the Lake District. I wonder what he would have thought about this host in the shadow of the Hilton Tower in Manchester?

They are in St John’s Gardens just off Deansgate. Surrounded by traffic and skyscrapers being built on Spinningfields, it’s a little oasis of calm and bird song in the city centre. The immediate area of the gardens is about to become a building site itself when the city creates the St John’s Quarter with more skyscrapers, offices, homes and a huge, iconic theatre space by the river. The gardens will be untouched. Indeed they may be expanded.

There used to be a church here, hence the name, but it was torn down when the congregation disppeared as the city grew and this former residential area became a business and office area. It was surrounded by a graveyard. Things grow well here possibly because of the centuries of bone meal that have enriched the soil. The daffodils were stunning this afternoon.

Just a couple of hours in the office this morning and then I was free to go home and do some work on a legal thing. Nothing personal, but helping out a work colleague with a problem with work and it was better to do it at home away from the distractions (and prying ears). I needed to get it right. I think I have. Well I hope I have! Did a lot of calls and checking out of facts and it all seems to add up. But I’m allowing other people to check it all out as I don’t want it all on my plate if it all goes t**s up!

It did give me a bit of a chance to do some more planting in the garden. Well, in some of the pots at the side of the house actually. I did a bit of pruning back and some digging (which proved interesting) and planted up the pots.

We have some nice, blue glazed pots here that contrast with the dull, red paving stones. Because of the colour you have to be careful what you put in them. Here’s all the stuff ready to be worked. I picked up a new watering can as both the ones we have seem to have developed holes in the bottom…

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Keeping up with the theme, I got some white violas to link with the purple and orange ones we already have…

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I’ve buried some Iris Reticulata Gordon in the pots. Hopefully they will push their way through the white violas in March and April and will only get to about 15cms (6inches) in height. Their bright blue will match the sides of the pots and contrast with the white of the violas. The only problem with these bulbs are the squirrels. I didn’t spot any watching me while I planted them but they are fond of bulbs. We once caught one sitting on the garden table where we had left some pots of crocuses. The **** thing was digging the bulbs out one at a time, having a nibble then discarding it before moving onto the next one. Shouting and banging on the window didn’t move him but the cat did! Hopefully the overplanting of violas will put them off and the bulbs are so deep that they can’t get at them…

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Here’s the pots all ready and planted ready to do their stuff…

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In the past I’ve posted about a geological phenomenon called erratics. Erratics are huge stones that were picked up by the ice sheets and glaciers in the last Ice Age and deposited else where. In the last Ice Age, ice sheets swept down from the Lake District and covered the area where Manchester would be with a mile thick ice sheet. Terrifying stuff! And while people are getting their k******s in a twist about global warming, which may or may not be natural, there WILL be another Ice Age and the ice sheets WILL return and wipe this city off the map. Three things, that are cyclical, need to come together for an ice age to begin. I think in about 60,000 years they will and then the fun will begin. The ice sheets were powerful enough to pick up and move great lumps of granite rock from the Lake District and move them 100 miles south to Manchester. As the ice melted the rocks were deposited and covered in a thick layer of glacial mud that covers the Manchester area and can make gardening difficult. Tulips hate the wet conditions for a start. Every so often one is discovered. This is a huge one that was found when they were building the Victorian buildings of the University on Oxford Road. It’s now a focal point of the garden courtyard at the centre of the campus…

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Here’s another found in the Flixton district of the city. It’s now outside the local library there…

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Well I was digging about in the garden and my garden fork hit something hard. A lot of effort and eventually I was able to prise this lump of granite out of the soil. Manchester isn’t built on granite but the Lake District is. I suspect it is an erratic left by the retreating ice sheets 20,000 years ago. How cool is that?

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I washed the stone so it could be seen better. It’s now a feature of our garden. Looks a little like a Henry Moore sculpture of that pebble outside the Bridgewater Hall…

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It was tough to get out of the ground and the garden fork came off worse. Check out the tines of the fork…

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Our neighbour came out to chat and look at the stone. She has a glut of runner beans. These are all too bent and different sizes for the supermarkets who like them a uniform size and shape with only a little bend. I doubt if any of these will have made it into ASDA, TESCO, Sainsbury’s… But the taste of these freshly picked beans at dinner this evening will be far superior to anything you could buy in those establishments…

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Another reason I like Frances’s house is that outside it, on the green, there is a cool little lighthouse. It is there to keep the little fishing boats from floundering on the sandbanks in the area. I always liked sleeping  in one of the bedrooms in the front of the house because you could see the lighthouse and the sea and Scotland on the other side of the Solway Firth. It was misty today so you could hardly see the other side of  the Solway Firth but if you make the last picture bigger you can just see Criffel, a big hill in Scotland. I’ve included a clearer picture so you can see what it looks like on a clear, sunny day.

Frances lives in a little town called Silloth on the north coast of the lakes. Her house actually looks out across the Solway Firth (an arm of the Irish Sea) to Scotland. The house is right by the sea which is cool.

When we got there, Bridget (her youngest daughter) was on her way over with her two children, 6 year old Jake and 3 week old Lucy. Her children come over a lot since her husband, Tom, died last year. They like to see she is OK. Lucy was cute but filled her nappy as soon as I got to hold her so I decided that Jake was a better companion. All the adults were cooing over Lucy so poor Jake was taking a back seat I guess. He’s going to have to get used to not being the centre of attention any more and will have to share with his sister.

He’s a pretty cool little guy. He’s only 6 but has really good conversation as he’s surrounded by lots of very educated aunts and uncles and parents I guess. We went out to collect the windfall apples in Frances’s garden, then we did a little gardening. He’s very into that as he lives in a little village in the fertile Eden Valley and he’s surrounded by farms. He’s obsessed with tractors and other farm machines and wants to be a farmer. He’d like animals on his farm but he’s just learned what they are for and doesn’t like that idea one little bit! Then he got his little scooter out and we went along the path by the sea until we got too cold. We came back and did his jigsaw that he likes. We had to do it 3 times! Then I put on my laptop and I found some cool games that he liked. We had a fun day and when he left I got a big hug and a very polite ‘thank you for playing with me.’ I think I would like a little dude of my own one day.

This is Frances’s nice house and garden in Silloth….

Just near Thirlmere we like to stop at the King’s Head Inn. Its a 17th century inn that has a bar and restaurant selling lovely English comfort food, home made soups with crusty bread, hot roasts and delicious, stodgy puddings, perfect after a days walking or climbing in the mountains. It has a nice hotel with comfortable rooms but you can camp in the field outside if you want. It’s in the middle of nowhere but on one of the prettiest routes through the lakes and has a great reputation so it does well in spite of being so isolated. We didn’t stop for a meal or anything as we had promised to be at Frances’s house by 10 30. We just stopped to stretch our legs, have some fresh air and admire the views. I liked the yellow mini in the car park.

The inn is named after Charles I who was beheaded by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell in 1649. For 11 years, until 1660, we were a republic until we grew tired of Oliver Cromwell’s style of government. He was a bit of a Puritan misery who banned Christmas, outlawed dancing and closed all the theatres and we English like all three so he had to go. In 1660 Charles II became king and we have kept the monarchy ever since. But the power in the country went to an elected Parliament instead of to the king which is how we like it. Today the Queen has no real power but probably has some influence as she has been on the throne for nearly 60 years and our Prime Ministers seem to appreciate her thoughts on things although she never says anything public has she has to be impartial. She is considered to be wise. Prince Charles will have to learn to do that because he’s not very good at it at the moment, he has come out with some controversial things in the past. 

This moutain is called Blencathra…..

This mountain is called Skiddaw…..

After Wordsworth country the road travels up a steep pass into the high mountains. Among the peaks there is another large lake called Thirlmere. Apart from a few remote hill farms there is no human occupation up here and no bustling tourist towns have been built on its shores like at Windermere and Derwentwater. The area can get cut off in winter when the snow comes and the road is impassible and it has one of the highest rainfall totals in Europe. On one trip we were almost the last car through the pass before they closed it as the road became something of a raging torrent around us. It was scary.

All this rain and lack of people living in the area attracted the attention of the city of Manchester who bought huge areas of land around the lake and converted it into a reservoir with a pipeline taking the water the hundred or so miles south to the city. Manchester’s water is the envy of many cities as it is pure mountain water. London especially envy’s us as their water comes from the Thames and has been through 6 people before you get to drink it in London. I always drink bottled water in London!

To keep the water pure, Manchester restricts access to its lands and is very careful about what is developed around the lake. They also own Haweswater which was a lake which the city dammed making it deeper and flooding the village of Mardale. Access to that area is controlled and development restricted. All this flooding of villages and restrictions around the lakes does not go down well with the locals and we find its not a good idea to mention we are from Manchester in these parts. The city is seen as the big boy acting in a high handed, verging on bullying manner in their dealings in the Lakes. It all kicked off again this summer when, during the drought, Manchester announced it would be drawing water from Windermere. It would lower the level of the lake considerably and all the jetties where the pleasure boats moor would be high and dry affecting their businesses. Fortunately it then rained heavily so the city abandoned this plan.

These pictures are of Thirlmere. If you look at the shore there is a line of bare ground showing that the lake hasn’t recovered from the summer drought but it will fill over the winter.

The road from Windermere to Silloth passes right through the heart of the Lake District through the high mountains and skirts several lakes. If it’s been raining hard, which it frequently does, there are spectacular waterfalls and mountain streams crashing down the mountainsides. There are forest covered hills and remote farms. It would be faster to carry on the M6 motorway to Penrith and then cut across but you would miss all the wonderful scenery.

Just north of Windermere you skirt two smaller lakes, Rydal Water and Grasmere. It was in this area that the poet William Wordsworth lived most of his life. He is considered one of our greatest poets and there is a whole industry based on him in this part of the Lakes. If Sawrey, just west of Lake Windemere is Bertrix Potter Central this area of the Lakes is Wordsworth Ground Zero. He was born in the north lakes in Cockermouth where you can see his childhood home and the school he went to. As an adult he lived in Dove Cottage in Grasmere village. As he became famous and rich he moved to a huge house called Rydal Mount just by Rydal Water.

He seems to have lead quite a louche life inviting his poet buds, like Coleridge, to stay and they consumed large amounts of interesting substances after which they wrote some of their most wonderful poems. He was also supposed to have had a highly irregular relationship with his sister, Dorothy.

All that seems to have been forgotton in the reverance his peoms recieve. If you ask anyone in the UK to quote a few lines of a poem the chances are they will come up withthe first few lines of his ‘Daffodils’ poem so ingrained is it in our national psyche.

DAFFODILS

I WANDER’D lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Because of this poem thousands of people visit Grasmere to see the flowers in the Spring when it becomes Daffodil Central for England. 

 

I thought I’d post some pictures of the characters in Beatrix Potter’s books. They are delightful water colours. And she didn’t talk down to her young readers, she liked to use long complicated words:

‘It is said that the eating of lettuces is soporific, I have never found eating lettuces to be soporific but then I am not a rabbit. They certainly has a soporific effect on Peter Rabbit….’

This is Peter Rabbit who didn’t do as his mother said, lost his good clothes and ate too may soporific lettuces and nearly ended up in a rabbit pie when he was found asleep by the gardener, Mr McGregor….

This is Jemima Puddle Duck who was very stupid and went off for a walk in the woods with a fox……

This is Squirrel Nutkin who wanted to get to the good acorns on the trees on the oaks on an island in the middle of Derwentwater. They built little rafts and then spread out their bushy tails to make sails to get them there……

Tom Kitten was my favourite because he was called Tom! He was another who didn’t do as his mother said and went exploring. He was caught by the rats who rolled him up into a sooty bag pudding ready to eat……

The Lake District has been the home to many of England’s great writers. One of the most popular is Beatrix Potter. She was a lady from London who came to live in the Lakes and began to write a series of books for small children based on the little creatures that lived around her cottage. They were very popular and made her very rich. She was worried what was happening to the Lake District as people from the cities moved in. To stop it she bought huge amounts of land in the area with the money from her little books to stop them being developed. When she died she left the entire lot to the National Trust and has kept the Lakes more or less unspoilt.

Beatrix Potter is a bit of an industry up here and you find shops selling her books and related goods all over the lakes. This one is in Bowness on Windermere.

When I was little I loved having her stories about Peter Rabbit and his buds being read to me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter

And here is a Tyke I saw in a shop window in Bowness. If it was open I would have bought him….

 

At the north end of Lake Windermere is Ambleside. If Bowness is the centre of the boating on the lake, Ambleside is the centre for hill walking  and mountain climbing. It’s streets are full of stores selling all kinds of mountain gear. It used to be a Roman fort called Galava.

http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/galava-roman-fort.htm

It was a remote place in those days and there is a local legend that Merlin the wizard hid the boy King Arthur here to keep his safe from his enemies while he grew up. Arthur didn’t even know who he was and was brought up as a squire to the fort’s chieftain’s son to hide his identity.

I like this little house over the river. It is reputed to be the smallest house in England. And the other pictures are of Lake Windermere. The sky had brightened a bit by now as the sun had come up.