Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Melmerby & the journey home from the Lake District



Melmerby is a small village in East Cumbria located on one of my favourite road drives in Northern England, the A686 (the same road that I used last year for the Alston blog post). Although the village is situated on a well travelled and popular road, it is a place where generally travellers omit to either get to their destination quickly or to continue the enjoyment of the roads twists and turns.
The village name originates from a Danish resident who stayed here during the 9th century called Melmor.


It may be surprising to know that I have passed through this village on numerous occasions stretching back to the time in my parents car when I was seven years old. Although I have never ever stopped here before, it has to be said that it has a mixture of insignificance to a 7 year old and not enough time for the Lake District Day or weekend visitor. As I was in no rush to get home, I decided to check out the most famous building in the village in a converted stone barn ... The Village Bakery.


The Village Bakery has been making bread and cakes for about 35 years and won awards for their organic produce. In more recent times, the success of the establishment has warranted the addition of a restaurant and shop opened by the organic loving Prince Charles who flew in by helicopter for the occasion. The founder & original owner of the bakery, Andrew Whitley, used a wood fired oven in favour of the poor electricity supply and locally grown organic wheat from a nearby watermill. Another local firm called Bells of Lazonby keen to join the process eventually gained a majority in the company as they wanted a bite or a slice of the organic ... Pie !! Andrew Whitley was more passionate about teaching bread making skills and began to run courses for those interested before eventually moving these training sessions to Scotland.


Although the Bakery is not seen directly from the road, the above building is, as shown in the title photograph. On looking for a place to park the car, I came across this unusual building for the first time. This was of great interest to me as an architectural piece and I had no idea what its original purpose was at the time. The details are a bit vague but it was originally a school house (1860 -1974) to the left and is thought to be converted into two houses. My research is not conclusive but I did come across two websites that suggested that Andrew moved down the road a little for the bread making courses and another that suggested the above property had a planning application in to run such a course. All very interesting but not currently topical as the building has been sold on to a private owner.


The Shepherds Inn on the other side of the road seems to be in memory, due to the painting on the pub sign, of a farmer and shepherd called Albert Bousfield Teasdale who lived and worked in the area all of his life (1880 - 1957).

Flowers and Fosters !! ... in memory of Albert ?!



Lastly I'm going to finish this trip,which has taken me far too long, a little distance further on with another visit to the highest cafe in England, Hartside Cafe with a few alternative shots.


It's a place where you can take a break from your journey and admire other machinery,


.... sample the delights of a no nonsense cafe as bikers and cyclists have this one marked on their list,


and it's a place where you can either get married !!  .....or otherwise lose yourself in solitude !! ...


(A last look for a long time of the the view looking west to the Solway Firth, South West Scotland and the mountains of the Lake District just out of shot to the left)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Old Man of Coniston (2634ft /803m)


Coniston Old Man or The "Old man" as it is sometimes alternatively and affectionately known as, overlooks Coniston village from the west with the area being once rich in copper and slate mining. This was the last day in the Lake District and the purpose of this walk was to climb Dow Crag from a different direction covering my unconquered peaks of Brown Pike and Buck Pike.


Two points for the walkers and climbers reading this ... I considered this as an alternative Coniston round and yes, I cheated on this occasion and drove up  to the Walna Scar car park ... I didn't like putting my car through that agony. In my defence I did start from the village on a previous occasion to do the official "round", but as that was back in 1996 (that was the last time I was here - shameful), I maybe wrong but I thought that there was a noticeable difference in the traffic and parking regulations for the same time of year.


The "trek" along Walna Scar road seems easy enough on the map but the constant tramping on the large stones feels like walking a few miles on a pebbly beach. As this is on the periphery of the main mountain ranges of Cumbria, the scenery can sometimes seem a little drab. A bridge crossing the stream seemed like a breath of fresh air to .... the camera at least !


As I was a bit desperate to get the photographic material started, I thought I would try something a little different with the bridge.


The above photo is the reverse viewpoint of the previous landscape showing the footpath repairers trying to improve or rather rescue a difficult section with Coniston Lake coming into view.


The only way to get across country like this  ... ooh, I'm tempted to have a go !! However the sight of this is a little controversial seeing that 4x4 vehicles and motorbikes were banned from using this route several years ago to prevent further destruction to the ...  errr ... road !


Walna scar road connects a remote part of the Lake District of Seathwaite in Dunnerdale to Coniston. Travellers and shepherds that get caught out with the weather on the most exposed part of this south facing route can enjoy a welcome shelter large enough for two people at a squeeze ... cosy indeed !


It was time to get a bit more serious with the ascent as I was starting to fight off todays approaching western mist on the Brown Pike to Dow Crag ridge route.


After the morning exercise, it was time for a rest and to take in the view south towards my ascent route, south Cumbria, Morecambe Bay and the distant Fylde peninsula of Blackpool and Fleetwood.


... and to sample from my rucksack the almost intact well filled cheese savoury sandwiches from the Picnic Box shop in Ambleside.


Despite the ascent route following the edge of a sheer drop and rock climbers haven, the path is relatively straightforward. The rock summit of Dow Crag (778m) requires a little more care as it isn't an appropriate place to have lunch. I had to enjoy the contents of my rucksack from a small grassy plain ... nearer the edge of the cliff !

Goats Hawse

After lunch it was time to press on and descend to what seemed like the half way point of the walk and observe my high level clockwise route around Goats Water to Dow Crag on the right.

Sheep's House

Climbing up on the other side of the valley, it looked like this sheep has been misbehaving and was being severely punished for it !!


Eventually the ground levels out into almost cricket pitch terrain and the most northerly point of the walk is the amazing cairn on top of Brim Fell. Crinkle Crags (an earlier post and walk of this week) and Bowfell are seen in the background to the left.


Although the last section of the walk to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston doesn't look difficult, I had to think of a password to get past the sheep !!


Thankfully he let me past and I was able to enjoy views towards Coniston village and Lake....



...whilst not forgetting the imposing and yet magnificent Dow Crag in the other direction

The Trig point and summit of OMC that so many budding mountaineers have conquered !!

Just to point out that the view to the left is the title photo ... depicting the Old Man of Coniston ... apologies to him as he was sat in the ... right place !!


There remained a small matter of getting down the mountain, I did give the idea of hitching a lift down to the car park a brief thought ......


So I had to join the rest of the happy climbers on the rough slate descent route .....

"No Mother, I'm not walking any further " !

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Grasmere, Cumbria


Grasmere is one of the Central Lakes in The English Lake district. It is surrounded by hills and mountains including Loughrigg Fell to the south east in a previous post and overlooked in the title photo to the north west by Helm Crag.

(This post is a story of two days with the second half taken later at the end of the week on my way home. I decided to combine the Lake and the village into one as I felt that the strength of the village material wasn't good enough to stand on it's own for a couple of reasons .... I'll explain later)


As I was driving north from Ambleside on my way to do a hill walk, I noticed some magnificent reflections on Grasmere but as there was no-where to stop on the busy road, I had to continue on and use one of the Grasmere village car parks at £1:80 for the hour ... I was going to make sure that I got my moneys worth ! Unfortunately by the time I walked back the wind was starting to pick up and the reflections had started to disappear ... shame.


Not being one to be beaten about badly by a photographic situation, I decided to look for alternative material.

Found a stick to beat myself up with !!!

more sticks !!  ...  Jetty and picnic table

Lakeshore colours

As there were only so many photos I could take it was time to use up the hour with a sometimes light hearted look at some nearby William Wordsworth material ....

Dove Cottage

William Wordsworth the poet lived in this former public house (early 1600's) for 9 years from 1799 to 1808 during which time he wrote poems such as Ode to Duty, My heart leaps and I wandered lonely as a cloud. Wordsworth married in 1802 and three children later had to move to a larger house in Grasmere and subsequently Rydal Mount a few miles further south.
The cottage was sold to a literary friend, Thomas De Quincey, who seemed to attract just as much interest with his private life as what Wordsworth did.
The Wordsworth Trust managed to achieve possession of the building in 1890 with a view to preserving the Wordsworth heritage. About 70, 000 people visit the site each year....

The peaceful Wordsworth Trust !!


"I wandered lonely as a cement mixer !" ... building site tours optional, hard hats provided ... free of charge if you can justify your visit on Health and safety grounds !!

The Garden


Wordsworth Street ... awaiting the coach parties ...

Mass visitor entrance ... " I wandered lonely as a crowd" !!

The Church of  Wordsworth's burial
Moving on to part 2 of the post and Grasmere village (on a later day in the week) where it would have been difficult to choose a title image and the light was particularly unkind to me in most of the shots.


On the other side of the road from the church is the small National Trust shop which is located on a difficult road bend with no path on that side. Consequently to my shame I realise that it is a building that I have never entered although as you can see it is best observed from this side of the road. It also incorporates a small information centre and would seem like a good place to start a visit to Grasmere village but as it is located half way between two of the main car parks, visitors tend to get "lost" in some of the other shopping attractions first. The early history of this building is a little vague but the earliest recorded resident was living here during the 1660's and was later converted to an Inn which William Wordsworth occasionally patronised.

Eh ? where are all the people ?

Back across the road, next to the churchyard, one of Grasmere village's traditions for the tourist other than Wordsworth is a visit to the Gingerbread shop. The recipe invented remains unique and secret and is unlike any other textured gingerbread that you will ever taste. Sarah Nelson had a hard life in the 19th century as a top cook and marriage to a farm labourer and part time grave digger didn't solve her financial problems. Fortunately for her at the height of the mid 19th century Victorian tourist boom, she was encouraged to sell her wares to the passing visitors.

.... oh they've arrived !

Before Sarah died, the recipe was passed on to her niece partnering with another male family member who in turn sold the business to his nephew in 1969. The shop remains much the same today as what it was in 1854 with the exception of the attire of the visitors !!



Just around the corner Wordsworth's solicitors may be preparing a plagiarism case for use of Wordsworth's signature & the words "The loveliest spot that man hath ever known" ! I'm sure it's a lovely Hotel & hope it lives up to "what it says on the tin" but my years of Lake District accommodation experience prove that Grasmere village attracts a different sort of customer and the thought in my head every time I pass this sign is to convert "loveliest" to "dearest" ... and that might keep the solicitors at arms length for a while !!




From the beginning of the mid 19th century Victorian tourist boom, Artists have been visiting The Lake District to capture a landscape that their mentors had inspired them with. These days the landscape lovers come to Grasmere mainly to appreciate the art of (Alfred) Heaton Cooper who began to display and sell his work at the turn of the 20th century. His son (William) Heaton Cooper continued the great family art name up to the present by building the current studio in 1938. It would appear that the present generation have carried on the family name although not in the landscape speciality that their ancestors are famous for. As I thought it unfair to photograph copyright material, so consequently I took a sneaky general photo from the doorway.


Those that can't afford the Heaton Cooper prices or feel that they need to buy if they enter can sit on a seat across the road and ..... errr .... enjoy the view of the studio instead knowing that their money for evening meal is safe !!


These days the artist in everyone at Grasmere get their camera or phones out to capture this view from the bridge across the stream.


From the above two images you can see that drinking tea whilst observing beautiful scenery is for those who choose not to capture the moment !


Just to the left of the Heaton Cooper studio is a sign post that I did not notice before. In the English Lake District, there is a definite divide amongst the visitors, hillwalkers or tourists although the dividing line in my case is a little blurred as this observation and comment shows. The former use Grasmere as an expensive car park while the latter in some cases choose not to read a map at their peril !!

Lastly, after all that walking around, it's time to buy a few souvenirs and gifts to take home while the rest of the family continue to relax and wait outside patiently ...


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