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So Much Yarn!

Exploring England #34

Some visitors come to the North Yorkshire market town of Skipton to immerse themselves in history; Skipton castle, surrounded by 12th century stone walls, was once the home of the aristocratic Clifford family, while the beautiful Parish Church of Holy Trinity houses their resplendent tombs.

Others enjoy Skipton’s natural beauty or use it as a base for exploring the hills and woodlands of the Yorkshire Dales. On Thanet Canal, pretty houseboats compete for space with families of swans and ducks.

But on one weekend in September, people come from far and wide to see something else altogether – yarn!

Celebrating creativity, colour and “all things woolly”, Yarndale brings together producers, designers and textile artists in a festival dedicated to yarn in every imaginable form.

More than a kilometre of crocheted bunting decorates the ceiling inside Skipton Auction Mart, where exhibitors display their yarns in all the colours of the rainbow.

Beautiful finished works create a collage of colour and texture. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of treasures for any crafter, and the possibilities are only limited by their imagination.

Even the creatures who provide the yarn are represented!

Yarndale 2017 takes place on 23rd and 24th September.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Collage

What the Devil’s Going On?

Exploring England #31

Imagine you’re driving from Kendal to York, and just past Kirkby Lonsdale you come to a car park on the side of the road . It’s full of cars, buses and motorbikes but there’s nothing to indicate why everyone has stopped. What would you do? Continue on, all the while wondering what the attraction was, or turn off to find out?

It wasn’t difficult for curiosity to get the better of us – of course we stopped to investigate. From the road there was nothing to see but a food and coffee van strategically placed nearby. Plenty of people were taking advantage of the treats on offer, but there had to something more, so we continued on until we came to a bridge over the River Lune. We soon discovered it wasn’t just an ordinary bridge – it was a scheduled ancient monument dating from medieval times.

Known as The Devil’s Bridge, the triple arched stone bridge is the finest of its kind in Northern England. It was probably built in the 14th century, but records of its construction were lost in York during the English Civil War. The bridge was in use until 1932 when, a little further upstream, Stanley Bridge was constructed to cope with increasing traffic demands.

How did the bridge get its devilish name? According to local legend, the Devil offered to build a bridge over the river in one night, and in return he demanded the soul of the first being to cross in the morning. He was outsmarted when a woman threw some bread which her dog chased onto the bridge.

We imagined the Devil may have been very annoyed by this trickery, but thankfully there was no sign of him when we crossed the bridge. On the opposite bank of the river, both The Devil’s Bridge and Stanley Bridge were beautifully reflected in the river.

At the western end of the bridge we found an intriguing sign.

Again curiosity took over –  what were Radical Steps? We thought perhaps a curving spiral staircase or a twisting set of ornamented treads leading to a mysterious destination! We set off along the shaded path beside the River Lune to find out.

When we came to the steps, they weren’t radical at all. Steep, worn and covered in moss, 86 steps went up the hillside in an orderly fashion. It was only when we got to the top that we discovered the origin of the name. Built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, the steps were christened “Radical” because of his strong political beliefs.

At the top of the steps we found a tiny cottage, just big enough for one.

Nearby on Church Brow was Ruskin’s View, a lookout high above the Lune Valley. A painting completed in 1822 by the artist JMW Turner later inspired the poet John Ruskin to describe the scene as ‘one of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world’. As we stood admiring the view of the valley and mountains beyond, it was hard to disagree.

A cheeky robin posing on the fence seemed to enjoy the view too.

From the lookout, the path continued past the Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin and its graveyard dotted with timeworn headstones to the old market square, complete with an ancient market cross. In medieval times, this was the site of the swine market.

Instead of taking the main road into town, we followed a footpath lined on either side with high stone walls and prickly hedges. It took us past beautiful old homes and green fields back to Bridge Brow and The Devil’s Bridge.

After a walk full of exploration and discovery, we were grateful to see the van still open – now it was coffee time!

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Meeting the Locals

Exploring England #30

Our Airbnb home near the Lake District was a pretty stone cottage, one of several in a row surrounded by verdant farmland. A mill pond complete with ducks and their ducklings lay behind the cottages, and beyond the pond at the top of the hill was the Lancaster Canal. A public footpath began at the end of our street, and we decided to go exploring in the hope of meeting some of the locals.

The path took us along the edge of the field where, even in the late afternoon, the thick green grass was still damp with morning dew.

We climbed over a stile

and up the hill to the path beside the canal.

From the top of the hill we could see our cottages and the lush farmland of the Lancashire countryside.

Late summer wildflowers bloomed in profusion along the water’s edge. Some we recognised, while others were new to us.

We did meet some of the residents but they had little to say, merely raising their heads in curiosity as we passed by.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the temperature began to drop. We retraced our steps until we were on our lane again and, with the day almost over, our cosy cottage was warm and welcoming.

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Walking in Circles

Exploring England #29

Mention stone circles and most people’s thoughts turn immediately to Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric monument in Wiltshire. Ask about the other thousand or so located in the United Kingdom and they might have difficulty naming any.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was one we hadn’t heard of, and like Ambleside Roman Fort, it was clearly marked on our map of the Lake District. Unlike the fort, it was well signed and easy to find, not far off the A66 between Penrith and Keswick. There was no designated parking so we joined the rest of the afternoon visitors, leaving our car on the side of the narrow lane to walk past lush fields edged by ancient dry stone walls.

Archeologists believe Castlerigg is a Neolithic stone circle, constructed around 3000 BC. Like most other circles its purpose is unknown, but it is thought that the location, in a wide valley surrounded by rugged mountains including Helvellyn and High Seat, was deliberately chosen for its mystical atmosphere.

There is no cost to visit Castlerigg and, once inside the gate, there are no restrictions on accessing the stones. We walked around the circumference of the circle, examining the stones and marvelling at their placement in this remote area. We explored a little further along the valley, wondering about the people who once came here.

Perhaps they followed ancient paths over the hills, coming from their homes to gather for ceremonies or worship.

I was glad I didn’t have to walk that far!

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Searching for Romans

Exploring England #27

We knew there were Roman ruins at Ambleside – they were clearly marked on the map. There was just one problem. We couldn’t find them!

Driving north on the A591 we passed by the spot where we thought they should be but we didn’t see any signs. We doubled back and looked again, but there was no indication of their whereabouts from the road.

We spied a small tourist information centre, so we parked the car and went in to seek help. A friendly man said there definitely was a Roman fort and pointed vaguely towards Borrans Park. We set off on foot in the direction he’d indicated, walking through spacious parkland at the northern end of Lake Windermere.

We came to a rocky outcrop which looked a little like a wall – could this be the remains of the fort? It didn’t look quite right, but we climbed up and over and took some photographs just in case.

From the top of the rock we could see small groups of people in a field at the far end of the park, eyes down and looking very intent. Perhaps we hadn’t gone far enough. We continued on, until an information board confirmed our suspicions. This time we had found the ruins.

The foundations are all that is left of the stone fort constructed here at the start of the 2nd century AD. We wandered around each part of the fort, joining a herd of contented cows who seemed oblivious to the curious visitors in their field.

In one corner of the field was the start of a public footpath – a country walk beckoned and we couldn’t resist. We said goodbye to the the cows and headed off on a raised boardwalk over marshy land on the bank of the River Rothay.

The lush greenery of the woods was mirrored in the calm, shallow water of the river, and we stopped several times to enjoy the beautiful reflections. At the junction with the River Brathay the water was so clear we could see dozens of tiny fish swimming downstream.

Leaving the river behind, we passed through a turnstile and crossed another field before joining the footpath on busy Borrans Road.

As we walked back to our starting point in the park we checked once more for a sign to the fort. Had we missed it on our drive?

No, there weren’t any signs. Lucky we found the information centre or the Romans would still be undiscovered!

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Reflecting

Looking For Beatrix

Exploring England #26

Beatrix Potter’s beloved home, Hill Top, is one of the most visited sites in the Lake District and I’d heard about long queues and timed tickets, which often sell out early in the day. But on an cool and overcast Sunday afternoon, there were just a few visitors in the pretty village of Sawrey and I almost had the house and its beautiful garden to myself.

Hill Top was purchased by Beatrix Potter in 1905 with the proceeds of  her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It was the first of many properties she bought in the Lake District and was the place which inspired many of her stories and paintings. As I wandered along the garden path, it was easy to see where her inspiration came from. Late summer blooms perfumed the air and the lush greenery of the vegetable garden spilled over into the fields beyond.

The house, with its thick overcoat of vines, was a vision in green and the garden even came indoors; every room was decorated with simple floral arrangements.

It was easy to see why Beatrix loved this place, with its tranquil setting and beautiful country views. From an upstairs window I gazed out upon the surrounding farmland, and imagined her standing in this same place whenever she stayed here.

I felt her presence in the garden too, and expected to find her around the next corner, paintbrush in hand. I thought this robin was posing for me, but perhaps he was looking for Beatrix.

 

Unrivalled Views

Exploring England #25

At the top of the hill where the busy A591 enters the Lake District village of Windermere, a small sign publicises a walking track – a footpath leading to views of the surrounding area. Set back from the road against an old stone wall, it’s easily missed. We were lucky to see it, and even luckier that we returned after our cruise on the lake to investigate.

A “20 minute walk with unrivalled views” seemed like the ideal end to a perfect day. The wide footpath, doubling as the road to local homes, was level and even – we looked forward to a gentle country stroll.

We hadn’t gone far when the road was replaced by a broad leaf strewn path leading into the woods. A weathered sign post pointed the way past old dry stone walls overgrown with moss.

After the bustle of the crowds at the lake, the shady woods were quiet. Even the birds seemed to enjoy the peace.

After passing through a rusted turnstile, the incline was more noticeable, and a simple wooden bench offered a few minutes’ respite. Our gentle stroll was turning into a hill climb.

The path became a stony track muddied by yesterday’s rain, but we were spurred on by tantalising glimpses of the views beyond the farm gates.

The further the path went up the hill the more it deteriorated. Wooden steps dug into the hillside gave way to a rough track up the last steep stretch.

We clambered up the last few metres, leaving the woods for the open hill top of Orrest Head.

A few more upwards steps revealed what we’d come to see – 360° views of Lake Windermere surrounded by the Lake District Fells and the Pennines. In the late afternoon sunshine, the lake was dark and silvery. Little boats left sparkling trails in their wake and the waters of Morecambe Bay glistened far away on the horizon. In the opposite direction, farmhouses were dwarfed by the rolling hills of the Fells.

After meeting no one on the path, we were surprised to see others on the hill. Like us, they were silent – awed by the spectacular view, and perhaps also like us, glad they hadn’t missed the sign on the A591.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Earth

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