Sunday, 7 February 2016

A decision of historical importance

It's been one of those days. I'm feeling a bit under the weather and spent yesterday and this morning melting my brain over a work project. Fresh air was needed. Due to our combined efforts we missed the planned train to Silverdale so trudged home to drive there.

Once in the car I piped up that now we were in the car we could go anywhere - the only problem was neither of us was in the mood to make a decision.  We were half way to Ingleborough  (don't ask), before we decided to turn the car around and go to Leighton Moss.

As we retraced our steps back along the A590 we both noticed a couple of tunnels in the hillside so changed our plans again and decided to go and see what they were. We found a spot, parked up and spent a further 5 minutes deciding whether to go and explore them after all. (Seriously - is it just us that has days like this?).

Anyway, turns out the tunnels were pretty darned interesting and we were very glad we went and had a look - plus we found a fairy house on the way back - bargain.  So here's a few pics of it all, you know, in case you can't decide what to do one day.

Tunnels just big enough for horses

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Colourful adjectives

I've written in the past about what walking guides say and what they actually mean and I focused primarily on the directions, well today I want to turn my attention to the way they describe what they see.  Having now written a good selection of walks based in and around Cumbria I can tell you that finding new and exciting ways to describe the landscape isn't always easy - but here's a rough guide to what we really mean...

"Remote" - 5 miles from the nearest Tesco
"Very remote" - 10 miles from the nearest Tesco
"Remote isolation" - 10 miles from the nearest Tesco and no phone signal

Blissfully remote isolation

"Green pasture" - boggy
"Lush green pasture" - very boggy
"Rural idyll" - smells of cow sh*t

A very lush green pasture and a rural idyll to boot.

"Spectacular" - mountains
"Dramatic" - mountains with moody clouds

Dramatic, definitely dramatic

"Peaceful" - lake
"Relaxing" - admiring the lake from the beer garden
"Historic landscape" - lots of old buildings, many of them falling down

Piel Island - Historic Landscape

"Stark beauty" - no trees
"Windswept" - what trees there are are all growing at a 45 degree angle

Windswept and intereseting

"Breathtaking" - that was a bit of a steep climb
"Picturesque" - white stone building in view...
"Quaint" - ...with a thatched roof...
"Idyllic" - ...which just happens to be a pub

Idyllic (hic)

"Barren wilderness" - whaddya mean there's no pub?!
"Rugged" - I may have just sprained my ankle
"Wooded" - trees blocking the views
"Parched landscape" - you're clearly not in Cumbria

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Sweet dreams are made of this.

Following our dream to live & work in Cumbria has rarely been easy.  Even this week we've been making difficult decisions about the long planned alterations to our tiny bungalow.  We've been here 5 years now & still have half our stuff in boxes in the undercroft.

But there are some days, like today, that make every ounce of hardship and effort worthwhile.  We're working on a commission for our very good friends at Cumbria Wildlife Trust and decided to take advantage of the sunny skies to get a walk done for them in and around Martindale.  The end result will be out later in the year accompanied by Steve's fab pics but, for now, I just wanted to share these few shots of what has been a spectacular day in the fells. Full time permanent employment may have its perks but I wouldn't have traded today's felltop sarnie and flask for the fanciest business lunch in the poshest restaurant anywhere.  Some things just can't be bought.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

10 Great Reasons to buy our book

Please excuse this interlude for shameless self promotion, but a girls gotta eat and the local shops are lovely but refuse to barter books for a weeks worth of shopping.

1.  Because of all of Steve's fantastic photos.  There are over 100 photos in the book and pretty much all of them (apart from the historic ones cos he's not that old) were taken by Steve.  Pics that look a bit like this but are LOADS better because Steve took them (the publishers don't want us using pics from the book in the blog)

Name that bit of coastline?

2.  Because of the words - I'm not bigging them up and claiming to be the next Ruskin, but I promise you they are really well researched.  On one occasion I spent 2 days tracking down a fact that takes up 2 lines of the book.  I'm not saying it's perfect but I am saying that I tried really, really hard.

Fantastic support from Mountain Heritage Trust

3.  Because it comes from the heart.  We both live in Cumbria and Steve grew up here.  Yes we'd like to earn some money from the book but our primary driver is to tell people about this amazing county and share our experiences and some of the stuff we've learned along the way.  I mean, how can you not love a place that looks like this?

Coniston Fells

4.  Because Sir Chris Flipping* Bonington likes it. We got in touch with him and sent him an early draft and got the loveliest email back telling us how much he enjoyed it and giving us this fabulous sleeve note. (*may not be his real middle name.)

We met him at the Kendal Mountain Festival later in the year and thanked him in person for his kind words - he even signed a copy of the book for us to keep.

5.  Because lots of other people like it too (you are, of course, welcome to buy the book from Amazon, but we make 2 tenths of naff all if you do - if you buy it from us we'll lovingly hand pack it ourselves.)

I'll be honest, there's a 2 star review on there from someone who thought it was smaller and "not as comprehensive" as they were expecting.  Fair enough - to help give you an idea of what to expect the book is 96 pages long with 20,000 words and 100 photos and represents 12 months of hard work and research.  It's not a detailed academic text but it covers most of the salient points of the areas we focus on in much the same tone as this blog does.

6.  Because it covers the whole county and not just the Lake District fells.  We LOVE the fells but wanted to tell a bigger story about Cumbria and encourage folks to visit places they wouldn't normally consider - like Whitehaven for example.  I have a HUGE soft spot for Whitehaven with its fascinating history and breathtaking views.

The historic harbour at Whitehaven

7.  Because you'll be supporting a local business if you do.  It's hard work making money from writing - not complaining, I flipping love it - but any and all support we get is most welcome. And if you support us then we can support other local businesses - and not just the chippy and the local pub, honest...

From Fish-over-Chips in Grange-over-Sands

8.  Because we've currently got loads in stock and will whiz one out to you by first class post within moments of receiving your order.  We may not be able to offer Amazon Prime style tracked packages, but we are "primed" and ready to despatch your order.  (You see what I did there..?)

Ready to roll!

9.  Because you need it for planning your next visit to Cumbria - we've dedicated a lot of blogs and social media time to encouraging folks to keep coming to Cumbria in the wake of the winter storms and this book will help you as you plan your itinerary.

The full chapter list is:
Furness Abbey

1. High Street and Haweswater
2. The Other Borrowdale
3. Smardale Gill
4. Grange-over-Sands and Cartmel
5. Dunmail Raise and Thirlmere
6. Kentmere and Longsleddale
7. Whitehaven and St Bees
8. Langdale Valley and Great Gable
9. Barrow-in-Furness and Walney Island
10. Buttermere and Rannerdale

10.  Because it's so easy to buy - just click here to go to the book buying page.  You can use your PayPal account if you have one and if you don't you can pay by debit or credit card - just click on the "buy now" button and follow the instructions on the screen.

If you've already bought a copy THANK YOU - we really do appreciate every single ounce of support.  And if you've yet to place your order, here's a word from the cat...

"Just buy the book and no-one gets hurt."

Have a great day!

Thanks - from me & him.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Carry on Sledging

As you know, sometimes manufacturers send us nice things in return for a review on the blog.  This is not one of those occasions.  Today we had snow in Grange-over-Sands and Steve came up with the genius idea of sledging but as we don't have a sledge we needed to improvise.  We raided the cupboards for plastic bags and, having come up with a good selection, decided to review them Gadget Show style in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The contenders are:

Windermere & Ambleside Wines

Asda bin bag

Keith Singleton Compost
CoOp Bag for life
Debenhams clothing bag
M&S coated canvas bag
5p Nisa carrier
First up Debenhams...

This had its merits but was, on the whole, disappointing.  The handles were on the wrong edge and the bag wasn't shiny enough to give sufficient glide.

Next the Co-Op bag for life...

I'll be honest, this was an early leader - a good size and nice and shiny.  Good effort from the Co-op and definitely a top 3 placing.

Steve showing his delight with the performance of the CoOp bag
Then came Nisa - and the least said the better.

Too thin, too flimsy and too slow.

Windermere and Ambleside Wines were next - we had high hopes for this one, a good substantial bag from a shop which stocks our favourite wine - and we weren't disappointed.  Good and shiny it flew over the snow setting a high bar for the others to clear.

I thought the plastic coated canvas bag from M & S would take the lead - the handles were good and substantial and definitely in the right place - but ultimately it failed the shininess test.  Too much friction and not enough glide.

It's almost like I set the entire blog up for the next line, but I swear I didn't.  The binbag was rubbish.  :-)

Which leaves us with only 1 - the winner by a good margin - Keith Singleton's 80 Litre compost bag.

It had everything except, perhaps, handles.  It was big and it was shiny.  Big was a key factor here - as you can see from the videos we had to lean back a lot and this provide excellent all round coverage.  A worthy winner and, if this really were the Gadget Show, this bag would definitely get 5Gs.

With the sensible and serious business of reviewing the sledges done, it was now time to have a little fun.

First there were races.

Then there were GoPro action shots without the GoPros.

His view...

My view...

And of course it wasn't without incident...

And just in case you thought we were only out there messing around in the snow, here are a few shots of the lovely views too.

Having provided this valuable public service we're both now covered in bruises and enjoying a well earned afternoon in front of the fire.