Thursday, 7 February 2013

Idyllic or isolated?

St Martins Church, Martindale

Pretty much everyone has done it; been for a walk or a drive in the countryside, spotted a lovely old cottage in the middle of nowhere and dreamed about maybe living there. But the reality is what looks like an idyllic cottage on a warm summers day is usually a little less than idyllic in the middle of winter when practicalities such as getting to work, or even to and from the shops, kick in.

Downtown Martindale
It's something we pondered as we walked through Martindale during our recent Place Fell hike (more details of the actual hike are on the Cumbria24 news website here) but can I start by saying that neither of us are social historians, these are merely the ponderings of two mad ramblers.

The way we figured it out "being isolated" a couple of hundred years ago was maybe less of an issue than it is today.  Back then everyone was isolated, technologically speaking and, more importantly, they  were far more self sufficient than we are today.  These days people worry if there's no mobile signal and perish the thought of life without satellite TV and a decent broadband connection.

The views along Martindale valley
I'm not suggesting that technology is a bad thing, far from it, but it does seem somewhat perverse that the boom of communications has lead to idyllic places like Martindale becoming more cut off and less practical to live in.  There looks to be an old school building, long since deserted by children and converted into living accommodation and the beautiful chruch along the valley probably sees more curious hikers than it does devout worshippers.  So far as we could make out there were a couple of farms and permanent residences and the rest of the village appeared to be holiday cottages - presumably used by people trying to "get away from it all" but not wanting to stay away from it all for too long.

Interestingly since making the big move 2 years ago from the hustle and bustle of the south east to the peace and quiet of Grange-over-Sands our standards have adjusted; we now find Grange a bit busy, especially in the summer months, and peer longingly at some of the more secluded villages deeper inside the National Park.
View from Grange prom.

Not that everyone feels the same way mind.  On Sunday I needed to nip to the Spar in the village and I passed a youngish couple wandering forlornly past a row of closed shops (much of Grange is still closed on Sundays) and they weren't at all impressed.  "Maybe it's the time of year?" they mused.  I was about to helpfully point them to the gorgeous cream cakes at Hazelmere Bakery, the ornamental gardens and the prom when one of them paused in front of the estate agents window.  "I wonder how much the houses are around here?" she asked.  "Who cares?" came the reply "The place is dead and there's no phone signal, who'd want to live here?"  I left them to it, they probably wouldn't have appreciated the cream cakes anyway.


  1. Beth, I guess if we all wanted the same thing then it would be a real problem. Our house in France is in a tiny hamlet, miles away from the closest shop and we are just in the process of getting connected to the internet - we love it! Great post!


  2. Thanks Maria, you're absolutely right if everyone wanted peace and quiet in the country then there wouldn't be any countryside left. Your hamlet sounds idyllic, maybe one day we'll be able to afford to move somewhere a little more isolated. It's not the cost of the houses that's the problem it's the need to be able to earn money and pay the mortgage - maybe the technological revolutions will help us after all. :-)

  3. Hi Beth, The demise of the Postbus down Martindale must have made a difference - it stopped over 10 years ago I think. Yes you are right there are many holiday cottages over the Hause and only a few residents I think! The mobile signal is OK at the top of the Hause but not down in Sandwick. The two churches are wonderful. One is old and very simple - a real fellside church. The other is younger with some interesting stained glass windows in memory of a local family who lost members during the war. The Howtown Hotel has been run by the Baldry family for years - I think they came to Howtown after the flooding of Mardale during the creation of Haweswater. There is an ancient herd of Red Deer in Martindale too! Martindale gets plenty of visitors - it's a nightmare getting down that narrow road in the summer months!

  4. Thanks Melanie - what fantastic local information. I can only imagine what the roads are like in the summer, I think I'll content myself with walking there. We missed the new church but will certainly take a look next time.

    Thank you for taking the time to fill me in, I absolutely love finding out about the history of the places I visit.