September in Cumbria – return to the Lakes

A day in which I meet one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever come across…
The middle Sunday of September saw me leaving home in drizzly rain and grey cloud for my second holiday at the Cumbrian farm site I love so much, though I hadn’t gone too far up the M6 before the rain stopped. By the time I’d got past the turn off for Lancaster and Morecambe the sun was shining, staying with me all the way to the camp site, and with just two caravans and two campervans across from the tent pitches it looked like it would be a quiet week.
Dotted about round the site are several picnic benches available for anyone to take onto their pitch and use while they are there so with the tent up and everything organised inside I’d dragged the nearest one, which was sitting in the middle of the grass at the end of the site, onto my pitch so I could fasten the dogs’ tie-out cables to the legs. There had been no-one around at the time but I was just about to make a brew later on when the guy from the caravan on the pitch diagonally opposite came across – and you’ll just have to imagine his tone of voice, which wasn’t very nice at all.
Pointing to the picnic bench he said “I was going to use that!!” Now to suddenly be spoken to like that by someone I’d never met before rather surprised and shocked me but before I could say anything he pointed to a bench further down the site and said “I suppose I’ll have to go and get that one now!!” and off he went, back into his caravan. I saw him a while later carrying another bench along the track through the site but he dumped it on the next-but-one pitch to mine and when I looked later I saw it was more of a child sized one so obviously not big enough for him.
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Now I could ~ maybe ~ have understood this guy’s attitude if ‘my’ bench had been on or very close to his pitch, in which case I wouldn’t have taken it anyway, but it had been nowhere near his caravan so I didn’t know why he should decide to claim ownership of it and come over and verbally accost me. Needless to say, although I did speak to several other people on site over the course of the next ten days I kept well away from him and didn’t let the encounter spoil my holiday.

Snowy’s anniversary

Today is Snowy’s first anniversary – exactly a year since she came to live in my little family at the age of 8 months. Timid and shy when she first arrived home, and very wary of everyone and everything, she slowly came out of her shell, growing in confidence and learning that the humans she met while we were out and about were friends, not enemies.
For the first few months she had the amusing, if sometimes exasperating, habit of collecting things and in spite of having several toys she would ‘find’ various things to take into her bed. Cardboard toilet roll tubes, Michael’s socks, my trainers and slippers, the tv remote, anything she thought was interesting would end up in there, but fortunately for my sanity that habit has gradually lessened and she rarely collects things now.
September 2020 – In the transporter just after arriving home
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November 2020 – Two months after arriving
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April 2021 – with Poppie at the gates of a local historic house
Snuggled up next to me on the bed
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In late June/early July Snowy experienced her first camping holiday with me and Poppie. Although during the first couple of days she did bark a few times at the alpacas in the next field she soon settled down into camping life and was no trouble at all on the site or in the tent, with her favourite place being up on top of the picnic table where she could see everything going on around us. We have just recently returned from our second camp at the same site and again she was really good, with not even a single bark at the alpacas this time.
June 2021 – Snowy’s first camp – watching the alpacas in the next field
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Early September 2021 – Playing in the back garden
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September 2021 – Second camp in Cumbria
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September 2021 – Getting curious about a sculpture in Silloth
I won’t deny that, compared to all my previous Jack Russells, Snowy hasn’t always been the easiest one to deal with and even now still presents me with a couple of challenges, her intense dislike of other dogs being one of them, but she’s still very young so there’s time for her to learn. Other than that she’s funny, affectionate, adorable and very cute, with the constantly waggy tail of a very happy little dog, so I’m looking forward to her being part of my little family for many more anniversary years to come.

Mooching round Morecambe

The morning after my bank holiday visit to Hest Bank and various points north I was back on the M6 again with plans to visit Morecambe and Heysham, however the weather gods decided in their wisdom that they would screw things up for me. I’d looked on the live webcams before leaving home and seen cloudless blue sky and sunshine but in the hour it took me to get there a fair amount of fluffy white clouds had appeared though it was still sunny.
Parking right at the north end of the promenade my first port of call was Happy Mount Park, though first I wanted to look at the nearby Venus and Cupid sculpture. I’d previously seen photos of it on other blogs and personally thought it looked ugly so I wanted to see it ‘in the flesh’. Sculpted by Shane A Johnstone it was originally intended to be sited at St. Georges Quay in Lancaster but was erected at Scalestone Point, Morecambe, in 2005.
In 2011 the artist threatened to destroy the sculpture as the local council was unwilling to pay for its insurance and upkeep so in 2012 the Venus & Cupid Arts Trust was formed to raise money for its purchase. Thanks to public donations enough money was raised in three years to cover the cost and in September 2015 it was taken over by the Trust. During the winter of 2017/2018 frost caused some of the mosaic tiles to fall off so in November 2018 it was moved temporarily into Morecambe’s Arndale Centre for repairs; the sculptor replaced the missing tiles with gold leaf to accentuate the repairs rather than hide them and the sculpture was returned to the sea front in June 2019.
Seeing the sculpture up close did little to change my opinion. I still thought it was ugly, and the name Venus & Cupid seems to bear no relation to what it actually is, however the colours did look quite attractive and my photo of it seemed to make it look better than in real life.
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Looking south from Scalestone Point
Across the road and a couple of hundred yards away was the entrance to Happy Mount Park and straight away I could see things had changed from when I visited last September. Back then most of the flower beds were unkempt and untidy but now laid out with summer plants they looked really colourful, and wandering round the park it seemed as though most of it, especially the children’s areas, had undergone a fairly recent makeover. Unfortunately after a while the weather decided to make a change and the fluffy white clouds joined together to obliterate the sun, resulting in what I call ‘the dreaded white sky’, so I decided to return to the van.
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Abandoning my plan to go to Heysham I drove down to the car park near the Midland Hotel and had a mooch round the stalls in the Festival Market then went to Rita’s Cafe nearby for a snack lunch, hoping that the day would soon brighten up again. Unfortunately it didn’t, and though there was still some blue sky over the bay the sun stayed stubbornly behind the clouds, making my photos very dull, so I had a wander round by the fairground and the gardens then cut my losses and set off for home.
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I did actually take a lot more photos along the promenade but they deserve a post of their own so I’m saving them for another time. Tomorrow I’m off on my travels again for another ten days at the quiet camp site in Cumbria where I stayed not long ago – no internet access means no blog posts so there’ll be lots to come when I get back.

Hest Bank, Silverdale & Arnside – a walk in 4 parts

Back in January this year I watched the second series of a crime drama shot in and around Morecambe. Most of the locations I instantly recognised from previous visits but there was a house featured in a place which I felt I knew even though I also knew I’d never been there. Some logical thought and a study of Google maps and street view eventually showed me where it was so the Saturday morning of the August bank holiday found me driving along Morecambe promenade and the coast road to arrive in Hest Bank just a couple of miles northwards.
The road to the shore was crossed by the west coast main train line and the barriers were down when I arrived so I had to wait a few minutes for the trains to pass. Just beyond the level crossing was a parking area and a small cafe, with a long and pleasant green overlooking the bay and a few more small parking areas set at intervals just off the tarmac lane. With just a couple of large semis and a very small residential static caravan site there was nothing there but it was a nice enough little place which seemed to be popular with walkers with or without dogs, while the vast expanse of sands provided good cantering for a couple of horse riders.
Walking northwards I soon found the house I’d seen in the tv series; the lane turned into a gravel track there which ended in another small parking area and a grassy foreshore above the shingle beach. I would really have liked to walk on a bit further but I could see quite a few people in the distance with several off-lead dogs, something which Snowy doesn’t like, so I turned round there and headed back the other way. Back at the van I got chatting to a couple about to set off on a bike ride along the Lancaster Canal; it seemed it was only a short distance away so I decided to leave the van where it was and go check it out.
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I found the canal quite easily and my walk northwards started from Bridge 118, built in 1797, but if I’d been expecting to pass through some nice countryside I was destined to be disappointed as the canal was lined on both sides with houses and bungalows. Many of the properties on the far side had large attractive gardens reaching down to the canal side while those on the towpath side were set just below the canal bank. Long strips of well mown grass separated the boundary walls and hedges from the towpath and I got occasional views over the rooftops to the bay.
Not knowing how far I would have to go to find some countryside I gave up at Bridge 122 and set off back to where I started; I had other places to go to so I didn’t want to spend too long looking for something which could possibly still be miles away. Bridge 120 was a ground-level swing bridge which seemed to provide access to just one house set on its own and not far away was a quirky looking cottage with a not-very-straight roof and an overgrown garden. I couldn’t tell if it was lived in or empty but it intrigued me enough to take a quick photo.
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My next port of call was Silverdale but knowing how to get there and actually getting  there were two completely different things. What should have been a relatively easy drive from Carnforth turned into an epic all-round-the-houses, miles-out-of-my-way journey round unknown country lanes due to a closed road and diversion at a crucial point, but I got there in the end.
Now I remember going to Silverdale as part of a coach trip with my parents when I was about 9 or 10 years old and though I don’t recall going to the village itself I do remember being totally unimpressed with the coast part of it as there was absolutely nothing there, so I was hoping that after all these years it might have changed a little. It hadn’t – there was still the same rough parking area, the same row of cottages set back behind a high concrete sea wall, the same ankle-twisting rocky shoreline and vast expanse of sand. Yes, the view across the bay was good but other than that there was nothing – in less than ten minutes I had all the photos I wanted and I was back in the van.
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Next on the list were Jack Scout nature reserve and Jenny Brown’s Point, a relatively short drive from the village and neither of which I’d been to before. Unfortunately I couldn’t get remotely close to either of them in the van; about halfway there I was met by the second Road Closed sign of the day so I had to find a convenient place to park on a nearby lane and walk from there.
Jack Scout is an area of low limestone cliff owned by the National Trust, with its name thought to have come from old English or Norse meaning a high point where oak trees grow. Well known for its wildlife and extensive views over Morecambe Bay the area features a partially restored 18th century lime kiln and the Giant’s Seat, a huge limestone bench. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see either of these as a notice on the gate leading into the grassland warned of cows in the area and sure enough I could see several of them mooching about among the trees and shrubs. Not wanting to put myself and the dogs at risk I decided not to go there so another few minutes walking finally got me to Jenny Brown’s Point where a couple of benches set down off the lane gave great views over the channels flowing into the bay.
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No one really knows how Jenny Brown’s Point got its name. One story says she was a young maiden hopelessly scanning the distant horizon for the return of her lover, another that she was a nanny, cut off and drowned by the incoming tide while trying to rescue the two children in her care, though the more believable theory stems from the 1660s when a mother and daughter, both named Jennet Brown, lived at Dikehouse, the farm at the Point. The area has also been known as Brown’s Point (1812), Silverdale Point (1818) and Lindeth Point (1828) though Jenny Brown’s Point was in use on an 1829 estate plan and has been used by the Ordnance Survey from 1848.
One story which is certainly true is the tragic tale of the Matchless,  a converted fishing boat used for taking holidaymakers on trips across Morecambe Bay during the summer months. On September 3rd 1894, carrying 33 passengers and just one skipper/crewman, the boat left Morecambe to sail to Grange-over-Sands but just off Jenny Brown’s Point it was hit by an unexpectedly sudden strong gust of wind. Within seconds it capsized, throwing people into the water where many became fatally tangled and trapped in the sails and ropes. Although other nearby pleasure boats came to the rescue only eight passengers and the skipper were saved; 25 holidaymakers including five children, the youngest only 2 years old, all perished.
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A few hundred yards away from the benches the lane ended at the 18th century Brown’s Cottages where huge slabs of limestone looking almost like a slipway led down to the waterside. Nearby were the remains of what would once have been a small quay and part of a broken bridge which would have crossed the channel known as Quicksand Pool.
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Just beyond the cottages was an old chimney, now Grade ll listed and believed to be the remains of a short-lived copper mining and smelting project set up in the 1780s by Robert Gibson, Lord of the Manor of Yealand. He wrongly assumed that he had the right to mine for copper on nearby land owned by the Townleys of Leighton Hall and the copper was processed in a furnace at Jenny Brown’s Point, but after several lawsuits the whole operation was abandoned in 1788; Gibson died three years later in 1791.
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From Jenny Brown’s Point I walked back along the lane to the van then drove the four-and-a-bit miles round to Arnside. Normally I wouldn’t like to drive into to Arnside on a bank holiday as it would be extremely busy and parking wouldn’t be easy but it was gone 5pm by the time I got there and many day visitors had already left so I was able to find a parking space near the far end of the promenade.
Arnside village is situated on the West Coast main railway line in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
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The pier was constructed by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company in 1860, replacing an earlier wooden structure and also providing a wharf for ships after the building of the viaduct prevented them from reaching the inland port of Milnthorpe. In 1934 a storm destroyed the end section of the pier which was subsequently rebuilt by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, then in 1964 Arnside Parish Council bought the pier for £100. Following a storm on the night of January 31st 1983 it was rebuilt by the Parish Council after the cost was raised by public subscription and grants, and it was officially re-opened on April 12th 1984.
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Walking along the promenade I heard the sound of singing coming from upstairs in the sailing club building which was once the Customs House. A board outside said the place was open so for curiosity I popped inside; a steep wooden staircase led up from the corner of a very simply furnished room and from up above came the sound of laughter and the chink of glasses. There was nothing to say if this was a public event or a private one but I don’t like sea shanties anyway so I didn’t bother finding out.
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My walk took me to the end of the pretty promenade gardens before I turned round and headed back to the van, with a quick detour up Pier Lane on the way. It was well after 6pm by then, the lane was in shade and the few small shops were closed but as I’d never been up there before it was worth a quick look.
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My route homeward took me down a part of the A6 which I’d never previously been along and as I headed south I caught the brief sight of an air balloon floating somewhere above the trees. Eventually I could see it properly and with not a lot of traffic on the road I was able to pull up in a couple of places and snap a handful of shots before it disappeared behind a ridge in the fields.
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It was almost 8pm when I finally arrived home, with the evening sun having stayed with me all the way back. Having set out reasonably early that morning it had been a long though very enjoyable day but now it was time to make a brew and relax for a while before the dogs needed their bedtime walk.

What’s so special about Facebook??

That’s a rhetorical question to which I don’t need or want an answer but it seems to me that many people these days act as if it’s the holy bible of the internet and the be-all and end-all of social media, to the point where a person is excluded from certain things unless they are a Facebook member.
For a few years now a friend and her daughter have been trying to persuade me to join Facebook but I’ve always steadfastly refused, being of the opinion that a lot of people on there are brainless morons and troublemakers, and I speak from experience. I’m not going into detail but several years ago, when I worked in a senior school, I was the target of a lot of unwarranted personal and malicious name calling, sniggering and verbal backchat which stemmed from something a certain pupil had posted about me on Facebook and shared among her friends. It was deeply upsetting at the time but fortunately it didn’t last too long before the pupil in question was dealt with, though I vowed there and then that I would never ever  join Facebook.
Fast forward to one day a couple of weeks ago and through the local community group which I’m a member of – which has nothing to do with Facebook – I learned that a deceased cat had been found at the side of the main road not far from me and someone was asking who it might belong to. From the description I thought it might belong to one of my bosses so I offered to go and collect it – if it wasn’t my boss’s cat I would take it to the local vet to be scanned for a microchip – however when I got there I found it had been picked up by someone else.
It turned out that this guy was a member of a nationwide group where members collect cats killed on the roads and attempt to reunite them with their owners before they are picked up by local council operatives and dumped in the trash to be disposed of, leaving their owners wondering what happened to them when they didn’t come home. The group was started a couple of years ago in conjunction with a campaign to get the government to pass a law requiring all cats killed on the roads to be classed the same as dogs and the accidents reported.
Having had a couple of my own cats go missing in previous years and not knowing what had happened to them I was very interested in becoming an active member of this group – if I could reunite just one deceased pet with its owner it would be worth it – so the guy gave me the details and the phone number of the local woman who started it and runs it. I phoned her later that day but guess what? – to join the group I have to be on Facebook as that’s how they operate and get in touch with individual members. So I guess I won’t be becoming a member after all – it’s a shame but I absolutely refuse to go against my own principles and join Facebook just to join that group.
Another example of this Facebook thing occurred only yesterday. Through my Postcossing hobby I was made aware of Postcards of Kindness, an initiative run by age uk where people write and send postcards to residents of care homes to brighten up their days. Again this was something I would be interested in doing but yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a Facebook group so unless I become a Facebook member I can’t take part.
I really can’t understand what’s so special about Facebook – it’s as if most people, whether individuals or businesses, can’t function without it and everyone expects everyone else to be on it. Well I may be considered to be something of a dinosaur in the world of technology and social media – I’m not on Twitter either – but though it’s a tad annoying that some things are denied to me my life so far has jogged along nicely and it will no doubt continue to do so without the need for Facebook.