Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.
I’d never heard of Tom’s Midnight Garden until I read about it a couple of weeks ago on Shazza’s blog. Written by Philippa Pearce and first published in 1958 it’s a classic story for older children/young adults but it sounded so fascinating I just had to get a copy, and I read it in its entirety one evening earlier this month.
Tom’s younger brother Peter has the measles and so Tom doesn’t catch them as well he’s packed off to stay with his very dull aunt and uncle who live in a first floor apartment in what was once an old manor house. There’s no garden to play in, just a back yard where the dustbins are kept and where one of the other residents tinkers with an old car ; the only thing that interests Tom is a big old grandfather clock in the communal hallway which never strikes the right time. He soon realises that every night at midnight the clock strikes thirteen so one night he sneaks out of bed to investigate and finds that the extra hour takes him back to a time over half a century earlier where the old house is just one residence and the back yard is now a huge and very beautiful sunlit garden. There he befriends a lonely little girl called Hattie and meets her in the garden almost every night, where they play together and have different adventures which he gradually realises are taking place in the late 19th century.
No matter how many hours Tom stays in the garden he finds that when he goes back to his own time he’s only actually been gone for a few minutes, but time in the garden advances through the seasons and several years. Although Tom stays the same age Hattie grows up fast and as she grows older Tom seems to her to become thinner as though he’s gradually disappearing, then after one last outing together, where she begins to fall in love with a young man from her own time, Tom finds he has become completely invisible to her. He doesn’t see her again and the next time he goes to the garden he finds that it’s turned back into the modern day back yard where in a panic he runs into the dustbins, knocking them over and making quite a noise.
The following day it’s time for Tom to go back home but before he leaves the house he’s told that the elderly and reclusive landlady in the upstairs flat, who he’s never previously met, wishes to see him, presumably so he can apologise for disturbing her and the other residents during the night – and that’s when he discovers that she is actually Hattie, many years older than when he last saw her in the garden. After a long conversation, in which Hattie tells him about her life through the years between their last meeting and the present day and asks him to visit her again, they say a fairly formal goodbye to each other and Tom turns to go but at the bottom of the stairs he rushes back and gives Hattie a big hug, happy that he’s found her again after so long.
The story is extremely well written and the description of the beautiful garden is so detailed that I could really imagine myself exploring such a place. I must admit though that the time shifting aspect of the story seemed to ask more questions than it answered and left me a little confused. When Tom was in the garden no-one but Hattie and the gardener could see or hear him and as the story moved on through their adventures I found it hard to tell who was actually real and who could have been a ghost, or if the whole thing was just one of Tom’s dreams. Nevertheless it was an intriguing and fascinating read and left such a lasting impression that on learning that it had once been made into a tv series I was prompted to find out if there was a dvd version of it. There was quite an up-to-date one made in 1999 so I sent for that and watched it last weekend.
The start of the dvd is nothing like the start of the book and I initially felt a bit disappointed until I realised that it shows present-day events after the story has moved on, events which lead back to the beginning of the story. The story itself is told in its entirety as a flashback and the film is very true to the book right up to the last few minutes where it reverts to the present day and a continuation of the film’s beginning. Although the book doesn’t mention Tom’s age I got the impression that he was about 11 years old but the film portrays him as being 14. The book ends where young Tom hugs the now elderly Hattie and I was left with the feeling that there should have been a bit more, but the end of the film shows a now adult Tom with a wife and baby daughter, who they’ve named after Hattie, living in a cottage which is one of several built in the original garden of the old house which is now being demolished – and still standing at the bottom of their own part of the garden is the big tree where young Hattie had carved her own initials and young Tom’s signature drawing into the trunk so many years before. It’s a very fitting ending to the film and I think it finishes off the story very well.
The house and garden in the story are based on the author’s own childhood home in Cambridgeshire and a bit of Googling discovered an article written in 2014, which included many photographs, when the actual house and over three acres of garden were up for sale. I’m not sure if the garden in the film is the real life garden or a bit of computer-generated imagery – or maybe some of both – but it’s a truly beautiful garden, and looking at the photos of the real garden it’s easy to see how it inspired this magical fantasy story. The book makes a lovely read and the film really brings everything in the book to life – certainly well worth anyone reading and watching.
A couple of weeks ago when I went round to my friend Lin’s one evening I noticed that she had a new mat on the floor behind the front door. It was a mat with an animal picture on it and my immediate thoughts were that (a) even though it was washable it was too nice to have dirty feet and paws wiped all over it and (b) I just had to have one myself, so I asked where she got it from and was told that her daughter Dee had won it on a tombola stall at work.
Dee actually works at a local pet store not far from home and the staff there support my favourite local charity, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. Every so often they allow someone from the sanctuary to have a tombola/items for sale stall just outside the door with any money raised going to the sanctuary, and the mat had been one of the tombola items. Dee is usually quite lucky on tombola stalls and that particular day was no exception with the mat being one of the things she won, though as it was obviously a one-off the chances of me getting one like it were slim.
The mat was new but there was no clue as to where it had originally come from, though a bit of later Googling told me that mats like this are made in America and to get one from there wouldn’t be cheap. The ‘get lucky’ gods must have been smiling down on me that day though as I found a new one for sale on ebay at a very good price, and best of all the seller was in another area of my home town. I emailed her to ask if I could collect the mat rather than have it posted out to me and she was quite happy for me to do that so we arranged to meet the following day – and it turned out that she was the lady who had the charity stall outside the pet store where Dee works. Also any proceeds from animal-related items she sells on ebay go to the charity so I was more than happy to know that my purchase would, even in a small way, help the sanctuary.
Apart from the colouring of the eye patch the little pup on the back right of the picture reminds me very much of my own little Sophie when she was younger. The mat is currently propped up on one of the bathroom units so I really need to find somewhere to put it, but needless to say it’s definitely not going down on the floor!
Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.
Well here we are at the end of May and the scavenger photo hunt has come round once again, with this month’s topics being – seat, view (from the seat), lunch, starts with ‘P’, transport, and my own choice. It’s been a difficult one for me this month – not because of the topics but because I suffered a major computer failure earlier in the month and was without a decent pc for over two weeks. Working on a borrowed laptop was okay up to a point but downloading and editing photos was a no-no so I thought I may have to give this month’s photo hunt a miss. However I finally got a new-to-me pc last week though I’ve had to find my way round Windows 10 which hasn’t been easy (and still isn’t!) but through trial and error I’ve managed to sort out some photos for the challenge so here goes.
I’m cheating a bit with the first and second topics as the photo I’ve chosen covers both. Back in the early to mid 90s, while on regular holidays in Norfolk, some friends of ours would often take us out on the Broads in their boat and one of the places we sometimes passed was the ruins of St. Benets Abbey on the River Bure. Somehow I never got the chance to actually go there but fast forward to just three years ago and while on my solo travels with the dogs I finally got that chance, although it wasn’t the easiest of places to find and get to by road. The ruins are quite fascinating and behind them a path leads to the riverside staithe and the seat which has a good view over the staithe itself, the river and the nearby fields – it’s very peaceful and makes a lovely spot to sit and watch the boats go by.
The next topic was supposed to be a Sunday lunch but due to Michael working his day off it turned into Sunday tea, or dinner for those who want to be ‘posh’. We often go out for a meal on Sundays and our usual ‘go to’ eaterie is a pub just three miles up the road from home, however a couple of weekends back we decided to ring the changes and go to our local Toby Carvery which is also near home. Although I just had a normal meal Michael ‘went large’ and came back to the table with an absolute plateful – he’d said he was hungry after having just worked a 12-hour shift but I didn’t expect him to get that lot!
The next category had me thinking for a while ; the obvious one was a photo of Poppie but I’ve used one of her before, however inspiration struck as I was driving to work the other morning – pigs! As soon as I got to work I wrote it on the back of my hand as a reminder – of course I got more than one person asking why I had PIGS!! written on my hand – then once I was back home again I searched my photo archives for an appropriate photo. I had the choice of several but finally went with this one – a little piglet at the North Wales camp site I stayed at a couple of years ago. He was adorable and I so much wanted to bring him home.
The next subject is so unusual I feel it deserves three photos rather than one, and though it couldn’t be used as transport in the general sense of the word it was used for transporting things. My last partner was very clever when it came to dealing with anything mechanical – he was brought up on a farm in Suffolk and had been tinkering with farm machinery and cars from being quite young – and though we owned and ran full-sized vintage tractors he wanted something smaller which he could use at work and which could pull a heavy weight. A normal ride-on mower/garden tractor wouldn’t do so he designed and built his own out of any spare bits and pieces he had or could find in various places – he called it the A S P (All Spare Parts) and though it wasn’t the prettiest looking machine it did exactly what he wanted it to do.
The various parts he used to build this machine are far too many to list but here’s a few – the seat came from a café, the steering wheel off a go-cart, the bonnet was made from the side of an old washing machine, engine from a Honda C90 motorbike, steering mechanism an old Transit window winding device, hydraulics were a 2-ton trolley jack and the bull-bars at the front were from an Asda shopping trolley fished out of a local canal. Oh, and he also pinched some of my weights to use as counterbalance for heavy loads. We actually exhibited the tractor at several agricultural and tractor shows and it became quite a talking point more than once.
And finally, from the ridiculously practical to the ridiculously cute. Back in early 2009 I took in a female cat which wasn’t being cared for properly ; the cat was pregnant and eventually gave birth to three kittens. Sadly two of them died soon after birth and though she looked after the third one he became quite ill after a few weeks. Several trips to the vet’s followed and Weeble, as I called him, had to be kept separate from my other cats so he was housed in a large pen. That was okay to start with but once he had recovered sufficiently he would climb up the sides in an effort to get out, and more by sheer good luck than anything else I managed to snap a photo of him on one of those occasions. He eventually grew from a tiny little scrap into a big beautiful cat but sadly I lost him four years later when he became the road victim of a boy racer.
Weeble’s one claim to fame though when he was tiny is that he was once held and cuddled by Helen Flanagan who played Rosie Webster in Coronation Street. I had just come out of the vet’s with him wrapped in a soft towel when I saw Helen just about to get in her car which was parked round the corner – her face lit up when she saw Weeble and she asked if she could hold him. I spent about ten minutes sitting in her car chatting to her while she cuddled him and she thanked me afterwards for letting her hold him.
Well that just about wraps up my choices for this month, and as usual I’m linking up with Kate’s blog to see what others have chosen for the different topics. My apologies to anyone whose post I didn’t get round to reading last time but I’m sure you all know how it is – life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way of everything else. Note to self – must try to do better this time!
My Monday walk this week features a second visit to Sunderland Point, undertaken one day last week only nine days after my first visit there. It had been low tide on the first occasion and with glorious weather I got some lovely photos but I wanted to get some shots at high tide, also since my first visit I’d found some information on a few of the buildings in the village which I wanted to check out. High tide on May 21st worked out just right, it was soon after mid-day and with more lovely sunny weather it was an opportunity not to be missed. Of course the high tide also meant that the causeway to Sunderland Point was cut off, so instead of going through Overton village I had to drive round the country lanes to Middleton sands and park in a designated spot above the high water line at a place known as Potts Corner, then walk the mile or so to Sunderland village.
The car park at Potts Corner was certainly in a fairly remote spot with nothing but wet sands stretching northwards, and to the south a vast expanse of salt marsh where a large herd of cattle grazed, although there was a static caravan site close by. A wide roughly-gravelled and pot-holed track led some distance from the car park to a farm up on my left then a rough path took me along the edge of the salt marsh. Not only was this place very remote it was also very windy and annoyingly my hair kept blowing across my face ; I needed something to tie it back, and just as the thought crossed my mind I found the very thing – a length of bright pink bailer twine tied round a chunk of tree trunk lying on the ground. The twine was clean so I untied it, doubled it up and used it to fasten my hair into a pony tail – sorted!
The path along the edge of the marsh eventually led to a gate and the recently constructed path to Sambo’s grave, and though it was supposedly over a mile from the car park to there it seemed no time at all before the hideous stone-built camera obscura dome had come into view. Completely unimpressed with it on my previous visit I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and went inside but all I could see was an extremely pale circle of light on one wall, so pale it was hardly there, so yet again I left with the feeling that the time and money spent on this monstrosity could have been better used elsewhere. Having only recently been to Sambo’s grave I didn’t feel the need to go again so soon so I left the dome behind and continued on to the village.
Sunderland village was developed by Robert Lawson, a Quaker, in the early 18th century as an out port for Lancaster a few miles inland, and it’s believed that stonework from the ruined Cockersand Abbey across the river was used in the construction of the quay and various buildings. Following the narrow path between the hawthorn hedges to the top end of The Lane I came to the first house I was looking for. Summer House at one time had, on its steep apex roof, a weather vane which was fixed to a compass rose on the ceiling underneath although neither of these now exist, but back in the 18th century it was where merchants and boat pilots met and looked out for shipping.
At the bottom end of The Lane was Upsteps Cottage, named because its front door is set high up in the wall with stone steps leading up to it. In the past it had been a bath house but perhaps more significantly it had also been the brew house of the nearby Ship Inn and was the lodging where Sambo died. Round the corner from The Lane, and on First Terrace, was No. 11 which had originally been the Ship Inn itself – in fairly recent times it was used as a pub in the 2006 filming of Ruby In The Smoke by the BBC. Further along First Terrace and set on its own was No. 2 which had been the Anchor Smithy and Ropewalk, and set quite a way back from the quayside was No. 3a which had been the Customs House.
On this side of the peninsula and away from the open expanse of salt marsh the wind had dropped to just a light breeze, making it very pleasant to wander along in the warm sunshine. Just beyond No. 2 was the shingle parking area where I’d left the van on my first visit, except this time there was hardly any parking area left as most of it was covered by water. Obviously I’d been aware that the causeway to Sunderland was impassable at high tide but I was still surprised by just how far in the tide had come. The causeway had completely disappeared, the warning sign at the beginning of it, which was several feet above the ground, had its bottom edge in water and the boats which I’d seen beached on grass nine days before were completely surrounded – compared to my previous visit it was certainly a different sight to see.
The next thing I wanted to find was the Cotton Tree which information had told me was on Second Terrace, and when I did find it I was surprised that I hadn’t seen it on my previous visit as I must have walked close by it. According to popular belief the Cotton Tree grew from a seed imported from America in a bale of cotton and though it may very well have come from the USA, probably brought here by a returning sea captain, it was actually a female black poplar which is very uncommon in England.
Appearing to grow from the foot of a building the Cotton Tree was a well-known and much-loved feature of Sunderland Point, familiar to generations of villagers and visitors. The victim of old age and the fierce gales which had hit the area on Christmas Eve 1997 it finally toppled over a week later at 8.15pm on New Year’s Day 1998 ; it was estimated to have been between 200 and 250 years old when it fell. The stump of the tree is now decayed but is still part of the wall which surrounds it, and the tree itself lives on in the form of two young trees which have sprung from its roots a few yards either side of the stump.
A greater part of Second Terrace would originally have been warehouses, though some of the buildings have also been used as an inn and a farm, all of which are now private residences. One rather quirky feature is the narrow cottage named Multum in Parvo (meaning Much in Little) which is thought to have been built at some time to fill a gap between two rows of properties. In a nod to more modern times there’s a Royal Mail post box set in a wall and outside the Reading Room is a card-operated BT phone box (which also contains items of fresh produce for sale) and an emergency defibrillator, other than that the Terrace looks much the same as it did all those years ago.
Set back off the path and in its own pretty garden was Sunderland Hall, built by Robert and Elizabeth Pearson and with the inscription REP 1683 on one of its walls. The Hall and its two adjoining houses are now the last properties on Second Terrace, although it’s thought that in the past there may have been two or three small cottages in the adjacent field which reaches to the end of the peninsula.
Although I could probably have walked all the way round the peninsula I didn’t know how far the tide would be in round the end so I decided not to try it and instead walked back along the sea wall path and up The Lane. Stopping to photograph a carved wooden owl on top of a gatepost I saw something which made me smile ; on the side wall of the house was a hand painted board and though I couldn’t get close enough to see properly I assumed there was a bowl of water on the ground just down below it.
Walking back past the salt marshes a movement in the grass some distance away caught my attention ; it was a bird scurrying along and though I couldn’t immediately tell what it was I zoomed in with the camera, and with its long bright orange beak I assumed it was a young oyster catcher. Further along I saw that the herd of cows which had been peacefully grazing some distance away earlier on had made their way inland and were congregating close to the path.
Now in spite of having read various stories of people being trampled by marauding cattle I’m not scared of cows and under normal circumstances I would have walked right past them, but there were some youngsters in among this lot so as I had the dogs with me I decided not to risk it and made a short detour over the grass instead. Back at the van the three of us had a welcome cool drink then with one last shot I set off for home.
Driving back down the M6 I thought about my time spent at Sunderland Point. It was a very attractive place with a lot of history behind it, and though I hadn’t yet managed to paint my stone to put on Sambo’s grave the uniqueness of the village and the photo opportunities it offers almost certainly guarantees a third visit before too long.
This post was supposed to feature as a Monday walk but being without a computer of my own for almost two weeks, and having to rely on a borrowed laptop, has meant that I’ve been unable to deal with the many photos I’ve taken during that time. However things have finally been sorted out and I’m back in the blogging world although this pc operating system is vastly different to what I’ve been used to for the last x number of years. Though I’m still using the same photo editing programme things now look (to me at least) different to before – so I’m just hoping the shots in this post look okay although the spacing may be slightly different.
The recent gloriously sunny warm weather has been too good to miss so one day last week I took the reasonably short drive from home to Sunnyhurst Woods, a place I’ve been to several times before. My previous walk round there had been before Easter on a rather dull day with very few leaves on the trees, which didn’t make for particularly good photos, however since then everything has burst into life and completely changed the whole place.
Approaching what’s known as the paddling pool I could hear a lot of barking and when I got there I could see a Labrador dog in the water having fun with a large stick. A young woman with three other dogs was walking along the path continually calling him but he was having too much fun to take any notice – I watched for a while as she walked right round the pool and went out of sight a couple of times in the hope that he would get out of the water and follow her but he stayed put. I’d gone past the pool and reached the bandstand and though the pool was out of sight by then I could still hear the dog barking and it crossed my mind that the only way he would come out of the water was if the young woman went in there to get him.
A distance past the bandstand I came to where two paths met and at the junction was a stone pillar with a simple figure of an owl carved on one side. I took the right hand path which followed the river for a short distance before taking me uphill in the direction of Earnsdale Reservoir. Away from civilisation it was so peaceful walking along with nothing to hear but birdsong ; at one point a robin flew across in front of me and landed on a tree branch above, staying there long enough for me to snatch a couple of photos of him.
At the top of the hill the path opened out and a gate took me onto the road across the reservoir dam. On the right was a field with two lovely chestnut horses grazing from hay nets hung on the field gate ; I’ve seen these horses before, in the distance way up on top of the hill but this was the first time I’ve seen them close up. They were a beautiful colour and if the dogs hadn’t been with me I would have gone to say hello to them.
Across the dam a gate led to a narrow path through the trees at the far side of the reservoir and as I’d never been along there before I decided to check it out, though not knowing just where it would take me I only went so far before retracing my steps. It certainly gave me a different view of the reservoir, which I thought was a much nicer view than looking at it from the other side, and it was worth taking a few shots.
The road across the dam turned into a country lane leading past fields with views over the reservoir and the countryside beyond and with the peace and quiet it was hard to believe that I wasn’t really all that far from civilisation. Approaching one field I saw what I thought at first was a sheep lying in the grass but then looking at its face it definitely wasn’t a sheep. It was very woolly though, and when I saw its companion grazing nearby I came to the conclusion they were alpacas. Not far from the field was a house set in its own garden so presumably they belonged there.
Just past the alpacas’ house the lane turned a corner and a distance along brought me to the Sunnyhurst pub. There was a path directly opposite which I knew would take me up to Darwen Tower but that was a walk I would do another time. Past the pub was an entrance back into Sunnyhurst Wood but I decided to stay on the road and follow it round to where I’d left the van, and my last shot of the day was part of the very pretty garden belonging to a big detached house.
That was the first time I’d walked across the reservoir dam and discovered what was over the other side and I’d found it to be a very pleasant walk, certainly one I’ll do another time. And now I know that the Sunnyhurst pub has a car park next to it I’ll be able to leave the van there when I eventually decide to do the walk up to Darwen tower.