Running Away to Devon


We decided to run away for a week before Boris announced another lockdown, so we filled the car with warm clothes ready for wet weather, and with food so we could avoid eating out, and drove to Devon with the dog and a boy.

The Ship Aground Inn, Mortehoe
The Ship Aground, Mortehoe. Named after the ancient anchor retrieved from a wreck of a steamship that ran aground in 1914.

We’re staying in Mortehoe, a pretty stone village on the cliffs of North Devon. I brought all my Greek books and lists of words to learn, and the cottage promised internet, enabling me to continue my lessons whilst looking across a windy garden to the sea.

Trying to learn Greek vocab with a view of the sea from the window.

The cottage is fairly ugly on the outside, but the inside is warm and comfortable, and there are massive windows in every room, giving wonderful views of the outside. This includes in the ensuite bathroom, which I find slightly perturbing. There is a big bath in the centre of the room, next to a picture window. When I think of soaking in a warm tub whilst watching waves crash into the cove below, it’s rather lovely. When I think of soaking in a warm tub whilst on view to every unsuspecting walker on the North Devon coastal path, it’s less appealing! I checked from the garden, and the window is unfrosted, plain glass, giving anyone looking in a good view of the bathroom. A paradise for an exhibitionist.

The cottage garden joins the footpath, and is a sheltered spot with flower beds and a palm tree. It has an outside tap for washing dirty paws, but I forgot to bring a trowel for clearing up poop (when you keep animals, you can never completely avoid the poop aspect).

We took Kia for a walk along the cliffs. She saw the sea and set off along the footpath, straining on the lead. When we came to some steps, she suggested very strongly that we might like to visit the beach. But the steps had been washed away by a storm, and only the top and bottom steps remained, clinging onto the cliff in a futile attempt to look useful.

Cliff steps to beach.

There was no way to explain this to a persistent German Shepherd, so we dragged her back to the cottage.

Next stop was a trip to Tesco Superstores to stock up on supplies. The mist had crept up from the sea, and we drove through lanes towards the shop with Husband muttering about it being an unlikely place for a superstore, and was I directing him to a small garage Tescos? We turned into the carpark of a decent sized shop, grabbed a trolley, and started to collect things from the shopping list. I had hoped to live on Charlie Bigham ready-meals for a week, but there weren’t many, and we had to buy a few raw ingredients that I could shove into the oven without too much effort. Husband appeared at regular intervals with a selection of implements to use in place of a trowel for poop clearing. I didn’t think a wooden spatula or a plastic ice-scraper would work, despite their bargain prices.

Next challenge was trying to use the oven, which had unhelpfully been set to ‘automatic’ by the previous people, which meant that it was impossible to use until I had managed to turn it back to a manual setting (random pressing of pairs of buttons usually cures it—I have lots of experience in annoying church kitchens). We ate sausage beans and chips, which filled us up even if it wasn’t very healthy, and a Charlie Bigham’s sticky toffee sponge with custard.

Went to bed full and happy.


Saturday

Tried (in vain) to learn words in various declensions for my Greek lesson. I am writing them in different colours and making up silly sayings (“All the plural datives in the third declension like to sin —σιν”)—but to be honest, very little is staying in my brain.

Decided to take the dog on the beach for the afternoon and drove to Woolacombe Beach. Kia was ecstatic, and even forgot to snarl at all the other dogs in the carpark (anyone who owns a German Shepherd will understand this—the breed is not good with other dogs).

The carpark had lots of signs, saying that due to Covid there was distancing in place, and contactless paying, and certain restrictions. There was a queue waiting to go in (it was the final Saturday of half-term week). At the gate was a man, collecting money through the window of every car—sometimes having to lean across the car to reach the driver—in a very un-Covid-safe manner. I fumbled in my pocket for my crumpled mask (thank you Aunty Margaret) and put on gloves ready to receive the token given in return for the £3 fee. I don’t think it was possible to pay by card/phone. Cars were parked in every space, so I think the person putting up the signs had forgotten to explain them to the man at the gate (I did wonder if, in fact, he was simply a random man collecting £3 from every car and nothing to do with the carpark, but he did give everyone a token that lifted the barrier, so I am assuming he was legit!)

The tide was out, and there was a long expanse of wet sand and huge waves crashing onto the beach. We set off towards the water, the dog dancing next to us. We reached the rocks and Husband and son went closer to explore. I foolishly followed them, noticed a wave washing in, and ran back to the sand—but not in time. The sea lapped around me, filling my wellies and soaking my trousers while a family on the sand laughed. I turned to watch Husband wading through the water, even deeper than me, and son clambered onto the rocks. The dog looked bemused, surprised we were paddling with her. Emptied boots, tried to ignore soggy socks.

Happy afternoon striding through the wind, watching the surfers tackle the waves. Kia kept up for about 25 minutes, but then I noticed she was dragging one of her back legs—which is a sign she’s getting tired, so we turned round. I don’t mind her being old when I can see that she’s still happy and excited by things.

Rinsed out the wellies and filled the washing machine with soggy clothes, then sat down to write this before I put a ready-meal curry in the oven. Another happy day.

I hope you have some fun too this week—and manage to keep your feet dry.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Punting in Cambridge


We went to visit Emm’s new house in Cambridge, and spent the afternoon on the River Cam in a punt. I like Cambridge, it’s one of the few cities I think I could live in—perhaps because it has cows. I’m not sure why it has cows, I assume it’s a hangover from old laws about grazing rights on common land, but they are there, in the centre of the city, wandering over footpaths and pooping on the grass as they mingle with students and tourists.

cows in Cambridge
Cows in Cambridge

Emm suggested punting before we arrived, so I put a spare pair of trousers and knickers in my bag. I remember punting. When I was a teenager, we lived in Letchworth, and regularly went to Cambridge with our church youth group. We would hire a few punts (it was a big youth group) and set off. The person punting always fell in (sometimes they were pushed). We always had water fights with the other punts, so our boats were returned full of water and the owner refused to return the deposit.

There was one time when one of the car drivers was pushed into the river, and lost his glasses. I remember people diving under the murky water, searching the mud for the lost glasses, but they were never found. The driver was unable to drive home, so someone with a provisional licence had to drive his car for him. That must have been terrifying! Having taught my children to drive, I now realise how scary it would be to have someone else’s teenager drive my car for me.

Once, I remember there were foreign girls with us (my sister says they were from Norwich, which they may have been—I wasn’t very good at accents in those days) and they got completely soaked and were rather upset, so we took them to a launderette and told them to strip, then we tumble-dried their clothes while they sat huddled under someone’s coat. I have no idea what the other people in the launderette thought. In fact, as I reflect on these memories as an adult, I have no idea why the youth group leaders were so willing to take us punting every year—it must have been a nightmare for them!

Anyway, last weekend we arrived at the punt hire place, and I was fully prepared with dry clothes, just in case. They were well prepared, with people wiping the boats and poles with disinfectant between each hire, spaced queueing, no cash payments. Such a lot of fuss Covid has created, but business has adapted.

Emm decided that Jay would punt, even though he was the only person who had never previously been on a punt before. He listened attentively to the very brief instructions, and we set off with him muttering that the physics didn’t work, and the extremely narrow pole was not going to be sufficient. But it was, and he actually did very well.

Punting is a skill (which I don’t have). In case you have never visited Cambridge (put it on your list for when Covid ends) I will explain. A ‘punt’ is a very shallow boat, which seats about 8 people in a sort of lounging position—good for beautiful blonde girls who want to trail their fingers in the water while sipping champagne. The person punting stands on the back, on a slippery-looking platform, and pushes a long thin pole into the mud below, then pushes forwards, hence propelling the boat. If the pole is placed on the left, the punt turns left; when placed on the right, the punt turns right. It turns quite sharply, and we passed several boats that were basically just turning in circles on the river. Sometimes the pole gets stuck in the mud, and tugging it out unbalances the punter. It’s easy to fall in, and you really do not want to fall in to the Cam—it’s not the cleanest river in the world.

The exercise is made more exciting by the bridges across the river. Some of these are quite low, and require the punter (not sure if that’s the correct term) to push hard before crouching in the boat to avoid being decapitated by the bridge. When you are a mother and your son is punting, this makes the activity less relaxing than when you are a carefree teenager.

Emm and Aitch also took turns punting, and no one fell in, and no one was decapitated, which was a good result. We had bought some of those little cans of cocktails from Tesco, so we stopped next to a quiet bank, and drank cocktails, and watched the branches trailing in the river and the ducks swimming past, and it was all rather lovely. Then we made out way back, under the low bridges, past the Chinese tourists who were still turning in circles, and returned our punt to the people waiting to disinfect it ready for the next party.

I hope you have a fun day today.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Dial Square FC Win the FA Cup


Dial Square FC Win the FA Cup

Woolwich Warren and a Rather Famous Football Team

 

The Woolwich Arsenal used to be called the Woolwich Warren, due to being built on a Tudor house which had a warren (as in, a place that rabbits were raised for food). It then became the place gunpowder was made, and is now a swanky place to live. I popped in there for a quick inspection, and decided it was a rather lovely place to be.

Woolwich Warren Tudor tower

Photo: Kleon3
The tower of the Tudor mansion.

The original Tudor house was defined by a tall tower, which feels appropriate now the site has several high-rise buildings which are seen as you approach Woolwich.  The owner of the original mansion was later Lord Mayor of London. There are now several very new, rather exclusive apartment blocks, with balconies and views across London, mingled with some ancient squares and old army buildings. It is one of those places that England does best—modern architecture muddled up with ancient history. I was interested to learn a little of the history, so after wandering through squares with bubbling fountains and past yuppy pubs and wine bars, I stopped to read a few of the signs.

After the mansion was demolished, the Woolwich Warren was built to make armaments. In 1695, an ammunition factory was set up, making gunpowder, shell cases, gun cartridges. One of the original pavilions still exists:

A Pavilion at Woolwich Arsenal

Photo: Barrabus1312
One of the original pavilions.

Woolwich Arsenal guard house.

Photo: Kleon3
One of the guard houses at the entrance from the river.

By 1777, the warren covered 104 acres, conveniently placed next to the River Thames. In the 1700s, convicts were used to build a high wall (8ft high) around the boundary, and later (1814) they dug a canal along the eastern border. There were hexagonal guard rooms either side of the main entrance from the river. We walked past them, but there were no signs, so we had to guess what they were. They look a little like over-sized kiosks that sell newspapers (so I clearly guessed wrong.)

In 1886, the men working in the workshops around Dial Square formed a football team. They were called the Dial Square club, and their first game was against the Isle of Dogs club in December 1886. The club still exists today, is now known as Arsenal FC — even I have heard of that one!

By the time of the First World War, the warren had expanded, and now employed 80,000 people. I love thinking of the secret manufacture of cannons and gunpowder, all guarded by the military. Did the people living nearby have any idea how explosive the area was? After the war, most factories closed, and they produced steam engines for the railway instead.

The arsenal no longer produced gunpowder in the second world war, which is probably good as it was a target during the Blitz, and lots of buildings were destroyed. It was still involved in the manufacture of weapons, but mainly guns and bomb cases. After the war, the machines were modified to manufacture the knitting frames for silk stockings (bit of a change then!)

Gradually, the arsenal ceased to be an arsenal. The wall was dismantled, the buildings sold to the council—one was even used by the British Library to store books. (Note: I rather resent these books stores, as if you publish a book, you are required, by law, to send a copy to the library, so it can be placed into a store and never seen again. Rant over.)

Today, as you wander around the area, you can still see many of the historical buildings, and many have signs, explaining what they were. It’s a nice place to visit, you wander through squares, and walk next to the Thames, staring at the muddy banks looking for treasure (and finding washed-up shopping carts!) The other side of the main road, is the bustle of real life, with small shops and tiny markets and people from every corner of the world. Not a bad place to visit on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Counting Stars continues on Wednesday.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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Walking to Stanley Ghyll Waterfall


Family Walk in the Lake District

More sheep, bogs and views

lake district fellsThe weather was dry (not to be assumed in the Lake District) so we went for another walk. Bea and Gee (The Bee Gees) weren’t working today, so there more of us, which meant it took even longer than usual to leave the cottage.

We decided to drive back to fell we walked on the day before, and walk in the opposite direction, towards Stanley Ghyll waterfall. We parked on Austhwaite Brow, found a footpath, and set off across the empty space. All the sheep on this side of the road were white, and they looked like they’d been washed because we’re used to seeing grey sheep and black lambs. Everyone wore boots or wellies this time, so bogs were less of an issue.

As we approached the waterfall, there were lots of warning signs, and I wondered whether Anne-who-hates-heights would actually manage to see anything. Am not keen on walking along rock edges with sheer slopes and long drops.

We rounded a corner, and there was a tightrope, and a group of people practising. I’ve never seen a ‘real’ tightrope walker before, so we watched for a few minutes. This is a skill I could never, ever, learn. They were so co-ordinated, so perfectly balanced. Even when they fell, they pulled themselves back onto the rope and sat there, feet crossed in front, arms outstretched. Very impressive.

tightrope walking, stanley waterfall, lake district,

We followed a path down some steep rock steps, to the bottom of the waterfall. It wasn’t scary, as there was a rail for support in the most difficult places, and there were so many plants that if it was a sheer drop, you were never aware of it. The bottom of the steps was wonderful—like being dropped into a rainforest. It was very sheltered, and the spray from the waterfall made the air moist. The cliff edges were covered in rhododendrons, which must be beautiful when they’re in flower.

There were bridges over the river, but the walkway the other side had been destroyed by a rockfall, and was no longer safe. (I think this means that if you plan to walk to the fall from the town, the signs say the path is closed).

Spent the evening eating and playing games and packing. I took Kia for a last walk up the hill behind the cottage. I stood, looking over the valley, with The Old Man of Coniston looming behind me. There are sheep, and rivers, moss-covered rocks, ferns and trees standing like deformed old men as they struggle to grow against the wind—all so beautiful. I don’t want to go home.

I hope you have a good day. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Hills of the Lake District

Walking in The Lake District


Seat How

Apparently Someone Counted All The Hills

We had a lazy morning. I took Kia to Coniston Water, which is about half an hour from the cottage. It’s very strange having an old dog—if you remember, until earlier this year she behaved as if she was still young, but then an operation for a twisted stomach added all her 13 years, and she can now only enjoy fairly short strolls. I miss walking with a dog when we go on long hikes, so it was lovely to walk through fields of sheep, under the gaze of mountains, to the lake.

This was our first properly warm day—I suspect the Lake District perpetually has autumn or winter temperatures. The walk was very typical, with lots of grey sheep, each one with a black lamb, and stone walls covered in moss with ferns growing next to rivers. It is such a pretty place. Kia collected sticks next to the river, and we watched a man trying to launch a canoe (and I was really glad we don’t own one, and Husband said how much he’d have liked to own a boat).

toadstools, Lake District,

Each dollop of poop had a toadstool growing in it. It was a feature of the walk.
They are possibly Coprophilous fungi, which have spores that can survive being eaten by herbivores and then grow after being expelled.

After lunch we drove back to the fells we drove through yesterday on our way home from Wast Water. We parked next to the road, and walked towards one of the large rocks. I later read that it was Seat How, which is hill number 3710—apparently someone counted all the hills. It’s in Thornthwaite (good luck with pronouncing that after a glass of wine!) which is basically a big empty space with boggy patches and mounds of moss and sheep trails through the grass. Husband and Jay climbed the rock, of course, because they are blokes and it was there.

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I decided I didn’t fancy scrabbling up another hill, so walked round it. I walked over the grass, trying to avoid boggy patches, disturbing sheep who were sunbathing on the stones. Then, as I rounded Seat How, a valley stretched out in front of me, with a lovely view of Devoke Water, and if I squinted at the horizon, I could just about see the glint of the sea. I stood for a few minutes, soaking up the smell of heather, listening to the bleat of lambs (and the shouts from above Seat How—my family are not known for being quiet). A little patch of peace.

Seat How, Devoke Water, Lake District,

View of Devoke Water.

We met up again, and set off in the direction of the car (which we couldn’t see). Husband used his ‘Jack Reacher skills’ and strode off in one direction. I was pretty sure he was wrong, and marched off in a slightly different direction. Jay walked somewhere between us, muttering: “Story of my life, both parents completely certain they are right, striding off in different directions. . .” But then, he had left his wellies at home, and was hopping over the boggy bits, so we don’t need to listen to him!

We found the car (one of us was right) drove home and ate apple pie.

Dinner was fish and chips from ‘Our Plaice’ in Coniston. It was actually haddock, as they don’t sell plaice. Husband collected them, and talked about the experience all evening. I think the highlight of his trip was the woman who kept pausing in serving the extremely long line of customers so she could answer the phone to tell the caller they were not taking phone orders. Apparently they were exceptionally busy, probably due to people finally venturing on holiday but not wanting to risk eating in pubs/restaurants (especially if their experiences are similar to our ‘not-Covid-safe’ meal in last week’s blog).

We watched a film (Rock n Roller) on Netflix, while Jay dried his shoes on the aga (so much I am not writing here).

Another happy day at the lakes.
I hope your day has a little patch of peace too. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

A Wet Day in the Lake District


A Trip to Windermere

Hills of the Lake District

Went for a run (using term loosely) along footpath towards Coniston. We saw lots of sheep, including two in the road. Nice run.

Asked family to help create a shopping list of food we needed. Wrote down some of their suggestions. Drove to Windermere. This is the home of Lakeland, which is one of the few shops I actually enjoy (you know when you have reached a certain age, when the Lakeland catalogue is something you enjoy!) Decided it would be rude to visit Windermere and not pop into Lakeland.

We followed signs, and parked in the big car park outside. Queued to get inside, carefully socially distanced, while a lady with a clicker allowed us into the shop as people left. There was a man, standing in the window, making a phone call the entire time we queued outside. Husband said I should not approach him and suggest he could make his call outside, so that someone else could take his place in the shop.

After reading about other European countries, who seem to be handling Covid better than the UK, I decided that I would wear a face mask whenever inside a public space. This made the trip much less fun, as it is very hot and airless inside a mask, and my glasses were perpetually steamed up. When finally allowed inside the shop, I wandered around, in baking tin Heaven, trying to remember what things I actually needed. I bought a small saucepan for making cheese sauces, as the one I bought in 1988 has a dodgy handle. I bought a lot of other things, but I can justify the saucepan.

Walked to Booths, which seems to be the largest supermarket within an hour of the cottage. Queued to get in. I find it very difficult to social distance inside a supermarket—I am focussed on hot mask, steamed up glasses, shopping list, and trying to find the correct items. Not walking too close to the slow man staring dumbly at the sour cream seems low priority—but I tried.

Put shopping in the car, and realised a high percentage was alcohol and snacks—hope this doesn’t represent a normal week’s supplies for my family.

Lunch in cottage again. It is pouring with rain. Some of the family went to The Ship Inn in Coniston, and sent cheery photos of pints of beer. Late afternoon, we walked to the pub with Kia. There was another pretty footpath, through fields of sheep, under dripping trees, alongside streams. When we arrived at the pub, the drinkers were happily still drinking, so we left them there.

I made veggie chilli for dinner.

Went for an evening walk, and saw a beheaded rabbit and escaped sheep and a noisy cow. The day has been lazy, and wet, but I think on a holiday in the Lake District you have to expect at least a couple of wet days. It’s still pretty.

Hope you have a nice day, whatever the weather. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

Trip to the Lake District 2020


Little Arrow, Near Coniston

Family Holiday: Monday

Went to sleep last night listening to the rain. It rains a lot here, and it’s cold. We knew this before we came, so packed all our autumn clothes. We are all now looking forward to Christmas (Summer 2020 was in April, so no complaints).

I wrote, while the family gradually emerged from their rooms, made toast, or porridge with cinnamon and honey, or sipped coffee until they looked human again. Husband took Kia for a walk.

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We had sandwiches and leftovers for lunch. It was very noisy. Husband tried to make a plan, but Emm formed a union in protest. Nothing was decided.

We walked to Coniston Water (big lake).  This holiday feels weird because every long walk, we leave Kia at home. Strange to go on a long walk without a dog, but she’s too old to cope with more than an hour of exercise. We passed several ramblers, some had wet Labradors (you can’t keep a Labrador out of a lake). We in turn we were passed (surprisingly) by several older men who were running round the lake. They had strong legs and intense faces. I assume running round the lakes must be a thing.

We strolled along the shore line, avoiding knotty roots of trees clinging to the hillside, looking at moss-covered rocks, large ferns, stepping over streams bubbling down the bank towards the lake. It was wonderfully green. It was improved considerably by people having loud sword fights with fallen logs and daring each other to climb onto the branches that overhung the water, and generally being noisy.

Not the fence you were possibly hoping for. . .

We abandoned Bea and Gee at a little jetty (she hurt her knee). Emm, Aitch and Jay were then distracted by a derelict house at the top of a hill (which I’m pretty sure was just a lump of granite but they scrambled up to investigate) so we abandoned them too. Volume of walk decreased.

We returned to the cottage via a campsite, which wasn’t quite as pretty as fields of sheep, but was faster. Arrived back in time to put gammon joint into oven. Investigated potatoes for baking, and realised Tesco had delivered huge potatoes, the size of a boot. The oven was too small for boot-sized potatoes, so put them into aga to see what would happen. Three hours later, they were perfect.

We walked into Torver with Kia to see what the pub was like (family keen to eat there in future, but I’m sure that was not a reflection on my cooking skills). The pub said it was open, and there was a sign on the door with instructions about how they were coping with the Covid risk. It all looked very well organised, and there was a large garden, and Portaloos to allow social distancing. But it was shut, which rather spoiled the plan.

Returned to cottage and played ‘the saucepan game.’ (Everyone writes sixteen names on small pieces of paper and puts them in a saucepan. A timer is set for 30 seconds, and people take turns pulling out a name, and describing it to their team without saying the actual name.) It was fun, and there was lots of laughing, and I’m pretty sure Jay and Emm are psychic. There was also lots of opportunity to discuss the rules, which is something my family can do at length.

Went to bed. Slept well.

Thank you for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

Off to The Lakes. . . Second Day


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

Fell Cottage, near Coniston.

Kia woke me to say she fancied going into the garden. Let her out, and woke Husband. Went for a quick run, down the road to Torver. We saw a Tesco delivery van, which I was sure must be the one due to arrive at our cottage, but he denied all knowledge. The run was mostly lovely, running down a hill, past fields of pretty cows, and streams, and trees, and low stone walls. The run back was not as easy, as it was mostly uphill. I am thinking of buying a defibrillator—must be able to buy a small portable one for hill running.

Sheep shearing.Took Kia for a walk. She’s too old now for a really long hike, so although we’d planned to walk in the afternoon, she would need to stay at the cottage. We took her along a disused railway, towards Lake Coniston. We passed sheep being sheared, and watched while a collie rounded them up and separated the herd. Kia was very attentive, and clearly wanted to join in/give advice. Kept her on the lead.

Walked to where we could see the lake, but not the entire way there as it was longer than we thought (and Kia is now quite old, with dodgy joints).

Lunch of left-over picnic from yesterday and new stuff that the Tesco man delivered. Husband tried to organise KitKat allocation. He failed.

At 2:30 (very precise time) we attempted to set off for our hike. Kia was left in the house, which caused some angst (but when I sneaked back to check, she was asleep, so she wasn’t worried for long). Bea appeared in a sparkly skirt and bare legs; decided her wellies would be uncomfortable and went to change. Emm appeared with no coat; decided it was colder than expected, and went to change. I felt I was in a time warp, and nothing much was different to twenty years ago, except now the clothing decisions were not mine and therefore it took longer before we were ready to leave. Said nothing.

We planned to walk up a hill (mountain) to Goat Water. I was told it would take about 2 hours (it didn’t).

Walked for several hours, mostly up. It was very beautiful (see previous description and add an abandoned quarry and piles of slate) but I was too tired and got cranky (I am now quite old, with dodgy joints). Bea complained about length/camber of walk, while Jay filled her hood with rocks (really, nothing changes). Husband eventually noticed I was staggering several miles behind everyone else, and decided to change the plan. We rested on a little stone bridge, and looked across the valley. Very beautiful.

Walked back (mostly down) and managed to somehow lose the path. This was in spite of the fact that Husband has downloaded a very detailed map from Ordinance Survey site, which showed is exactly where we were (so we did know we were on the wrong path). Found a way past the quarry without having to walk too near dangerous sheer drops. Saw a nearly naked man poised on a rack. Wondered if he needed help (of the psychological kind). He jumped. We hurried to see whether he was drowning, whilst not being entirely sure what we would do if he was. He was swimming. He was with a group of friends, and they were all taking turns to fling themselves into the water-filled old quarry. Each to his own. . .

Arrived at cottage 3 ¼ hours after we set off. Next time I will take water and snacks. Dog was asleep. Cottage wonderfully comfy. Had tea and played ‘Bananagrams.’

The power went off just as I was about to cook dinner, which added to the adventure. All the chip shops seemed to be shut on Sundays, and all the pubs were fully booked. Power came on. Cooked salmon in chilli sauce and heaps of mashed potato and slightly too mushy broccoli.

Spent the evening playing games and laughing.

Slept well.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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*****

Off to The Lakes


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

The family decided to risk a holiday in the Lake District. We consulted maps and agendas, and booked a dog-friendly cottage near Coniston.

Saturday: Drove to Cambridge to collect Emm and Aitch. They had prepared a champagne breakfast, which made an excellent start to the holiday. Finished with coffee, which I was cautious about drinking too much of—would the service stations be open if I needed the loo??

Set off for the Lake District. Aitch informed us they are near Sheffield, so easy to find. Turns out the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales are all very near to Sheffield, so if you’re lost, follow signs to there. Luckily, we had a SatNav.

Stopped at services. Lots of people were there, but I was the only person wearing a mask. Washrooms had every other cubicle, sink, and dryer, blocked off as an attempt to prevent the spread of covid. But there were no obvious signs of them being cleaned.

Outside, there were picnic tables, and people were eating take-away food and picnics. I had prepared a picnic, and thought it would be nice to sit at a table, as the dog could be with us. But again, the tables weren’t cleaned between one family finishing their lunch, and the next one taking their place. I worried the we might take a table right after a Covid family, considered the possibility, decided that eating in the car would be more relaxing. Ate picnic in car.

Arrived at Little Arrow, near Coniston, in Lake District. The house is lovely, and has plenty of room for seven adults and a big dog. I discussed the possibility of living in the kitchen with the big dog. She informed me that she intended to live in the kitchen and the hall area where she could keep an eye on where everyone was. We compromised: I decided living in both the kitchen and the hall area was a good idea. Placed her bedding in the areas she indicated.

Went for a short walk up a hill. Beautiful views, roaring waterfall, moss-covered rocks, ferns and foxgloves bordering the pathway. It was raining, but not heavily—just enough for the ferns to brush against our legs and the water to seep through our jeans, but not enough to be dripping off our noses.

Returned to cottage, and Bea and Gee (The Bee Gees?) had arrived. They seemed happy enough with the room we’d left for them (all the rooms are pretty, though some are bigger than others. None have an en suite bathroom, but there were two bathrooms upstairs, and a shower room downstairs. One bathroom is a fancy wet room with exciting shower, the other is an old-style bathroom with a big free-standing bath. I was so delighted when a photo appeared on Messenger of all my three children, fully dressed, sitting in the bath tub. It is a very long time since all three were last in a bath together!

I washed the bath tub.

Cooking dinner was quite an adventure in a posh kitchen with fairly small saucepans. One cooker was an aga (no idea how to use that) the other cooker was a conduction hob, and kept flashing messages at me. Jay helped (with both vegetable chopping and cooker translation) and we eventually prepared pasta and veg for everyone to eat. Finished the champagne, and the world felt less stressful.

Went to bed. Slept well.

More tomorrow. . .

Thanks for reading. Have a fun day.

Love, Anne x

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I recommend a visit. . . don’t wear heels


I was supposed to be in Jersey, exploring the island while Husband worked. But Kia had her emergency operation, and Coronavirus seemed to be rampaging, so we cancelled. Shame—I have never been to Jersey. Maybe later in the year.

Instead, we went to Rye. Probably not quite as exciting, but it’s one of those places I pass every time I go to Camber Sands, and yet I have never explored the ancient winding streets, or peered through the leaded-light windows of the sweetshop, and the day was sunny, so off we set.

As you enter Rye from the north, there are car parks, right on the edge of town. Leave your car there, otherwise you will have to navigate narrow streets and steep hills, bumping over cobbles, and very few streets are wide enough to park on any way. If they are full, there’s more parking near the train station. Really, you have to explore Rye on foot.

Rye is built on a rock, a huge lump of sandstone that rises up from otherwise completely flat land. In Medieval times, it was almost completely surrounded by sea, but now is two miles from the coast. It has a river, with a lock, at the bottom of the rock and some terraced cottages elbowing for room next to a road that is too fast and busy, especially in the summer. We found a bench next to the river (and a dead rat, actually, but we’ll skip over that detail) and ate our sandwiches listening to seagulls and staring at the narrow river flowing through thick banks of mud. When the tide is in, the river swells, and big boats use it to reach the sea; they were all stranded on the mud when we were there.

You leave the river, and walk up roads named things like Mermaid Street, pebbled cobblestones underfoot, ancient houses on either side. The houses have wonderful names too, like The House With Two Doors (a house, with two front doors, right next to each other) and The House With The Seat (you can guess that one). Some have plaques with the date. Although some of the cellars date as far back as 1156, the houses all seem to have been rebuilt in 1421. I am guessing this is due to the French, who burned the town to the ground on June 22nd, 1377. (We should probably have forgiven them by now, but I’m not so sure myself.)

In the 1700s, Rye was a thriving port, and the infamous Hawkhurst Gang ran a smuggling ring, using the cellars of local houses and pubs to escape the authorities. We drove through Hawkhurst on the way to Rye, and it’s now a pretty village of middle-class cottages, so maybe the smugglers all moved away or were hanged. If you visit the Mermaid Inn in Rye, you can walk the dark corridors, under the heavy beams, and imagine that they are still there, discussing evil deeds next to the fireplace.

Not everyone in Rye was bad, and there are two churches, right next to each other (which feels somewhat confrontational). The older, Anglican Church, is worth a peek inside. Hanging from the ceiling is a huge pendulum, ticking backwards and forwards. You can climb the clock tower to see the view, but I managed to avoid that. There was piped choir music, which created a nice atmosphere. The church is old, but with signs of modern activity: a collection for a food bank, and a prayer board for Zimbabwe, and a library of second-hand books. I expect it’s a nice church to belong to.

Outside is the old vicarage, and a memorial to the last town crier (though you can almost see him walking though the streets). There is also the curved brick wall of a water tower, with pump attached, for the townsfolk to collect water.

We popped to the Ypres Tower (where there’s a museum, but it’s shut until April). The tower was part of the Cinque Ports—Edward the Confessor built five ports and two forts. There are more benches at the tower, and it would probably be a better spot for a picnic than our dead-rat bench, as there are lovely views.

When you pass Rye (as we have many times) you notice the old stone gate, built in 1329 and home to many pigeons and doves—though I’m assuming that wasn’t the original purpose.

We spent a happy two hours wandering round, then returned to the car and drove home. We could have spent longer there, especially in the summer when more would be open, or after the Coronavirus scare when we may have felt more inclined to eat in a cafe. I recommend a visit, don’t wear heels.

Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

PS. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes, Kia continues to improve and is regaining her bounce.

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Available from Amazon.

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