The Crinan Hotel

The Crinan Hotel is two hours north of Glasgow. There’s not much phone signal, so Google maps gets confused and places the hotel round the corner, whist it actually has prime position overlooking Loch Crinan off the sound of Jura (look at a map of Scotland, and it’s on the left, about half-way up).

We arrived early afternoon, and followed the winding lane past whitewashed cottages down to the canal, then up to the bend in the road—which is basically the whole of Crinan in a single sentence. There were signs on the hotel door requesting that guests wore facemasks in the hotel, and lots of other signs and photographs and paintings, all muddled together in a visual feast of nostalgia. You knew instantly that this hotel was personal to someone, and they loved it.

We checked in, and dragged our cases into the tiny lift (which closely resembled an upturned freezer). Our room was on the second floor, and the metal key was attached to a large, too-big-for-a-handbag wooden fish. The room was lovely, with a large window overlooking the loch. There was wooden furniture, and uneven floors, and a single vase with fresh flowers. In the wardrobe was a tray set with tea things and a tiny kettle, with a note telling us to ask reception for fresh milk. Everything looked clean, cosy, and slightly dated. I loved it. Very Miss Marple. All we needed was a body in the lobby and we would be in the quintessential English novel.

There was no safe in the room, but it all felt very secure so we left our stuff and wandered along the tow path. Husband loves canals, and enthused happily about how many locks would be needed for the boats to climb the hill behind the hotel, and why they had built the entrance to the 9-mile canal in Crinan, and not further round the coast (later investigations showed the water was a giant sandbank, so the canal needed to provide deep water from Crinan onwards). It was easily ignored as cheery background noise while I absorbed the water birds, and reflections on the loch, and the absolute peace of the area.

We ate dinner in Tayvallich (quite an adventure, but for another blog). Spent the evening trying to find Duntrune Castle, which the room information said was opposite the hotel, but all I could see through the binoculars was a big house. Went to bed. Slept well.

The following morning started at 6.30 when the people in the next room began to stomp across the creaky floorboards and turned on the noisy fan in their bathroom. The night had been silent though, so no complaints. We got up and ran along the towpath. Good shower (always excellent when an older hotel installs a decent bathroom) and then we went down for breakfast.

The dining room has bay windows overlooking the loch, and it was simply beautiful. Everything was very hushed, with thick carpets and heavy curtains, damask napkins and silver coffee pots. The waitress brought us juice and good strong coffee and took our order. I opted for porridge and fruit, Husband went the less healthy route—though neither of us were tempted by the kippers. There were a few other guests, but it all felt very proper, with tiny china bowls of butter and marmalade. It wasn’t a room for loud noises.

The hotel room had details of Duntrune Castle, which was fought over by various clans in the past. At one point, a piper from clan A remained after clan B had taken over, and when the way was clear, he played his pipes to alert clan A that they should attack. Clan B were somewhat miffed, so cut off his hands. He died (not unexpected). The ghost of the handless piper is said to haunt the grounds, or so the legend goes. Potentially not true. However, when recent owners were renovating the castle, the builders dug up a skeleton which had both hands cut off.

Now, I love a good story, so we had to visit. It’s privately owned, so we weren’t sure how near we could get, but we set off anyway. It was an adventure. Drove across moors, the only car on narrow roads. Wound our way to the castle, and the end of a private road. There are no footpaths in Scotland—instead they have a ‘right to roam’ law which we interpreted as anyone can walk wherever they want to. We parked on a verge, and walked down the road. No one stopped us. We walked right up to the gates of the castle. These gates were the inspiration for the Skyfall house in the James Bond film. The castle is still occupied, and we decided the ‘right to roam’ probably didn’t include walking actually into someone’s house. Was pretty cool though.

Beyond the castle is a garden, with an honesty box for donations to ActionAid and RNLI. We went inside, and they are very beautiful, a mix of wild and clever planting and pretty statues. Worth a visit (good Instagram-photo ops if you like that sort of thing!)

The hotel doesn’t have sandwiches, and even Hungry Husband felt that three cooked meals a day might be pushing it. There’s a little coffee shop (possibly linked to the hotel but in its own whitewashed old building). We wandered down and ordered filled rolls. My BLT was freshly cooked, with good fresh lettuce and tomato—but no mayo or butter. Perhaps you have to specify separately that you want those in Scotland. Or perhaps the coffee shop is linked to the hotel and they saw how much we ate for breakfast!

Thanks for reading. I will post further blogs (in a random order, because that is how I wrote them) so you can share our road trip through Scotland. Hope you enjoy them.

Take care, Love, Anne x

Sheffield Cutlery

A Quick Visit to Sheffield

Our ‘cottage in the ‘Peak District’ was a house fairly near to Sheffield. As I have never visited the city, we decided to pop in for a quick look. The only thing I know about Sheffield is The Full Monty was set there, and all the cutlery in the world is made there. The last fact might be an exaggeration, though I did hope to buy some cutlery as a memento of my visit.

Lots of reminders of the steel industry in Sheffield.

We found a car park, and set off through the city centre. I was pretty desperate for the loo, and public toilets were hard to find. There was a large John Lewis department store, which looked a good bet, but it didn’t seem to have an entrance. We walked all around it, and eventually decided it was shut. This seemed to be a feature of Sheffield—a lot of large buildings were shut, and many were being demolished.

The city centre was not unpleasant, and there were a few holiday-related events happening—the main one being painted bears for children to find. I spotted a few family groups going round, hunting for bears as they followed a map. Nice idea.

I wanted to see the cathedral, and Son-who-knows-Sheffield confidently set off to show us. We arrived, and it was much smaller than expected. The inside was nice, not too ornate, and there were a few people praying, which is much nicer than the usual cathedral where there are more likely to be people taking photos. I wanted a photo, but it felt disrespectful to take one in the building, so I went and took one through the open doorway.

We wandered through the city, and saw a signpost to the cathedral, pointing away from where we had come. Followed it. Came to ‘another’ cathedral…or maybe Son-who-knows actually is Son-who-doesn’t-know! This cathedral was much bigger, with a slightly dodgy extension, lots of ornate stuff inside, and tourists taking photos. I didn’t spot anyone praying. I think I prefer the non-cathedral.

Slightly dodgy extension on cathedral. One of the bears is lurking outside, waiting to be found by the many bear-hunters in the city.

There was a notice board with a few Sheffield-related facts. Apparently Chaucer mentioned the city, so it’s been around for a while. I also read a little about the steel industry, and we decided to visit the museum, even though I don’t like museums.

We had a quick lunch, and I asked the waitress if she knew where was a good place to buy cutlery, as Sheffield is famous for cutlery. She looked at me blankly, and went to hide behind the counter. Maybe young people don’t realise that all our cutlery comes from Sheffield.

All the cutlery in the world is made in Sheffield. Probably.

Walked to the Winter Garden, but this just turned out to be a lot of plants in the lobby of a hotel (or maybe this was the equivalent of the non-cathedral and map-reading family were mistaken).

We found Kelham Island Museum, which disappointingly is no longer an island, though was well-signposted. It used to be a steel works, and shows the story of the steel industry through the ages. For a museum, it wasn’t too bad (it was fairly small, which helped). I learnt that the women used to tie brown paper over their clothes to protect them from oil, and that the term ‘cutlery’ applies only to knives (spoons and forks are ‘flatware’). They had a small giftshop, and I managed to buy an ‘antique’ sugar spoon (a small spoon with holes in, which I seem to recall one of my grandparents had, whereby you dribble sugar from the sugar bowl to your dish but it is then very useful for sprinkling on strawberries). Although I now know that I did not buy cutlery in Sheffield, at least I managed to buy some flatware.

Some pretty big machines were used in the steel industry.

Have a look at your cutlery next time you use it—I bet it was made in Sheffield.

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

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Millthorpe is not The Peak District (though it tries).

Family Holiday 2021 continued.

We packed up the house in the Lake District and left. Everyone felt slightly dirty due to water shortage/lack of showering ability. Our next holiday home was in the Peak District, and we hoped they had more water. The drive was busy, as Saturdays in July are full of people leaving and arriving on holiday, but we didn’t meet any major hold-ups. Our journey took us through the outskirts of Sheffield, and we began to wonder how near the city our Airbnb would be. The details had described it as being in the grounds of Carpenter House, in an area of beautiful countryside, but we were beginning to worry.

At the last minute, the roads turned away from the city, we drove through a few fields, and arrived at the little hamlet of Millthorpe. It was not exactly the Peak District, but was far enough from the city to not feel crowded. There were several fields of horses, and lots of the houses had stables attached—clearly an area for the horsey people of Sheffield to live.

Went for a walk across the fields. More horses. I am very comfortable with all cows and sheep; horses make me nervous but we weren’t eaten or stampeded. Walked to the local Royal Oak for dinner. The pub was ancient, with low beams and a huge fireplace. The menu was limited unless you are a cheese-lover (everything had cheese, and fried cheeses made a very nice, if rather unhealthy, starter).

Sunday 25th July

The family voted to go paddle-boarding. They discovered you could hire boards and wet suits at Tittesworth Reservoir (with a name like that, I really hope they did a Google search for ‘paddle boarding’ and not something else!)

The drive took us through the Peak District, which is beautiful and very near to Millthorpe. The weather was less sunny than last week, but still warm. We arrived at the car park, and saw several families hiring wet suits, squeezing into the little changing cubicles, struggling to carry the unwieldy boards. I decided that paddle boarding was not something I wanted to do (I felt that complete lack of co-ordination, no ability to balance and not being a good swimmer would make it less fun). Went for a walk with Bea while the others pootled about on the water for an hour.

Paddle Boarding

Everyone seemed to have fun, and we discussed it (at length) in the pub afterwards. I had real trouble remembering that the term is ‘paddle-boarding’ and not ‘water-boarding’ so I kept asking them about their experience of torture.

Monday 26th July

We went for a walk to Lud’s Church. This is a cavern, tucked into the Peak District, and makes for a pretty walk. There are many stories and legends swirling around the cavern, and Emm assured me it was the spookiest place in the world.

We walked along a pretty footpath through the woods, the sun was shining, birds singing, ferns carpeted the floor. Hard to see why it was spooky. We arrived at the cavern, and the temperature dropped as we walked between the giant-sided rocks, taking care not to slip on the moss. It was easier to understand (slightly) why someone might think the cavern was haunted. It then transpired that he had visited at dusk, on Halloween, when all the trees were bare and everywhere was gloomy and cold—that would definitely be spooky.

Lud’s Church

We left the cavern and walked up to the Roaches, which are big rocks protruding from the hills. Great views of the valley.

The Roaches

Tuesday 27th July

Walked up Mam Tor, near Castleton. This is about as high as my knees can manage, but actually was very easy as there are paths all the way and no scary precipice to make me dizzy. It was a long walk, and I was pleased to reach the top. Asked Husband to take photo for blog. Family photo-bombed. I informed them the photo was for a blog, and I would  use it whatever they looked like. Posed for another photo. No better. Decided to use it anyway.

Unhelpful Family

In the afternoon, we visited Chatsworth House. But that will have to wait for another blog.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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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

Did you know you can read The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary for free if you have a kindle?
The paperback book makes a great gift for someone you love.
Follow the link and have a look:
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Now is an excellent time to read my travel book. Happy adventures from around the world.
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Anne E. Thompson-Lake District-The Old Man of Coniston-Little Arrow

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Quarantime to Read. . . Counting Stars: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight


Maps and Plans

A new cover for the 2020 edition. Available from Amazon.


Counting Stars by Anne E. Thompson is available from an Amazon near you. UK Link Here!

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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

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

The Sarcastic Mother's Holiday Diary

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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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