Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The dog's holiday part 2

Dear Monty,

I hope you enjoyed my previous wittering,

I have never been to Chelsea but watching the coverage on BBC 2 it seemed you warmed to presenting it by day two.

I have been looking at gardens whilst on holiday in the Lake District - and I must admit that I am seeing gardens in a different light, much like Dan Pearson and his best in show garden, I am increasingly aware of how much nature creates gardens in response to our management of the landscape. I happened to buy an 'old' book in a bookshop in Ambleside called 'Seeing Gardens' by the photographer Sam Abell published 15 years ago. His photography and philosophy combine to express the idea that gardens can be found everywhere if we have the eyes to see them. It was worth finding this book - it was one of those moments in life that seem pre-ordained.

Day 6

A walk from Ambleside to Todd Crag.
Ambleside is very popular and is mainly furnished with tea rooms and outdoor wear/climbing outfitters of varying brands, although I did find the bookshop already mentioned.

The walk took us through St Mary's churchyard and the path increased sharply in gradient up to the crags. The mountains with their u-shaped valleys just surround you like a grand amphitheatre.
The land to the south of Windermere in contrast is rather flat. We sat awhile on Todd Crag just taking in the view- allowing it to settle in the mind and enjoying its bulk and movement. I did a line drawing and took photographs which incidentally never convey the real vista - the openness the wind and the sheer elemental power of the place. Wetherlam, Swirl How, Gray Friar all before us and part of the Conniston Old Man range.

St Mary's Ambleside

Gradual climb

Ambleside nestling

Windermere looking south

Old Man

Crinkle Crags

looking north

This old man recumbent dreamt of lilies in the tarn and love among the crags. Pike o'Blisco, Bowfell and Langdale Pikes shimmered off into the distance constantly changed by the shifting light.

lilies in the tarn

shimmering ?

A scribble

Nature gardening the downward path 

The remedy for lost love - no one knows.

I am a twit.

Day 7

Five swans in formation
Combing the air with their wings
A song of lament.

We climbed 900 feet above Grasmere - stopping for breath and views and exchanging breathless greetings with half a dozen other walkers looking fit and smug as they clambered down.
The morning started bright and warm but by mid-day the wind came in sharply from the Irish Sea and carried with it cloud heavy with rain, and on the tops it began to drizzle. The views were once again dramatic in this moody changing light. Just below a tarn we happened upon an old ruined bothy, without its roof but protected from the cold wind by its walls being built into the crag side. We sat upon its old stone floor and just watched the mountain scene change - reds, oranges, purples, deep dark blues with flashes of emerald green in the valley below. It was as if the mountains were morphing - receding and then moving toward us - like a ballet of dancing light and colour. We sat in our upper circle seats cupping a hot tea from our flask in our cold hands.

Taking a rest (knackered)

The lion and the lamb

A reminder that the hills outlive us and the sheep


Tarn above Windermere

The bothy

View of distant Conniston

An interpretation of the view from the bothy, done as sketch and painted later

The descent took us closer to the sound of geese and commercialism.

Day 8

Coldest May for many years - but not defeated we had a coal fire and Toff lay exhausted from his endeavours. I watched the ubiquitous Grayson Perry on channel 4 where he introduced a group of Essex Julies to his latest artwork/shrine/holiday home called Julie's House. Grayson was a contemporary of mine when studying Fine Art in Portsmouth - the only one of us that I know of who made it into the 'art establishment' by being anti - art establishment - good on him I say. He is a deep thinker and his art is true in its struggle and exploration of who we are and what art is.

Toff exhausted

Is this art ? It's not challenging or thought provoking is it ?

This little cottage has become Paul and Sue's house even though it is only ours for these 2 weeks.
Today we drove over mountain passes - the dog hated it.
We stopped for a short walk to Hardknot Fort, a Roman fortification at the head of this stark valley, spectacular, it sweeps down to the coast at Ravenglass. The cold rain came in so we retreated home.

2000 year old walls

Art and a garden

Hardy herdy's

Day 9

A short walk through Grizedale to Satterthwaite.

Art in Grizedale


There are a few more days to follow if you can stand it, I,will write again shortly about my opinion on the gardens of Dalemain and Holker Hall.


p.s. I've just realised this blog is turning into the equivalent of the boring slide show.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The dog's holiday again

Dear Monty,

I'm sure you have been missing my drivel, so I thought I would write about this wonderful land of Cumbria.

We arrived at the cottage we are renting near Satterthwaite just as the sun broke through and lit up the valley pastures as far as the Grizedale forest.

In the sitting room, a vase of spring flowers from the garden to greet us just like a Winifred Nicholson painting. www.winifrednicholson.com (Look up her work - it is beautiful)

The journey was tiring - made more so by drivers hugging the centre lane of the motorway. Here there is peace, the stillness punctuated only by cows bellowing and lambs calling to their mothers.

I walked the dog across the fields and drank it in.

2nd day.

Drizzle mizzle
Damp fields
Forced force
'Water water everywhere'
Bog dog fog

Toff and sheep do not make a happy combination, with a lot of yelping and wheezing we managed to cross the fields from Crosslands Farm having completed a circular walk through bluebell woods waterfalls and bog to the sound of a cuckoo in the background.
In the afternoon we took him to the sands at Ulverston - he ran and ran like a child set free.

The night is beautiful here, sounds are magnified in this quiet valley. I heard the curlew which we had seen earlier in the day probing the damp fields. Haunting cry, sorrowful - it is my sorrow I feel - a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled. A starry night with singing reeds and geese overhead.

3rd day.

Ulverston again - Toff runs sideways in the stiff salty wind - the sort of wind that makes your skin go taught like a kipper.

It is a delight to turn back into this valley from the sea. The road gets narrower and twists as the hillsides draw in with small hamlets like this one at Crosslands - it just makes me smile to cwtch into its nook in the landscape.

We drove slowly to Grizedale in the afternoon. I had wanted to see the sculptures in the park, so we took a walk along the marked trail. I took a few photographs, most of the sculptures are now rotting back into the ground they came from, which makes them even more evocative. I tried to explain them to the dog - 'these are works of art Toff, works from the genius of the human imagination and its response to this landscape' he just sniffed and cocked his leg.

We are strange animals - I also feel this need to express what is going on in this body and head of mine, I am part of this elementalism but also somehow aloof and disconnected from it, perhaps that is why we need to smell the soil, feel the sweat and heart beat during strenuous work, it somehow makes the connection stronger, but then our body slowly dissolves back into the elements it came from. Accursed knowledge.

Me dissolving into lard

4th day.

We grizzled through Grizedale and over to Hawkshead where we clomped 3 miles up to Latterbarrow to get the views over Windermere - it was worth it everything opens up before you - Bowfell, Crinkle Crags beautifully moody on this overcast and blustery day. Holding on to hats and the dog we waited for breaks in a wind so strong it was trying to lift me off my feet. We stood in the shelter of the solidly built cairn in a narrow strip of still air - elemental enjoyment. There was the northern shore of Windemere and the stark contrast seen everywhere in these high places between wild bare crags in ochres and reds and the soft green pastures below.

5th day.


Victorian seaside resort - posh - well kept and full of elderly people. Refined, dignified and manicured. The promenade is so well maintained no rubbish no dogs mess at the threat of death via notices discreet though pointed. It obviously works - being from an area of South Wales where my fellow humans and dogs litter and foul unabated, it is a delight to experience such a huge area of land that is so well cared for by those who live in it.

Levens Hall www.levenshall.co.uk

I supposed he was the gardener - but he was not

Levens stands alongside the very busy A6. The traffic noise dispelled any romanticism or nostalgia instantly. The place is gardened to within an inch of its life - it is more of a 'visitor experience' than a real garden. Perhaps that is a bit harsh - but it is very very slick.

The topiary which everyone comes to see because it is the oldest known example of its kind here - is a huge statement or brand. It is no longer in proportion with its space, it has outgrown its boundaries - it is just too dominant but I suppose it has to be kept because of its historical value.

In newly planted areas where the topiary is in scale - you are able to have a better idea of how the garden would have looked - it felt more balanced. The orchard up to the croquet lawn was lovely and soft, I liked the wild feel and the way the red tulips in long grass rectangles under and between the trees worked so well when back-lit by the sun in early afternoon.

I did take away ideas, and I suppose my disappointment came from what I had seen of Levens in photographs and on the TV - I had imagined a secluded ancient hall set in its own countryside. Neither photographs or film show the road or its noise.


We had the usual tourist stop for tea and an ice-cream, but then we continued to contribute to road noise and took a small road back to Crossways along the lakeside. It was stunningly calm - a mirror in places - the sort of calm needed for bluebird to achieve the water speed record.
The landscape of mountains and water, the spring trees in early leaf was caught in late afternoon light. We walked a while in silence - no other people or cars - just the silence of the lake.

I sit here reflecting on the days just passed - sitting on the small terrace in front of the cottage facing the evening sun and watching the house martins swoop up to their nests.

More to come soon Monty,