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. (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

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,



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