A more challenging, and fairly solitary, walk during our stay in The Lakes was up to Red Screes. Walking out of Ambleside up the (very) steep road toward the Kirkstone Pass was an enjoyably energetic start. We did make an attempt at this walk a couple of years ago but had to abandon due to paw trouble!! It was quite handy that day that we bumped into a vet on our way back to the car who spotted that we were carrying one of our dogs and she was kind enough to gave a consultation in the street! Anyway this year we all managed with no mishaps, though I did get stung by an insect - out with the antihistamines again!
Our route took us along Scandale valley and the beck, then we climbed up (with a rest to take in the views - Morecambe Bay on one side and The Solway Firth on another!) and out onto the pass, and then on to Red Screes.
When out walking I often encounter unusual treescapes. On this walk I was struck by the eerie sight of these tree roots which looked as if they were about to start moving - spooky!
Looking forward to another encounter with the Slovakian poet Matúš Dobeš in Manchester 23rd August - notably making his first visit to England for this event! I'm not sure how his deTrump syndrome will be affecting him - perhaps he'll have been reading more of Campion's delightful verse to counter that affliction!
Having posted about buying books from charity shops I got to thinking about Byron’s Works Complete in One Volume dated 1846 which is by far the oldest book I have. My niece and nephew have always been fascinated by its age and when they were younger they would get me to tell them how I came to have it. It’s a tale which involves their mum too and I like to talk to them about her, and about what she and I got up to when we were younger.
Making reminiscences always make me think of Wodehouse’s Gally Threepwood!: it was early summer-ish (1992) and I had driven with my sister, in my very distinctive car, to North Wales to visit our mum for a few days at her caravan in Llanfairfechan. We had also holidayed there as young children with our mum and dad, and we both loved to sing the brilliant sounds in this exotic word! Llanfairfechan was a magical landscape and the caravan site is overlooked by a hill which seemed a mountain to us. Mum used to delight, and, as bedtime approached, scare us, with her recital of ‘The Fairies’! Anyway, back to 1992, it was the last of the days we were there that we decided to drive to Conwy. I think we’d gone there to collect something, I can’t remember what, for my mum. Always on the look out for books, I steered my sister into a charity shop in Conwy where I remember finding a rather old and faded looking collected works of Byron.
At that time I was a little in love with the idea of Byron and the Shelleys, and this book, with its illustrations, slight foxing on the pages, and worn brownish cover, seemed a window into another time. It was the oldest book I’d come across and the price was pencilled inside the cover as £5. It seemed such a bargain but £5 was all I had left and so we left the shop and started the drive back to Llanfairfechan. But it was niggling away at me that I should have bought the book. Five minutes into the drive, my sister, with her carpe diem attitude, told me to turn around and go back for it - so I did! When I took the book to the till the woman in the shop was surprised by, and wanted to question, the £5 price, but, as it was marked in the book, she gave in and sold it to me for that price. Phew!
As well as the illustration of Newstead Abbey above there is an image from a painting of Byron at age 19. I was intrigued that the book had included facsimilies of Byron's handwriting at various periods. Below, the top page is 'from The Giaour 1813, first draft' and 'from Lord Byron's diary 1821.' I love the description 'marriage signatures' of Lord and Lady Byron which also appear - having types of signatures is a curious idea . . .
Being in the Lake District we were quite lucky to escape any rain when we were out during the day. We did get rain some mornings and one stubbornly overcast day we opted to go for a walk under the tree cover of Whinlatter forest. Having walked and cycled in the forests in The Lakes, we’ve always found them to be child (and dog) friendly. Whinlatter, which has a Gruffalo spotter trail to follow, had several groups of school children on visits. There was also plenty of interest from visitors watching the Osprey live feed projected in the visitor centre.
We did a fairly easy circular walk through the forest. While walking we came across several clearings in which the ground was draped with moss. In one particular clearing the undulating moss covered ground looked like waves and cast a green light all around. These waves of green under the pine trees brought H. D.’s ‘Oread’ to mind! As we walked on (and up) the sun had started to shine, and we could see patchy mists of water evaporating from the paths. We stopped for a picnic at one of the viewing points. Distracted by the view, and our lunch, we didn’t notice until later that we’d all developed red spots in response to being bitten by one of the many insects flying and crawling around. My family laugh that I still pack a first aid kit including antihistamine cream and tablets!
Spotty but not itchy! we drove down to Keswick to visit the book shops. In one second-hand bookshop (wonderful smell of old books!) my son and I overheard a conversation about a first edition stitched copy of ‘Little Gidding’ that the bookseller had sourced and had priced at £50. I’d just bought a much less glamorous copy of Eliot’s Collected Poems for £1.95! I love visiting the bookshops in Keswick to scan the shelves for reading treasures that I can tick off my wish list and to make random book purchases.
Our oldest dog can suffer with cracked paws when we do lots of walking. We’ve tried to get her to wear boots but she promptly flicks them off! We let her walk off the lead as much as we could this time, and looked for grassy paths, and we noticed her paws stayed in good shape. However, in Keswick’s Podgy Paws pet shop we did spot disposable rubber dog shoes that I haven’t seen before. We would have tried them if her paws had become sore but I'm not sure how she would have taken to wearing bright red rubber shoes!
Before we left Keswick we sourced a couple of divine slices of vegan chocolate cake and gluten free carrot cake which we’ll definitely return for when we make a day trip (weather permitting) for my birthday in August!
We’ve just come back from a one week escape to The Lakes, staying just outside Ambleside town centre with dogs (they know what suitcases mean!), taking advantage of the light nights and being there before the rush of the school summer holidays.
I’ve always lived in a town but my heart sings (I can’t say why) every time I go back to The Lakes. I bought my collected Shakespeare in tiny print there at 15 in preparation for taking my A levels. I have lived opposite a small park, with my favourite two ash trees opposite my house, for nearly 20 years (yikes!) but The Lakes is a space which seems to let the mind breathe fully and where you can drink in the flood and variety of green, and blue, shapes.
Of course it is a holiday from the everyday routine and for us involves plenty of walking. All in all we had a fine time but back home my son has picked up a stomach bug! So we’ve been experiencing a flashback to childhood illnesses, dry toast and jelly, and being up all night with him! There’s a slice of the fresh Grasmere gingerbread we bought on our way home, waiting for him, when he feels better!
Our first stop off was of course in Grasmere to get our first quota of gingerbread. The sun was shining so we went for a walk around the lake. It was mid-afternoon and warm enough to venture for a paddle into the lake - the first of many!
Enjoyed the evening at Gramophone Ray Gun last Thursday. Once we got there that is - a hole in the road at Edge lane made us have to reroute, thankfully NOT trusting to my sat nav, Mary! The Everyman bistro is a great space to read, and listen, in. Bill and Jazz were great and Bill has posted some fab photos on his Facebook page. I read some new tree / human poems including 'Melia' and ended with a couple of charm poems. I invited the audience to read a charm with me to finish. They did a great job! I was aware of a lag in their reading to mine - interesting effect. Phil Jeck's set was just spellbinding and I didn't want that to end! He also made an intriguing comment about poets having just their voice as instruments, but that they can do a lot with that, which fits with part of my postgraduate research . . .