Hello all! I hope you’ve been having a fabulous week.
This past weekend we got to go visit our friend Paul, who lives by the sea up in Cumbria. When I last went up there in 2015, he and his girlfriend, Tessa, lived in a big old house in rural Scales. Now their home is further south, in Barrow in Furness. Tessa is currently in Leeds as she’s in uni there and was working all weekend, so we didn’t get to see her at all. But seeing Paul again was a lot of fun!
Our friends Josh and Cat picked us up on Friday evening and we made the four hour trip northwest. We arrived in Barrow at around 11pm, and Paul greeted us and immediately got our things settled. We made a Tesco run for snacks and drinks, then got back to the house and settled down for a relaxing night. Josh and Cat went to bed fairly early, but Jon, Paul and I were up until gods-knew-when.
Most of the gulls here seem to be twice the size of the ones I was used to seeing in North America, and they’re twice as noisy. At around 6am, one such gull sat on the chimney and shrieked down the shaft, which magnified the sound and woke me up very suddenly. Since springtime I’ve been woken up every morning by pleasant, silvery birdsong, and I hadn’t been woken up by gulls since the last time I was at the ocean–which was in 2004!
At around noon or so, Paul made us a fantastic fry-up. Thusly fortified, we hopped into the van he’d rented for the weekend and set out to explore a bit of the Lake District!
Britain is absolutely stuffed full of fantastic land-and-seascapes. I truly doubt I could ever get tired of viewing her natural glory, even if I saw every inch of it a hundred times. I especially love the combination of mountains, lakes, and sea found in Cumbria, so I was more than happy to be there again. Parts of the Lake District are almost identical to the Blue Ridge region of Virginia, the beauty of which I remember so keenly from my twelve years spent living there.
We drove through Coniston and up to Hodge Close, a green slate quarry up in the fells. We walked around for a while, listening to the unique clinking of slate on slate and the wind in the trees. The quietness was full of reverence.
Paul pointed to one side, where we could see a hole blasted in the side of the hill. We didn’t get any closer to it, but one day I’d like to do that!
We then slipped under a fence and came to stand on the edge of the quarry itself.
It was much larger than the photo makes it look. A modest waterfall slipped down the side, and the black-coffee-coloured water rippled in a light breeze. Paul said there were paths down to the bottom and access to the caves, but we didn’t end up walking down there because the weather was starting to turn! So, after sitting there for a while, we hopped back in the van and headed up into the mountains.
The drive was beautiful, even though the weather began to decline quite quickly. Old stone fences, sheep, cows, stone houses with beautiful gardens all greeted us on the ever-narrowing, winding roads, but everything seemed to turn more wild the further we went. The road became so narrow that it was barely big enough to fit one car through, which meant that there were lengthy nightmares of backing up and finding open space to let cars through that were coming the other way! Everyone seemed in a good humour about it though, which was pleasant.
We finally got to the top of a fell and parked up. There was another car there, but nobody in it. They must have been hiking through the mountains — I hope they had proper gear and were staying at least mostly dry!
The wind was blustery and angry and very cold, and it whipped equally cold rain at us as we looked around. I imagine the view has to be breathtaking on a clear day, but I still thought it was cool to be standing in the clouds and be at the mercy of the wind and rain!
Since visibility was so low and it was so nasty out, we ran back to the van and continued the drive through the fells. While I felt rejuvenated from being out in that crazy weather, I was longing for a cup of tea and some hot food!
The drive back down wasn’t as nerve-wracking. Low clouds and thick mist still clung hard to the mountaintops, and the verdant rocky dales were dotted with sheep–some with grey coats and others with brown. There were rocky streams and rivers, and sometimes the way ahead and behind were so unobstructed that you could see the road for ever. Great evergreens with fat, dark boughs, and beautiful old houses, and ancient stone fences raced past the windows and I so enjoyed the view despite the terrible weather.
As we headed south back into the peninsula, the weather wasn’t much better, but at least it wasn’t raining there yet! We stopped by Roanhead Beach, where Paul had taken Jon and I two years ago this month.
The tide was in, the wind was high and cold, and the beach was draped in multiple layers of lacy seaweed and dotted with shells and smooth rocks. Mysteriously, there were dozens of little dead, white crabs that had washed up and had been mostly picked over by the gulls.
I discovered a piece of a larger crab, who had also been picked over by something.
We eventually left and drove into town. We parked near the bridge and walked out onto it where it overlooks part of BAE Systems, where they were working on building a submarine. There it is, just peeking out of the water.
Two security officers were slowly floating across the dock in a dinghy, and we could see them staring at us as they inched closer to the bridge. So we decided it was time to leave and go get some dinner in us!
Since Jonno had never been to Pizza Hut before, that’s where we wound up. Yay all-you-can-eat salad, although any benefits of that were immediately canceled out by my super-greasy pizza! After we had our fill, we headed back to Paul’s for a night of drinks, snacks, gaming, and playing with the his two ratties. Basil, the dominant male, was very energetic and curious and was all over the place. For the most part, Jon and I looked after Snowy, who was far quieter and more relaxed. In fact, he was so relaxed that he would curl up in one of our hoodies and start bruxing and boggling, which looked alarming but only meant that he was quite happy!
The night ended very, very late. To be honest, I don’t remember some of it! When morning came, I was feeling very ill from drinking too much wine, but I managed a shower, some rest, and some stomach-settling Coke (thanks Josh!) before the portable barbecue supplies and food were packed and we headed down to Roanhead Beach again.
This day was much different than the day before. The sun was shining, the air was warm and breezy, and the sky was gorgeous (why couldn’t it have been like this when we were in the mountains?). The tide was out in Duddon Channel, leaving hundreds of watery pockets that reflected the clouds. After we chose our barbecue spot and everyone sat down to get the grill ready, I wandered out along the damp shore, deeply breathing the briny summer air.
I walked out onto the wet sand, minding the puddles and searching for wee shells. That gap on the horizon is where Duddon Channel opens out into the Irish Sea.
Here’s a slightly closer view of the distant fells kicking up into the clouds.
We enjoyed the sun and most of our food before dark clouds came rolling in and began spitting on us as the tide slowly rose. We quickly packed everything up, grabbed the still-cooking bbq by the top handle, and made haste back to the van. There we all sat in shelter from the rain, with the bbq on the pavement just outside, and Josh would lean out and check the meat every now and then. By the time the food was finished, the sky was darkening ever more and the rain couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to do. We headed back to Paul’s place, where we packed our things, and then the four of us made the four-hour journey back south to hilly green Leicestershire.
I would love to make the journey north more often. Paul and Tessa are great friends, and getting to see more of Cumbria’s stunning beauty is always welcome!