Monday, May 11, 2009

Cumbria, Lakes and Friends (not in that order)

Friday afternoon, we fetched up, with some final guidance, on Jane and Jim’s doorstep in Cumbria

After a bit of rest, a nice chat and a quick load of laundry, we set off on a late afternoon tour of the area, taking advantage of the fact that already it remains light well past 8:00 in the evening. Years ago, in our youth, Sharon and I actually did see the Lake District, but not as Jim has shown it to us.

Our route on Friday took us from Skelton to Keswick and the stunning Derwent Water, to Castlerigg and its stone circle, to Cockermouth, down to Buttermere and then over the mountains to Allonby, Jim’s birthplace, along the Irish Channel to Solway Firth and back through Wigton. Along the way we enjoyed some fantastic scenery, fine company and conversation, and another good meal at the Oddfellows Pub. My bacon chops (think of smoked pork chops) with a Stilton sauce were superb. We ended up back at Skelton for a late cup of tea, more conversation and a lovely night’s sleep.

Saturday took us back out, this time among the Lakes. We had thought to go to Hadrian’s Wall, but the weather was a bit wild for it. We started at the Wool Inn, where Sharon bought herself a locally crafted sweater, some socks and I got myself a tie, as well as some nice photos. From there we went to Brampton then back to Cockermouth, the Wordsworth House and then for a stroll through the town. From there, we traced more backroads, ending up in Keswick, too late for the market, but not for a bit of a stroll and from there to another of the lakes, Ullswater, where we strolled, Jim and I cameras in hand.

Sunday dawned fair with the weather steadily improving, so we set out to do what we had sought for Saturday, Hadrian’s Wall, followed by a visit to Vindolanda, a Roman fort where the Vindolanda writing tablets were unearthed beginning in 1973. The whole story on this extraordinary effort can be found here,
Before visiting the Marshalls, I must admit that I had never heard of Vinodolanda, but I strongly suggest that anyone visiting the wall visit this site as well.

By mid-day, however, we were “Romaned-out” as Sharon put it and set out to fulfill the next of Jim’s goals for the day, to drive some roads he had not yet driven. As it turns out Jim and Jane love to tour as we do, creatively getting lost on backroads, the smaller the better. We had a lovely afternoon with a stop in Alston, a center for those who trek the Pennines, another fine dinner (a venison stir-fry for me) at the Boot and Shoe in Greystoke, and a final stop at Hartside, a nearly 2000 foot vista point which overlooks the entire area with a range from the Solway Firth up to Scotland.

From there, we headed home to indulge in some serious pen play which resulted in a wonderful red mottled hard rubber Onoto crawling into my hands, followed by a rmhr Relief. Jim’s workshop and gallery defies description. Suffice it to say that it is a wonderful omnium gatherum of pens, parts, tools, ephemera, realia and much, much more. Standing beside Jim at his bench, just casually, I learned more in a couple of hours than I would in an ordinary week working on my own.

As a result of the wonderful hospitality of the Marshalls, we ended up staying in their 18th century home a day longer than anticipated and enjoyed every moment.

This visit highlights for us an unanticipated joy of this trip, visiting friends and the time spent with them.

Jane and Jim's house.

The stones at Castlerigg
Jane and Sharon
Sharon pondering the memorial to John Ruskin near the Derwent Water

The lake
Wordsworth's home in Cockermouth.
These were shot at Ullswater, I think. The lakes and their beauty seem to flow together, so to speak

Jim at Ullswater.

Sharon and Jane in front of the wall

Jim atop the wall

Me scouting for Celts as Jim sits unconcerned

This was at Vindolanda, a private site where Roman writing tablets, and much more, has been unearthed. It's not just the site and the digs, but also a museum that displays an incredible array of Roman objects, both familiar and unique.

Alston, for a cup of tea, some pottery and a walk about

From here, we are off through Scotland along a route that Jim has traced for us.

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