The shepherd’s cottage

[This is a guest contribution to our blog by ten year old Alexander, who is staying here with us this week.]

On Valentine’s Day, we walked up to Blaeberry Fell above Keswick. We had an amazing view of Cat Bells and Derwent Water from our picnic lunch on a rocky outcrop (see photo opposite).

We were in search of a derelict shepherd’s cottage Ian had told us about. He had taken some pictures of it on the Rooftops of the World Gallery. We squelched across swampy moorland. Dad said “look for grey stone” so we did.

Soon enough we sighted a pile of grey mossy stones in a dip in the mountains. The picture below is of me and my sister in the ruins looking very pleased!

The cottage had been reduced over the years to rubble by the weather.

We reached the cottage and after a bit of exploring found roof tiles and a very old gutter. The gutter was encrusted with rust.

The roof slates were unusually thick and had holes for nails to go through. The moss covered stones defined the outlines of rooms.

Two rust coloured jambs were sticking up like a flagpole. Ian spotted a name carved onto one of them and a date – 12/1/49.

We could imagine what life was like when the shepherd and his family lived there with his sheep.

Hidden hedgehog

[This is a guest contribution to our blog by nine year old Rose, who is staying here with us this week.]

It was about 5:00 pm yesterday when this happened. Poppy (our brown cocker spaniel) was barking away outside the cottage. My dad went cautiously to see what was the matter. A prickly hedgehog was curled up hibernating, intimidated by the noise.

“It was a shady spot under a Holly tree, the peaty earth was bare”, reported Daddy “and Poppy was standing in an angry pose, muzzle pointing down, barking aggressively at a small spiky ball”. This was all because Poppy had dug up his home!

Daddy took Poppy away and checked that she wasn’t hurt. Then he and Ian placed a stack of logs over the area to protect it from more attention from Poppy.

The floodlit photo below shows what the area of the garden looked like a bit later that evening and was taken from the loft of The Larches.

Ullswater’s highlights

There’s been plenty of snow in these last few days’ cold snap, but last Wednesday we were up early and driving north to revel in some of that near certain lakeland winter sun, which I was blogging about just recently.

‘Near certain’ did you say? Well, clicking on our website’s link to the BBC Forecast for several days had shown us that the weather men and women at any rate were convinced of it – sun, sun and sun for morning, midday and afternoon. Too tempting to turn down a window like this! The sheep were enjoying it also, playing ‘King of the Castle’ on the hay store as we walked down the lane to Martindale’s Foe Green.

We wanted to fit in a recce for a May day walk I’m planning for members of the Ski Club of Manchester on the SE side of Ullswater. High Street dominates here and it must be one of the longest in the country. It lies to the east (and on the left) in the photo of Howe Grain opposite.

High Street gets its name from the Romans’ use of it and has plenty to attract visitors. But you don’t need to spend any money here to get some the best value walking and views in the Lake District National Park.

It runs north to south and has a series of high ridges which spread like podgy fingers down to the SE corner of Ullswater. The route we chose (see the four photos below), starting at Martindale Church, takes in three of the fingers and finally Hollin Fell with its glorious views up and down the lake.

The first photo shows the stone bridge over Boredale Beck below Howsteadbrow after a descent from the church. The second is looking back from below Sleet Fell across Boredale on the route we have taken. In the far distance is High Street.

The third and fourth are taken after we have dropped down and passed through the little settlement of Sandwick. The view on the left is from below Hallin Fell looking SW towards Sheffield Pike and the snow covered Helvellyn range; and then lastly comes the obelisk at the top of Hallin Fell, looking NNE up Ullswater, with High Street to the right. From here the route takes you straight down a wide green path to the Martindale church car park. Allow about 35 – 40 minutes to get here by car from The Larches.

Ford Madox Brown’s England

We’ve been last week to the magnificent Ford Madox Brown exhibition at the City Art Gallery in Manchester. It has now closed. The first comprehensive showing of his work for 40 years, the exhibition vividly shows both Brown’s contribution to Victorian painting and the range of his work.

Celebrated in Manchester for his murals in the Town Hall, which were painted in the 1880s in the last years of his life, Brown was a big influence on the Pre-Raphaelites and can now be properly seen as a significant British 19th century artist with a strong social commitment obvious in his work.

He is best known perhaps for his painting Work, (opposite) created between 1852-1863 and based on a street scene in Hampstead in London where the road is being dug up by navvies, who are surrounded by a cast of Victorian city dwellers – flower sellers, drunks, bonneted young women, horse riders, porters as well as social reformer, Thomas Carlyle.

An excellent guide to the exhibition was available free to visitors, but it failed to note a significant date. Work was bought by Manchester’s City Art Galleries in 1885, the very same year in which they acquired another major painting, Hard Times, by the social realist and Bavarian born artist, Sir Hubert von Herkomer (see detail below).

This shows an unemployed navvy with his tools, accompanied by his nursing wife and exhausted son as they rest during their tramp through the country lanes in search of work.

1885-1886 were two years of high unemployment in Manchester, with demonstrations and rioting, mirroring similar unrest in London’s Trafalgar Square. This was causing panic in high circles with Joseph Chamberlain, President of the Local Government Board exclaiming on 26 March 1886 at a dinner party with Albert Grey, Arthur Balfour, MP and Lord Rothschild: “the look-out is alarming … if this goes on for three more years we may find ourselves en pleine revolution.”

The Manchester City councillors were similarly exercised. They wished to show they were in touch, that their collections strategy involved the purchase of paintings, which reflected the problems affecting the working classes. This was an issue of concern to Brown as well, who personally supported a bureau for helping the unemployed in the city.

My favourite painting in the exhibition is Brown’s The Last of England, painted between 1852-55 and now in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery collection. It’s a moving and colourful picture of a husband and wife with their children. Windswept and staring ahead, they are seated on the deck of a ship. They have just set set sail for Australia, a foreign land, where they are looking to find work.

Painted about the time that the crofters were forced to leave their lands in the Scottish clearances, the picture reminded me of the deserted crofts at Calgary on the Isle of Mull, which are shown on our Rooftop Buildings of the World photo gallery. The crofters too had been forced to leave their homes and land to seek a new future in America.