Kids-friendly @The Larches

In response to some comments from guests staying at The Larches, we’ve made a few changes, which make the cottage more attractive to families with children.

We know from experience that kids aged eight years upwards love to run around the garden, exploring the terraces, chasing up steps, checking out the Belvedere and more. To add to this we have now created a small climbing wall out of the natural bedrock of the garden. In this way youngsters can practice some easy manoeuvres on a rock face.

The wall is above the large stoop stone and leads directly up to the wrought iron garden seat at the top of the garden. Parents should make their own judgments about the suitability of the climbing wall for their children and we suggest that the children are initially accompanied by an adult. The picture above shows a nine year old leading the way to the top with her younger brother at the bottom.

Turning to the inside of the cottage, there are two flights of stairs, separated by a small landing. This provides access firstly to the back door of the cottage and secondly to the upper floor, where the sitting room and kitchen are located.

We’ve now installed a gate at the top of the carpeted stairs, which can be folded back against the balustrade, when it’s not needed. There is a similar downstairs gate, when you want to restrict access to the stairs. This gate is kept in the downstairs toilet below the stairs as it cannot be folded back. It is easy to fit but we find this is less well used, because the living space of the cottage – as opposed to the sleeping space – is primarily on the top floor. The photo above shows the top gate in position.

We have referred elsewhere to some of the attractions for children in the immediate Keswick area like The Lake District Wildlife park at Bassenthwaite and the cycling, walking and zip-line facilities at the Whinlatter Forest centre in the woods above the Larches. In addition to these we highly recommend the small railway journey up and down the valley at Ravenglass. It’s about an hour’s journey by car from The Larches but a great day out for any child (and adult) with an interest in trains. Check the train times before you go.

Skiddaw’s scarlet tops

Though the hamlet of Seldom Seen is hidden away from the A66 and the casual walker, The Larches itself provides a wonderful viewing point of the surrounding mountains, especially if you climb up the steps to the top of the garden.

Over this last weekend, I had arrived back at the house late in the afternoon. Dusk was approaching and I glimpsed a flush of sunset colour to the north from the first floor sitting room. This merits a quick climb up to the Belvedere I thought, grabbing my camera on the way.

What a sight across the marshes of Skiddaw’s top from the Belvedere deck! I had never seen the likes of this before. The picture below tells it all. It’s worth a visit to The Larches for this alone!

Diary of Lakeland events

I try to keep up to date with events, activities and festivals in the Keswick area and more widely in the Lake District and Cumbria, but it is easy to miss something.

This last week however I have come across a great resource, a website which covers the whole of the area. You can search the Wordsworthcountry website by 36 different towns from Alston to Workington. Below we include a snapshot of Keswick for the May to July 2014 period.


Changing Times

Walk round the centre of one of our big cities these days, and if you haven’t been there for a year or two, you’re sure of a surprise.

Take Manchester, Cumbria’s nearest big city. Whole urban areas there have been prized open, smashed and then rebuilt. The Spinning Fields area running down to the River Irwell has now risen phoenix like as a glitzy new office and shopping zone, with adjacent Law Courts.

Near Victoria Station, the old Coop Century Building has been demolished and replaced by a futuristic gherkin shaped structure below Red Bank; and on Oxford Road the demolition of the BBC site has left a huge gaping hole as the broadcaster has moved to Salford and ‘Media City’ (See photo of the author opposite) on the site of the old Manchester Ship Canal docks.

I was reflecting on this just recently as I found a watercolour (below) my sister, Penny had done of The Larches from the Ravine Road, looking NE across the Seldom Seen hamlet with Skiddaw in the background. Painted exactly 25 years ago, the scene is now scarcely changed.

Of course rural areas don’t need the infrastructure and capital investment of cities with large populations, but it would be wrong to think nothing is happening to the economy of rural areas

While Seldom Seen and Thornthwaite have not physically changed all that much, the use made of buildings has altered. The Swan local pub beside Powter How has been turned into apartments, as have Thornthwaite Grange and Ladstocks, along the lane south from The Larches.

Sheep farming subsidies are being reduced and Increasingly in Cumbria, farming alone does not provide a living for a family. Commonly people have to hold down two jobs and offer B&B to make ends meet.

Looked at In the longer term it’s possible to see even bigger changes. Children no longer attend the School House opposite us and the Old Sawmill was long ago turned into six separate dwellings. A 1938 Kelly’s Directory of Cumberland shows too a much more stratified society 75 years ago, with a local land owning gentry and a ‘lord of the manor’, together with mining, more varied local industry and more diverse occupations.

The cobbler has gone now as has the miner, the bleacher, the dairyman, the game keeper and the mole catcher. Despite the size of our local Whinlatter forest, even the forester is becoming an endangered occupation, as mechanisation and funding cuts reduce regular full time jobs. The one clear area of growth has been that of teleworkers, who can use the internet to exchange digital material with colleagues or clients anywhere in the world. What will things look like in another 25 years time?

Red squirrels’ return

For a while during the last year we were worried that building works opposite the house and work to restore the garden and interior of The Larches following flood damage had unsettled our resident red squirrels and encouraged them to move deeper into the forest.

We need not have worried. Two weeks ago we saw three separate red squirrels during the course of an hour or so between 7.30 am and 8.30 am; and have been seeing individual ones for some time.

If you are up about this time of the day you’ll have a good chance of a sighting either from the kitchen windows as they run down the stone steps from the forest or on the wooden steps to the back of the house. From the front windows in the sitting room they are also often seen crossing the road to the feeding box in the cottage opposite or running up and down the road looking for hiding places for the hazel nuts they have found.

The photo above shows one of the squirrels tentatively approaching the feeding box across the road, while the one at the bottom is of the same squirrel dashing back to the protection of The Larches’ garden.