On opening a new door

It lasted we think about 130 years, but in the end there was no choice. It had to go. I’d been planing the side of the front door to The Larches two or three times a year to prevent it getting jammed in its frame, but each time the tenon joints would drop a little, the wood would swell with the damp and I was back to square one. I realised this must have been going on for decades with previous owners too.

We wanted to have a new one similar to the original 19th century one, but we made one important change to the specification. The top two fielded panels were to be replaced with two double glazed ones.

As the day approached for the fitting, I wondered a little about our decision. Would it look out of place, too modern for the traditional lakeland style of the house? I needn’t have worried.

It took Joe – who made the door – and his apprentice mate from Thomas Armstrong’s Joinery Department well into the afternoon to get it finally fitted, but from the moment it was first offered up in its frame to check for sizing, I knew we had a winner.

As the photo shows, the new door has suddenly opened up the front corridor into a warm wide lobby, dazzling with light when the sun is shining, showing off its attendant rooms like a proud owner!

And when you open and shut the door, it’s the joy that comes from a high quality car door or piece of furniture! Stainless steel hinges with brass washers, a slight hesitation as the door’s bottom brushes reach the aluminium lintel and then a discreet click. The 5 lever key rotates quietly with purpose. No worries now and good for another century!

The Larches is on the map


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I know that I am more enthusiastic about new technologies than many, but it is hard to resist some of what’s on offer, especially when it’s free!

Google may have come in for some stick recently over non payment of taxes and for anti competitive practices, but few would argue that its programmes and projects are of no interest. I have mentioned Google Maps, Google Books, Google Analytics and Google ngrams in these blogs over the years.

Now it’s time to mention Google Earth, which allows us to access high quality, high resolution images of anywhere in the world. The example above shows The Larches and our Belvedere from the air; and can help anyone coming to The Larches first time to find the house.

All you need to do with Google Earth is type in the words ‘Lakeland Belvedere’ and the software will search and focus in on The Larches and our Lakeland Belvedere (with the red flag and A), high above the roofs of Seldom Seen and Thornthwaite. This image above is very helpful if you’re new to the area and want to check the exact route to the house. It shows the turn left opposite the lane to the church and the way the road bends up to the left.

Below is a second image, which shows Thornthwaite on a smaller scale and the relationship of our house with Bassenthwaite, the A66 and Lord’s Seat mountain to the north. It gives you an idea too of walks you can do directly from the house to Braithwaite or across the Derwent Valley to Little Crosthwaite or up Comb Beck into the Whinlatter Forest.

Pity the South!

The sun may not be shining every day here in Keswick, but there’s been little rain and plenty of opportunity for us to be working on the garden and getting out on the hills. Today we had a beautiful Lakes morning with the sun rising over Latrigg against a blue sky.

A marvellous slew of colours too from the flowers and rhodedendron. It’s a joy to be out and what better place for us to have an early breakfast than on the Belvedere deck, as this morning’s photo shows.

The temperatures has not been what we would hope for near midsummer’s day, but compared to what we are seeing every night on the TV of the storms and flooding in the south of England, the North West is the destination to be heading for this summer and the coming holidays!

And if you make it up to The Larches this year, just look at the view of the Skiddaw range (below) from the Buena Vista Crag. You’re tucked away there and unseen at the top of our fellside garden; and if you don’t feel like making it to the top of the fells, you can always from the comfort of the seat travel the footpaths with a pair of binoculars!
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Flash & grab raid, seldom seen

I had heard of the phenomenon in these parts before, but the real thing took me by complete surprise. It would have had SAS trainers (had they been here!) reaching for the superlatives to describe the speed and precision of this evening raid.

I’m in the kitchen and watching intently through the window as a fine looking blackbird struggles to drag out from the green lawn a thin pink worm for its meal.

It lets go, then reaches forward again for a shorter pull, braces its feet and pulls its head back for the final coup de grace. I’m engrossed and can sense its frustration, as I had just been wrestling with deep rooted weeds from the vegetable bed.

Suddenly a whirl of feathers hurtles over the hedge from the road outside and swoops down on this small every day scene of garden life. Before I’ve time to wonder what is happening, the attacker has gone and with it the blackbird. All that is left of a second’s struggle is a pile of black and grey feathers scattered on the grass as the photo shows.

The attacker of course was a sparrowhawk, which we have not seen here before. Our excellent AA book of birds in The Larches library describes the signature attack of this small bird of prey, which commonly sweeps fast along a hedge and then does an inverted U flight over the top to surprise its victim.

It refers also to the “plucking post”, where they dismember their kill and I remembered the rocky area at the top of the garden where I had seen last week another collection of small bird’s feathers (See Photo opposite). It looks like the sparrowhawk has been here before, while we’ve been busy trying to see the ospreys from the belvedere!

C2C bikers check-in for lunch

We have had three C2C visitors this last week stopping by at the cottage on their way across the country on the marvelous coast to coast bicycle route.

Ian and Greg, good friends and former colleagues of mine at the WEA had with Les set off at 8.30 in the morning from St Bees on the Cumbrian coast and arrived, muddied and wet, at The Larches bang on time as predicted four hours later for a hearty lunch of soup and sandwiches.

We had pressed them to stay over for the night but 30 miles on the first day was too slow for an intended two day crossing, which was to land them up at Tynemouth on the east coast.

By the end of the first day they needed to have done 40 more miles and crossed the M6 to reach Great Salkeld beyond Penrith.

They were still arguing as they left about the exact distance they had to travel! But did not dispute that it was somewhere between 125 and 140 miles. Good going we thought for two days, particularly as they had to cross the high country of the Pennines via Consett in County Durham. Some stiff hills there!

The Larches is less than 300 metres from the C2C route, which cuts down through the forest from the Whinlatter pass and the Visitor Centre to reach the Thornthwaite road. It’s an excellent stop off for C2C bikers but is a good base too for anyone interested in road and track cycling in the northern lakes.

It’s also only ½ mile from the start of the Altura cycle trails through Whinlatter Forest, regarded by many as the best in the country. The garage provides good storage facilities for bikes and equipment. The photo opposite shows Ian in the garage after the bikes had been brought in from the rain.