The Lakes: The Bowderstone

Photos from the 2016 trip to to the Lake District. This time, they are of a very unusual tourist attraction, not a lake. Please enlarge the photos from the original post, if you are able to.

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All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail

After the exertions of Monday, Antony promised me a much easier day to follow. In reasonable weather, we headed off on the drive to Buttermere, one of the smaller lakes in the area. On the way, he suggested a stop at The Bowderstone, in the Borrowdale Valley.
A gentle walk of about ten minutes from the car park took us to the site.
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This huge rock is believed to have fallen from the crag above, perhaps thousands of years ago, and it is unusual in that it came to rest on its edge, and has not moved since. Now managed by the National Trust, it was one of the first tourist attractions originally promoted in the area. In 1798, Joseph Pocklington publicised the stone as a tourist site, and employed an old woman to act as a guide…

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Ashness Bridge and Walla Crag

More photos of a trip to the Lake District, in 2016. These are posted for the benefit of new followers, and anyone who missed them at the time. Please enlarge the photos on the original post if you can, as they do look so much better full-screen.

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All photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Thursday was our last but one day of the holiday, and we set off in another morning of dull weather. The plan was to take the short ferry trip to Ashness Bridge, on the eastern side of Derwent Water. From there, we would make the climb up to Walla Crag, which has panoramic views over Keswick, and the lake. After getting off the boat at the first stop, there was a short steep ascent to the bridge.
Antony informed me that this was the most photographed spot in the region.
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As we continued up to the crag, the weather improved slightly. I got this shot of the view behind us. The cluster of white houses you can see is the town of Keswick, in the distance below.
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After my exertions going up Helvellyn, I must have been getting…

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The Fear: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 870 words.

Working for Ted, I soon found out that I was the one doing the real work. I tended the bushes after the briefest instruction, hauling the hose on its trolley to the standpipes dotted around for watering. Then spraying the roots with weed-killer using an ancient hand pump attached to a tank I wore on my back like a rucksack. After lunch, I was expected to fix up the buildings; rehanging doors, and stopping up leaks and gaps in the woodwork. It was just as well he fed me such a lot of food, as I had never worked so hard.

For his part, Ted kept the house clean and tidy, did the washing, and prepared the food. He drove into the nearest town every morning after breakfast, insisting that he liked to buy the food fresh every day. He had a big panel van which was signwritten with ‘Cobden’s Fruits, Cobden Farm’. It didn’t even have a contact phone number on the side. He kept it parked out of sight, behind the biggest barn. In the afternoon, he had his ‘rest’, while I carried on with whatever task he had assigned me. I was allowed to finish at five-forty-five every evening, so I could have a quick wash before dinner at six.

After the evening meal, he always liked to chat for a while before I went upstairs. But despite showing willingness to engage in conversation with him, I never managed to find out that much personal information, and nothing at all about whether or not he might have some genuine phobia, or fear. It went on like that much the same every day for weeks, until the fruit started to ripen.

That morning, Ted accompanied me to inspect some of the bushes, and seemed to become agitated. “We need to get back and get the netting, boy, right quick”. I followed him to one of the low outbuidings, where he showed me lots of rolls of fine mesh black netting. He explained that I should load one onto the big metal handcart, and walk along the rows of bushes unravelling it. It was wide enough to completely cover the bushes once it was dragged up and over them. Then every dozen or so bushes, it had to be secured into the ground using metal pegs, not unlike tent pegs.

I came to hate that job. The netting was difficult to get into place, as it caught on anything and everything. Then hammering the pegs into the hard ground between the rows was back-breaking. It took me all of that week to finish off, using every roll of netting in the storeroom, back and forth collecting each roll in turn. On the Saturday, he made me what he called a ‘special meal’ of sirloin steak, and thanked me for my hard work. Following a substantial dessert of bread and butter pudding with custard, he informed me how to set up and use the bird-scarer. This device consisted of a long tube of plastic attached to an electronic box, and according to Ted, it made a sound like a gunshot at random intervals.

Sure enough, Monday saw the arrival of many birds. Starlings and pigeons in the main, but also crows. Lots of crows. The birds could sense that the fruit was ripe enough for them to eat, but it was not yet ready for harvest and sale to the juice manufacturer. Ted remained edgy. “This is the crucial time, boy. We have to keep them bloody birds off until harvest time soon. Those buggers will ruin the crop, given half the chance”. He told me that the netting was enough to protect the fruit from the smaller birds, but the large crows would hang onto it, and tear it with their beaks. That’s why he needed the scarer. Even with that, the crows could become accustomed to the noise, so a large part of my job would be to keep a presence in the fields, to frighten them off. I was even excused the afternoon repairs for that.

After hauling the scarer and its long cable out into the fields, I set it up and switched it on as he had shown me. The loud bang made me jump, and sent the flocks of birds flying out of the trees where they sat waiting. But not for long. They circled for a while, and then returned to their perches. After a dozen or more of the bangs, less and less birds left the trees, so I made sure to patrol the rows so they could see me.

Over dinner, I suggested to Ted that it might be a good idea if he patrolled with me the next day, as two men in the fields could cover more ground, and distract more birds. He put down his knife and fork, shaking his head. “No boy, not me. Got a thing about them birds, especially the big crows. Sounds silly to tell at my age, but they terrify me, with their flapping wings, and squawking. I’m likely to piss myself with fear if they get around me. You’ll have to do your best”. Cutting into my chicken pie, I smiled.

So that was his fear.

Buttermere: A gentler walk

A short photo post from my trip to the Lake District in 2016 It contains the best photo I took during that holiday, so please visit the original post and enlarge that first one, if you can. This is a reblog for the benefit of new followers.

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All photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

The approach to the peaceful lake at Buttermere was made through the hair-raising Honister Pass.
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Perhaps when I was 25 years old, I might have enjoyed that drive. My MPV chose first gear all the way up, and the diesel engine was sounding like a tractor by the time we stopped before the descent, for the above photo. The downhill section was also a fairground ride, as I was on and off the brakes all the way into Buttermere. I concluded that I was happy to only have encountered light traffic during that trip.

The weather remained kind for the promised easier walk that Tuesday. Most of the path was close to the water’s edge, or not far from it.
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After a much more relaxing day, it was back to Keswick, to get ready to go out to…

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Helvellyn: My vertical limit

More photos from 2016, for the benefit of new followers since then. A continuation of my posts about a short holiday to England’s Lake District.

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This is a longer post, using seven photos to tell the story of my biggest walk to date. Please allow time for it to load on your computer. All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail.

After the boat trip had been cancelled, we retraced our steps through the village of Glenridding, and set off in the direction of Helvellyn. This is the third highest peak in England, with a height of 950 metres, or 3,117 feet. Antony had told me that we would head for the ‘Hole In The Wall’ and Red Tarn, a lake inside the hill. Naturally, this all meant nothing to me, but gave me a mental target to aim for, as well as an eventual destination to achieve.

Anthony and Ollie ahead of me on the start of the path, heading for Lanty’s Tarn, on the way up. They look as…

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The Fear: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 700 words.

Considering his personal appearance, and the run-down exterior of the farm buildings, Ted’s house was remarkably clean and tidy inside. Upstairs there was a small living room, a double bedroom, and a bathroom and toilet combined. The fixtures were dated, but all serviceable, and the small flat screen television in the living room was a modern one.

As he watched me moving my stuff from the van, he called out various things as I went up and down the stairs. “Dinner is at six. Nothing fancy, you understand, but I’m a fair cook”. “The phone signal is not too good here if you have one of those mobiles. There’s a phone in the house, but make sure you leave the money for the call in the box next to it”. “Oh, and I don’t know if you have a computer or such, but we don’t have that Internet here”. “Breakfast at seven sharp, I can wake you if you want”.

While making my bed, I tried to imagine how anyone could run a business, even a farm, without Internet access. By the time I had unpacked, I could smell the dinner wafting up the stairs. And it made my mouth water.

The portion was huge, and I ate heartily. Sausages and onions, served in a fluffy Yorkshire pudding, accompanied by mashed potatoes and peas. There was bread and butter on the table too, and the promise of a dessert. “There’s steamed sponge and treacle after, boy. You will eat well here, I promise you”. As we ate, he chatted as if we were old friends. I was amazed how trusting he was, as he hadn’t so much as even asked my name.

“The main job here is keeping the birds and vermin away from the fruit. As soon as those blackcurrants start to appear, they are all over them. Then there’s watering, I have a cart for that, and some weeding. But I mainly use chemicals and such around the bushes, to save the back-breaking stuff. Once the season warms up, we will have to get the netting on the bushes. That’s one hell of a job, I tell you boy. I see you have some decent tools, so I was wondering if you could fix the doors on the main barn? Otherwise it wil be hard to store anything in there, come harvest”.

He talked like this throughout the meal, never waiting for me to reply or comment. He also told me that he lived downstairs, with a small living room and bedroom combined at the back, and a toilet too. “I don’t need any bath, shower, or such. I just have a good wash in the sink”. After we had finished all the food, he offered me beer, which I declined. Then he suggested Port Wine or Brandy, but I said no. When I offered to help clear away and wash up, he surprised me by telling me he had a dishwasher in a utility room at the back. “Also got a nice washing machine and tumble drier there boy. Next to the freezer”.

I had imagined that he would have no such conveniences.

Ted remained sitting at the rough wooden dining table for some time, drinking his beer. He told me about how he, his father, and his older brother had run the farm together after his mother had died of cancer. His blackcurrants were all sold in advance, used for fruit drinks made by the brand leader in those products. But the price depended on the abundance of the crop at harvest, and could fluctuate wildly every year. “What we want is a good crop, in a bad year. Do you get my meaning, boy? Then we have the edge, something to sell that they need”.

I slept well that night, with Ted telling me he would wake me in time to bathe before breakfast. I couldn’t recall eating such a big dinner in a long time, and I had quite warmed to my new employer.

It almost seemed a shame that I would have to discover his weakness, before he died of it.

Lodore: Ollie’s first boat trip

Another reblog from 2016, for the benefit of new followers. More photos of a holiday to The Lake district, in Cumbria,

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All photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Up early for day two, and I was discovering how to pack my rucksack for the day ahead. Flat things against my back, two one-litre water containers, Ollie’s bowl and food for the day, then my own lunch. A spare top in case it got cold, camera, spare battery, plus a secure bag for keys, money, and any valuables we didn’t want to leave in the holiday flat. By the time I had laced my boots and sorted the backpack it was so hot inside I was pleased to get out into the morning air, heading down to catch the 10 am ferry to nearby Lodore. Ollie had never been on a boat before, but he trotted happily enough along the jetty, and stood next to us as we took our seats in the open section. I got…

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Ullswater: A lake in the mist

From almost four years ago, I am reblogging some photo posts for the benefit of new followers since 2016. They were taken on a holiday in North-west England, in Cumbria.

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All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail

Monday was planned to be a ‘big’ day. We would drive to The village of Glenridding, and take the ferry across Ullswater. Once off the boat, we would have a five-hour walk back around the shore of the lake to where we had parked the car. On the way there, Antony suggested a stop where we might get some uninterrupted photos of the lake from near the edge of the road. As soon as we approached the water, we could see that it was shrouded in mist. It was slightly eerie, but a real delight for me, never having seen it before.
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I decided to try metering for light off of the brighter sky. I hoped that this would cast the scene into shadow, and appear to be the evening. This is the result.
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We got back in…

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The Fear: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 785 words.

The house at the end of the long track was well hidden from the road. It was more a collection of buildings, one of which appeared to be inhabited, judging by the curtains in some windows, and a pair of boots outside the main door. In the distance were two large barns, at the end of the continuation of the track. Old machinery was scattered around, mostly rusted and bent. I stopped the car fifty feet from the house, and looked to my right as I got out.

There were some large fields bordering the property, each planted with neat rows of small bushes. In contrast to the buildings, the fields were neat, and the bushes stood in their rows like soldiers on parade. I knocked on the door with my fist, and stood back.

With a scraping sound the door opened slowly, and a man’s voice called out. “What you want? I’m resting”. I couldn’t see anyone, and felt awkward speaking into the gap. I told him I was there to see about the job, and mentioned the sign on the road. With that, the door opened all the way, revealing an elderly man in filthy blue overalls. He looked me up and down, with no effort to introduce himself, or excuse his rudeness.

“Well you look young and strong. I need help with the blackcurrant bushes. Weeding, watering, and such. Then harvesting when they’re ready. And some help around the farm fixing up buildings and such. You get lodging and food, but no pay until the crop is sold. How would that suit you?” He was certainly blunt, and had offered me the job with no formal interview, and not even a single question about my situation. When I didn’t reply, he carried on. “You would have to bring your own bedding and such, but there’s the first floor, you can have that for yourself. No hours as such, and we work until the work’s done. Yes or no?”

Smiling inside at how many times he could say the word ‘such’, and how an old-fashioned shabby looking man like him still managed to run a fruit business in the modern world, I had already decided. The remoteness of the location appealed to me, and I told him I would take the job, returning in two days after I had gathered my things, and made arrangements. I extended a hand to shake on the agreement, but he was already closing the door as he spoke.

“Take down the sign on your way out”.

The next day, I packed some clothes, towels, and bedding before telephoning Mr Dean to inform him I would be away for some time. He assured me that he would see to my house and property while I was gone, and I made him take a note that nobody was to try to enter any of the workshops. The grounds would be maintained, the windows cleaned, and utility bills paid. He sounded happy to hear from me again, no doubt pleased that he would be able to send me a substantial bill for his services at some stage. I also asked him to engage an accountant on my behalf, to show me as being self-employed, for the purposes of tax, and other matters. He could supply most of the information required, and I would provide some evidence of what I was doing, in due course.

From the workshops, I took some good tools that I suspected I would need at the farm, and packed them into a smart toolbox. All my notebooks and video recordings were sealed in a locked box, and placed under the false floor of one of the workshops, next to the large drum containing what was left of Michelle O’Connor. Then I took the sign that I had removed from the road near the farm, and burned it in an incinerator in the garden.

When I got back to the farm the following afternoon, the door opened without me having to knock. Still wearing the same overalls, the man appeared outside, his mood greatly changed. This time he extended a hand and smiled warmly, showing many missing teeth. “I forgot to tell you my name. Edward Cobden, of Cobden’s Fruits. You call me Ted. I used to run this place with my brother before he died, and can’t manage it now, being on my own and such. Come in, and I will show you your rooms”.

My best guess was that he was at least seventy years old, maybe more. As I followed him upstairs, he held his hand against the wall for support, and appeared frail.

I was wondering what he might be afraid of.