Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District


The wall walks the fell …

dry stone wall “A dry stone wall

Is a wall and a wall,

Leaning together

(Cumberland and Westmorland

Champion wrestlers)”

so says Norman Nicholson.

What a wonderful image!  For the walls here are often made up of two separate walls enclosing a centre filled with small stones called “heartings”.  The construction has long “through” stones to tie the two outer walls together and is finished off with a final top course of thinner slab-like stones on top of which the “cams” or coping stones were placed.

And Cumberland Wrestling is a traditional sport you can often still see at the Summer Shows including our own Broughton & Millom Show.  cumberlandThe origin of this style of wrestling is a matter of debate, with some describing it as having evolved from Norse wrestling; others associate it with a Celtic tradition.  It’s great fun to watch and as they start, gripping each other around the backs, it is easy to see why it reminded Nicholson of the Lake District walls which are some of the most distinctive and most loved features of the fells.

“The wall walks the fell –

Grey millipede on slow

Stone hooves;”

Quotations taken from Norman Nicholson’s “Wall” in his 1981 collection “Sea to the West”.  © The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited.


Sails at Windermere Jetty

sail

Just discovered this lovely blog post by Windermere Jetty about preserving and conserving the old sails in their collection.   Their oldest sail (pictured here) belongs to 1934 17ft Windermere yacht, Dawn.

If you want to read more about their work click here.

The museum is committed to conserving, saving and sharing the internationally important Windermere boat collection and their focus is on telling the stories behind these boats and they want to actively involve visitors in the crafts and tradition that built them.

Windermere Jetty, designed by Carmody Groarke architects, is due to re-open in 2017.  In the meantime the museum is ‘Just Visiting’ Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre.


Smoots, Boles and Squeeze Stiles

The dry stone walls of the Lake District are such beautiful things.  Walking alongside and over them on our ramblings across the South Lakes we have become quite adept spotting various holes and ledges in these field enclosures.

Merchant-and-Makers-Dry-Stone-Walls-32-Water-smootThere’s a SMOOT which, I think, is any small hole generally ground level in the wall.  I have come across two types: a Water Smoot for drainage and a Rabbit Smoot.  I was curious as to why a farmer would take the trouble to build a rabbit tunnel until I came across this on the Ruskin Museum’s website :

 “Smoots allowed rabbits and hares to pass from the fell into the intakes (fields). Sometimes stone-lined pits were dug below the smoots having a wooden trough, above which was a counter- weighted trap door. The rabbit would fall into the pit and this could be used to supplement a countryman’s diet.”

beatrix potterOccasionally in walls beside farms, we have also come across a small recess with a slate base.  This is a BEE BOLE.  The farmer would put his straw bee hive or skep on this to protect it from rain and wind.  A Bee Bole usually faced South to South East so that the morning sun would warm up the hive.    You can see a Bole at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top though it is filled with a more modern hive.  Click here for more about Hill Top.

If you are interested in discovering more about Bee Boles there’s a delightful website run by the International Bee Research Association called the Bee Bole Register.  (What else?)   Click here for the link.

lake districtAnd a SQUEEZE STILE is just as you would imagine … instead of steps built into the wall, you must squeeze through the small gap.  Unfortunately, overweight dogs of the Team Rigg party need to be lifted over the obstacle.


Where history and nature meet

cumbria natureHow marvellous!  Here at Sykehouse Cottage we just love the cabinet of curiosities that is Kendal Museum.  The place houses the Kendal and Westmorland Galleries, the World Wildlife Exhibition, The Lake District Natural History Gallery and The Hamer Mineral Collection.

The late John Hamer was a potholer and mineral collector. He collected one of the most superb and extensive mineral collections in the North of England.  This collection exceeds 2000 pieces and includes specimens from disused mines in the Lake District, where mineral collecting is now banned, and other regions of northern England. This invaluable collection is available for research and enjoyment by both geologists and those who are just fascinated by beautiful minerals.

geology cumbriaA spectacular display from the collection together with a complete catalogue, original note books, display charts and a map locating mine sites are featured as a new permanent display at Kendal Museum.

If you would like to know about opening times and current exhibitions, click on a click to their website HERE.


A change of air and exercise

celia fiennesIn c17th, when travel for its own sake was unheard of, Celia Fiennes roamed around England on horseback “to regain my health by variety and change of aire and exercise.”  Sometimes she travelled with relatives but she made her “Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall” of 1698 accompanied only by one or two servants.

Fiennes took notes to entertain her family and never intended to publish. So it is lovely that we can now all read her frank, vivid and unvarnished opinions in “Through England on a Side Saddle” as her writings provide an entirely unmannered portrait of the Lake District – unlike later Romantic writers.

char fishingShe talks of “Charr ffish … they pott with sweete spices”, oat Clapbread (easier to digest than the more common rye bread) and the “great Lake Wiandermer” into which trickling springs give “a pleasing sound and murmuring noise.”

A full transcript of her journey can be read at the delightful Vision of Britain website created by the University of Portsmouth’s Geography Department.


Townend: A Quiet Jewel

townendTownend : A Quiet Jewel.

East of Windermere is an historical treasure that we have a special interest in – for it was built around about the same time as Sykehouse Cottage.  It’s attached to no famous name and therefore doesn’t attract the crowds – like that other farm on the west of the Lake, Hill Top, does – but for a delightful insight into 400 years of Lakeland life, Townsend is perfect.  The Browne family was an ordinary farming family but their home at Troutbeck is a beautiful evocation of a past life and well worth a detour to visit.  The place is crammed full of quirky household objects from c17th onwards.  There are excellent, informative guided tours and often they put on an afternoon of cooking where they recreate some of the recipes from the Brownes’ family recipe books.

Townend is a National Trust property and is open from March to October.  It’s about 20 miles from the Cottage and for further details on opening times and prices, follow this link.


Hardknott Fort

Hardknott Roman FortHardknott Fort, at the western end of Hardknott Pass, is one of the most remote and dramatically sited Roman forts in Britain and is well worth the 30 minute drive from Sykehouse Cottage for a look around and to marvel at the sheer tenacity of the Romans. Though I must point out that the road up to it is single track and that reversing skills may be needed if you meet another car!

The stronghold was built early 2AD and an inscription says that the garrison was the 4th Cohort of Dalmatians, all the way from the Balkans.  It was abandoned in the 3rd century and the stone was pilfered over a long period.  However there is still enough to see the outlines of central buildings: the headquarters, a small temple and the commander’s residence.  Also the remains of a bath house alongside the road leading up to the fort.  We find it incredibly atmospheric and, as one of the tribe is a budding gladiator, it’s a perfect place to sit and imagine life 2000 years ago and perhaps  … for a leisurely picnic!

It is an English Heritage site and further details can be found following this link.