Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Unexpected adventures

Don't you just love spontaneity? I do! Today after a good walk to Bosun's Locker for lunch a friend and I noticed the ferry boat for Piel Island was in-we suddenly decided to go for it! Boat rides are always exciting and we were giddy as a couple of school girls (well quite mature school girls it has to be said). We alighted on the jetty at the island and proceeded to explore the medieval castle! It was just as I remembered it-it must be 20 years since I last went! Obviously, those familiar with Out of Time Secret of the Swan know that George and Sid visit the island too. So it was great fun locating where the action occurred!
Ferry to the Pile of Fouldray

                                                                                                             We found where I had located the oubliette! Even though I knew there was no such item-I couldn't help but look for it! We wandered for some time and reflected what a great place to take children to! The ferry was a fiver return and you had from 11am till 5pm to return! The beaches and the castle make it a rich adventure for any child-add a picnic or bar meal from the pub and you have a fine day out! Entry to the castle is free courtesy of English Heritage                                                                                   
Gate house
The outer ward

 Anyway... back to our explorations... suddenly we came upon the stone below! I had never seen this before and a shudder of deja vu or something prickled my neck! It said Aug 193? The final figure looked to be either a 4 or a 9! For my purposes it has to be 1934... the exact year George and Sid explored! How weird -reality mimicking fiction-or is it the other way around? 

I think George and Sid might have more adventures after today-after all its too good not to follow up isn't it?
The Keep

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

We're all going to the zoo...

Another trip out was to the South Lakes Animal Park at Dalton. I am not a lover of zoos but this one has its conservation message and breeding programmes so as the young man we were trying to entertain wanted to go we gave it a whirl. Ignoring the annoyance of parking at the now defunct entrance and then having to find the new one, parking was quite extensive. It was quite a trek for anyone with mobility issues however... or pushing a buggy as we were.
We had a long wait in very hot sunshine but when we arrived at the cash desk we could buy a variety of options. We chose the cheapest-which allowed free entry for the boys. It cost £31 for two adults-we declined the offer of paying to feed the animals. One of the things we chose the zoo for was because Baby Jonah likes trains. We located this and found we had another payment of £1 each to pay. It was irritating again as I queued in a long line-by which time we also wanted ice cream-only to be told this kiosk didn't take cards and I would need to queue again! So we didn't bother and just got the tickets.

We saw lots of animals and the most popular part was the open safari trail. It was exciting for the children and terrifying for the granny and auntie to see emus and lemurs in close proximity. 
Some of the animals were easier to see than others and I don't think the heat helped with the smell. My personal impression was that there were lots of good ideas but it has an unfinished and slightly grubby feel to it. I know there is major reconstruction going on but some attention needs to be given to the general tidiness and appearance. However, as a family-if you purchase the best option and hold out against the gift shop, ice creams and extras it could be a cost effective day out. There is plenty to do-places to eat a picnic, a new adventure playground and the different animal experiences -all in all a good day.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Further adventures

Well nobody can say we don't get out and about! We had another couple of trips in lovely sunny weather this week.
We decided to take Great Grandma with us and this meant we had to look for somewhere with easier access whilst balancing with the needs of a young child! We had a delightful lunch at The Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge, al fresco as it turned out-very hot and sunny. We had sandwiches, drinks and a child's meal, spending around £40 for four of us-average I would say for a Lake district hotel. 

We sat beside the lake under the trees, with space for the six year old to wander and play. There was also a small adventure trail for children which is a good distraction whilst waiting for food to arrive (it was very busy). The wasps were a nuisance around the tables and it might be an idea to put out some citronella candles to ward them off. Otherwise a very pleasant repast in beautiful surroundings.


We then moved on to the more child centred activity of Fell Foot which is a National Trust property. Access was fairly easy although parking was tight due to the vast numbers of visitors. 

Parking for non NT members is free but the cost is reasonable anyway. The grounds are beautiful and give open access to Lake Windermere which is a magnet for all children in hot weather. It is perfect for a picnic and you can easily spend the whole day there. The shop has the usual array of goods-high on the agenda drinks and ice-creams and the Boathouse cafe has delicious refreshments to sample indoors or out. A day here could be as cheap as you can make it-if you take a picnic you don't need to venture to the cafe and shop. Other activities include rowing and the ferry to Lakeside. A grand day out for any family.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Holiday adventures

As a Grandma it's quite hard trying to make the school holidays fun. So I have been trying to get out and about with Noah- but couldn't help noticing how expensive things can be. This made me think that collecting a few really good activities together in my blog might useful to other Grans and hard pressed parents too. So I am going to post some visits and let you know what they are like and whether they are value for money over the next few weeks:

Obviously, I will begin with Furness Abbey-an often forgotten little place-but one familiar to anyone who reads this blog. 
It is a fantastic place which can take up a few hours for any family.
The Infirmary
It costs £4.20 for adults with concessions for seniors,children (U5s free) and local residents. Once inside there are extensive open grounds and ruins. It provides an adventure for curious children and is great for hide and seek (no climbing on the ruins though). There are picnic tables, toilets and hot and cold drinks available in the shop, which is well stocked with all kinds of things for both adults and children alike.
Of course as well as the shop there is a splendid little museum housing      a range of interesting artefacts including the amazing Abbot's crosier and ring found in 2010. Take a picnic and you can spend the day there and tire your little ones out too!
The abbot's crosier (courtesy of English Heritage)

Today we went to another English Heritage property-Stott Park Bobbin Mill. This little gem is accessible from the Newby Bridge turning to Lakeside. It was fascinating and held the attention of our six year old. Again a fab day! We went on Bob's trail and won a small prize for collecting the letters and then we were fascinated by the tour of the mill! Lots to see! Again a shop and refreshments available and lots of picnic tables in a beautiful setting. After out picnic we went a walk to the top of the hill to discover the lovely High Dam! It was gorgeous trekking through the woods and looking at the flowers, trees and wildlife and the view at the top was breathtaking! Noah especially loved the echo he produced at the top! All this for a mere £6.80 per adult and £4 for children-again concessions and family tickets apply.

More later....

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Dissolution and disillusion

I have actually been doing some research this last couple of weeks-in between my new job at Furness Abbey, winding up the TA training business and grandma duties! The only trouble is-it does distract me from the actual task of writing. Procrastination is the thief of time as they say-but when is dressed up in dusty tomes and interesting historical research it almost feels justified. I have been itching to write for weeks but just can't get on with it. I wrote 30 lines the other night and thought I had done well.

However, back to the research... I have been looking into monastic issues-partly because I was putting together a mini project for a school. I was uncovering the usual stuff and confirming; my image of the "monk" is mixed-I want to think that "our" Furness Abbey monks were a devout, caring and sincere lot... well they would be wouldn't they? Yes, I know about the abuses of the church, sale of indulgences and pardons-after all I did do Chaucer at uni... But not our lot! Not in Furness?
This Guest house has sheep in it!

So, it has been illuminating reading about what they actually DID get up to! When I take folk on a tour of the abbey, we start in the Outer Court, near to the Guest house and post monastic stables. "Here," I always say, "Is a safe haven for travellers. Travel was hard and dangerous in the middle ages and in monastic and religious houses people could be assured a safe bed, food and prayer-sort of a medieval Travelodge." So I was stunned to discover the record (first seen on Rievalux abbey Facebook page) of a fight which broke out at Furness between the monks and travellers. This resulted in three travellers being stabbed! So not quite a Travelodge then?

Of course I knew all about the "murder" at the abbey-I even included it in my last book, "The Cistercian Conspiracy". Three discontented monks decided to oust poor Abbot "L" or "T" depending on which interpretation you read. They bumped him off with deadly nightshade in the communion wine-and then disappeared! In the church, with the nightshade... sort of a Monastic Cluedo.
Courtesy of English Heritage

Then there was Abbot Alexander Banke! A truly nasty piece of work. He evicted the villagers of Sellergarth, destroyed their homes so that he could extend the Parkland-for more sheep and hunting! His monks voted him out at one point but he managed to force his way back in again. I sincerely hope he does not turn out to be the abbot who was found avec crosier in the presbytery. He would be arrogant enough to want to be buried so close to the altar-but I'm hoping it isn't him! 

Then, reading about the dissolution in terms of the abbey, I discover that Roger Pele the final abbot-turns out to have given in pretty quickly and handed over the keys after a little persuasion from Thomas Holcroft -the King's officer. He also managed to gain a pension and the living at Dalton church!

So maybe old Henry was right to turf them all out? Maybe life in the cloister was as corrupt as outside? 
Looking towards the presbytery

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Coming up for air

Sometimes you have to wonder what life is all about! Things move on at breakneck pace and you seem to be so busy you actually don't accomplish much. Sometimes you have a time in life when things happen around you, but impact massively on what you are doing and you seem to lose any control that you might have had.

Well-that's what has been happening here since January. So not much done in the way of writing-but this will be remedied soon! I have acquired a new job too! One I wanted since I was 17-to work as a Historic Properties Steward at Furness Abbey. I have been on a circuitous route to get here-but here I am! Its great-first task of the day is to check the abbey and walk around-what a way to start the day! How lucky am I? I get to see my "precious" -the crosier to you and chat about the abbey and its history to anyone who will listen! I am only part time-but it is perfect! I love it-though not before I worried myself sick over the practical stuff... once again it became clear I learn by doing! Practice makes perfect of course! 

In my spare time-I do the work for Furness Abbey Fellowship and we are busy organising the Medieval Fair-which is 5th September this year! I am also freelancing as an author/historian and working in local schools so I almost have the best fit for a job I could hope for! Granted I am not earning megabucks-but the job satisfaction outweighs that! Plus there is enough time to spend with grandchildren and family-which can have no price put upon it!

Its curious how life takes you down strange paths-a daily voyage of discovery! It isn't always what you wanted or thought it would be, but it is never boring. Sometimes its best just to embrace it and build from what you are dealt! Not easy-but always a challenge! Back to 9-5 or a school day? Don't think so! Variety is the spice of life and long may it continue!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Heritage hugs and selling the ground from under our feet

Have to share this fab video of an amazing group of people who are battling to support and conserve the most complete Iron Age Fort in Britain at Oswestry. They have been valiantly battling the developers and Shropshire Council to protect the fort from the encroachment of planned housing on the foothills of the fort. So much for setting and sense of place? This obviously resonates with our own battle for the setting of our own heritage site-Furness Abbey. So it was fantastic to see this little video showing a Heritage Hug! Over 400 people climbed the hill and joined hands surrounding the summit! It signals a sea change in people's attitudes. The little man is standing up to the big business developer and the intransigent council. These people are from all ages, backgrounds and are definitely not Nimbys-which is usually the cry when people stand up for heritage or green field. Nobody benefits directly from opposing the encroachment onto a historical site. So you can guarantee that the motivation is genuine and not a conspiracy against the capitalist society.

It looks as though we may have a bigger fight on our hands. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse-the Lake District National Park decide that it is a good idea to sell off bits of land -previously donated or gifted to the nation, to preserve and conserve. So what happened? Does this mean that despite good-intentioned people in the past who had the foresight to save our landscape from the march of urbanisation have suddenly become irrelevant. When did the National Park get the nod from the "nation" the common people whom this park was created for, to sell off tarns and lakes? Bad enough that local aristocrats begin to sell off mountains, but a national body too? This has got to be one step too far! People will not stand for it-they will join together and oppose these high handed moves. Power to the people and more of it!

Here is the petition to start the ball rolling