Easter Holiday Traditions

A few years ago I heard Steve Biddulph, author of ‘Raising Boys’ speak about parenting. One of the things that struck me was how he talked about traditions. I hope I’m not misquoting him but I seem to remember his speech going along these lines “Children who have grown up in happy families look back on their youth and say ‘remember when…’ as parents we have to provide the traditions that our children will remember with fondness”. He talked about families that spent one night a week all ‘camping out’ on mattresses in the same bedroom to illustrate that traditions don’t have to be expensive, they just require the willing input of the family, particularly the parents.

This all comes to mind now, as I look back on our recent Easter holidays. Traditions are becoming ingrained within my family and our friends family, who we share our break with. This year is the third year that we have spent time together at my Sister and Brother-in-law’s farm in Cumbria, in their simple holiday cottage. You can see posts from last year and the year before herehere and here. You may notice that I take pretty much the same photos every year, all that changes is the weather and the size of the children.

Every year our children look forward to helping out with activities on the farm. They herd the sheep, feed the lambs, look for eggs, fill up the hopper on the turnip masher (I’m sure there is a proper name for this bit of farming kit but I don’t know what it is), throw straw around in a vain attempt to put bedding down for the cows, feed and water the indoor sheep and venture up to the fell top to feed to the hardier sheep up there. Then there is playtime; they build straw bale castles with their cousins, splash stones in the stream, collect ‘crystals’ from out of the stream, kick a football and ride a bike. Together we have Easter egg hunts and walks over the fell, share meals and bedtime rituals. As each year passes, they have more things to look forward to as they remember the things they did the year before. Long may it last. We are already booked in for next year!IMG_4694 IMG_4699 IMG_4712 IMG_4755 IMG_4662 IMG_9752 IMG_4677 IMG_9758 IMG_9761 IMG_4681 IMG_9790 IMG_9836 IMG_4738 IMG_4746 IMG_4745IMG_4750IMG_9846IMG_9861IMG_9867IMG_9870IMG_9895IMG_9898IMG_9899

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Foraging

Even by the August Bank Holiday, summer is slowly slipping into autumn and a walk out in the country can unintentionally turn into a foraging trip.

IMG_8085In this case, we set off to simply blow the cobwebs away with a walk near this flooded quarry and the neighbouring woodland.

IMG_8089The path we were taking passed some exposed rocks that I think are limestone pavement. The dips and troughs in the rock are like little micro-habitats. Look at the delicate plants and bright lichens within them.

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IMG_8087As I was taking pictures, the rest of the family were beginning to hunt for something else: mushrooms. My husband has often reminisced about mushroom picking in his younger days.  As I was brought up in town and warned never to pick or eat wild mushrooms, it always seemed like a mildly risky thing to do. However, I figured that in the company of two older family members who have been picking  (and eating) mushrooms from this area for years, we were probably safe. We sent The Husband back to the car to collect a bag and we all spread out on the great mushroom hunt, combing the field and darting off after white blobs on the horizon. Alas, many of them were just stray bits of fleece from the sheep that were grazing nearby. By the time he got back we already had a couple each. We searched for a while, with reasonable success but soon the children wanted to retrace our steps and head into the wood. The Husband’s Aunt decided she would go on alone and look for some more, so the rest of us trooped off to explore a different habitat.

IMG_8102Son Number One was keen to build a den. Between him, Babykins, The Husband and Grandma, they did a pretty good job. The Middle Miss was not so keen to pick up soggy, spiky bits of wood and haul them across rough ground so I took her off to explore and again, I was taken by the smaller plant life of this damp woodland.

IMG_8092We enjoyed looking at these tiny, star-like plants and spotting the even smaller creatures running among them. Then I gave her a little lesson in using a compass, with the built in app on my phone. We tested the theory that moss grows on the north side of tree trunks but it didn’t seem to be a very good theory in this particular conifer plantation. All the time, The Middle Miss was looking out to see if her Great Aunt had returned. As soon as she was spotted we ran to see what she had found.

IMG_8143Sure enough, the little bag she had taken was full up with mushrooms of varying sizes. By that time, everyone was ready to head back home.

IMG_8100I tried really hard to capture the view of the fells as we drove back in the car, they looked so dark and dramatic. The eastern Lakeland fells that surround Haweswater hold special memories for me and I will enjoy looking at this picture, despite the poor quality image my iPhone produced.

IMG_8105And finally, the only way to eat foraged field mushrooms (according to The Husband anyway). Mushrooms cooked in milk, with a little cornflour to thicken the sauce and served on toast. A taste of his country childhood.

Come for a walk with me

IMG_2021Put on your wellies, warm clothes and waterproofs because we are going to visit a Cumbrian hill farm.

IMG_2039Just look at those snow drifts piled high against the dry stone walls. A few days before this photo was taken the road was completely blocked.

IMG_2019When I took this photo the weather was dry and fairly bright, despite the cloud. The air is cold, clean and crisp up here. Turning to the left we can admire the landscape of deceptively dry-looking open fell and the snowy North Pennines in the distance.

IMG_2051Carrying on along the road, the modern farm house comes into view. Usually by this time of year the fields at either side of this road are starting to fill up with ewes and new lambs but the long winter has delayed things a bit.

IMG_1996Cross the cattle grid into the farm yard.

IMG_1992This road is actually a public bridleway as you can see from the photo. When the weather is better this is a fairly popular route with cyclists. They often speed through the farm with the sound of several barking sheepdogs ringing in their ears.

IMG_1988Turning around 180 degrees to look back on the cattle grid and the view over the fell.

IMG_2062After passing through the first part of the farm, we carry on into the older part of the farm. Straight ahead is the byre where the sheep are brought if they need more help during lambing time. You can just see a tiny bit of white wall beyond the byre. That is the old farm house, now a holiday cottage, where we stayed.

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IMG_2079Now we have arrived at our accommodation, complete with genuine farmer in high viz jacket (my brother-in-law). This house dates from the 1700’s and is built right into the slope of the hill.view from cottageThis is the view from the front door of the cottage. The photos from top to bottom, left to right are as follows: looking to the right the public bridleway continues up to Loadpot Hill after first dipping down to the foot of the valley. Straight ahead is the building where the cows overwinter and to the left is the picnic table and beyond that the sheep maternity ward byre. The green frame on the door is surrounding a new heavy duty mesh door that has been put in place in an attempt to keep the badgers out. Badgers have caused a bit of trouble this year. I suspect that they are being driven to attacking lambs as their normal food is running thin due to the hard winter. While we were there, my brother-in-law saw badgers in his main barn during daylight hours, eating the cattle feed. That is not normal behaviour.

IMG_6715Inside the house there is a cosy living room with an even cosier stove. Thankfully these days there are also some electric wall heaters, otherwise it would be a very cold place to stay.

IMG_6717This is the view from the kitchen window. It’s a cracker, though it is sometimes obscured by a sheep peering in. There is one house further up the valley, you might just be able to pick out the roof, four squares in from the left and five whole squares up. It is currently under major renovations. I’m sure it will be on ‘Grand Designs’ one day. I remember poking around in it a few years ago and it was completely derelict with no access road, no mains water or electricity. I’d love to see it when it’s done.

IMG_6766 The mesh on the window is a bit of a necessity  because it’s base is actually level(ish) with the ground outside and the area beyond the window often acts as a sheep pen. You can see this in the picture above. I’m always entertained when a sheep strolls past while I’m washing up.

IMG_6726Here is the same view but taken from an upstairs window. I would really like to take you on a little photographic walk down the snowy track next to the fence but I’m not sure my photos are good enough.

I hope you have enjoyed this little visit to Scales Farm (click on the link for more photos). It’s well worth a visit for the views alone, which I can’t do justice to with my camera.