We came in to Carlisle train station (after a short trip from Edinburgh) and were greeted by Eamon and Lucy!! They drove us back to Rose Cottage, which is Eamon’s childhood home and where his dad lives. Over rolling green fields and past hedgerows, out into lands of wide open pastures and huge craggy hills and lots of sheep and cows. Despite all the bustle of the upcoming wedding, John and the whole clan welcomed us into their cozy house and wonderfully warm family.
Rose Cottage is in Whitrigg, which is a tiny farm town that has a lot more livestock than people, and hasn’t changed too much in the past few thousand years. It’s next to Torpenhow, which is pronounced more like “trapenna.” Supposedly the name kind of means “Hill” three times; Tor and Pen and How each meant something like “Hill” in different ancient languages, Saxon and Briton and something else. Whitrigg is right outside the Lakes District National Park, in Cumbria, which is in the north of England. We were pretty intensely impressed with the sense of being in history all the time and everywhere. Things are just so much older there.
Mike had work to do that week, since he works from home anyway, he was able to get online and work just about like normal, though the time difference made it a little awkward. I got to help with wedding prep, gardening and tidying up the beautiful garden, and painting a mural on the side of an old white caravan in the yard! The neighbors’ cows kept me company while I painted. Each day we went out for walks around the fields, admiring the stone walls and the views to Solway Firth and to Scotland beyond.
Each day more and more friends and family arrived at Rose cottage, coming from all parts of the world, by train, plane, car and bicycle! Friends from Argentina came for the wedding too, and we hadn’t seen them since we moved back to Maine. It was amazing to be with them again, and to speak Spanish with friends again.
One day Eamon and Lucy took is out for an expedition to an ancient stone circle (I think it was Castlerigg) where we watched dusk settle over the mountains.
And they took us to the pub with the best sticky toffee pudding. We’ve heard a lot about sticky toffee pudding so we were really looking forward to it, and it definitely lived up to expectations. Buttery and sweet and cakey.
One day we went with Eamon’s sister in to Keswick, which is sort of the tourist center of the Lakes District, it’s a pretty little town filled with hiking shops and has the nearest big grocery store. There was a farmer’s market and we got freshly made sausages and cheeses.
And then as more and more friends and family arrived, colorful tents sprouted in the field, everything at Rose Cottage started to come together into a most beautiful array and it was time for the wedding party!
It was a spectacularly pretty and joyful day. Lots more pictures here.
Next day was sunny and we walked over to nearby Ireby with Argentine friends. We walked on the empty road into the little town and had some ales at the pub, sat in the sunshine and looked around.
We found this ancient-looking carved stone in the village center; later John told us that it was very ancient indeed, and once (in medieval times?) signified that the village had permission to hold a sanctioned public market.
After we finished all our ales and crisps, our friends walked back to Whitrigg and we walked onwards to Uldale, enjoying the quiet road, beautiful countryside and sunshine. When we got to Uldale we stopped in at a pretty tea-house situated in what used to be the local one-room schoolhouse.
After tea we started back home; on the road back to Whitrigg we bumped in to Eamon and Chris, who were out for a drive and/or looking for us. They brought us to see this pretty magical place, an unused 12th-century church in the middle of a cow pasture in Ireby. We stood inside in quiet for a few minutes while sheep grazed outside the door. Eamon said it’s still used sometimes for events, performances and poetry and such, though it hasn’t been used as a church since the sixties or seventies. Outside we found beautiful gravestones, some from the 1700’s and some that looked older.
When we got back to Rose Cottage, everyone walked up the hill to watch the sun set over the fields and Solway Firth.
Next day Lizzie enthusiastically organized an expedition up Scafell Pike, which is the highest peak in England. We made a group of five: one englishwoman, one north american (me), two argentines, and a frenchman. It was a really gorgeous climb in excellent weather, even though my fellow climbers were pretty fast and I felt a bit old and slow, like I was trying to keep up with a bunch of mountain goats! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go all the way up to the tippity top, but in the end I did and it was spectacular. There were sheep grazing alongside the trail, almost all the way up to the summit, and lots of spring lambs clambering on the cliffs.
The hike was mostly all through open green pastures, with loose rocks and occasionally mud underfoot. There were a few spots we had to scramble up vertical rocky bits, and a few spots where the land plateaued into a flat easy stroll before getting steep again. Near the top the grass and sheep disappeared and it was just scree and rock and wind. The summit was very rocky and very windy, and we could see a million miles in every direction. The summit elevation is 3209 feet.
Our last few days in Cumbria we spent mostly strolling and relaxing with friends inside the national park. One day Mike and I took a long and leisurely walk around Buttermere Lake, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
And then one by one, friends got on trains and planes and buses back to Argentina and Venezuela and South Africa, and we got on a plane to Spain, along with Pontura and Leo. All together we had 10 days in England, and they were so intensely magical and green and happy.