If you’re looking for a way to restore your faith in humanity, you should look no further than Cumbria. The sheer volume of people prepared to reach out and offer their homes, their rooms, their belongings, and their skills to those families and others who have lost everything in the devastation left by Storm Desmond, is testament to the pragmatic, down-to-earth attitudes and good will that is carried by so many Cumbrians and offcomers who live in the region.
I want to show you the treasures of our dogwalk from the other day, but I’m sorry to report that I ate the foraged beech nuts, so you’ll have to wait until next time to see how great they roast, totally boosting the flavour of bulgur wheat and rice. The picture above is of horse chestnuts, not beech nuts.
Yep, just in case you thought Cumbria was getting record levels of sunshine, we caught a collection of cloud and low pressure resulting in humidity, wind, and torrential showers.
Autumn days are the best and worst. Winter’s not so bad because you know the weather’s going to be inclement. Certainty helps with your expectations. If you are sure there’s no way you’ll see sunshine that day, even the sharpest sliver of yellow light across the reddening land exceeds your expectations and gives your heart a lift.
Autumn, on the other hand is full of surprises. A squitchy mud bath, ankle deep next to a frozen puddle. A nice day turns to rain within 30 minutes. Pheasants crash upwards squawking about the dog. Chased by the dog, in fact. She is so puppyish that as soon as she thinks she has the bird almost in her paws, she smells for it, instead of using her eyes. Pheasants 24763 Puppy 0. Too much eye, my mum says. Same for insects.
The dog was the best ever investment in my own quality of life. The walks we take can be greens, or browns and light green and reds. They fill me with a kind of wakeful energy. The blue and mauve hills in the background may be either shrouded in haze or clear as if they are just a few feet away. Rain is a regular contributor to the atmosphere.
The trees have lost most of their leaves by now, so there’s leaf litter underfoot, and when the ground isn’t frost-hard, it’s squitchy. The only sensible things for your feet are Wellington boots and they’re lethal on ice, so it’s still 6 of one, half dozen of the other.
The dog hilariously skidded across ice on the path the other day in a seconds-long stunt. She bounded onto it, her rear end flew out sideways, and she recovered instantaneously by turning the fall into a leap, but she tried to hit the ground at a run and skidded across the ice into a minor heap. Immediately scrabbled off the treacherous area, and hurtled headlong into the thicket. Not noted for thinking, my puppy.
Still, on the way back, she got across the bridge by walking on the grassy strip right next to the wall. Learns some things quick, my girl.
Who wants to know about goslings?! *kicks dust, looks at feet* Okay, I know no one is interested, but humour me here. You don’t have to work with me every day telling tales of funny goslings. As a proud Mama Goose, I initially wasn’t able to stop talking about them, but from the disappointing responses of my colleagues and customers, I guessed you had to be there, so this is possibly my only outlet for my pride.
Tomorrow a roll of chickenwire and I have a date with the goose trailer. The eggs under the geese are set to hatch this weekend, and I’ve had to leave the safety session late because of deadlines. Goodness knows if we’re going to get any hatchlings out of it, bearing in mind the way the geese have been behaving. Even at this late stage, Himself found an egg on the ground today which had been thrown out of the nest by Blueleg. I’m a little worried that the eggs are cheeping and the silly goose is chucking them out because she thinks they shouldn’t be making a noise.
Anyway, here: have some goslings.
See how gander’s back is becoming white and fluffy? That’s his new down coming through. See where it’s all pink? That’s where his mate has been pulling out his down (first yellow, now white), presumably because she’s bored. Hence the rosemary, to keep her amused. It’s just a bit above her head, so the others don’t all eat it.
They all cuddle up to gander because he is the biggest. And his naughty goose has her head touching his (first two heads on the right hand side). By the way, anyone within driving distance that fancies having a couple of geese, let me know. They’ll be 8-10 weeks old in no time. The age that geese like to go places.
Today is one of those days in Cumbria. The bright, blue kind, where azure sky stretches out, beyond the limitations of the eye. The odd fluffy cloud slides across the expanse, so slowly that its progress is imperceptible unless you give it five minutes and look again.
The hills drift into the valley haze, and the snow has melted into tiger stripes.
This is why I live in Cumbria. For the four days each year that look like this.
Ancient lime kilns nestled into the sides of the fells, small quarries nearby. These tell of a different era; when a day of hard graft didn’t end with an evening’s TV. Someone – lots of someones – chipped out limestone from those quarries, by hand. Maybe we still use some of those pieces of stone in our drystone walls now.
Shepherd stations – small houses often without windows, but with a chimney – are scattered across the isolated regions. They once provided shelter and warmth for the hard workers who followed the sheep across the hills and eventually drove them to market.
With the lack of rain of late, the ground is quite brown and the rivers and tarns are revealing their secrets. The government has temporarily relaxed its rules on long distance lorry drivers enabling them to travel further for longer, so that animal feeds can be urgently delivered to sheep and cows across the region. All the animals want is that sweet, juicy, milk producing grass, but they won’t be so lucky for a while.
Everybody twines about the terrible weather here, but when it rains it only gets greener. When I first went to University, I was homesick for about 6 months. It rained all the time in Huddersfield, but it only got greyer. It wasn’t so bad – I stayed nearly 13 years in urban West Yorkshire – but having left for so long, I now never fail to appreciate how wonderful and magical it is to live here in bonny Cumbria.
Come visit us sometime. You’ll take it away with you; a little sliver stuck in your heart forever.