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.
Look to the top of the page and you will see an image of the beautiful Lune Valley, the M6 motorway peeling away from the side of Grayrigg Hause, and on the left side of the picture, some of the Howgills, fells that Albert Wainwright called the Elephant Hills (they look like elephants lying down).
You can see snow on the rear fells, but the farmland in the foreground is quite green, so I suspect that I took the image in springtime last year. Might have been the year before. Maybe as late as May. High up in the hills we had snow until June both last year and the one before. You can also make out the railway, the main line from London to Scotland, wending its way alongside the road. The railway was there first.
It’s a sunny day, quite bright … the afternoon, not the morning. (I drive into the picture almost every morning, along the motorway on the lefthand carriageway, and I assure you, on bright mornings the sun shines dangerously into my eyes). You can see the shadow of Grayrigg Hause falling over the motor and rail ways, which means we are looking vaguely East (probably more sou’easterly).
Now imagine it under cloud. Or rain lashing the ground, the motorway filling up with patchy but expanisve puddles and a relentless, gusty wind. (Still sky-to-ground cloud). Yesterday it was the latter. The motorway in the picture is the windiest stretch so instead of risking being blown into the path of a wagon, I climbed the road up Grayrigg Hause, high above the motorway (actually the picture is taken from the layby on the side of that road) and took another route that goes underneath it and eventually alongside the railway.
Unfortunately the hazard was water, instead of wind. You can imagine what happened.
So here are the things I have learned from bypassing the main route to work yesterday morning:
- Angry brings on IBS and it doesn’t make the car work.
- Water that is deeper than the radius of the wheels is bad.
- Squeaky car has had a part replaced; it doesn’t make her invincible.
- White knights might come wearing waterproof chaps, wellies and a dripping wet trilby, but they’re no less white knights.