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1: Paparazzo for a day

Paparazzo for a day

Reprinted by kind permission of Down Your Way

Published December 2013

In the summer of 1991 I took a flexi day off work, stuffed my passport and camera into the rucksack, and set off for Yorkshire. The intention was to climb Simon’s Seat high above the River Wharfe near Bolton Abbey but as I approached the Priory’s Church I realised a large crowd was starting to gather. A passer-by mentioned that the son of Raquel Welch, Damon, and Freddie Trueman’s daughter Rebecca – who’d got married in the US - were having a wedding blessing in full regalia to please both families. With a great stroke of luck I managed to position myself and a camera hard by the church door only seconds before there was piggyback room only.

The time span between the bride’s arrival and that of Raquel was so long that members of the Women’s Institute could have served the entire assembly with refreshments. But the fervour was electrifying, and by the time she was was finally in our midst and, in my case, up close and personal, we forgave her and cheered.

The ravages of time had successfully skirted around this movie star and, like Rebecca, she was absolutely stunning. Without wishing to sound catty I couldn’t help noticing that she was wearing an odd line in Marigolds and her dress appeared to have been washed on the wrong cycle.


2: Farmer Townley, Miss Potter & Pigling Bland

Republished by kind permission of Cumbria magazine
Published December 2013

A hundred years ago the area on which the library at Grange-over-Sands now stands was a pig farm - hence the adjacent Pig Lane. But this was no ordinary piggery. Its owner William Greetham Marshall Townley lived nearby at the magnificent Hardcragg Hall: a Grade II listed property and the oldest house in the town, having been built in 1563. John Wilkinson, the pioneering ironmaster, whose grave is marked in nearby Lindale by an impressive obelisk, once lived at Hardcragg too and it is believed Oliver Cromwell stayed overnight. The property is now 5* self-catering accommodation.

William Townley’s father died when he was two years old and he was reared by his maternal grandparents, the Postlethwaites, who owned Hardcragg. His granddaughter Mary Cuffe, whose mother was William’s daughter Cecily Townley, tells me “Farming was in grandpa’s blood from an early age. He was sent to Aysgarth School at Bedale, from where he wrote to his granny ‘How are my little chickens doing? Can you send me 5/-d for my journey home?’” He moved on to King’s School, Canterbury and in 1885, at the age of 15 years, another letter to her emphasised his interest in poultry. ‘There is a naturalist’s shop here and I take a great interest in the queer animals he gets. I am always looking out for some new kind of bantams or hens’.

He returned to Hardcragg after further education at an agricultural school near Evesham in Worcestershire, and took over his grandparents’ farm. Through his innovative ideas he introduced Jersey cattle to the area and over the years he became a well known breeder in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

It is said that Beatrix Potter became a close friend of Farmer Townley and a regular visitor to Hardcragg where she loved to sit sketching either in the house or garden. Although there is no written evidence, legend has it that the The Tale of Pigling Bland was inspired by a ‘friendly porker’ Beatrix met at Hardcragg and that her drawings of panelling in the book were based on this fine property.

1913 was to be a memorable year for Beatrix. At the age of 47 her life changed dramatically on the 15th of October when she married Hawkshead solicitor William Heelis at St Mary Abbots’ Church, Kensington, London. In the same month The Tale of Pigling Bland was published.

Her final artwork for the publication was mailed to her publisher Frederick Warne from Lindeth Howe, a private house near Bowness which the family rented for their holiday in 1913, and where they had stayed three years earlier. It overlooks Windermere and is now an award-winning 4* Country House Hotel of character. It is noted for its fine dining, which is verified by the AA’s two-rosette accolade, and has an interesting collection of Beatrix Potter memorabilia. Its gorgeous location and ambience are typical of the large quality homes the Potter family rented for lengthy holidays each year, especially as they needed to accommodate their retinue of servants. But little were they to know during this shorter Lakeland sojourn that Rupert Potter would die in May the following year. As a result Beatrix needed to make constant trips to London to attend to her mother’s needs but in 1915 Lindeth Howe came onto the market. Because of its close proximity to Sawrey, Helen Potter made it her home and lived there until her death in 1932 at the age of 93. Earlier this year the centenary of The Tale of Pigling Bland was celebrated in style at the hotel.

William Townley and his cousins at Townhead on Windermere supplied Beatrix with pigs, including black ones, during their long relationship. Mary tells of how her grandfather gave Beatrix a black pig for a wedding present. It was thought possible that this could have been the piglet that inspired the character Pig-wig who was Pigling Bland’s great friend. However, Beatrix’s private papers show that her idea to include a black pig in the book had been formed much earlier.

A clue to the possible identity of Pig-wig is based on a tale repeated by Joan Townley, wife of Cicely’s brother Charlie Townley, that Beatrix had fallen for a jet black girl piglet whilst visiting Hardcragg and although it was the runt of a litter Beatrix insisted on having it. Farmer Townley begged her not to take it, fearing the wrath of her farm manager John Cannon who – true to speculation - flatly refused to put it amongst his herd of pigs. This was probably because of its lack of pedigree as well as its weak condition. Beatrix named it Sally and kept it by her bed in a basket. Wrapped in a blanket she nourished it with a feeding bottle day and night so that eventually it became a pet. A story told in Beatrix’s family was that one night when it was really ill it slept in the conjugal bed and had recovered by morning. It is unlikely that the mystery of Pig-wig’s true identity will ever be solved but it is interesting to speculate on whether Beatrix used Sally or another black pig as the model for Pig-wig.

Both Beatrix and William Heelis were keen conservationists. Ten years after their marriage Beatrix increased her land and properties by purchasing the run-down Troutbeck Park Farm which was likely to be sold for development. This was eventually one of fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres in the Lake District that she left to the National Trust upon her death. At Troutbeck she not only bred Herdwicks but furthered the cause of this threatened indigenous breed. She became a judge, a prize-winning breeder, and the first woman president-elect of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association. It is very likely that in their roles of judges and breeders at agricultural shows Beatrix Heelis and William Townley would have had regular contact.

At the 130th Annual Cartmel Agricultural Society Show, on August 6th this year, two Townley trophies were competed for. The W G M Townley Perpetual Memorial Cup was originally presented in 1930, the year following Farmer Townley’s death and must be allocated to a person who lives within the ancient parish of Cartmel. It was presented to Mrs M Poole of Grange-over-Sands, for her piece of Ruskin Lace, by the Society’s President, the Rt Hon T Farron MP.

Along with his wife Mary, William Townley was an active member of the Society for 35 years, serving as Chairman for 26 years and Vice Chairman for four. It is recorded that he was ‘honoured, respected and loved by everybody connected with the Society’. According to Janet Ferguson, Hon. Ass. Secretary, the second trophy is also in memory of W G M Townley, Chairman of the Village Industries Section 1912-1929, and must be presented to a Women’s Institute or group of not less than four workers. This year’s winners were Grange-over-Sands Women’s Insittute.

The degree of friendship and respect that Beatrix Potter and William Townley must had for each other seems evident in the dedicating of The Tale of Pigling Bland to William’s eldest son and daughter. It reads “For Cecily and Charlie. A Tale of The Christmas Pig”.


3: Dent – A terribly good bolthole

Published October 2013

On an inky night in March, with snowflakes beginning to fall on the ancient cobbles, I made my way into the George and Dragon. Mine host was pulling prize winning ales as I ate my fill and mottled my legs in front of a seriously roaring fire, which was framed by a unique Dent marble fireplace.

Its feet are in both Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but Dent’s quaint whitewashed old cottages reflect Westmorland architecture. Like many small rural villages, it has declined in stature, population and services since the 1800s, a fact bemoaned even back then by its most famous son, Britain’s first professional geologist Adam Sedgwick.

The marble and hand-knitting industries were killed by imports, mechanisation and improved communication so that farming and tourism became the area’s main economy. Dent’s station, part of the historic Settle/Carlisle line, is over four miles from the village and buses are few and far between. Apart from the Sedbergh road the valley is served by four hairy routes that are not so much roads as adventures – especially the narrow gated one over Kingsdale. This seclusion makes Dentdale the perfect bolthole for both summer and winter breaks but top of my wish list is to be snowed into Dentdale for a whole week.

Apart from outdoor enthusiasts and visitors calling in for meals, or accommodation in one of their ten comfortable bedrooms, the George and Drag is is very much a focal point for local groups, including pool and football teams. Out of twelve original inns and ale houses in the valley only three remain. Judith and Paul Beeley own the The George and Dragon, built in 1821/22. In addition they have Dent Brewery which is Cumbria’s oldest surviving microbrewery. Started in 1990 it is one of the country’s most remote, hiding as it does in a bracing hillside location. From its spring water eight hop variety cask beers are produced; all available on hand pump at the pub. ‘Aviator, Golden Fleece and Kamikaze are our best sellers,’ says the knowledgeable and enthusiastic manager Gary Kirby who, along with his wife Susan, has had to adjust accordingly in the five years they have been at the helm in the George. ‘We’re delighted to have been given the triple awards of ‘Westmorland, West Pennines and Cumbria CAMRA Cider and Perry Pub of the Year 2013’ says Gary. ‘With the growth in cider and perry we took the step to source and supply little-known interesting ciders and perrys from around the country as there are only two producers in Cumbria.’

Gone are Robert Southey’s ‘terrible knitters e’ Dent’ (‘terrible’ meaning intense) but there is still a tangible link. 'When I was in my twenties I had a dream one night that I had a knitting business' says Sophie. But there was a problem: I couldn’t knit.’ The dream was so profound that she slaved away over a pair of hot needles until she’d mastered the art. Once fluent she began her knitting career, originally producing sweaters designed after the fashion of William de Morgan. It was the springboard for the founding of Sophie’s Wild Woollens, a highly successful business opened in 1990 in premises overlooking Dent’s village green. From here she exports a fashionable range of clothing to small independent retailers throughout the country, including Scotland, and far flung corners such as Russia and Japan.

Sophie's designer knitwear is created from Merino wool, spun and dyed in a Yorkshire mill. Once complete it is gently felted to create close fibres. The end result is a light, warm and hard wearing garment adorned with Sophie’s signature hand-made buttons that are a joy to behold. A staff of fifteen, most of them working from the comfort of their own homes, are scattered throughout the Lake District, Eden Valley and Dentdale creating Sophie’s distinctive and individual designs that are meticulously hand finished to keep their shape and flatter the wearer.

One of the last two of Dent’s ‘terrible knitters’, Elizabeth “Tizza” Middleton, was a close friend and mentor of Sophie. She died in 2007 aged 91 and was buried with her parents at Deepdale Methodist Chapel. Sophie visits her grave regularly for quiet contemplation and to draw on happy memories of Tizza's sunny disposition and her encouragement that has led to Sophie continuing Dent's connection with knitting – the local industry that stretches back centuries.

When Rita and Eddie Smith set off for Dent in 1982 they had never previously travelled further than Barbon. ‘We’d seen a tiny private advert for a Yorkshire Dales pub,’ said Rita, ‘and we both immediately fell in love with the village.’ They ran the Sun Inn until 1989 when they bought Dent Stores as a less tying option than long days and late nights as publicans. ‘When we first owned the stores we stocked hardware items, like black lead and tap rubbers,’ recalls Rita ‘but back then supermarkets hadn’t become established. We’ve gradually moved with the times and now run the shop more as a convenience store.’

Dent Stores is the only one of its kind in the village, with a postal service two days a week, and a steady stream of customers. Visitors using the Settle/Carlisle railway line and the Dales Way footpath, along with cyclists on the Dales Cycle Way, are delighted to find a thriving village shop that stocks everything they need - including fresh bread, vegetables, ham and bacon as well as daily newspapers. Rita diverted her attention to the schoolchildren who had come in with their mums to buy sweets and ice cream. It gave me the opportunity to note how she and Eddie provide a vital service that is fast disappearing. Dent Village Stores isn’t just a retail outlet, it serves its community with the goods they need, it’s a place to chat with its owners and other customers, and of real importance is its handiness for the more senior villagers of Dent. ‘We’re coming up to retirement,’ said Eddie, ‘and wanting to take life easier as well as spending more time with grandchildren, so the business and property are on the market.’ Of one thing they are both very sure: they don't want to move away from Dent.

As teenagers Joe and Carrol Stephenson both ran independent businesses, which stood them in good stead when they bought Dent Crafts Centre at Helmside in 1999. ‘We fell in love with Dentdale the minute we arrived,’ said Joe. He cooked and Carrol baked bread, cakes and puddings for their increasingly popular tearoom. In addition they sold an attractive range of crafts – many produced by local artisans. ‘It was totally absorbing and time consuming and our dedication to the business had to come before pleasure,’ said Carroll. ‘Even our son’s wedding date was governed by our commitments’.

When retirement beckoned a couple of years ago the sale of Dent Crafts Centre failed to materialise but they had no intention of leaving Dentdale and decided to stay put by changing course. The property, renamed The Old Craft Barn, was converted into a luxuriously attractive small bed and breakfast business which has already earned them five stars as well as breakfast and gold awards by the Tourist Board. Joe and Carrol’s attention to detail, caring dispositions and delicious home-made food are bringing plenty of repeat bookings. I know of nothing quite as memorable as Joe’s mushroom omelette or Carrol’s date and sticky toffee pudding. But what is their secret of continuing success? ‘Teamwork,’ they both said, without hesitation.


4: Millican Remembered

Republished by the kind permission of Cumbria -
August 2013

There are those who dare to be different, and fascinating characters like Millican Dalton who took eccentricity to a whole new level, for Millican was uncloned. His mantra that work interferes with pleasure, and that ‘the simplest life is the happiest’, is still an ideal but unlike the rest of us he dared to chase the dream and in doing so found his purpose.

For several decades he played house in a Borrowdale cave with his sewing machine and three addictions – Wills’ Woodbine cigarettes, strong coffee and his own adrenaline.

This Peter Pan character was no scrounger and his modest lifestyle was adequately financed by a small private income and his own labours, part of which were used to make organic clothing, rucksacks and lightweight commercial camping equipment on a hand-operated sewing machine.

Born in 1867 at Nenthead near Alston in Cumbria he was seven years old when his family settled in Essex where, as a young man, he developed an interest in camping, cycling, the great outdoors and climbing anything vertical, including trees and the elevation of their home.

Millican had received a longer and more varied education than most of his contemporaries, and was tutored in ornithology, astronomy and gardening, so that he had developed a love of the outdoors from an early age. In 1891 he was living with his family in Hackney, London and working in the city as a fire insurance clerk in Cornhill. His desire to get close to Nature prompted a dramatic move, for in 1911 he appears on the national census living in a tent named Esperança (the Portuguese word for ‘hope’) in Epping Forest whilst still working in the same job.

Whilst his tent was ideally located, he considered commuting into London every day irksome and a waste of his valuable time. Throwing away his Oyster card he moved to the Lake District, an area he had discovered as a youth on cycle-camping trips with his brothers and made a fresh start just south of Keswick where he bonded with the magnificent landscape known as the Jaws of Borrowdale. Travelling down the lush valley, eyes are drawn to their midst – especially the wooded conicular eminence of Castle Crag. It is here that Millican chose to live in two interconnecting split-level slate caves, but not as a hermit for he was never short of visitors and admirers. Maybe it was he who coined the phrase Location, location, location.

In addition to sewing, the self-styled ‘Professor of Adventure’ worked as a paid mountain guide both at home and abroad, especially in the Swiss Alps. In the Lake District he would lead parties into temptation on devilish escapades like dangling folk on ropes over the edge of precipices, and taking them onto summits in raging thunderstorms. There was nothing chauvinistic about Millican’s attitude to women, many of whom became his close friends. He was quite happy for them to risk death at every turn too and they were even allowed to lead climbs.

Not only did he challenge his own strengths he also encouraged others to do the same. As an exciting bonus he would take parties on his small home-made raft named Rogue Herries, that he had fashioned from logs and adorned with tartan sails. It was enough to shiver anyone’s timbers, especially when they shot the River Derwent’s rapids or glided five at a time across the depths of Derwentwater.

Millican was a teetotaller, pacifist and vegetarian. Even so it isn’t difficult to imagine him hunched over his campfire of an evening, cooking juicy brown trout for his guests’ supper, with stewed organic wild nettles and rosehips on the side – all sourced from his own doorstep. In addition there might well have been potatoes that he grew in the vicinity of his ‘Cave Hotel’, as he termed it. Although his standard of hygiene was reputed to be dodgy, he was enthusiastic and entertaining (so long as they didn’t get downwind of him), with a deep thinking mind that produced a wide range of stories laced with his personal philosophies. Carved into the cave’s slate is perhaps his most poignant gem – ‘Don’t waste words: Jump to conclusions’.

My favourite story about his extraordinary courage, is the way he celebrated his 50th climb of the awesome Napes Needle. He took enough sticks with him to light a fire on top and brew a coffee.

The Borrowdale Gates Hotel at Manesty was built originally as a private residence around 1862 for local benefactor Margaret Heathcote. Its huge dining room windows frame Castle Crag and whilst local trout is often on the mouth-watering menu stewed nettles are definitely not although of a winter evening there’s a homely log fire in the bar.

Millican’s memory is perpetuated by owners Colin and Joy Harrison who took over the hotel in 2008 and began a thoughtful major refurbishment of the entire building that was only completed last year. Their efforts have done justice to this long-established and popular bolthole which nestles under Catbells and Maiden Moor and has a faithful regular clientele. All the work was carried out by local business folk and craftsmen, including three fathers and sons - electricians Eddie and Geoff Benson, plumbers Brian and Matthew Roper and builders David and Joe Harrison. Their in-house joiner is David McEwan.

Of their thematic rooms one is dedicated to Millican Dalton. Entry is through a heavy hand crafted oak door with a surrounding façade of local Honister slate so that you can pretend, if only for an instant, that you’re going to live rough. Once inside it is sumptuous. There’s an en-suite that has underfloor heating, a ceiling beam and fireplace of wood that has been recycled from an ancient Cumbrian farmhouse, and a bed that beckons. Top of the list is the same unhindered and glorious view that Millican lived for – minus the earwigs and spiders.



Published June 2012 in Down Your Way as Jubilee
bunting spurs us on for big walk

To celebrate my fortieth birthday my late husband David, 12-year old daughter Vanessa and I walked the Pennine Way.

Sodden sheep lurking without intent behind dry stone walls, life-threatening peat bogs, relentless rain, the camaraderie of fellow walkers and a wonderful sense of achievement and relief at the end. This is part of the cornucopia of memories that leap easily from my subconscious and refuse to go away, even after 35 years.

The physical hardships of completing this 270-mile long-distance footpath, that stretches from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm over the Scottish border, will not have changed and neither will the weather. It terms of stamina it is the daddy of all lengthy plods in the UK. Consequently, for anyone with little or no experience who is considering undertaking this feat, a real test beforehand is to try carrying a rucksack full of Le Creuset pans[i] on a long day’s circular hike over the Three Peaks of Yorkshire from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, with or without the rain.

For many hours whilst walking the Way nothing happens. And then it does it some more. But now and again, just to jolt you back to life, a snorting bull takes exception to sharing the footpath, or peevishly leans against the very gate through which you want to pass. In our case a bull chased us just prior to Ribblehead and we’d no option but to wade across the waist-high River Ribble before it made contact.

We hadn’t used Youth Hostiles for over a couple of decades and it surprised me that the wardens hadn’t noticed I’d grown up. Apart from their authoritarian manner nothing had changed from my angle regarding the YHA’s mandatory duty, given before you left any of their premises, for I was still being singled out to clean the entire self-cookers’ kitchen. School Journey Parties were the bane of every Pennine Wayfarer’s life on that trip. Grunting, spotty, hoarse, frustrated testosterone-charged youths, who didn’t want to walk, talk or look you in the eye. They unfailingly left chaos in their wake after loudly using every single pan, pot and utensil for someone else to wash. In this case me. The advantages, however, were the drying facilities and the low cost of accommodation which on average came to £2.65 for three beds, a loaf and two pints of milk.

After leaving Edale for Crowden many wayfarers without compass skills went off route. Hayfield seemed to be the default destination. The warden at Crowden, used to guests not turning up, did a roaring trade in brown paper and string for those who made it but regretted that their rucksacks were harbouring unnecessary clobber.

From the next stop at Mankinholes the wet trek of 23 miles to a lonely farmhouse in the Lothersdale area was decidedly arduous. I have fond memories of this haven and its hard-working family whose home was already packed to the rafters when we arrived because in their kindness they turned no-one away. It was 10pm by the time we all sat down to tea, with cats and dogs dashing between our legs under the table. Thankfully we’d booked in advance and whilst we sank between heavenly feather mattresses and satin eiderdowns, with crisp cotton sheets and soft pillows, others were just glad to get horizontal. Two of the lads slept on couches in the lounge whilst a girl slumbered in the dining room, A couple of late arrivals who were falling asleep standing up spent the night in a caravan with the family’s lodger.

All along the walk we were greeted intermittently by flags and buntings, fluttering in the breeze or sodden and limp, on account of 1977 being the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. It certainly helped to pretend they were in celebration of the three of us arriving at another staging post. Whenever feasible David and I lost no opportunity in drinking the Queen’s health and this was the case at the Cross Keys, East Marton. This was the epitome of how a country pub should look and feel. It was dry and quaint with sparkly brasses and polished oak and they served substantial soup and coffee at 25p each, with ham sandwiches for 35p.

Many miles involved featureless moors embedded in layers of mud, with sheep that stole butties out of your hand in desperation for an alternative to wet grass. In contrast a large part of the walk passed through the exhilarating scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, especially from Gargrave heading north. We ate breakfast next to the stream the following morning in the garden of Beck Hall at Malham in glorious sunshine, ending the day at Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The route from here to Hawes lends itself to striding out, particularly along the old Cam Road. From Hawes to Keld was outstanding, except the boring four-mile climb up Great Shunner Fell, and Kisdon Bank takes some beating for a view you can almost taste. Green ways, far-reaching scenes and venerable hamlets emphasise the popularity of walking some of the most glorious acres in the entire country.

Our favourite overnight stop was a delightful small hotel called Rookhurst at Gayle. The cost of bed and breakfast was £3.00 for adults and £2.00 for children and we’d booked in for evening dinner consisting of three courses at £1.75 each. It was a formal affair with a communal table for all the guests, which we shared with two German families. They wore expensive suits whilst we had donned damp crimplene slacks that had been rolled up in our rucksacks and whilst enjoying the food there was some friendly banter between us through their accusation of weak and tasteless English ales which we defended. Suffice that afterwards all the adults trooped half a mile into Hawes where we invited them into a pub and bought them pints of Theakston’s Old Pecular which proved our point.


6: Creature Comforts at Last

Reprinted with kind permission from Cumbria
Issue of October 2011

I didn’t fall in love with the Lake District easily. My early introduction had been at the age of fifteen riding many hilly miles, often soaked to the skin, on a fixed-wheel green Hetchin’s bike. And then David came along to show me the real great outdoors.

Not satisfied with a foray into Borrowdale under canvas in 1959 he dragged me to the Lakes again in the freezing temperatures of February 1960 for our honeymoon. In the local press fashion of yesteryear the wedding report ended “….. the couple left for a honeymoon in the Lake District; the bride wearing a navy suit with lemon accessories”. In truth I wore a rucksack and borrowed hob-nailed boots that weren’t broken in and our destination was unknown since all we had between us and destitution was £4.

We left our rented country cottage in the Yorkshire Dales in thick snow on this hair-brained adventure. After walking several long and painful miles my blisters, new husband, and I, climbed thankfully into a smelly Land Rover whose driver had responded to our hitch-hiking technique and we were dropped off in Settle. The next lift got us stranded further north in Ingleton, with night and the temperature falling rapidly. We had no choice but to repair to the former Bridge Hotel, hard by the River Greta, for the first night’s accommodation, which made a large hole in our assets.

By late afternoon the next day we arrived in Keswick where we spent two nights in a modest B & B before returning home. This time we sat in the back of an empty, bumpy removal wagon, whose rear shutter was still raised. The receding view of the snowy mountains was dramatic, and would have been a pleasure to behold had we not been half way to hypothermia and suffering from extreme nausea.

A few months prior to this, in September 1959, we’d set off with two huge rucksacks. Mine contained a small two-man tent and in David’s were a couple of double feather eiderdowns sewn together, minus the bulk of their contents. We‘d made Grasmere by early afternoon and luckily a travelling salesman picked us up on the A591 and dropped us off in Keswick, from where we walked to an unofficial campsite near Dalt Wood at Grange.

It is difficult to recall which part of that holiday hit rock bottom the hardest, for there were many contenders that were truly dire, none more so than the first night. A couple of young men had arrived in an open-topped sports vehicle and lit a fire. We all gathered round clutching bottled beers listening to their radio playing Jerry Keller singing Here Comes Summer. It had topped the US charts but when it finally arrived over here there was precious little of the season left. Nevertheless it was rare to see anyone owning a car at their age and to have one with its very own built-in radio was the ultimate joy. After a pleasant singalong everyone had turned in more or less simultaneously so that the only sounds came from mice scuttling in the rubbish bags and owls asking for sore throats.

Next morning, after a night spent tossing and turning, I ached unmercifully from my nocturnal encounter with the hard ground. “Where are the toilets?” I wanted to know as I crawled out of purgatory. “There are plenty of trees.” “Toilet paper?” “Dock leaves.” I came back from the wood feeling hideously unclean and looked around for facilities. Stupidly I’d not only imagined having a proper wash but I’d also presumed I could rinse out my smalls. The only option for either purpose was the icy Derwent with which I never bonded during our whole stay.

In readiness for the second night we gathered huge amounts of green bracken and spread them inside the tent, covering the pretty foliage with the loose ground sheet, and topping it with the eiderdowns. After a day’s hard slog up fells and down dales, several bottles of strong ale, and a loud singalong with Jerry Keller, we hit the tent with relish in anticipation of the cosy leafy mattress that looked extremely fetching. But despite the day’s strenuous activity I awoke long before midnight, with my entire skin itching from tiny creatures burrowing into my flesh and eating me alive.

When I returned to work an elderly colleague asked me where we’d stayed and I panicked. In those days it wasn’t seemly for an unmarried couple to share a tent overnight. “The Borrowdale Gates Hotel,” I lied, having seen the place while tramping through Grange and Manesty. Unfortunately, he knew the Lakes like the back of his hand, which accounted for his knowing look. “Really?” he said, unconvinced. Clearly the place was well out of my league.

I have been back to the area many times in the intervening years, climbing everything in sight in every conceivable weather condition. I also learned to share Wainwright’s opinion that this was the “loveliest square mile in England”. Not for nothing does Prince Charles have a soft spot for the Lakes, having used a bolthole in Borrowdale. Sting must also have been enamoured sufficiently to choose a pad near Grasmere. Nor has it escaped my notice that two American presidents had Lakeland connections. Woodrow Wilson was particularly fond of Rydal and wanted to live at Troutbeck before he took up the presidency. Clearly it must have been a special place for Bill Clinton too; he first proposed to Hillary on the shore of Ennerdale (although she turned him down then).

Last September I went back to the spot where we’d pitched our tent on the edge of Dalt Wood, exactly fifty-one years earlier. I took my iPod and played Here Comes Summer – still out of season. I looked at the Derwent slinking past, pretending not to notice me, and I shuddered at the thought of getting washed in it. Then I turned on my heels and set of at last for the Borrowdale Gates Hotel.

If I was apprehensive that this lengthy wait was going to prove a disappointment, the fear was dispelled immediately I entered the premises to a warm welcome from Sue Willan, head receptionist. And I didn’t even need to ask if someone would carry my luggage to the luxurious en-suite room with views I once nearly died for in a winter blizzard, for it was whisked away.

It rained so I curled up in a cosy armchair, near a log fire, with a glass of chilled Chardonnay. The windows framed a delightful panorama of familiar fells that brought back endless memories. In a way I was relieved that the lofty peaks were no longer within my reach as several arthritic joints ached in unison at the mere thought of my climbing days. Even better, I was ecstatic I didn’t have to crawl into a tent.

Colin and Joy Harrison, who took over this family-run hotel in 2008, are clearly giving a service that guarantees guests come back for more. I had chilled out within minutes of my arrival for it was comfortable and quiet, and then some, the only noise coming from birds chirping and sheep bleating, for the staff work quietly and professionally in such an unobtrusive way that everything appears to be done by the fairies.

No mice scuttled in rubbish bags as I ate dinner in the charming dining room with views of Castle Crag. Indeed, it was worth staying for the food alone; hardly surprising when you learn that chef Chris previously worked at a Michelin-starred establishment. The menu and wine list were decidedly tempting and the culinary delights surpassed all expectations, not least because of the expert service, quality of the ingredients, faultless presentation and the best Crème Brulée I’ve ever had.

There were crisp cotton sheets and plump feather pillows on my bed, and not a sign of bracken on the quality mattress. And when I woke naturally at a decent hour to the joys of a hospitality tray I wallowed in the thought of a shower, complimentary toiletries, and fluffy towels lingering in readiness on the hot towel rail. Remembering the cremated bacon and eggs, cooked on an open fire, I could barely wait for breakfast from a menu that had many choices and I ran the gamut of naughties, thankful not to have to wash up the crockery and utensils in the river afterwards.

It was fine and sunny as I strolled around the garden three days later, taking in the scenery and stalling my departure. In considering the tent and the Borrowdale Gates Hotel there was simply no contest. Beggar Dalt Wood.


7. The Dales Dog, a Treacle Butty and a Trip to Chevin End

Re-published by kind permission of Down Your Way from their issue of June 2012

One extremity-numbing Saturday morning in November 1953 a friend and I set off on our bicycles for a weekend at Aysgarth Youth Hostel, a YHA buzzword on the strength of the warden’s Labrador doing tricks for the hostellers on Saturday nights. Considering the excitement of paintballing and bungee jumping I wonder how many youngsters these days would be lured into riding the best part of 50 miles through icy thick fog to watch such a spectacle?

In the event the dog performed several tricks such as sticking out its paw for us to shake and making one or two fancy moves when instructed. But it was so not riveting that by nine o’clock several folk had tucked themselves into their bunks after a double cocoa.

For me one of the joys of cycling as a youth was escaping parental control. The freedom was as exhilarating as the breathtaking scenery and sense of adventure. We passed on the cocoa this particular night considering we were well enough away from home to fear discovery, and headed over the road to the Palmer Flatt pub to order a beer and experiment with a paper packet of five Woodbines.

There was a deliciously warm glow from the fire, the beer was gradely, and it was with genuine pleasure that we relaxed on a bar stool apiece listening to the local Dales folk talking about yows and tups. The duty that I would be given the following morning - and in my case this was always to clean up the entire self-cookers’ kitchen - was as far from my mind as the long drag back over Kidstones to Buckden. Right now we had just sucked the froth off the beer, and were coolly trying to blow smoke rings at the ceiling, when a voice from the doorway boomed “Well if it isn’t Maggie from Barrowford.” And to my absolute horror there stood Mrs Barrowclough who, with her family, had left our area the previous year.

“I never thought I’d see you again,” I coughed. “We’d no idea where you’d moved to.” Obviously and inconveniently for me it was to Aysgarth in a tied cottage near the river, next to where her husband worked (if memory serves me correctly) in a flour mill. She eyed the Woodbines and beer, and as her son and I had been through junior school together she didn’t need to ask my age, which was not commensurate with current activities. I’ll give Mrs Barrowclough her due, news of my misdemeanours never got back to base.

On our way to Aysgarth we had passed a place that was hugely popular with cyclists. I have fond memories of Long Ashes at Threshfield which had a wooden hut to the rear of the main building where they served pint pots of tea for 1/-d. A handbook published by the Cyclists’ Touring Club listed such havens as this where you were welcome to take your own food and merely purchase a drink. At Long Ashes more than anywhere else I longed for, but was never once able to afford, a plate of real home-made chips.

The place was also popular with caravaners and there were plenty of open spaces for games. One summer a large group of cyclists from the various clubs in our town organised a sports day there, the main highlight being to try and eat a chunk of bread coated in treacle, with our hands tied behind our back. On a scale of entertainment value it would currently score around three points.

But the first cycle run I ever took, at the age of 15, has remained the most lucid for the sheer physical effort it took to get back home from whence we went. I was riding a gold-coloured Rudge with Sturmy Archer gear when I turned up for the Sunday run with the Clarion Cycling Club in east Lancashire. After much tittering and pointing at my machine by youngsters with classy models we set off for Yorkshire. It was hardly any distance to the county border but I was well and truly left behind before we’d even reached it.

Everyone I asked for the whereabouts of Chevin End, the club’s intended destination, fell on stony ground but this only spurred me on with a real determination to find the place. Playing it by ear I headed into unknown territory over The Moss to Ickornshaw and Cowling. Once there my destination obviously had a familiar ring for I was pointed in the direction of Addingham and on to Otley.

A long steep hill led up from the town to the Clarion House on the Chevin where I almost fell off the bike. I literally staggered with exhaustion into the café and eagerly washed down my Spam sandwiches with a large pot of strong tea. As I did so I marvelled at the fervent participation in the sports day going on outside. I couldn’t understand where the folks’ energy had come from, but the real cruelty was that barely had I landed than it was time to climb back on the bikes and head home.

Despite being unbearably saddlesore the following day I’d got the bug for independent cheap travel. By the following year I’d earned enough extra money by cleaning a chapel three nights a week, after my day job, to buy a green curly Hetchins bike with Madison handlebars, a Carradice saddlebag, alloy wheels, and a Brooks racing saddle. It goes without saying that back in the fifties you also had to ride fixed gear if you wanted to clone with the rest of the gang.

On that glorious summer’s day how could I have known that 35 years later I should marry my second husband in Leeds, followed by a modest reception for ten, spread on a pasting table on top of the Chevin – the hill being framed by the window of our home on Weston Ridge, Otley. The view never failed to remind me of a naive young girl who trod life’s path with a new determination after that day at Chevin End.


Billy Blacksmith of Barrowford

Reprinted with the kind permission of Down Your Way magazine
August issue 2011

Whenever I think of William Henry Whitaker, alias Billy Blacksmith, one of my strongest memories of this burly jocular man is of him reading our newspaper. We took his evening visits in our stride because as a staunch Yorkshire man he derived great pleasure in not buying his own when he could read ours instead.

His family left the county of his birth when he was only a lad, but for the whole of his working life in East Lancashire he plied his trade dangerously near the border. Indeed, his first job as a time-served man was in the village of Blacko, which actually straddled the border itself. It is here that the census of 1901 shows him as a farrier.

By the time I knew him in the 1940s he had his own forge hard by an ancient river crossing and toll booth, and next to the waterfall, in the nearby village of Barrowford. His home was across the road, in the appropriately named Ford Street.

As children we would stand in the forge door watching in awe as the powerful Billy wrestled with huge shire horses or hammered glowing metal on his anvil in front of a blazing furnace. His flat cloth cap would be pushed back at a rakish angle on top of a thick mass of white hair, through him constantly wiping the sweat from his brow with a brawny forearm.

He seemed to have endless patience with the most awkward of horses. From our lowly stance these were massive frightening creatures and whilst we often caught our breath, for fear he would be kicked across the forge, it never happened: he was always in command of the snorting beasts. I bet he could have packed a punch too, had he been of that disposition, which he certainly wasn’t.

Amazingly he seemed to love our attention and his twinkling eyes would glance in our direction every so often as he delivered bursts of kindly humour that seemed out of context with the mission in hand.

Billy worked into his eighties, gradually weaning himself away from his beloved smithy as the need for his services diminished. In the early 1980s, by then a widower, he went to live with his daughter Edith in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where he died in 1968.

I had never known of his connection with that part of England until after his death when I learned that Billy’s great grandfather had been an ostler at the Angel and Royal in Grantham, Lincolnshire – possibly our oldest English inn. Martha Brand, the ostler’s daughter, married Peter Lambert, a nail maker from Dublin who had settled in Newark. Ultimately the pair moved to Silsden in Yorkshire where Billy’s mother Margaret was born and she eventually married into the old Silsden family of Whitaker.

Once his forge doors closed for the night Billy didn’t relax for he had many hobbies, the main ones being football and cricket for which he travelled the length and breadth of the country as a supporter of his favourite teams. As I grew older it amazed me that, despite being an active member and one-time president of a local men’s club for over forty years, Billy was a non-smoking teetotaller. And whilst he professed to have had little education he could recite the poetry of Robert Burns for hours on end, off by heart.

Another great love was his motorbike. He would tell a self-effacing story of how, in the early days of the machines, he had gone to York in two hours and taken two days to return because the bike wouldn’t start and he’d pushed it. It wasn’t until he was within a few miles of home that he had another go at starting the engine and it burst forth immediately.

Two other special memories of Billy come back to me. Considering his physique and the trade he plied it was a surprise to me, even as a child, that he had a soft spot for Snow White. Each year the Walt Disney classic would appear at the cinema around Christmas time and Billy would accompany my father and me. On one occasion, at the point where she lies in the glass coffin and the prince is mourning her supposed demise, a sniffle caused me to turn sideways. And there, trickling down Billy’s cheek was a tear.

Not surprisingly for a Yorkshire man Billy and his wife Elizabeth had a weekend abode in the Yorkshire Dales, at Cracoe. It was made of wood and nestled on the side of a gurgling beck in a quiet corner of the village. There were crisp gingham curtains, a view of sheep cropping the greenest of grass and lots of wild forget-me-nots and primroses in the hedgerows come spring.

The war had just ended when we began visiting the Whitakers on our motor bike and sidecar but they were never short of food to entertain us. Billy was able to exchange his blacksmith services for goods in kind and was repaid with home-cured bacon, yellow salty farmers’ butter, and free-range eggs with glorious golden yolks, none of which had travelled more than a few metres.

In my teenage days when the Whitakers had ceased to use their holiday home Billy let a friend and me use it for a November weekend. We were keen cyclists but the journey was a nightmare through frost and fog and a puncture, and when we eventually gained access to the place it was long past its best for it was thick with cobwebs and decidedly damp. The pot-bellied stove wouldn’t light and we resorted to crisps and ale at the local pub, which didn’t serve food in those days.

The bed, a pull-down affair, composed a mattress of inflated inner tubes that had lost their will to live, and we spent the night wishing we were elsewhere. Around two o’clock in the morning the legs collapsed and we got dressed. After shivering until daylight we set off for Skipton and the first café that could provide us with a full English breakfast. But neither that nor any other English breakfast in my entire life has come close to the ones Billy’s wife rustled up in their Cracoe hut.


Coniston’s VC Hero

Reprinted by kind permission of Cumbria magazine
Issue November 2011

Apart from outdoor pursuits and an excellent range of tourist facilities visitors are drawn to Coniston for several reasons, not least through Donald Campbell’s tragic death in 1967 whilst attempting to break his own world water speed record. And what of the influential John Ruskin? Brantwood, on the eastern shore of the lake, is a shrine to the memory of the revered Victorian critic.

Both men’s remains are buried in Coniston, with Donald Campbell’s in the newer burial ground and Ruskin’s beneath an ornate cross in the east of the old cemetery which surrounds St Andrew’s. On the opposite side of this churchyard, largely unnoticed, is the grave of Coniston’s own son and hero, James (“Jimmy”) Hewitson VC who fought in WW1. Inside the church a small glass-framed account of him is displayed on a wall near the piano.

Only four holders of the Victoria Cross are buried in the county now designated Cumbria. Of these, three were born and died in the area and served with the King’s Own Regiment. Jimmy was born at Thwaite Farm, Coniston on 15th October 1892 and was educated at Coniston Church of England School. His parents Matthew and Mary (née Hayton) had moved from New Hutton to Coniston where Jimmy’s father worked in agriculture. After the turn of the century he drove the only coach, drawn by four horses, which linked Coniston with the eastern part of the county.

Jimmy enlisted for duty on the 17th November 1914 and won the Victoria Cross whilst serving as number 15833 with the 1st/4th (Territorial Force) Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He returned to his village as a Lance Corporal and hero, with a civic reception, having been personally decorated by King George V on August 8th 1918 in France. It is the highest and most prestigious award given to British and Commonwealth armed forces (and former British Empire territories) for valour “in the face of the enemy”.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the scene for nearly a hundred years have passed in which there has been ample time to contemplate images, films and personal accounts of the appalling Great War. Weary hungry men, in filthy wet uniforms, waiting in trenches carved out of mud preparing to “go over the top” to fight until death. A typical instance was the 26th April 1918 at Givenchy when James Hewitson led his men towards the enemy. This account from the London Gazette of June 28th 1918 enlarges on the reasons why Lance-Corporal Hewitson was awarded the VC:

‘For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and daring action. In a daylight attack on a series of crater posts L/Cpl Hewitson led his party to their objective with dash and vigour, clearing the enemy from both trench and dugouts, killing in one dugout six of the enemy who would not surrender. After capturing the final objective, he observed a hostile machine-gun team coming into action against his men. Working his way round the edge of the crater he attacked the team, killing four and capturing one. Shortly afterwards he engaged a hostile bombing party which was attacking a Lewis gun post; he routed the party, killing six of them. The extraordinary feats of daring performed by this gallant non-commissioned officer crushed the hostile opposition at this point.’

Not only had he killed sixteen men single handed and captured a survivor, he also carried one of his injured comrades two miles to a field hospital whilst under shell fire.

During the war Jimmy was wounded three times – at Ypres, Somme and Messines. Other locations where he did battle were Loos, Armentières and Paschendale, the latter experience haunting him as far as his death bed.

In 1919 Jimmy married local girl Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Dugdale with whom he had one child, Dorothy. She married Reggie Dodd and produced four sons and daughters. Jimmy and Lizzie were living at Forge Cottage, Coniston when their first grandchild Dicky was born under their roof. He remained with them until he married. Dicky speaks of his grandfather with great fondness; of his sense of humour, his love of Woodbine cigarettes and his enjoyment of the company of his contemporaries in Coniston pubs where he relished the odd pint shandy, which he called a lemon dash.

Not long after the end of Great War a variety of military paraphernalia was given pride of place in several local villages and towns, with Ulverston boasting a tank displayed on a plinth, along with a German field gun. Hawkshead acquired two or three wartime reminders, but when a German field gun landed in Coniston Jimmy and his pals took great exception. One night they trundled the object down to the lake, and with the aid of the Gondola it was dragged into the water and submerged, although there is speculation that it is no longer there.

For several years Jimmy appeared to cope reasonably well with his nightmares but finally there was a heavy price to pay in terms of his mental health. His memories had begun to affect him so badly that he was admitted to Stone House Hospital, Dartford, Kent where Dicky and Lizzie visited him on a regular basis for the best part of twenty years. He finally returned home in an easier frame of mind to work on the roads, even though as late as 1954 pieces of shrapnel were still being taken out of his back and shoulders, one piece of which he kept as a memento in a matchbox which he carried permanently in his pocket.

The King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum in Market Square, Lancaster has a wealth of information and memorabilia to the fallen. It also includes a display devoted to the regiment’s holders of the Victoria Cross, along with poignant reminders of Jimmy as it features his tunic and his cap, as well as photographs and an account of his brave deeds.

In 1926 he bought a Matchless 500 model for which he paid £47.17.6d in Dalton-in-Furness. It had hand-change gears and carbide lights. In the very near future this historical addition will be on display at the Ruskin Museum.

Jimmy Hewitson died on March 2nd 1963 in Ulverston hospital, of respiratory complications following influenza. During his fever he would call out ‘Paschendale’ and ‘They’re coming to get me’. Sadly his death occurred on the wedding day of Dicky and his wife Nancy who cut short their honeymoon to attend the funeral, which took place at St Andrew’s, Coniston with full military honours.

Towards the end of his working days, whilst repairing roads in the Yewdale area, a gentleman approached him. He explained he’d been searching for him for years as he was the injured colleague he had carried to safety at Givenchy. In gratitude for saving his life he treat Jimmy and Lizzie to a holiday in London.

Clearly we must remember such great deeds performed by such ordinary men and women who chose to leave the safety of their villages, towns and cities and, in particular, havens such as Coniston to face the horrors of war, often against their natural will and beliefs.

Currently only eight living people hold the Victoria Cross. Two were awarded the ‘Victoria Cross for Australia’ and one holds the ‘Victoria Cross for New Zealand’. The remaining five were decorated with the Imperial Victoria Cross. This statistic emphasises the nature of the award since it is often bestowed posthumously. The fact that only 1353 individuals have received the cross since it was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 gives further indication of its rarity.

It is surprising that relatively few who earned the Victoria Cross have a statue to their memory: lest we forget their awesome bravery perhaps these omissions should be addressed.


Dedicated to Hawkshead

Reprinted with the kind permission of Cumbria Magazine
March issue 2011

But for Harriet Martineau I should never have met Betty Ingham. I’d called at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside to ask where the early feminist, pioneer of sociology, abolitionist, and rebel with lots of causes had lived and Betty, one of the museum’s volunteers, offered to show me The Knoll.

On the brief journey to Ms Martineau’s former home and back we became friends. “There’s something I’d like to show you,” she said enthusiastically, and took me to the Armitt’s comprehensive library. Here she produced a copy of Ginger and Pickles by Beatrix Potter. Page 45 shows the writer’s sketch of a horse-drawn wooden cart. For this purpose she had used the featured photograph, which was probably taken by her father Rupert Potter in the late 1800s. Not only did he own a decent camera at a time when they were out of reach for the majority, but many of his photographs were published. The image shows Betty’s great uncle Timmy Askew the baker of Far Sawrey, along with the horse and cart in which he delivered bread and confectionery to many customers, including Beatrix and William Heelis.

Betty’s Askew family lived in Hawkshead and its hinterland from 1826 to 1969. Her great grandfather who hailed from the lonely valley of Bretherdale, near Tebay came to Colton when he married Isabella Jackson at Holy Trinity Church. It was here and at Sawrey that the couple’s six children were born, including Betty’s grandfather Edward and great Uncle Timmy who first saw the light of day in 1836 and 1841 respectively. Although the location of their grave is unknown there is a memorial plaque to Edward and Bella under the yew tree which Edward is believed to have planted in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, where four generations of the Askew family were also laid to rest.

Their son Edward married twice. Betty’s mother Ethel came from his second marriage to Mary Gainford of Calder Bridge. Ethel was born at Lantern Cottage, Hawkshead in 1887 but moved to Preston, Lancashire as a young woman to become an apprentice milliner at Farrer’s. It was there that she met Joseph Gillett Hodgson who had an adjacent workshop, and whom she met in the communal yard during a lunchtime break. “Will you take me out?” shouted one of her colleagues to Joseph. “No,” he retorted, nodding towards Ethel, “but I’d like to take out the quiet one at the back.” Although they made their home in the Preston they married in Hawkshead, and had their children Betty and Joe baptised there too.

The youngsters frequently stayed with their grandparents at Pillar House and found Hawkshead a magical place, with its nooks and crannies and surrounding mountains, all of which were in stark contrast to the busy streets of Preston.

In 1926 Joseph founded the Bon Chaunce coach company, which is still in existence today, but in 1946 he sold the business. He, Ethel and Betty moved to Hawkshead, and back to Ethel’s roots. Betty’s brother Joe, who was already married, stayed behind: if he hadn’t, the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment’s Museum at Fulwood Barracks would have been deprived of his voluntary services about which he is still very enthusiastic.

The trio settled in the family home, Pillar Cottage, and Betty took up duties as the village post girl. Operated on foot and by bicycle her round took in Near and Far Sawrey, including Beatrix Potter’s farm, Hilltop, Timmy Askew’s baker’s shop, Cunsey and the shore of Windermere.

Covering the west of Esthwaite and over the moor to Grizedale was the postboy John Ingham. Two years later he and Betty were married and from their home at Yew Bank, Rogerground, Betty started a guest house, providing bed, breakfast and evening meal for visitors. It was a thriving trade and one which she pursued for many years, moving to several properties in the area until she retired whilst living in Grasmere. John died in 1989 and was buried in Hawkshead. A seat at the top of the churchyard is dedicated to his memory.

Joe showed me a couple of treasured reminders of his grandfather Edward Askew. One is the silver tea service given to him by the Heelis family of Hawkshead in 1879 in gratitude for his services as their coachman and gardener for 25 years – a role he continued for a further 22. He has now donated this for display to the Beatrix Potter Gallery in the village.

His fondness for the second piece of memorabilia comes as no surprise considering Joe’s huge interest in, and knowledge of, military matters for it is his grandfather’s uniform of the 1st Volunteer Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. This is now in the former office of W H Heelis which is also part of the Beatrix Potter Gallery.

In addition he has given, for display in the Town Hall, the trowel that was used by Augusta Sophia Heelis for setting the memorial stone on the building on December 1st 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Both Betty and Joe are keen supporters of the church and its events. Each November when the British Legion poppy crosses are planted Betty deals with those that bear a regimental badge instead of the poppy. These go on the graves of her and Joe’s relations and other ex-soldiers who were known to have had a war service of special note.

Joe regularly writes fascinating articles, mainly with a historic, genealogical or military theme, for the Hawkshead Parish Magazine and at Christmas holly sprays are put on the eight family graves. In summer Joe also places flowers next to the memorial stone of his late wife Elsie, whose ashes are scattered on Latterbarrow. Amazingly he managed to climb the fell on an annual pilgrimage until 2003, when he had reached the age of 82.

It is admirable that these two octogenarians lead by example, not only because of a deeply rooted love for their ancestral village, but also because they come from a generation which endeavours to put back rather than merely take away. And it isn’t only Hawkshead that has the benefit of their generosity and time; their loyalty to the many organisations which, between them, they support indicates their level of commitment to whatever they have taken on board.

Apart from many years of voluntary work at Fulwood Barracks, Joe has been secretary of the Preston branch of the Carlisle-based Border Regiment Association since 1953, which has involved much travelling to regular functions in Carlisle. In recognition he was awarded the prestigious Regimental Medal of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for devoted service in 2009.

Consequently he is a mine of information and is always willing to help others regarding military matters in which he had a head start, for when he was 14 years old he attended the funeral in Dorset of T E Lawrence (of Arabia)

For several years Betty has lived in Ambleside where she is a well-known and respected member of the community through her work at the Armitt Museum and attendance at various churches. She was also an inaugural member of the Evergreen Club and rarely misses one of their gatherings.

In August of last year Betty organised a celebration at Zeffirelli’s restaurant in Ambleside to mark the occasion of Joe’s 89th birthday. It was a privilege to be invited and to enjoy the company of such amazing role models.


Maggie B Dickinson Cards, Writing & Photography