Lovely Lakes

We’re spending our 6th Anniversary up in the Lake District this week, enjoying the autumn with some good weather and spectacular scenery. I think this is my favourite time of year for the Lakes . . .

We’re staying in the northern Lakes in a cottage in the village of Grange, just south of Derwent Water, at the opposite end to Keswick. Local hotels are all ready for Christmas, decked out in their ‘icicle’ fairy lights and all the trimmings  . . . seems a bit early but I guess it will soon be December . . .

We’ve spent a couple of days walking locally, close to and around Derwent Water – a 12 mile circuit.

View north towards Keswick and Skiddaw in the background

Sunset across Derwent Water

This region of the Lakes, Borrowdale, is known for its high rainfall so it’s not surprising we’ve seen lots of ducks . . . although happily they’re enjoying a relatively drier spell this week . . .


Another walk took us south down the valley and up Castle Crag.

Castle Crag in the distance

Castle Crag silhouetted behind Grange

Today we trusted the weather forecast and climbed up Skiddaw, which sits just north of Keswick, a good climb of just over 3,000ft to the summit with spectacular views all round. We weren’t disappointed!

On the way up with views of Bassenthwaite Lake

The final ascent to the summit

At the summit

We’ve decided tomorrow will be a lighter day of a lie in and a shorter lakeshore walk. Haven’t had that much time for knitting, but I’ve got my knitted throw with me, so hoping for a little time on the sofa relaxing by the log fire . . . And there’s still the Keswick craft market to fit in, as well as at least one more ascent . . .

Someone else enjoying the walkies . . .

Long time no news!

I’m afraid Knit2Purl2 has been a bit quiet since our return from the ‘Big Trip’. I didn’t feel like anything we did over the summer came anywhere close to being worthy of a mention – except for our canoe trips on the Thames.

I also blame having returned to the world of work (albeit part-time) and studying with the OU, where part of the course requirement is to keep a blog on my elearning exploits, which finds me now blogging at – www.learningwithe.wordpress.com.

So, what is so newsworthy now . . . Well, it’s knitting! The two projects I was working on have finally been completed.

The 3 wise knits

The 3 wise knits ended up being rather colourful and are now in safe hands at the vicarage, joining the many other knitivity characters, before heading off to the primary school to do their bit in relating the story of the nativity.

The cable knit blanket had to wait for the 3 wise knits to be completed before I could sew all the different cable panels together. It  didn’t take too long and it kept me warm as it slowly grew bigger. Now I’m enjoying having a blanket across my knees to keep me warm, or to snuggle under for a lazy afternoon snooze!

I’m now contemplating knitting some matching cushion covers . . . once I’ve done a few Xmas related projects and  a pair of fingerless gloves for David.

Here’s a seasonal finish – my tiny pumpkin carving.

Taking the biscuit . . .

Well, actually, it’s icing the biscuit – my latest creative output!

Armed with a tin of recently baked biscuits and a small selection of coloured icing I was ready to ice, except for the need for a steady hand . . . practice will make perfect!

A relatively simple but mediumly time consuming activity, with a few crumbs created along the way (the book advised eating any that went a bit wrong :-)). It was fun coming up with different designs in different colours – wasn’t too sure what an iced star should look like, flowers and hearts were a bit easier.


Wearing my heart on my biscuit, I was pleased with my first batch . . .

. . . and even gave some away!

As predicted, we couldn’t resist getting back on the river and the temptation to try out some locks in the canoe! Early this week we decided to make a two day trip of it and packed up all the kit (yes, even the paddles this time!) for an overnight camping canoe expedition along the Thames.

kit stowed, ready to launch

We started out at Kelmscott again, early in the afternoon and headed down river. Our first lock was Grafton, where we shared the lock with a river cruiser.

'going down'

Quite an experience, trying to keep steady as the water level slowly dropped and the lock gates opened to the next stretch which took us through Radcot Lock, which we again shared with the same river cruiser – we hadn’t quite kept up with them, but they’d had to wait to access the lock so we’d caught up.

Then on to pass through Rushey Lock (this one all to ourselves), under Tadpole bridge, denying ourselves a pint at The Trout but we did have a pit stop for cake before completing the last few miles, arriving at Shifford Lock just after 6pm.

Tadpole Bridge

Our campsite was a lovely little fruit tree orchard between the lock and the weir – not a good place to be if you have a tendency to sleep walk . . . ! We were the only campers that night and enjoyed a camp dinner of pasta and vino, followed by coffee and chocs before turning in early – the arms were tired after 10 miles of paddling, although it was easy going all the way.

lovely riverside pitch by an apple tree

too early!

It was so peaceful, on waking all we could hear were moorhens rustling around in the reeds and fish occasionally surfacing in the river. We feasted on fresh plums from the orchard and bacon butties, before packing up and heading back upriver.

This time we had the experience of entering the locks at their lowest level and then rising up 6-7 ft to exit – I decided I preferred this rising, rather than the sinking feeling! We did treat ourselves to a pub lunch, stopping off at The Swan at Radcot Bridge which had handy moorings at the edge of the garden, alongside the bigger boats.

'going up'

It was a great trip, very peaceful except for the occasional motorised cruisers and canal boats, but they were very considerate towards canoes and travel relatively slowly. An idyllic trip leaving us keen to do more – maybe two nights next time?

Amazing what you see along the way . . .

Rushey Lock topiary

Radcot Lock topiary

The unpacking is pretty much done, so we’ve treated ourselves to a trip out in the canoe, the first one from home. We headed to the river Thames just near Kelmscott Manor, the country retreat of William Morris, the Arts and Crafts artist and interiors designer.

We had a lovely sunny afternoon on Monday and since the canoe was still stowed on the roof of the car we soon had the kit packed and headed off. However, we must be a bit out of practice, as we soon realised once we’d unloaded at the river that an essential item was missing. So, I had a relaxing time by the river whilst David drove home to collect . . . the paddles!! Not something we could improvise very easily!

Grafton Lock

We headed downriver first, as far as the lock at Grafton. We decided we weren’t going to brave a lock on our first trip, but happily sat watching others negotiating it in a narrow boat, river cruiser, racing boats and kayak. They made it look easy, although not sure about sharing that small enclosed space with large boats . . .

Canoes about to negotiate the lock attracts a crowd of onlookers!

Racing boats about to negotiate the lock attracts a crowd of onlookers!

We then headed upriver, with very little resistance from the flow of the river, it was idyllic in the evening sunshine and we enjoyed meeting various inhabitants and users of the river.

Cooling off at the end of the day

We’re looking forward to many more trips on the Thames and already contemplating a longer trip from one end to the other 🙂

Well, all good things must come to an end, and so it is with ‘The Big Trip’, although we did extend it by a weekend, arriving home Monday evening.

We’ve had an amazing time, which except for a day of fishing for David, has been spent together 24/7 . . . and we’re still talking to each other!

We’ve been very lucky with all we’ve done with only a few hiccups along the way.

The things we didn’t tell you about include:

  • Several wet and windy days in the NW Highlands without central heating or hot water . . .
  • Calling out roadside assistance after running the car battery flat when parked up with the windscreen wipers on for several hours . . .
  • Me falling off a wall in the Lakes and bruising my leg . . . nearly running over a red squirrel .  .  . David’s ant bite on his bum . . .
  • and we’ve watched the whole DVD boxed-set of ‘Wings‘ – the BBC’s 1970s first world war Royal Flying Corps drama!

I’ve also become a published author . . . the President of the US Canoe Association came across my ‘wild camping canoe trip‘ blog post and asked for permission to publish it in their printed quarterly magazine!

It’s been great recording and sharing our adventures and who knows what more there is still to come . . . you’ll have to keep visiting the blog to see what happens next as we settle back into home life in the Cotswolds. Not least to see the completed blanket I’ve knitted during the trip, when I’ve sewn all the panels together.

Thanks to everyone for their interest and support during our months away and for keeping in touch, and a special thanks to our fantastic friends who have looked after our house and garden – apologies for the state it is now in since we returned!

So, the sun setting over Bamburgh seems to be a fitting image to sign off with, for now . . .

View from St Cuthbert's Isle

We’ve visited Holy Island a couple of times in the past few weeks. There’s a lot to see and it really is a place not to be rushed, a special place to enjoy a quiet moment.

We also get distracted by the wildlife on the island; on our first trip we walked around the dunes and the nature reserve area of the island and visited the bird hide next to the small lake, then ran out of time.

Nature reserve lake

The next time we visited the hide the nesting swallows were busy feeding their newly hatched chicks. The nest was low enough to be able to see the chicks without disturbing them – not winning any beauty contests just yet!

Pilgrim's Way markers across the sand and mud flats

Because it’s an island at high tide, you can only access via the causeway at the safe times between tides. There’s also a safe crossing for walkers across the sand and mud flats – the Pilgrim’s Way, sometimes used by those walking St Cuthbert’s Way or St Oswald’s Way, although the causeway seems like a safer bet (although both have ‘refuges’ for those who get caught out!).

Holy Island was the cradle of Christianity in the north and hugely significant in the spread of Christianity throughout England. In 635 AD Oswald, the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, sent to Iona for a monk to come to convert his people to Christianity. St Aidan was sent and given Lindisfarne, where a priory was established.

He was followed by St Cuthbert, the most widely known local saint, who spent some of his time in seclusion on a small island to the south of Lindisfarne and also on Inner Farne. He reluctantly became Bishop of Lindisfarne but later returned to Inner Farne, where he died in 687 AD.

Parish church and 11th Century Priory ruins

Viking raids later forced the monks to flee, taking St Cuthbert’s remains with them, eventually reaching Durham. The Priory was re-founded in 1082, when the island became known as ‘Holy Island’.

The castle

The small castle on top of a rocky crag was built in 1549 to protect the harbour. In the early 20th century it was restored by Sir Edward Lutyens for the new owner Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life magazine, with a walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll.

A more recent garden is the Gospel Garden, a Chelsea Flower Show garden before being established in the village. It was inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels, an illuminated latin manuscript of the four gospels, thought to have been created in 715 AD to honour St Cuthbert and now housed in the British Library.

Gospel Garden

Having visited Iona on the west coast at the very beginning of our ‘big trip’, it seems fitting that we have visited Holy Island on the east coast during our last week.

Setting off

A sunny day cycling along the coast was a bit hard on the bum but we’ve recovered now! We cycled just over 20 miles south and then back again, starting on the coast between Craster and Boulmer and finishing at the village of Cresswell.

Our route was part of the Northumberland Coast Path and is also part of the designated national cycle route No.1 which stays on or close to the coast, except in a few places where we used bridleways to keep us on the coast. Most of the way we were off the roads, sharing paths with walkers. We seemed to refuel at most villages we passed through, so no worries that the tank would run dry!

Alnmouth and the estuary

Alnmouth was our first stop for elevenses and a chance to take in the views across the estuary of the river Aln; a very pretty village that we had also visited at the weekend for their annual arts festival. Once a medieval grain port it now encourages a gentle pace of life with two golf clubs and a golden sandy beach.

Warkworth Castle

Next stop was Warkworth, sitting on the river Coquet, protected by its castle dating from the early 12th century and once the property of the Percy family but now an English Heritage site.

Warkworth village

A pre-lunch snack by the river in Warkworth before heading on to Amble, a small town which we hadn’t visited before. Another former port shipping local coal, but now busy with boat trips out to Coquet Island, a small island which is an RSBP reserve with Roseate Terns and Puffins amongst the residents.

Coquet Island

Time for lunch on the beach before cycling along above Druridge Bay which is a 7 mile stretch of sandy beach from Hauxley, just south of Amble down to Cresswell. The route above the beach took us through a large nature reserve developed on the site of former open-cast coal mines.

Luckily for us Cresswell had an ice cream shop, so it seemed rude not to have another quick pit stop before turning around and heading the 20 or so miles back again, squeezing in a tea and cake stop as we passed back through Amble 🙂

Druridge Bay

We met some interesting wildlife along the way . . .

Little Owl

Heron with fish

All in all a great day enjoying the coast and country and one of our last ones now . . .

Bamburgh castle

Over the past week we’ve been enjoying the wide expanses of beach that stretch from north of Bamburgh southwards. Timing it right with the tides we’ve been able to walk for miles on the beach with only occasional detours into the dunes or onto rocky headland. Not only are we enjoying the great expanses of sand and sea, but also great expanses of sky uninterrupted through 360 degrees.

Bamburgh beach

Sea and sky (David's photo)

We’ve done one of our favourite walks which takes in 13 miles of the coastline from Bamburgh south to Craster, returning by bus. Along the way we had views of the Farne Islands, visited the harbours of Seahouses and Beadnell, the bay at Low Newton, and Dunstanburgh castle before reaching Craster.

Posing in front of Dunstanburgh Castle

We also enjoyed a spot of birdwatching at the tern colony in Beadnell bay. This is a National Trust protected site, initially to protect Little Terns that were breeding there (approx 30 pairs this year) and joined over the years by a growing colony of Arctic Terns.

Beadnell Bay tern colony

We’ve also been visiting a pair of Oystercatchers at their rocky nest site. We’ve seen them for the past couple of years sitting on their clutch, but this year they laid their eggs earlier, and with us staying longer we’ve been able to watch the two rapidly growing chicks.

Oystercatcher and chick

Kite flying on Alnmouth beach with a storm brewing

Another beach activity we’ve enjoyed this week has been kite flying, which seems to get quite competitive between the two of us . . . I seem to crash more but I think that’s because I try more stunts!

With a bit of a heatwave hitting us this weekend we’ve ticked another thing off our list – we went swimming in the sea at Bamburgh. Being the north sea it isn’t warm, but once in you get used to it . . . for a few minutes!

Finally, a bit more creativity on pebbles  – a puffin and herring gull to add to the collection.

Puffin fever! (week 14)

This last week I’ve had a dose of puffin fever. I can’t help it, every time we go out to the Farne Islands I get it! The puffins are just so adorable, ‘I want one!’. I’m convinced that with over 35,000 breeding pairs the National Trust wardens wouldn’t notice if I popped one into my rucksack and took it home!

However, instead, I’m having to make do with the hundreds of photos I took (not to mention the hundreds more David took). For the past few years we’ve been here in June, an ideal time to see the puffins whilst they are on land, breeding in their burrows (June/July are the best months to see them). We haven’t seen a ‘puffling’ (chick) yet, apparently it’s hard to see them as they leave the burrow and take to the sea at night.

The puffins are doing well this year, with plenty of sand eels to feed on, but they do have to battle with the gulls to keep their catch as they dash to their burrows.

The Farne Islands are owned by the National Trust and consist of c.20 islands, with c.15 visible at high tide. Boats go out from the harbour at Seahouses and we took a Billy Shiel’s ‘all day, 2-islands’ trip which visits Staple Island in the morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon. The number of boats licensed to visit the islands and the times when they are allowed to land visitors is restricted.

Guillemots and Shags

Staple Island is also home to colonies of Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and several other seabirds. Inner Farne is home to these along with a large colony of nesting terns, mainly Arctic Terns.

Arctic Terns on Inner Farne

If you’ve seen the film ‘The Birds‘ it can feel a bit like that, as the terns are very protective of their nests, which can be anywhere on the ground, including alongside the visitor walkways.

They fly up and peck visitors as they go past; they have very sharp beaks, so a hat or an umbrella is a good protective measure!

It’s always great to spend a day with the puffins – same place next year . . .