Entertaining Mister B

After my turn around Myer’s Allotment and Leighton Moss I came home in time for a quick bite of lunch (homemade burger and coleslaw which the Dangerous Brothers and I had knocked-up for tea the previous evening, very nice too) and then collected the chefs from school (TBH and A were away visiting friends).

The sun was shining and B was anxious to drag me to the park to throw a ball around. Before we could do that, however, he needed to pack for his first Scout camp. This was a protracted and painfully slow process. I gave him the packing list, he went off to pack. When I subsequently went through the list with him it transpired that he had omitted more items than he had packed. He went away and tried again, with similar results. Eventually, I stood over him and watched him put all of the things he needed into my voluminous, and venerable, Karrimor Jaguar 6 (which dwarfed him when packed).

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B, living up to his billing as a Dangerous Brother, was still recovering from a sprained ankle and whilst he was keen not to miss out, was not fit to join the rest of the Scouts on a scheduled long walk. So an early start for me – I picked him up from Sykeside Campsite by Brother’s Water at 9am. Well, I was there to pick him up, but he was still eating his breakfast. It had been wet in the night, and also very, very cold, but now the weather was apparently set fair and the views were rather splendid.

The rest of the Scouts would be returning to camp at around five in the afternoon. So; how does one entertain a boy who can’t walk too far on a sunny day in April in the North-Eastern Lakes?

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First-off: a short walk along a delectable bit of path along the western shore of Brother’s Water.

This…

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…is typical of the kind of the remnants of the winter flooding which A and I noticed on our walk through the Lakes the week before. It’s hard to see it here, but a tiny dribble of water was flowing down this small bed, but as you can see, a layer of topsoil has been scoured away for a few yards either side of the rivulet. Where it met the right-of-way, a large mound of boulders was humped across the path.

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It was a slow meander, with lots of pauses to try to take photos of small birds. B was a patient companion, actually a willing accomplice: we watched a pair of nuthatches seemingly taking it in turns to fly back and forth between the trunk of a tall tree and the base of small sapling nearby. As I tried to keep up with their antics through the lens of my camera, B kept up a running commentary in an attempt to help me find them as they moved.

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We had arranged to meet the rest of the family at Aira Force at 11. We were a little early, and we knew that the others would almost certainly be late (they were), so decided to wait for them outside the little cafe there, at a table from which we could watch the road and wave at the others to join us when they arrived.

B and I had been listening to Chaffinches and Robins as we walked beside Brother’s Water. We’d seen a few of the songsters but always at quite a distance. Now, as we sat outside, tamer cousins came looking for crumbs on the wall by our table…

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Or even onto the table itself…

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Marvellous.

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Naturally, we were then duty bound to have a wander up to view Aira Force itself.

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There’s a bridge at the top, from which you can stare into the chasm…

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And another at the bottom…

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Which is a great vantage point to view the falls…

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Last time I was here there was a lot more water coming over the falls. I was quite surprised, when I checked, to discover that it was more than 5 years ago.

Less surprising to find that it is also almost 5 years since we previously visited Brougham Hall…

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…and Brougham Castle…

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…because I remember how much smaller the kids were at the time.

Both are well worth a visit. The castle is built on the remains of a Roman Fort. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say: built with the remains of a Roman Fort. Inside the keep, one ceiling was clearly made using a Roman headstone…

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The River Eamont runs past the castle, and the town of Penrith is nearby.

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One of the surprising things about the castle is that, on both of our visits, there were hardly any other visitors.

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And we even found a bench that was out of the wind and so pleasantly warm to sit on as the children played hide and seek in the ruins.

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They may be much bigger than they were, but happily, they still enjoy simple pleasures.

There are lots more pictures here, from our last visit, including some of swash being buckled.

Not far from the castle, a bridge over the Eamont, currently closed, showed more evidence of the winter flooding…

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Entertaining Mister B

Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle

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TBH was away for the weekend, so: days out! With Sean Bean reading a modern adaptation of the Arthurian Legends playing on the CD player in the car, we drove up the M6 heading for the Penrith area. This was another day inspired by one of the Discover Eden leaflets, in particular ‘Brougham and Eamont Bridge’. We wouldn’t walk much of the route this time, or visit either of the two megalithic sites it takes in (they will have to wait for another time). We were after castles.

We started with Brougham Hall, more a fortified house than a castle, known (for reasons which escape me) as ‘The Windsor of the North’. There’s been a hall here for a very long time (possibly since 1307) but the current buildings are of various periods – the oldest being Tudor. One previous owner was the first Lord Brougham, one time Lord Chancellor of England, and designer of the Brougham carriage, the first of which was produced here in 1837.

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More interestingly (to my mind) the Hall also once belonged to Lady Anne Clifford (1590 – 1676). This formidable lady, born at Skipton Castle, inherited her father’s estates when she was 60, during the English Civil War, and spent the remainder of her life touring her properties and restoring or rebuilding the castles and churches which she owned. There’s a Lady Anne Clifford Way from Skipton to Penrith which I have long wanted to walk, with a guide book and a website by Sheila Gordon.

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The enormous door-knocker is a copy of the one at Durham Cathedral (TBH a County Durham girl, saw this photo and recognised it as such immediately). Before that copy was made there was another – I can’t decide from the Hall’s website whether it was original or another copy. Anyway, what is clear, is that it’s a 12th Century design and very imposing.

A private restoration of the hall is underway. It’s free to visit, but a donation is requested. The hall is home to several businesses including a small cafe which we can heartily recommend (try the pan-fried haloumi and humus baguette).

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I think that this is the oldest surviving building.

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Many people were taking advantage of the glorious November sunshine and sitting outside the cafe to eat al fresco.

(Yes, I know, this is the North of England and that sentence sounds completely implausible, but – it’s true!)

Close to the hall is Brougham Castle.

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This is another former residence of Lady Anne Clifford, in fact this is where she died. The castle is now ruined but it still has a very imposing keep…

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And an almost equally formidable gatehouse…

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It’s possible to climb the keep, on a set of very worn steps (the sandstone is not very hard-wearing), and to tour the top floor in a passage in the wall…

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From where there are great views of the River Eamont…

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Once we’d had a thorough look around the kids were adamant that they wanted to stay and play (or sword fight).

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So I had another roam around. The walls of the keep were festooned with…

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…aubretia?

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…which I was surprised to find still flowering.

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Poor old Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee are destined to stare out in horrified disbelief from high on the Keep walls, perhaps for hundreds more years.

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The keep dates back to the early Thirteenth Century, but the castle is built on the site of an important Roman Fort ‘Brocavum’ built in 76 AD and once the most northerly fort in the Roman Empire. If you wander around the outside of the castle, as we did, you can clearly see ditches and mounds beyond the moat which date back to the Roman fort. A Roman headstone is built into the ceiling of the keep’s staircase and other Roman remains are on display in the small visitor centre at the entrance to the site.

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Any Latin scholars up to translating this?

We rounded off our day with a walk beside the fast-flowing Eamont. We skimmed a few stones and the kids found a tree to climb. I’m pretty sure that A and I saw a salmon leap out of the water (it was a big fish anyway). We also found…

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…another Pip Hall etching. (Once again no rubbings I’m afraid – we had crayons this time, but no paper!) The artwork helped to explain what this curious structure….

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…in a riverside garden might be for. In fact this is where Penrith Swimming Club used to meet. Which immediately made me think of Roger Deakin’s marvellous ‘Waterlog’. If you haven’t read it, and you are the sort of person who is ever tempted by a dip in a tarn, or a river or the sea, then you really should.

Lots of photos in the slideshow this time:

Brougham Hall and Brougham Castle