Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fact or Folklore?

Cast your mind back to when you were a child - most of us remember long hot summer days and idyllic snow filled winters - we delete the miserable rainy days spent indoors driving our parents up the wall.  It's sort of the same with history - having written 3 books which explore the hidden histories of the region I can report that trying to separate out fact from folklore was one of the most challenging aspects.  I'm not suggesting I've now got it 100% correct, but I have managed to disprove a few popular local myths.  (I was considering calling this blog "Snopes for the Slopes", but felt that was perhaps a step too far...)

Anyway, here are 5 of my favourite busted myths.

The Bishop of Barf marks the spot where a bishop died and Keswick MR paint it

Possibly, and no.  The story behind this is that the distinctive white stones on the hillside mark the spot where the bishop of Derry (now Londonderry) died in 1783 whilst trying to win a drunken bet that he could ride his horse up and over the hill.  Turns out he couldn't.  To commemorate this the patrons of the Swan Inn at the foot of this hill where he'd been drinking, painted the rocks white and continued to do so in his memory.  When the Swan changed hands and became holiday apartments this practice stopped - someone still paints the rocks, but I can't figure out who.  Wikipedia tells me it's Keswick Mountain Rescue - but they swear it's not them.  As I say in our 50 Gems book: "The reality is it's a 7m high lump of rock in a rather inaccessible spot and painting it would require a good degree of expertise (not to mention paint!) so, if you notice anyone in the area with an abseiling kit and a couple of large bags from B&Q, do let us know."  NOTE:  Please do NOT try and walk to the Bishop - there has been a spate of strandings this year.

Rannerdale Bluebells grow from the blood of fallen Norman soldiers

No, they don't.  I particularly like this one as it can be traced to someone with credibility embroidering a story to generate pubic interest.  The story comes from a book called The Secret Valley published in 1930 by Nicholas Size.  Nicholas, a keen historian, bought the Victoria Hotel (now the Bridge Hotel) and, in an effort to drum up a little trade, published his colourful version of the valley's history involving immense and bloody battles.  His efforts were successful though he was less than popular with the local farmers who quickly got fed up of visitors tramping across their fields.

King Dunmail is buried under the pile of stones at the top of Dunmail Raise

No, he isn't.  Folklore states that King Dunmail (King of Cumberland) was killed her during an epic battle and his soldiers buried him under a huge pile of stones. Depending on which account you read eyes may or may not have been gouged out his crown hurled into Grisedale Tarn.  The truth is that there was a big battle in the 5th century between Dunmail and Edmund (King of England) and although no-one quite knows for sure where it happened Dunmail Raise has been ruled out as no graves or other evidence have ever been found there.

Jenny Brown's Point is named after a nanny who saved her charges from drowning.

No, it isn't - or at least we're pretty sure it isn't. The story goes that sometime during the 18th Century a nanny by the name of Jenny Brown heroically saved the two children in her care from the treacherous tides of Morecambe Bay.  There's a fabulous local history group called the Mourholme Society who are continually researching and discovering new things about the region.  They can't find any evidence to support the nanny story, but they have identified that a local woman named Jenny Brown was named as a beneficiary in a will in 1671 - although we still don't really know why the point was named after her, but it could just have been because she lived there.  (And if you're interested in more history on that particular area check out Andy Denwood's fabulous re-edited version of John Lucas classic book on the region.)

Devil's Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale is named after the devil himself

Unlikely.  Unless you happen to believe in the devil appearing and making wagers with people.  It’s said that an old woman who lived on the banks of the river lost one of her cows when it wandered across to the other side and refused to come back. The Devil appeared and offered to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge, assuming it would be the old woman’s. When the bridge was built the old woman tossed a bun across the bridge which was chased after by her little dog thwarting and incensing the devil. This is an ancient crossing point of the River Lune and what's more likely is that the story was created to explain the presence of the large rocks (which apparently burst from the Devil's purse) back in the days before we understood all about glaciation and geology.

OUR THREE BOOKS are packed with loads more stories like these - perfect as a pressie or just to treat yourself!  Click HERE to learn more!

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Friday, 15 September 2017

Spirit Trail - The Finale

After all that excitement I'm now sat at home with one minor blister (it got a bit gory for a while but is improving now) and slightly aching legs - the sort of ache that says you've done a long walk but you could crack on again if you needed to.

For those that have followed our whole journey - THANK YOU - we really appreciate all the reads, likes and retweets and we've been blown away by the number of people who've taken an interest in what we've been doing.  This all began as me having a mad idea on a fell so I can't quite believe we've actually done it.  To be fair, out of all the mad ideas I've had on fells this is probably the only one that could work in reality - the others generally involve the use of ray guns, personal shields or teleporters.

I would say I'll miss going out in the hills and drinking gin every day but I plan to spend most of the next 4 days doing exactly that!  I will miss all the wonderful people we met along the way though - people who took the time to meet with us and allow us to sample their wonderful drinks, and I definitely plan to keep in touch with as many as I can.
The lovely folks from Virginia House on Day 1

So, what's next I hear you ask?  Well first of all me and Karen need to get our book written so expect to see that sometime between Easter and Summer 2018.  We got along famously during our trek but, as we both said to each other, we rarely spend that much time alone with our husbands, never mind a virtual stranger, so we're both enjoying a bit of a breather today (plus I'm sure Karen is enjoying a break from my ear splitting snoring!)

The success of this project has spurred me on to develop other ideas so, if you're a hiking friend of mine, watch out - I may be descending on your in-box with a harebrained hiking idea for 2018 - I have plenty of ideas brewing, now all I need is a suitable victim (oops!) companion. 😀

When the credits roll at the end of a movie the audience generally ignore them as they race for the exit but PLEASE spend a moment to take a look through our credits - we honestly could not have completed this adventure without their support.  I wasn't able to add all the fancy clickly links when we were on the road, but I can now, so all you have to do is click on them the links below to give them a "like" and a "follow" - in each case the first link is to their website - THANK YOU!  😊

Literally gin made in a shed in their back garden - love them to bits!

The make stunning crystal for James Bond & Downton Abbey & they're in the heart of Ulverston

Beautiful food, comfortable rooms and a VERY well stocked gin parlour - I'm amazed we left...

South Lakes Ecology

Who took the time to tell us what juniper looked like and why it's important for more than making gin

Kin Vodka
Kin Vodka on Facebook
Kin Vodka on Instagram

Judith has SO much passion for what she does and never misses an order - even when she was flooded out during Storm Desmond

Unsworths Brewery
Unsworths Brewery on Facebook

One of two guest ales on our trail - just to make sure we kept our fluid levels up...

Hydroflask on Facebook
Hydroflask on Instagram

Kept our tea so hot we could drink it all day!

Gilpins Gin
Gilpins on Facebook
Gilpins on Instagram

We didn't meet but they were super supportive & a very fine gin!

Cowmire Hall

Properly traditional & very lovely.

Crumble Cottages
Crumble Cottages on Facebook
Crumble Cottages on Instagram
Sadly timings meant we couldn't stay here but they did give us tea and biscuits!

Kendal Mintcake Liqueur
Also make Lakeland Moon Gin

Super green, super tasty and divine in cocktails.  The one night we almost can't remember...

Kendal Hostel
Kendal Hostel on Facebook

Our first experience of hostel and very lovely it was too!

Sally's Cottages - The Hideaway Windermere
Sally's Cottages on Facebook
Sally's Cottages on Instagram
After our first very wet day it was wonderful to come "home"

Gingerbread Vodka
Mint Drinks on Facebook

A lovely late discovery

Dodd's Restaurant
Dodd's on Facebook

Fantastic fresh cooked food in the heart of Ambleside

Ginger Bakers
Ginger Bakers on Facebook

Bakers of the best brownies on the planet. Fact.

Armathwaite Hall
Armathwaite Hall on Facebook
Armathwaite Hall on Twitter
So luxuriously perfect I'm amazed they let me in!

Herdy on Facebook
Herdy on Instagram

Because how can you not love a Herdy?

Keswick Brewing Company
Keswick Brewing Company on Facebook

Our second guest ale and home to the utterly awesome Twizy!

Windermere Lake Cruises
Windermere Lake Cruises on Facebook
Windermere Lake Cruises on Instagram

For saving our legs after a very wet hike!

Lakes Distillery
Lakes Distillery on Facebook
Lakes Distillery on Instagram

Brewers of whisky, gin AND vodka - and a fab bistro too!

The Rum Story Whitehaven
The Rum Story on Facebook

A wonderful surprise at the end of a very long trail

And for now, that's all folks!  THANK YOU for following and sharing in our adventure - we'll let you know when the book comes out!

CumbrianRambler on Facebook
CumbrianRambler on Instagram

The nut job who wades through bogs in the pouring rain for fun!

LadyHiker on Facebook
Karen Guttridge on Instagram

Who loves the sunshine and pulls a mean pint!

DON'T FORGET OUR THREE BOOKS - perfect as a pressie or just to treat yourself!  Click HERE to learn more!

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Day 13 - The Neverending Story

Chippy tea
It would be very easy to say that the Spirit Trail is over, but the reality is it's only just begun.  Me & Karen have completed the inaugural lap and, once we've got our book sorted (looking like an ebook just now unless any of you know any publishers) we sincerely hope that you'll be following in our footsteps, visiting some of the quieter corners of Cumbria and discovering for yourselves the amazing drinks we've enjoyed along the way.  I'll do a proper "end of term" blog tomorrow to properly credit all of the producers who took the time to meet with us - those we made appointments with and those who fed us when we just dropped in on them (I'm looking at you Ginger Bakers!) - but for now, what happened on the final day?

We finished off day 12 with a chippy tea on Whitehaven Harbour and, rather than celebrate our success until the wee small hours, we were both tucked up in bed for another early night - honestly, this really hasn't been the drunken fest everyone appears to think it was.  I am far to old to hike with a hangover and drinking before we hit the trails would just have been silly (actually, I take it back - there was one minor hangover and I know exactly who to blame - this time I'm looking at you Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur - their cocktails are divine but lethal!)

Anyway, following an entertaining night in a B&B which shall remain nameless but appears to have considered the 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers as "How to run a B&B" training videos (the full story will be in the book!) we ventured down to The Rum Story in heart of Whitehaven.

I was properly surprised by how big the place is - it looks just like a shop front and a small alleyway from the street but opens up, and up, and up inside.  It is really cheap to go around (£5.95 for adults) and there is loads to see and do.  Very imaginative and interactive it takes you through the history of Jefferson's rum and around the world in 3 floors of videos, information boards and rainforests.

Of course, by the time we finished, we were really keen to sample some of the rum and it didn't disappoint - it was great to finish off with something different and with such a long and fascinating history.  (I headed home with a tub of rum butter, a miniature of rum and a hunk of tea bread just in the interests of conducting full and proper research!)

Happy that our mission was complete we headed for Whitehaven harbour - I absolutely adore the harbour and it was great to visit on such a gloriously sunny day.  We've had our fair share of showers this past week but seeing as most of the producers we met with rely on Cumbrian water, that's perhaps just as well.

Whitehaven Harbour
We hopped on the coast train from Whitehaven (where it was fab to meet another Twitter friend (Not) Posh Dave - this entire adventure wouldn't have happened without social media and I love it when I meet folks in person) and the weather was perfect for enjoying the views all the way back around the coast to Ulverston and our starting point.

View from the train
Black Combe

Where it all began
Neither of us can believe how quickly it's raced past - we've had amazing highs as well as an assortment of challenging moments but we got through them all and never got lost once (well, apart from the very start when I took us down the wrong street in Ulverston less then 5 minutes after leaving Virginia House).  I'll do a proper round up tomorrow because right now I can hear the bath calling to me - for now I shall leave you with our first and last selfies and, if you want to know all the details of what happened inbetween these two photos, you'll have to buy the book!  😊

"What the hell are we getting into?!"

With the lovely Louise at The Rum Story

I'll put a full set of clicky links on here tomorrow but below is a list of all of our supporters ALL of whom deserve a "like" and a "follow" - we really do appreciate every last ounce of support we've received.

DON'T FORGET OUR THREE BOOKS - perfect as a pressie or just to treat yourself!  Click HERE to learn more!

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