(This is a map of the area where we think we were…)
We have arrived in County Durham… or maybe The Shire of Durham or possibly somewhere else entirely. There’s a distinct disadvantage to not having done British geography at school while at the same time having listened to British radio and watched British television… We think we know the places because we’ve heard the names so often but we haven’t a clue where they are or anything about them. For instance what’s the difference between a shire and a county? We think we know something but in the end it turns out we don’t… and because we speak English it’s easy to forget we are foreigners.
(Ah, the beautiful arrow again)
Last week I was telling my brother, who lives in England and has done so for about twenty years, that we were in the Lake District but we hadn’t seen a lake. He though I was joking… It turns out we were near the Lake District and we needed to go west to see any lakes. When we did wander west it got very busy so we continued further west and saw the sea instead. Anyway, we love this around-the-Lake-District area so much we wandered around it for more than a week (still didn’t see any lakes). It might be called Cumbria or it might be Cumberland although there’s a strong possibility that’s just the name for a sausage and a beer…? And a pie? One thing I do know is why I like it – it’s beautiful.
(Beautiful signpost… see the path worn by feet through the grass?)
We stayed in a large campsite on our first (second when counting the magic Wales spot) night near a town called Kendal (famous for mint cake, didn’t find any and not sure I want to try a minty cake). As soon as we had settled I went off to investigate something. The Public Footpaths. Following on from the Camino and Walking in the West I am drawn to the little arrows that point you towards a walk in the country. Here in England (and Scotland and Wales) they also have big signposts pointing the way. They are everywhere and they point to lots of different footpaths: lanes between fences, paths across the long grass, at the edge of a field of sheep or… cows, an old disused road with grass growing down the middle, a path through the forest, a path through a farmyard… The thing is people have walked along this way for hundreds of years.
Being able to walk through the fields also brings up warm sun-shiny memories of childhood, walking through the fields around Cashel with my friend Mary. You get a different perspective from being inside the hedge. It’s also a bit of an adventure. I’ve been afraid of cows since they ran after my mother once (long story short – they thought she was feeding them, I thought they were eating her – I was traumatised). So… I would never willingly go into a field unless I was completely sure they’re were no cows but something about following the arrows gave me courage to go in once I didn’t actually see any cows. Turns out that’s not entirely foolproof…
(Ok I like this one)
This is what happened… We were staying in a campsite on a farm near the very pretty town of Penrith. (By the way we have been staying in small campsites since and they are wonderful, what they lack in toilet and shower blocks they make up for in character. Basically this was a field on the farm, with electricity points, water taps, grey water disposal, chemical toilet disposal and a room with a view: one toilet with a little window looking out onto the rolling fields!) The lovely hostess told us there was a nice pub in the village and we could get to it through the gate at the bottom of our camping field and along the public footpath. After dinner the first night we set off. It was a lovely walk through a field of barley onto an empty field and then along a laneway into the village. The pub was lovely, the beer interesting and weird sounding. All was well with the world and the sun was still shining when we started our journey home.
(Our view of the room with a view, on the right of the picture)
I was alerted to a problem when Denis said Oh. He’s a farmer’s son with a (misguided, in my opinion) lack of fear of farm animals but he has heard me explain how scary cows are and didn’t want to hear it again. He had spotted the cows approaching. This was the empty field, for goodness sake! I began to move faster than Denis. My instinct for self-preservation won out against my generosity of spirit and I thought if I was in front they might be happy to eat him instead of me. I’m not proud of these instincts and now I may have to go to marriage counselling all because of those cows!
(Denis getting one last photo before joining me on the other side of the gate. Can you see that white one racing down the field to eat us?)
Suffice it to say I made it to the gate before the cows… and Denis. Mairead.