This is a throwback to a fun trip I did while I was in England. It was previously published on my missions blog.
Most of my life I’ve spent on the coast of Georgia surrounded by pinewoods, salt marshes, and sunny beaches—basically it’s flatter than a pancake there. Coming to England has been a wonderful opportunity to see different types of geography and culture, much different than the sultry Southern culture of home or the Central African culture I experienced last year. For several summers, our family spent a week in the mountains of North Georgia at Lake Burton. It was a week of relaxing, water sports, and enjoying the cool shade of the mountains. I’ve always had a thing for the mountains and this past weekend I was able to enjoy the grandeur of English mountains.
One couple in our church live in Lytham St. Anne’s near Blackpool which is a really long way from Sheffield. My housemates and I have become very good friends with them and have been out to visit them at different occasions. This past week, Tammy, Paul’s wife, was visiting family in the states and he was home by himself. He invited my housemates and I to come over for a couple days and tour around Cumbria, the county known as the Lake District. Unfortunately one of my housemates was unable to come since he had work so only Chaou and I got to go.
We left fairly early on Friday and drove over to Lytham and met Paul. After a short break, we headed north for Cumbria. Paul is very familiar with both Lancashire and Cumbria and is a wealth of knowledge about the area and its history. He knows the area so well he didn’t need a GPS. The weather was really foggy as we came up into the Lake District but by the time we began driving into the mountains, it had mostly cleared up. We stopped for lunch at a local organic mill near Little Salkeld. It was like stepping into the Shire: green fields filled with sheep bordered by hedgerows, little rivers with lush green vegetation on the banks, and then this quaint little mill. I’ve seen old grist mills in Georgia and this was different. It was much smaller in size and the wheel (there were actually two) was more or less hidden from sight. A small canal had been diverted from the larger creek and run alongside the mill to turn the paddlewheel. When we parked, chickens were there to greet us and I couldn’t resist trying to catch one. The Little Salkeld Mill is also a shop and a tearoom and we had a lovely meal of organic bread and soup. I haven’t tasted anything homegrown and home baked like that in a long time! I had elderflower cordial and carrot soup along with a variety of breads; it was sooo good and very filling. We left the mill after our brief lunch and continued north.
We stopped by two different stone circles that day and it was incredible to see something that had been built way before the Romans! We didn’t speculate much on why they were put there but one site was very beautiful. The stone circle at Castlerigg was on a hill in the middle of a valley and the fells of Cumbria surrounded it. The views were amazing! This particular stone circle was over 4500 years old!
From there we continued on through Keswick and went on a road that went right up through several mountain valleys. We stopped by Lake Derwent, Buttermere, and Crummock. The high fells rose bare and craggy above us and the valleys were filled with woods, fields, and lots of sheep. There were plenty of houses in the wooded valley beyond Derwent Water and it looked like an expensive but beautiful place to live. It also looked very much like the Shire. Paul pointed out to us the various fells he had climbed when he was younger and I had a great desire to climb them.
We stopped just before Crummock Water and I got out to take some pictures. The fells rose up beside us and looked very wild with naught but sheep and scraggly trees on the hillsides. This was a completely different sort of geography than I was used to and it drew me like a magnet. I wanted to see how far I could run up the slopes and so off I went, straight up with Herdwick sheep scattering every which way. I didn’t get very far but I still wanted to get higher so I continued climbing until I reached a flat place about a third of the way up. There was still a lot of mountain above me and I was over a hundred feet above my companions! There were some amazing views of the lake in front of me and I sat there for a little bit. I decided to come down and picked my way down at a faster pace than I had come up. I saw some sheep grazing not far from me and I picked up my speed (not hard to do on a slope) and hurtled down towards them. I think they had seen me before but I came down so quick and popped up beside them, they really jumped when they saw me. Oh the looks on their faces! I laughed for a while after seeing them and then proceeded to run the rest of the way down.
We stopped at another spot above the lake and took more photos. I saw more sheep and tried to herd them as well. Most of the sheep just roam free with hardly any fences to keep them. Thankfully there aren’t wolves in this area to hunt them anymore. The road we traveled on was barely wide enough for one car and we often had to pull over to let other cars pass. Suddenly at the end of the long valley, we came to another valley in which lay the tiny village of Lorton.
Paul had booked a place to stay for the night at a bed and breakfast in Lorton on a working farm. It took us a little while to find it but our stay there was grand! When we pulled up, the farmer’s wife greeted us; she had been feeding lambs in the barn. After depositing my bags in our rooms, which she showed us, I put on my boots and went to the barn to explore. In one room were several small pens. One had three ewes in an adopter unit with yokes to keep the ewes looking in one direction whilst lambs were put in the back sections to nurse. There were other pens with ewes with adopted lambs but one pen had about six lambs in it that were orphaned or pet lambs. They had a bucket in the pen with plastic nipples on it and we were trying to get the lambs used to feeding from the bucket. I helped with this and had a lot of fun petting the lambs and trying to get them to feed. The farmer’s young daughters had named them all and loved picking them up. As the farmer’s wife showed me around the barn, I picked up on what sheep farming and lambing season is like. One paddock in the barn had a lot of ewes in it with twins. They looked up very boldly and back away from our hands. Sheep are not the most aggressive or dangerous animals around the barn. I learned the marking system for different ewes and their lambs and even picked up on some of their breeding techniques and what breeds they had. They had a mixture of Blue Leicesters, Swaledales, and Texels and crosses or “mules” of those breeds. In another paddock they had ewes with singles (one lamb) and another paddock with young Limousin bulls and another with Limousin cows and their calves. They warned me not to get near them—ewes with lambs are nothing compared to a big angry cow. After looking around the farm and talking to the farmer and his wife, I went with Chaou and Paul to a local pub for supper.
The Wheatsheaf Inn was about half a mile from the farm and was a wonderful place for supper. The food was absolutely fantastic! I had a burger feast and it’s called that for good reason: it was two very large burgers with bacon and cheese that probably weighed close to a pound. I couldn’t even finish it! It took us a while to eat our food and we enjoyed it immensely. After the meal, I went outside and saw that it was still fairly light out and thought it would be nice to walk back, especially after eating that large meal. Paul drove back and Chaou and I walked leisurely back to the farm. It took us over an hour and the road wound quite a bit but it was very nice. It wasn’t that cold and we could hear the low bleats of ewes and the higher pitched bleating of the lambs. Owls also called back and forth and I thought I heard a fox up on the fells. It was a wonderful evening and so nice to be away from the city with its lights and noise. I went straight to bed when we got back and had a pretty good night’s rest.
That morning, just before my alarm went off, I heard the sound of roosters crowing, and smiled at the thought of being in the country. I quickly showered and got dressed and went outside to see if I could help around the place. I helped feed the lambs again and then walked to where the other ewes were. As I opened the door, they all bleated and came towards me with big expectant eyes. They thought I had food to give them. I walked around and greeted the ewes and their lambs, each giving me an intense hungry stare. None of the other ewes had given birth that night and watched and took pictures of the twins running around and playing. Then the farmer’s wife came in to feed them and I helped put fresh silage and water in the cribs. We talked about farming and the different hardships and joys that brings. As I went by the house, I noticed a lamb had gotten through one of the fences and was in the horse paddock separated from its mother. I went into the paddock and tried to corner the lamb. Lambs are a lot quicker than you’d expect and the poor ewe did not like I was trying to catch her lamb. I finally caught it and put it back over the fence. By that time it was breakfast. At 8:30 we had a lovely cooked breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, and fried bread (I didn’t have tomatoes and mushrooms). We talked about all kinds of things and downed many cups of coffee between us. We were going to start off in a little while so I went outside again. I watched the farmer herd the Blue Leicesters back into their pen with his dogs. The dogs seemed to be really hyper that morning and didn’t work as well. I can relate to that having worked with hunting dogs before; it can be really frustrating to have a disobedient dog. Shortly thereafter we packed up and thanked them for their kind hospitality. If ever I’m in the Lake District again for a night or so, I’d stay at the Terrace Farm again.
From Lorton, we went on down to Cockermouth and then along the coast to Whitehaven. At one stage in our journey southward, we drove slowly on a road that went right over the fells. It was so foggy and rainy and it was often hard to distinguish between rocks and grazing sheep. We could hardly see 30 yards ahead. It was very exciting though. We ate lunch down by the seaside at a small local café and also visited a history priory that had been there since the Norman days. At this priory at St. Bees, they had found a fully intact knight wrapped in a lead casket that was so well preserved, he all his skin still on and they could even tell what was his last meal! He wasn’t there in the church of course and they had long since reburied him (they found him in the 1980s). We made our way to Lytham St. Anne’s by 5 or 6 pm, bought some food, and then had a nice quiet evening talking about all kinds of things until about 10 pm. It was a lovely time spent admiring the things God had created and I’m very thankful to be able to see the beauties of the northern counties.