Sizergh 2017 A Fortnight in the Lakes and Dales

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After a busy year, vacation time had rolled around once more. This year we'd decided to take a single, large fortnight away instead of splitting it up, and I think we were all looking forward to some down time.

This year we were off to the Southern Lake District. More specifically close to Kendal, the home of the eponymous mint cake. Along for the ride were Michelle, Aurora and Jackie, and we were going to meet my mother Susan there as she was heading up separately by train.

Friday, 4 August

By late morning we'd squeezed most of our worldly possessions into the car and, after then deciding how on earth we could squeeze ourselves in as well, we set off for THE NORTH, as it is so accurately signed.

Twenty minutes later we were crawling along the A14 at a gentle jog amidst all manner of cars and lorries. Ah, the joys of the first Friday in August. Sadly this set the tone of the whole journey, the tedium of congestion broken only occasional respite among the anodyne fixtures of motorway services.

The M6 toll was a breath of fresh air, but we were soon embedded in traffic once more, only to be freed once we'd passed Blackpool. By the time we turned off the motorway for the home stretch everyone was tired and sore, but we were hoping for a very pleasant venue in which to recover. We were not disappointed.

Our home from home was a well appointed cottage on the estate of Sizergh Castle, a Manor House which has been in the same family for over 700 years. They still reside there, but today the house and estate are managed by the National Trust and mostly open to visitors.

As we drove up the long and winding driveway through the estate for the first time, however, the history of the place was the furthest thing from our minds—much more pertinent were facilities for a hot shower and a decent meal. Still, as we pulled into the courtyard I couldn't help but admire the surroundings.

Our first view of Sizergh, the courtyard outside our cottage.
Courtyard Cottage, our residence.

As we headed through the gate into the little front garden I could tell at once that this was going to be a lovely place to stay.

Aurora always wanted to be the first to explore.

As we poked our head through the door and took our first look round, Aurora tearing excitedly around the place, we could see it was beautifully appointed.

3 Courtyard Cottage sits at the heart of the vibrant working estate of Sizergh Castle and backs onto its famous gardens. The three-bedroom cottage is part of a courtyard which was once the castle’s stables and retains its original wooden beams inside.
The interior decor was in keeping with the building, but cozy and tasteful as well.

After unloading the car we prepared a welcome dinner and then relaxed in our new home for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, 5 August

We had a fairly lazy start on Sunday, recovering as we were from the terrible ordeal of sitting down for hours the day before. By lunchtime, however, Aurora was getting a little antsy with all this time indoors, so I took her out for a walk around the estate. We'd found a leaflet with a promising route in the cottage so, strapping on our walking shoes and packing a snack, we headed out.

The route took us out of the estate and into the surrounding fields. Soon we found ourselves ascending a steadily whilst crossing a large, freshly mown meadow. So fresh, in fact, that the tractor doing the mowing was still finishing the job over the hill—fortunately it stayed well away from us.

Nearing the top we paused for a breather. Turning back we saw we'd already gained a little height and the view was already great.

As we climbed the hill the views quickly opened up and we could see for miles.

After a short rest we continued up the hill to pass through a gate and out into a large, open grassy area around the top of the ridge. The views here were panoramic, which was quite impressive given the modest amount of climbing we'd done.

We would've admired the view for longer, but it was a little breezy at the top.

Encouraged by the rather stiff breeze we didn't tarry overlong, and were soon looping around to pick up the route onward and down the other side o the ridge. On the way, however, we got the chance to admire some heritage as the fell is home to the earthwork remains of a Roman settlement and a Bronze Age burial cairn. Apparently even some of the old meadow anthills, on which Aurora can be seen perching below, could be over a hundred years old.

The earthwork remains of a Roman settlement on Sizergh Fell. Thought to date to the C2nd to C3rd the site consists of an enclosure with an outer enclosure to the south, burials, an undated mound, and one or two possible hut circles.
Aurora had fun exploring the top of the ridge.

We followed the contours around the summit and down the other side of the ridge, crossing a few fields and negotiating a steep downward slope to find ourselves on e narrow, walled Parkend Lane. We followed this for a few hundred yards, grateful for the lack of both gradient and wind.

The view west from Parkend Lane.

I was a little nervous of Aurora on the road as of course there wasn't any kind of a path to the side of it. Fortunately, however, it was a very quiet little lane and we encountered nothing more than a couple of cars and a gaggle of cyclists before turning off on to a rocky track which the map declared as Ashbank Lane.

We had to After negotiate a traditional stone wall stile, by climbing the jutting stone steps either side, of which Aurora was very fond, and then we followed the track as it wound its way between trees and through fields.

Aurora was very interested in an old, hollow tree we came across.

Finally the path narrowed into what looked like an old sunken lane and we ascended a small ridge to find Sizergh was waiting for us after descending the other side. The path lead us past the car park and practically to the front door of our cottage.

The last part of our walk along Ashbank Lane.

It was a delightful walk and a great way to allow Aurora to burn off some of her seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, and we enjoyed a well-earned lunch on our return.

Then Michelle and I headed over to the railway station to collect Mum, who arrived mid-afternoon, and we all enjoyed a relaxing end to the day in the cottage.

Sunday, 6 August

On Sunday we got up at a leisurely hour and enjoyed breakfast at a similar pace. Once we were all up, washed, dressed and breakfasted, and generally ready to face the world, we set out to explore the house and gardens which we were staying.

Since the house didn't open until midday we took a stroll around the gardens first. The path towards the house was lined with some rather fine topiary, and Aurora in delighted in running between them.

Sizergh Garden topiary leading to the house.

At the end of the lawn we got out first glimpse of the castle itself, and rather fine it was too. The earliest parts of the building date from the fourteenth century, although much of it was added or amended in the centuries following.

Sizergh Castle

Walking around the castle revealed the rather grand entrance and a decorative lake. This part of the gardens were very formal and were clearly very well tended.

There was just time for a circuit of the gardens before the house opened.

As we strolled around the lake we spotted a family of swans were in residence. The cygnets were almost fully grown, but the parents still kept a watchful eye on all the visitors. You can't be too careful these days, after all.

The cygnets were all over the lake, but Daddy swan was never far behind.

On the far side of the lake, hidden within a stand of trees, lay a small, stone hut beside a pleasant brook that gurgled out of the lake.

Beyond the lake there was this secluded little dell.

As we strolled around we caught a glimpse of the beautiful rock garden, but we put off exploration of it until a later day. More of that later.

A glance at the rock garden

When the house finally opened, we herded Aurora inside and began to explore. The furnishings were as opulent as you'd expect from such a grand property.

The interior of the house was as ornate as its gardens.

As well as the building itself, there were a variety of precious and beautiful works of art on display. Scores of paintings sat beside filigreed vases.

Some of the decorative features were beautiful.

As we explored the house, upstairs and down, Aurora was fairly well behaved. Fortunately for us she'd been given a sheet with objects to find which kept her amused. The only downside was that she only wanted to stay in each room exactly as long as it took her to find her object, so I quickly realised I should stop giving her quite so much help locating them...

The rest of the house upheld the high standard.

Once we'd explored the house we were all feeling rather peckish (read: famished) so we headed over to the café for a bite to eat.

Time for lunch!

Lunch was tasty, if a little noisy and crowded, and we were all feeling rather better for it. We also ended up sitting next to a reproduction of a large painting of the estate, which was beautifully done. It showed how remote and pastoral the scenery was back when it was painted over two centuries ago.

Sizergh from the south-east in 1805.

After lunch we decided that was enough for the day and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the cottage. It was a holiday, after all!

Monday, 7 August

On Monday we opted to head a little further afield. Not too far, however, as we headed out to explore the nearby town of Kendal.

Kendal, anciently known as Kirkby in Kendal or Kirkby Kendal, is a market town and civil parish within the South Lakeland District of Cumbria, England. The town lies in the valley or "dale" of the River Kent, from which it derives its name, and has a total resident population of 28,586, making it the third largest settlement in Cumbria behind Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness.
Strolling around the centre of Kendal.

After poking around some shopping centres, where a rather concerning proportion of the shops were closed or closing, we headed off to find some lunch. After enjoying a pleasant meal at the Booths café we explored some more, primarily locating every charity shop possible so that Michelle could search them for jigsaw puzzles.

Where to head next, New York or Mount Everest?

After a pleasant stroll around more of Kendal Aurora was getting a little tired so we headed back to the cottage.

Tuesday, 8 August

On Tuesday morning, fairly early, the cottage was deserted. Winnie the Pooh sat forlornly on a bed all alone, contemplating the silence and wondering where his humans had gone.

Where is everybody?

That's because it was Aurora's fifth birthday and we'd all headed off to to a dinosaur exhibition at The Rheged Centre organised by The Natural History Museum!

We had already booked a particular time slot, hence the need for an earlyish arrival, but as it happened we got there considerably earlier than we needed to. Unfortunately they were repainting the outdoor play area, but luckily they'd provided an indoor play space as a replacement with bouncy castles, crazy golf and giant Jenga. Aurora was quite happy with that arrangement!

Fairly quickly, however, our time slot rolled around and we headed into the exhibition.

Even the exhibits had brought their children.

There were a variety reproductions of real dinosaur fossils on display but what Aurora was most interested in were the life-size animatronic dinosaur models.

There were plenty of fossils on display.
This is a replica of a real fossilised T-Rex footprint found in Montana, USA. Hell Creek, Montana is a major location for fossil discoveries. Most of the rocks there date back to the Cretaceous period. It's a large area that partially covers four US states and fossils from all kinds of life have been found there.

The models were very well done and the movements and sound effects were quite convincing. I saw more than one child looking somewhat distrustfully at the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as if it might lunge at them at any moment.

The animatronics were the real stars of the show, at least as far as Aurora was concerned.

Eventually we'd made our way around the exhibition and Aurora had finished her Lego dinosaur footprint model, which kept her quiet for a good fifteen minutes. Since it was definitely lunch time by this point, or perhaps even a little past it, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the café and then strolled around looking at the shops for awhile.

While the others spent some time in the shops, Aurora and I admired the pet T. Rex in the foyer.

After a tour of the shops and a short spell in soft play, it was time for Aurora's other treat of the day: a session for creating a clay dinosaur. Michelle, having the most experience of pottery (i.e. some) supervised while Aurora happily crafted away in what turned out to be a class size of only one!

Aurora’s dinosaur

The dinosaur duly built, it was time to head back to the cottage for the other part of Aurora's birthday celebrations—namely, cake!

The dinosaur theme carried on to the cake.

The cake was a marvel to behold, crammed with dinosaurs of a less imposing (and more edible) persuasion than those at the earlier exhibition. After recovering from the day with cake and ice-cream there was just the small matter of the presents to attend to.

Aurora was a very lucky girl this year as, if I'm honest, she has been more or less every year—I seem to remember the phrase "made out like a bandit" being bandied about quite a lot. Everyone was very thoughtful and got her an array of generous gifts.

Aurora delighted in showing Grandma her cards.

Eventually though it was time to clear up, put the cards on display and pack the presents away until Aurora had the time and energy to play with them properly.

We were lucky enough to have a delightful mantelpiece on which to display our cards.

Having had a busy day, Aurora went to bed fairly early and the rest of us relaxed in front of a log fire and played a little Yahtzee before heading up to bed ourselves.

Created By
Andy Pearce

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