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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.