“Andy Luck and I looked into historic Brougham Hall last weekend. Andy was testing some rather fine digital cameras for technical review articles in Cumbria for Outdoor Photography and Black and White Photographer magazines. You’ll have to read the magazines for his reviews and technical insights, but can view some of his images on wildopeneye blog. From photographing wild flower meadows and dry stone walls in the Westmorland Fells and a sweeping vista of cotton grass framed by Scots pines at Cliburn Moss we had a big appetite for the tasty smoked chicken and mayo baguettes and elderflower cordial at Brougham Hall’s Fusion Cafe.I’d been a few times before, on one occasion to see a fine performance of Romeo & Juliet here, it’s an excellent theatrical venue and the nicely mixed G&Ts added to the enjoyment!Brougham Hall is open to the public while being lovingly restored and is host to an artisan community of potters, photographers and a jewellery designer. It is also home to House Martins Delichon urbicum. There’s a very pleasant atmosphere and lots of nice photographic subjects.
It was a great lunch. Elderflower cordial is, to my mind, the quintessential taste of English Summer and the tender, juicy smoked breast of chicken in freshly made crusty granary baguette went down very well indeed, they are a nice combination of flavours. Helpful, friendly staff too. Thumbs up for the Fusion Cafe!It was lunch with a show, thanks to the Hirundines. If our lunch was interrupted a bit, by the bird life, Andy and I certainly weren’t complaining, and we didn’t suffer hiccups despite our repeated attempts to capture images of the graceful Martins, swooping in flight over our heads between bites and swigs. They were impossible to resist.
Andy was using an enormous Nikon with a lens like a bazooka. The sight seemed very apt to me, considering that Brougham Hall had been a secret base, developing specialist tanks with giant search lights in weapons testing that took place here during the Second World War. I wonder what Mr. Churchill would have made of Andy tracking the birds with his giant telephoto zoom?Punctuating our meal with attempts to photograph these charming and very agile aerodynamics was rather fun. The Martins and some swifts were busy in the process of nest building, at the same time a young restoration builder was at work mixing cement, these birds were landing just in front of us and picking up mud in their bills to apply to the stone walls in a constant relay.
The industrious avian efforts delightfully coincide with Brougham Hall’s human restoration project. In tandem, the respective structures are being rebuilt. The people have achieved a lot since my last visit. Cobbles have been revealed in the courtyard and the Chancellor’s office is much further restored.Brougham Hall’s high castle walls rise sheer above a great brazen beast mask door knocker (a replica of Durham Cathedral’s famous sanctuary knocker). The Hall began life as a medieval fortified manor and was updated over the ensuing centuries, witnessing the bloody civil war battle of Clifton Moor below its ramparts.
Ramparts reputedly haunted, I should add. Like every good castle, Brougham Hall has its ghost stories and its treasures.Unlike other good castles, Brougham Hall has treasures that you can take away with you. Treasures from the artisan community that works within the castellated walls.There’s silver and golden jewellery here, created by contemporary designer and maker Susan Clough. She and Professional Photographer and writer Simon Whalley were enjoying a coffee on a bench outside her studio cum shop Silver Susan. We struck up conversation, initially about the Martins.
She noted that the birds had been busy for a while on their nests but had little to show for it. The photo above may explain why progress wasn’t as advanced as she expected, as one bird goes in with a beakful of mud, another can be seen emerging with a beakful, presumably carrying it off to build a nest elsewhere!Talk then turned to the distinctive spiral pendant around her neck, one of her creations. Susan explained the appeal of crafting jewellery “I find working with metal very satisfying,” she says “I love the quality of the metal. Silver, gold, even brass. In my designs, I try to bring out the essential character of each metal ” It’s a love that shines through in the fluid designs, we discovered, as we looked in on her studio shop and admired her craft work.The striking silver necklace of rings pictured here is an exemplar of the collection. In keeping with the quirky surprises that Brougham Hall offers the visitor (the ice house, knocker, the chapel accessed by bridge and a sculpture of Christ in crucifixion) the doorway to her craft work shop is flanked by an extraordinarily buxom pair of stone Chimaera excavated from the woods nearby. The craft community also assist in the reconstruction. Susan has helped excavate the cobbled courtyard.Before departing to the Lakeland Fells for our own photography, we looked in on Simon Whalley’s photographic gallery.Simon Whalley is a photographer and writer. In his gallery, Simon’s explorations into Man’s connection with nature and harmony are displayed in lovely surroundings. Simon’s writing and photographic work focuses on the relationships between landscape and human interactions. We saw an exhibition there featuring his Spirit of Hartside project, the resulting book Spirit of Hartside captures exactly that. If you are familiar with Hartside you will very likely enjoy it, and for those new to the famous viewpoint, it makes a good introduction. It is available from his shop and can also be ordered from his website http://simonwhalley.org, which you might also find is worth an exploratory visit.Simon is currently working on a book about the Settle Carlisle Railway that promises similarly to capture the spirit of the line and how it connects with the landscape.
His gallery is open from 11 am to 5 pm.
We moved on from Brougham Hall, refreshed, inspired and fond of the place and the people there.
Watch out for images of Brougham Hall from Andy Luck’s visit in Outdoor Photography magazine