The Eden Valley in Cumbria has some lovely hidden treasures tucked away in the folds of its landscape and recently we have been fortunate to visit some of them. Christ’s Church in Ivegill is one such. Here, in the nicely tree-shaded churchyard with the gentle sound of the beck in the background we admired Brian Cowper’s ‘Wings Of Peace’ sculptural sundial.
Carved in marble, primarily white with some light smoky grey clouds, the sculpture is topped with a silvery reflecting ball gracefully flanked by the spread of dove’s wings.
Not merely decorative, the Wings Of Peace sculpture is a carefully calibrated instrument – a functional chronometer when the sun shines that marks the passing of time as the shadow sweeps across the wings, the hours being the gaps in the feathers.
The Sculptor, Brian Cowper explained to us that you can’t just buy an off-the-peg sundial from anywhere and expect it to work well by aligning the shadow to the correct time whenever and where-ever you choose to set it down. Very soon the shadow will cease to correspond with the markings for the hours.
In order to work properly as a time-keeper, calculations need to be made for the angle of sunlight at the location of any particular site, and the design of the dial and blade (gnomon) would need to correspond to these, and even then the observer will need to add (and occasionally subtract minutes) as the angle of the sun wanders throughout the year. Brian showed us a graph plotted with a shape similar to a figure of 8 or infinity symbol that shows the recommended time correction day-by-day for this sundial. This creation is quite an amalgamation of art and science.
With sundials you can see the relationship between location and sun time. It is a funny thought that before the coming of the railways, clock time was set locally and would differ considerably from place to place leading to people sometimes apparently arriving at destinations ‘before’ they had set-off to get there. With fast international Jet travel between time zones you can experience a similar paradox.
Readers may be interested to know that this year marks the 25th Anniversary of The British Sundial Society.
Come and watch amateur and professional hedge layers competing to lay the best hedge.
Competitors and spectators free entry!
HEDGE LAYING COMPETITION AND TRAINING DAY
Where: Sunny Bank Farm at Grayrigg, next to the A685 (Grid Ref 583973)
When: Sat 22 February 2014, 9.00 am – 3.30 pm
For more information phone 01539 720788
or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.fld.org.uk
Friends of the Lake District, Murley Moss, Oxenholme Rd, Kendal, LA9 7SS
Registered Charity Number 1100759 Company Limited by Guarantee 4878364
Christmas Tree Festival in
Crosby Ravensworth Village Hall,
29th November 2013 from 7pm to 9 pm.
£3.50 for adults, children enter free of charge.
of mulled wine
“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.
On my way to do some work on Logic Plumbing and heating firm’s website, I saw large plumes of smoke drifting from the town to the south. This morning a fire broke out in the Appleby Castle estate issuing a large cloud of grey and brown smoke. Cumbria Fire Service sent 5 engines and fire officers to fight the blaze in one of the houses on the estate and quickly brought it under control. Apparently the castle is undamaged.
Over in Bongate, a panicking Cormorant was seen flapping about in a dazed fashion in the road, several attempts were made to catch the bird by public spirited residents before one gentleman successfully rescued it and took it off swiftly to Appleby vets for treatment.
Stalwart work! Well done to them and well done the Cumbrian Fire Service Officers.
How is your fire alarm? Appleby’s LOGIC Group have electricians that can install fire alarm systems for you. They can also do safety checks on your wiring and install safe modern heating systems, oil, gas, LPG and renewables like biomass and heat pumps. They’ll service your boiler too to keep it running safely and efficiently. Recently they installed a state-of-the-art bespoke fire safety control panel at Whinfell forest Center Parcs. Keep warm, keep safe with Logic Group Appleby throughout Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway!
A Good Book Makes Life in Cumbria Better.
A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood (Sunpenny Ltd publishers) has just been listed in The People’s Book Prize Autumn Collection. This is a very gentle but emotive anthology of short essays, each account devoted to small pleasures in life and combining as a whole to remind us of the value of little things that make life special and truly worth living.
An ambitious endeavour, you might think, for someone to suppose that anything so personal as pleasures could be shared and revealed as experiences in common. Start reading the book and I doubt you will question the worthiness of the endeavour or doubt William Wood’s skill in bridging gaps that you might presuppose exist between one human and another in the matter of appreciating small things.
It’s a surprising read for several reasons:
- here is a compilation of short essays by a single author. How often do you see those for sale these days? Hardly ever, partly because there are few writers of sufficient calibre to produce enough good stories on a theme to make up a whole book, and partly I suspect, because big fat novels by celebrity authors are a safer venture from the publishing point of view.
- the focus upon the small pleasures that make the author’s life worth living might cause you to expect it to be painfully self-indulgent, at least in places, but Wood always avoids falling into that trap. I was surprised to discover that I found so many of the same things pleasurable, either from my own experiences where they coincided with his or vicariously when they didn’t.
- finally, the simple act of focusing your time and thoughts on things pleasant is surprisingly refreshing. At first it feels almost sacrilegious somehow to be presented with the pleasant, the wholesome and the good in an intelligent literary work. We are so used to the relentless stream of in-your-face misery, grim facts, depressing news, sobering statistics and focus on survival in the rat-race etc. that thoughts of the small pleasures in life can be eclipsed, marginalised or subjugated.
This is a bold book then, yes, and the author’s openly assertive in sharing his values, but can we afford to devote time to hedonism? One of the book’s charms is the brevity of each story, it can be read at bed-time, read on the commute, read on the loo perhaps if you’re severely time-strapped.
From the outset the author engages you as a reader directly in the discourse and makes these experiences your own. I found the degree of commonality in appreciation remarkable and the interest maintained throughout the anthology. This is a very sensual book, richly descriptive, it conjours vivid visions, sounds, scents and flavours of life, exercising the senses of the imagination and vividly reawakening the reader’s sense of adventure in experience. Whether discoursing upon communications, fruit, vegetable gardening, push mowers, fountain pens, tortoises, Norwegian cabin holiday experience, swimming off a mangrove fringed island or in the municipal pool, William centres you satisfactorily in every scenario.
A Little Book of Pleasures is unashamedly a “feel-good” book, but there’s nothing sugar-coated or laboured about it and I’d recommend it to those who might be feeling jaded, overly worn or distanciated; it is well-written, penetrating in its observations, not heavy-handed in the delivery, clever, gentle light reading.
Does such a focus better belong in a brighter, easier past than this so often bitter present? Not really, because if you can’t appreciate the eclectic mixture of experiences in this book today, I’d venture to suggest that you are sorely in need of just such refugia. This isn’t escapism so much as self-administered care for yourself. I have a pervasive sense of the author being a very well grounded person and his often mildly quirky perspectives strike chord after chord and when, upon occasion you are presented with something that you don’t appreciate as much as the author, or with an opinion that doesn’t match your own, what does your imagination do? Your own substitute pleasure rises quickly to mind and you transport yourself.
Yes, this is definitely a book to read for pleasure or to give to someone you know who needs some.
This book is now short-listed for The People’s Book Prize and voting for A Little Book Of Pleasures is a two step process.
- First, it takes a couple of seconds to register with The People’s Book Prize website (click here for page) and they’ll instantly send you an email with your password in it. If you can’t see it in your inbox, click your receive mail button, if you still don’t see it then check your junk/spam folder for it.
- Then please click this link to take you to the page with my book listed, click on “A Little Book of Pleasures” by William Wood and log-in with your email and the password that they just sent you and check the Add vote for this book box. You can add a comment at the time, or later too if you wish. You can only vote once for any single book, but you can make multiple comments if you feel so inclined.
If you haven’t bought a copy yet and would like to do so, you can buy the book from the same website.
Crosby Ravensworth Show and Vintage Rally will be held as planned. This Show is going ahead, please see The Crosby Ravensworth Show website for all the details. The ploughing will be the only event omitted this year because of sodden ground, but everything else is still on. There’ll be Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling and Children’s sports, dairy and beef cattle, sheep, industrial tent, poultry tent and collectors’ tent, vintage vehicles of various sorts and tractors, Fell ponies and equestrian events, dog show and many stalls.
We hope to see you there!
Crosby Ravensworth Show And Vintage Rally 2012
The 142nd Exhibition
To be held on
Thursday 30th August 2012
Low Bottom, Nr. Barnskew Farm, Maulds Meaburn
(By kind permission of Mr C. Lowther, Messrs Jackson & Mr J. Brass)
Over £3,000 in prizes and 60 plus trophies to be presented
This Is Your Chance To Express Support For Eden Arts Before The Axe Falls
I’m asking people I know in Cumbria to take a moment to respond to this petition and also to forward it to anyone you feel would like to have an opportunity to show their support for Eden Arts?
Eden arts was included in Arts Council’s National Portfolio at a low level of funding. A 70% cut from the local authority will destroy its ability to function effectively. Eden is the most poorly provided district in terms of the arts in Cumbria and has no public venues for the arts. Eden arts projects are all that exists within the district. It is vital that Eden arts are able to demonstrate support from residents in the district and sector based professionals in Cumbria. This petition is important in making their case.
Christian Barnes (CR)