Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas--or happy whatever winter holiday you prefer. We were very late getting our Christmas tree up. Mr. M bought it this week from the church lot, and I started decorating it this weekend, with an assist from second son who came home on Sunday.

I thought I'd share with you my most treasured Christmas ornament. Yes, it is amazingly ugly--it looks like a ball of tinfoil in netting--but that is a good part of its charm. I'm afraid I don't know all the details of its history. As I recall, it came from my mother's family. I'm assuming my grandmother purchased it, but that seems a bit odd as I would have thought she'd have looked for something more attractive. I googled "Graf Zeppellin" and found out here that the Graf Zeppellin flew between 1928 and 1937, so I'm guessing this ornament must be about 80 years old.

It always had a prominent spot on my family's Christmas tree when I was growing up, and when my folks downsized their Christmas decorations, I grabbed it for my tree. My husband and sons groan, but every year I hang it front and center.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fences and gates

In our ramblings—and our many times getting lost—we became very familiar with fences and gates. On our Mountain Goat tour, I learned that the stacked stone fences can last 300 years, which means my Regency characters could have leaned against the very fences I was looking at—if my characters were real, of course. People used whatever stones were available, so if the stones had been tumbled around by a river, they were round. If they came straight from the ground, they were flat.

Here’s a fence with mostly rounded stones.

walls and gates goat round stones

And here’s one where I’d say the stones are mostly flat.

walls and gates hill top walk close up of wall

Here’s a longer view of the flat-stone fence.

walls and gates hill top walk wall

I even got some pictures of fences that had fallen down.

walls and gates fallen wall hill top house walk

If you’ve got a fence, you need a way to get to the other side of it. You can go over it via a stile. (This was on Wansfell Pike.)

Walls and gates--Wansfell Pike--stile

Or maybe you can go under it.

walls and gates hill top walk hole in wall

I’m not sure what this is, really. I did peek inside and this is what I saw.

walls and gates hill top walk hole in wall close up

Mostly we went through fences via a gate. There were a variety of gate types. Here is the one that got us into Levens Park, but from the park side. It was less noticeable from the highway side.

walls and gates levens hall park 2

Here’s Mr. M posing so you can see how narrow the opening is.

walls and gates levens hall park

A large, farm-style gate was relatively common. Sometimes they had a latch, but other times they closed with just a piece of rope to loop over the fence post.

Walls and Gates--Dove Cottage day Rydal Watel

A common gate—and rather ingenious, I thought—that I hadn’t seen before was one that required you to step through an opening into a box kind of arrangement and then swing the gate so that it closed up that opening and opened the other to exit. Here’s a picture that might make it clearer.

Walls and gates--Hill top walk

The gate is on the right. Sometimes with a backpack and camera, it was a bit of a tight fit to stand in the box area and swing the gate into the other position.

We saw an odd structure on one of our long rambles that looked like a fence across a stream. I couldn’t figure out what it was for—to corral the fish? But they could just swim through.

walls and gate--closeup of sheep gate hill top walk

I asked our guide on the Mountain Goat tour, and he said it was to keep the sheep from wandering.

Here’s another that you can clearly see is part of a fence.

walls and gates goat trip

Monday, December 17, 2012

Levens Hall, part 4

We scampered across the highway in search of goats. The woman in the gift shop had told us the goats generally hung out to the right of the river, but the fellow at the ticket booth, who gave us a map to the park, said you couldn’t count on that. Mr. M’s patience for goat hunting was limited. The day was progressing; he didn’t think we had the hour or more needed to do the full loop around the park. So I had my fingers crossed that we weren’t off on a wild goose—er, goat--chase.

We started down the wrong path, of course, but fortunately I realized our mistake almost immediately and we were able to backtrack and get on the right path within a few minutes. If you link to the map, above, you can see where we went wrong—the sort of dotted line on the far right—and then the path we were supposed to take—the dashed line going down between the tree pairs.

Levens hall park avenue of oaks

You can see that this park is very different from the topiary garden, yet it was laid out by the same man. This is more like the “modern” landscape design of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.

The River Kent was on our left.

levens hall park 6

I was hoping the goats weren’t on the other side of the river, because if they were, I suspect Mr. M would  have insisted on giving up and turning back. So when we came upon some walkers heading toward us, I asked if there were goats around and they said yes, indeed, that the herd was down near the gate. I had no idea where the gate was, but it was apparently on our side of the river, so I persuaded Mr. M. to keep going.

We came upon an odd chair-like object

Levens hall park chairlike object.

and the “unusual herd of black fallow deer”

levens hall park deer 4

as well as the ubiquitous sheep.

Levens Hall park sheep

We were on the verge of giving up, when we finally encountered the Bagot goats. This pair patiently posed for our many photos.

levens hall park goats 3 

Mission accomplished, Mr. M. herded me back to catch the bus to Bowness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Levens Hall, part 3

Yes, we did finally go inside the house, but photography wasn’t allowed, so I don’t have any pictures. However, if you go the the Levens Hall web site and watch the pictures rotate through, you can see some things we saw. One of the pictures is of the drawing room and the Elizabethan overmantel. I think the carved figure shown on the web site is from the Elizabethan paneling in the small drawing room, and I confess it reminded me of George Brown’s work at Townend. The museum room had several Napoleonic artifacts, including, as best Mr. M can remember, a bottle of port. Knowing my fixation with all things Regency, he drew my attention to something—sadly,neither of us can remember what—Beau Brummel gave one of the daughters of the house.

After seeing the house, we decided to stop in the Bellingham Buttery to have a snack, and Mr. M decided to try their Morocco Ale. I had a taste, and I think it was the best of the local ales. From there we went to the gift shop, since I wanted to bring something back to our neighbor who was keeping an eye on our house while we were gone. I picked out some little gardening shears. I was so pleased, since our neighbor is a gardener. (Sadly, when I was packing to come home, I kept them in my carryon. I was thinking, “oh, I don’t want to lose this gift, so I don’t want to chance putting it in my checked bag” when I should have been thinking, “sharp object, must go in checked baggage.” The security man at the Manchester airport was very nice when he asked me if I had any “snips.” I said, no, of course not. So he searched my bag, and when he finally got to that section of my backpack and I saw them, it hit me—oh, yes I do! I felt SO stupid—and the shears went into the airport garbage.)

While in the gift shop, I saw a little pamphlet entitled: “The History of the Bagot Goats and Bagot’s Park.” Somehow I got chatting with the woman who was ringing up my doomed “snips” purchase, and she revealed that there was a part of the Levens Hall estate that had completely escaped my attention—Levens Park—and there were indeed Bagot Goats to be seen there. Well! I could not pass up a chance to see some unusual goats, even though it required a scamper across the highway. Mr. M had planned for us to take the next bus back to Windermere, but I persuaded him to delay an hour so we could go looking for goats. Which we did—but I’ll save those pictures for the next post.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Levens Hall, part 2

There was much more than the topiaries to see in the Levens Hall gardens, though things were a bit soggy from the big rain. There were leafy tunnels,

levens hall garden tunnel and me

ponds with fountains,

Levens Hall garden fountain

grassy paths,

levens hall garden topiary passage

and propped up trees to stand under.

Levens Hall garden propped up tree

One of the things I was most excited to see was a Ha-Ha. No, I’m not laughing. This is a landscape design element I’d come across when I was researching the subject for some of my Naked books. I couldn’t quite grasp the concept, so it was great to actually see it in “action.” I had Mr. M take a picture of the sign that explains it all.

levens hall gardens ha-ha sign 

I hope you can read that if you click on it to enlarge it. Basically, it’s a way to extend the view yet keep farm animals out of the garden without a fence. According to the sign, this is the earliest example of a Ha-Ha. Here’s what it looks like.

levens hall garden ha-ha

The Ha-Ha is where you can see the line between two slightly different shades of green. If you stood at that edge and looked down, you’d see a ditch with water in it. I was tempted to try jumping down and over it to take the picture from the tree side, but was afraid that would end badly, with me wet or with a twisted ankle. I did take the picture looking down, but with no perspective, the photo really didn’t work.

After “playing” in the gardens for quite a while, we were finally ready to make our way to the house.

levens hall garden hedge, path, and hall