Hello there and hope you’ve survived this hot week if you’re UK-based. We can’t cope with the heat over here, can we?
It’s Glastonbury this weekend so it feels very appropriate to be talking about festivals right now. Except this is a different kind of festival…
Tickets went on sale today for the Richmond Walking & Book Festival and I’m a speaker. Yay! I was so excited when I contacted the festival organisers earlier this year to see whether they might be interested and they came back saying they’d nearly finalised their programme but there was a slot available if I wanted it. I certainly did!
Richmond – the one in North Yorkshire rather than the London one – is a very special place to me because I opened and ran a teddy bear shop there between 2003-2005. I started learning my craft and writing my debut novel during quiet days in the shop. And there were LOTS of those, especially in the winter… or if it rained… or if it was really warm… or if it was a Wednesday… I think you get the picture!
The details are:
Monday 19th September 2022
The Station, Richmond
Cost: £8 (with concessions for those in full-time education or on income assessment benefits, and accompanying carers)
The festival runs from 16th-25th September and there are loads of amazing walking events to suit all abilities and some fabulous guest speakers talking about fiction and non-fiction works. You can view the full programme here. Do scroll through all three pages to see the full range of what’s on offer.
If you’d like to know more about the origins of this festival, the website home page is here.
Thank you so much to James Gravenor, Judith Clark and the committee for welcoming me onto the programme and to author Marrisse Whittaker for suggesting I make contact in the first place. Marrisse is speaking on the final day of the festival and her talk sounds fascinating.
I’m really nervous now – not about speaking but about not selling any tickets so praying there will be people interested!
Please spread the word, particularly if you have friends or family in the Richmond/Yorkshire Dales area or even further afield who’d make a day of it/a long weekend of it or even go for the duration of the festival.
At the start of the week, I posted about our first week away in the Lake District over Easter and promised the second part would follow. Here it is!
Although we enjoyed our first week, our second was extra special. But we always knew it would be because we were spending it in our absolute favourite place: Keswick. Keswick has everything – a beautiful lake which you can walk right round, dramatic mountains and fells surrounding it on all sides, a couple of beautiful parks, stunning countryside, and a pretty market town full of lovely shops.
The cottage we were staying in was called Pippin Cottage and it was on the main road into Keswick so there was some traffic noise but that didn’t really bother us as it was so ideally located for walking everywhere. Once we’d arrived, we didn’t use the car again until the day we left!
Despite visiting Keswick on many occasions, we’d never actually been to Fitz Park which was opposite. Can’t believe we’ve missed out on it as it’s lovely!
We wanted to attempt a couple of the climbs but decided to start easy by climbing a hill called Castlehead with some lovely views across Derwent Water although do excuse the weird extra half-dog situation in the panoramic pic in the middle. Ella decided to move while I was taking the pano!
Opposite the holiday cottage is a bus stop inside of which is the most wonderful painting of Goldilocks and the three bears along with an explanation of why it’s there. Apparently the story started off with three bears and a grumpy elderly woman but it evolved into the story with the young girl we’re more familiar with these days.
On Easter Sunday, I met the amazing artist Lucy Pittaway for breakfast. I love her paintings (and have several prints) and she loves my books and it’s so fascinating to talk to another creative who does something slightly different to me. She’s become a friend over the past year and happened to be visiting Keswick over the bank holiday, where she has one of her galleries, so it was wonderful being able to have a catch-up.
Before I met her, I’d noticed there were a stack of dog walkers milling around all wearing orange clothes and I wondered if there was a special event on. When I pointed this out to Lucy, she observed that a huge number of the dogs were spaniels. At lunchtime, when I went for a family walk round Derwent Water, I found out what was going on. There was the most amazing spaniel known as ‘Miracle Max’ who was awarded the equivalent of an OBE for animals in 2021 for his services to others. It’s quite a lovely story and you can find out about about Max, his owner Kerry, and why he was awarded this in a BBC article here.
Sadly, Max passed away this month, aged 14, so the walk was in remembrance of him. His collar had been orange so those doing the walk were asked if they’d wear orange. What a happy and hopeful colour to see everywhere.
One of Max’s many amazing achievements had been during the pandemic where videos and photos of him, his owner, and two other spaniels called Paddy and Harry provided comfort around the world to those who were able to get out and about vicariously through them. You can find out more on the Max out in the Lake District website and there’s also a book about Miracle Max by owner Kerry Irving whose life Max saved.
Here’s the hubby and our (sprocker) spaniel Ella on Max’s statue in Hope Park near the water’s edge.
The clockwise walk round Derwent Water is one we did in August last year but we went a little further this time. The weather had picked up from the week before but it wasn’t quite bright blue skies, but was still nice for pics.
I’d have happily walked even further but, for some random reason, the munchkin hadn’t put on her proper walking boots and we hadn’t noticed she was only wearing trainers so she moaned about going further. She and I caught the small ferry back and hubby walked back the way we’d come with Ella.
On the Tuesday, we decided to take a walk anti-clockwise round Derwent Water and see how far we could get. We set off on foot from the holiday cottage and this meant a walk through town, along farm tracks, by the river and through a village called Portinscale before getting to the water’s edge. It was a beautiful walk and, as you can see, the sun had properly come out and brought some bright blue skies.
Isn’t that shoreline beautiful? We wandered a little further and came across a most enticing-looking place called the Lingholm Estate where Beatrix Potter used to holiday with her family so we decided to explore and partake in some refreshments. What a lovely place!
A woodland walk took us to the foot of Catbells. We want to get fitter and be able to tick off the 214 Wainwrights – the hills/mountains/fells documented by Alfred Wainwright – over many visits to the Lakes and we’d hoped to tackle a couple of smaller ones while away. Catbells isn’t one of the smaller ones but we hadn’t appreciated our walk round the lake was going to take us to the foot of it. It seemed a shame not to give it a try while we were there. The munchkin was not impressed but we set off anyway.
The sign says 1 mile, 1 hour but that’s probably for experienced walkers and not for overweight unfit authors! At 451m (1,480ft) it’s quite a climb and very steep in parts. It was too much for the munchkin and she dipped out at a large grassy area partway up the first incline to be collected again on our descent. Hubby, Ella and I continued our climb.
It was hard work – more on the muscles than the stamina – but the views were absolutely incredible… and also a good reason to keep stopping! The view below is looking down on the Lingholm Estate where we’d stopped earlier.
This view looks out over Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance…
Catbells is a bit of a deceptive walk for those who aren’t familiar with the shape of it as you make your way towards what looks to be a summit and there’s quite a scramble to get up to it. However, once you’re there, you can see you’re not really there. The actual summit is some way further on, down a dip, then up again with an even steeper incline and summit.
We made it to the top of that 1st summit and I was so proud of myself as I’ve been in a home-based sedentary job for seven years, I barely left the house during the first 18 months of the pandemic, even when we were allowed, I am twice the body weight I should be for my height, and I’m not very fit anymore. So to climb up that far was a pretty amazing achievement for me and I felt quite emotional at the top.
We could have gone on but we had concerns. The weather was coming in and rain was expected. You can see the dark clouds in that last photo above. Hubby had left his coat with the munchkin to ensure she didn’t get cold while waiting for us but the weather had changed and it was cold up there. I’d given him my waterproof to keep the wind off him but that meant I’d have no waterproof when the rain started. We were conscious of the munchkin waiting for us in the rain and that we’d probably be another hour to get to the proper summit on top of the time we’d already been, plus the descent time. And I had no walking poles with me because this had been a spontaneous climb. I wasn’t sure my knees would cope with another scramble and the descent down both without the support of the poles so we gave up and said we’d return and conquer it again on another visit. And, yes, it did start raining as we descended.
We returned to the holiday cottage the way we’d come and, as this meant passing the Lingholm Estate, we popped in for more sustenance! They run alpaca walks and the alpacas were being fed as we passed. Aww! Next time, I neeeeeed to walk by the lake with an alpaca.
Walking back across the farm tracks, there were the most gorgeous Herdwick sheep watching us. I love them so much. Even though we hadn’t conquered Catbells, we’d done a pretty impressive walk because setting off from the holiday cottage meant a round trip of roughly ten miles. Well done us!
The following day was the penultimate full day of our holiday and, after aching from our walk, we had a more leisurely day visiting the Pencil Museum which is fascinating and the Keswick Local Museum in Fitz Park as well as a wander round some gift shops.
On our final day, we were determined to conquer our first Wainwright and set off for one of the smaller ones at the other side of Fitz Park – Latrigg. This is 368m (1,207ft) but also a gentler climb. In the first photo below, you can see it peaking behind Fitz Park.
It was another gorgeous day and it turned out that the first part of the walk up through the forest was actually the steepest. After that, the path zig-zagged quite a bit. We could see people taking steeper shortcuts but the proper pathway was good for us!
As anticipated, the views from the summit were absolutely stunning but it was certainly chilly up there despite the blue sky!
So that’s our very first Wainwright ticked off and logged in the book. 213 to go!
What an amazing second week and overall a brilliant fortnight away. Hubby and I both needed to work so we weren’t out and about all the time but we certainly managed to fit a lot in. And I got my inspiration for my Lakes series of books. I’m not going to say what it is yet as I’m waiting for my proposal to be approved by my editor but if she does give it the green light, I absolutely can’t wait to write it.
Already planning our return trip to this beautiful part of the world.