Tracking down a pastoral idyll in The Lakes
IF you sometimes hanker for the pastoral countryside of 16th Century England, then follow me and the Curragh Sons to Kentmere, four miles down a single-track road from the village of Staveley in Cumbria.
Essential clothing for your visit should include shepherd’s smock, or milkmaid’s garters, and stout leather boots.
And don’t forget to accessorise with a piece of straw held at a jaunty angle between your teeth and a pewter tankard for some hearty ale.
Kentmere amounts to a handful of farms and converted outbuildings, including Maggs Howe Farmhouse B&B, which boasts the sealed and stamped deeds to the property dating back to 1703 hanging up in the dining room. Kentmere born Christine Hevey, who runs the establishment with Dubliner husband Paddy, showed me an even earlier deed-of-sale from 1623.
The view from Maggs Howe is possibly one of the best views in England, and the walk from Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley, where the band perform, is a four-mile treat, although it took us two hours instead of one as I kept stopping to take photographs like the hawthorn blossom seen here.
Although the road is mostly single-track, the so-called Green Road in the heart of Kentmere, little has changed in 500 years, which makes it even more enchanting. It’s probably more overgrown these days, with a thick covering of moss and lichens on the stone walls, and indeed some of the trees, including a hoary old crab-apple which is over a hundred years old.
Delicate harebells competed with so solid clapper-type stiles of stone for my photographic attentions, and I think the results were a tie, but how many stories could this by-road tell?
Lovers’ trysts, lost dogs and undoubtedly the passing by of one JRR Tolkien, for this is his ‘Shire’ if ever there were one.
Another thing that stood out to me was that the sheep fleeces are very clean, with no industrial pollution blowing over them there hills and no A628 nearby with its daily fog of exhaust to discolour them further.
I got to talking to Christine about the sheep, and although she doesn’t farm any more herself her sister does and other farmers use her fields.
Not many people know this but Christine told me that Lakeland shepherds have their own, long standing, system of counting sheep, and it progresses numerically until 15, which is Bumfit, and then leaps to 20, which translates as Giggot, running as follows: Yan, Tyan, Thethera, Mehthera, Pimp, Sethera, Lethera, Hovera, Dovera, Dick, Yan-A-Dick, TyanA-Dick, Tethera-A-Dick and Methera-A-Dick.
I think this method could be useful for the band when we have to report home about how many pints we had to drink at the Hawkshead Brewery – my wife Nicole will not understand a word when she asks: “Did you have a few?” I could reply in all honesty, “I only had Yan-A-Dick, although it could have been Bumfit, and it certainly wasn’t Giggot!”
The Curraghs next play at Hawkshead Brewery on Friday, July 8.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● Hawthorn Blossom on the road to Kentmere