The holiday is over!!

I have been visiting the Lakes for many, many years but today the holiday came to an end and I joined the Cumbrian workforce as an Environmental Protection Officer for Barrow District Council. I am based in the town hall – an impressive building with a distinct clock tower that is an easy landmark to spot from the outskirts of town.

The town hall – home of Barrow District Council

Access to the building is gained via large formidable doors that remain bolted when the office is closed. Once through the doors I was greeted by the head of Service, the team leader and a room full of friendly environmental health colleagues. By the end of day 1 I was up and running and had a week of inductions, training, policies and procedures, and site visits lined up. I had however failed to realise the public entrance was bolted prior to the staff exit on the opposite side of the building to our office so had to rely on instinct to find my way to another exit point at the end of the day. Thankfully I passed that initiation test!!

The main entrance.

Any apprehension about the urban nature of the borough were dispelled as I was shown the rural area and lovely bathing beaches. I was pleasantly surprised that there were such beautiful beaches with perfect body boarding waves in the district that have the added bonus of mountain views. The beach at Walney is so vast it hosts an annual kite surfing championship.

Earnse Bay, Walney with Black Combe in the distance

I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my Cumbrian career. I work with a very friendly and welcoming group of people, in a wonderful historic building located in the city centre and surrounded by beautiful beaches, countryside and amazing views. Whilst I have yet to be exposed to my full case load, I am confident the job will give me the exposure to the raw face of environmental health that I crave, with an opportunity to develop new skills along the way.

Wallowbarrow Gorge

After a fun afternoon at Lowick show on Saturday, where we checked out the exhibits tent and are now enthusiastic to enter several categories next year (I am confident my cookies and tray bakes will go down as well in Lowick as they did in Winchester and Lays photographic skills are bound to impress (again)), we met up with the Leck’s on Sunday morning for a walk to Wallowbarrow Gorge located in the Duddon Valley.

With local knowledge from Tony we parked opposite the Holy Trinity Church at Seathwaite to begin our exploration of Wallowbarrow Gorge.

Setting off together.
Crossing the river Duddon on the ‘Memorial Bridge’
The alternative crossing via stepping stones
Walking through Beech trees below Fickle Crag
Entering Grassguards Native Woodland

Lay informs me that the Forestry Commission has decided to restore the entire Hardknott Plantation in the upper reaches of the valley, into native habitats of oak and birch woodland, bogs and open ground. Some areas are regenerating naturally with holly, willow, birch and rowan, while other areas remain as crag and bog; all of which support rare mammals such as dormice and red squirrels, and birds that include great spotted woodpeckers, jays, bullfinches, redstarts and pied flycatchers. The whole project is expected to take 60 to 70 years to complete – just in time for Megan and Williams families to enjoy!!

We detoured off the path to make our way to the top of Wallowbarrow Crag with fine views of Harter Fell on one side and the back of Coniston Fells on the other. A perfect place for a spot of lunch.

Megan trying to join Molly on a large boulder
Kings and Queens of the castle (or can I spot a dirty rascal or two)
Me and my dawg!!!
Resting at the edge of the crag.

After lunch, we continued our circular route along forest paths until we rejoined the route at Memorial bridge.

William in a rare moment of contemplation
Wallowbarrow Gorge – tick!

This walk had something for everyone – rivers and waterfalls, views and vistas, scrambling and rambling and good company. We will definitely keep this one in mind to share with any visitors.

Once back in Lowick we parted company to get some chores done before re-convening at Langholme Mill for Lamb Tagine. A scrummy way to end to another fine weekend in the Lakes.

Our very own secret garden

I keep thinking we are living our very own fairytale at the moment – our ‘happily ever after’ is happening right before our eyes. When you have your very own secret garden to explore you can understand why we have to keep pinching ourselves that this is indeed our real life.

Langholme Mill is magical in many ways – the house itself has secret passageways, nooks and crannies in every room, but the garden is in a world of its own. If you venture through the gates you are in for a treat…..

Century box at the end of the garden
One of the many bridges over the beck.
Paths wind round and round, up and down
A magical pool – a great place for reflection
Water flowing under the bridges is mesmerising

There is so much more to this garden than these pictures capture – there are lots of fairies and magical creatures to spot. Perhaps we should keep it secret for you to explore when you visit!!!

Birthday in the hills

Its a good feeling, waking up on your birthday, drawing the curtains and being greeted with a beautiful view of daylight breaking on the fells without even stepping foot outside.

Mountains, upon mountains, upon mountains.

Its even better when you are joined shortly after by two happy children, excited for you to open the cards and presents they have managed to keep secret for weeks.

I was thrilled to receive such lovely cards and messages from old as well as new friends and to see how much care and effort Megan and William had put into making their own cards and gifts. Thanks everyone!!!!

and presents!!!
Homemade lavender bags

Birthday morning celebrations were fairly swift as we had to remain focused on getting ready for day 2 of school (which fortunately was cause for excitement at seeing their new friends again and not dread) and getting ourselves prepared for a day out in the hills together. Plus we had the excitement of a birthday tea with Clare and Tony to look forward to.

The school run went smoothly, with a slight modification (improvement) of parking at Loppergarth play area and walking to school along the footpath across the field. We were treated to stunning views of the Coniston Fells and beyond on our return journey.

The view on the way home from the school run.

After returning home for a quick boot change and collecting Togo, Lay and I set off on foot to explore the route to Beacon Tarn. Having received birthday wishes all the way from our New Zealand family in the morning it was very appropriate that our nearest fell is called Great Burney and this was our first target.

On top of Great Burney
Panoramic view from sea to summit.

Our walk continued to claim Little Burney, before pausing for a timely lunch stop on the Cumbria Way before the weather changed to that more typical for these parts!!

Walking towards Little Burney

Whilst opting not to complete the circuit to Beacon Tarn, we decided today was for enjoyment rather than endurance so with time to spare we returned home for a wash and brush up before returning to Pennington to collect Megan and William from school.

Our option to park at the play area proved fortuitous as we met a lovely family who had relocated from Woking 5 years ago and were now settled in Loppergarth. They relocated for the outdoor lifestyle and I have no doubt we will meet up with them for some outdoor adventures in the future.

After a quick change we were greeted at Clare and Tony’s with the intoxicating smell of Roast Lamb, with all the trimmings. Clare had worked wonders on a school night. I was even treated to more cards, presents and a whopping chocolate cake we enjoyed for pudding!!

Birthday Cake!!

As birthdays go, it was a real treat to be living in Cumbria for this one and able to enjoy a proper walk with marvellous views, a wonderful meal with my sis (something that hasn’t happened for over 25 years) and to receive such a large pile of cards and good wishes.

Thank you all for making it so special.

Over the hills and off to school we go

The Harker family woke with excitement this morning as it was finally time to put on crisp school uniform and head off to their new school – Pennington CofE Primary School, where Megan was joining year 6 and William year 3.

The morning went incredibly smoothly as the new uniforms had been tried on, name-labelled and laid out ready to put on the night before. P.E. kits were bagged and ready to go in their new school bags which were lined up by the front door. Packed lunches were made, water bottles filled and waterproof coats at the ready (well we are in Cumbria!!)

After breakfast, a quick photo opportunity and a gaze at the view (still have to pinch myself every time I look out of the window) we set off on the new school run.

Showing off the new uniform by our front door
Admiring the view
Our commute!!
Quick snapshot of Hoad Monument and Morecambe Bay from the car window!
Outside the school gates

Megan and William were lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Mrs Storey (the Headteacher) over the summer holidays and had already had a tour of the school. Mrs Storey was at the school gates ready to greet the children and immediately remembered Megan and William and greeted them by name. We were asked to wait nearby until some children from their class arrived to show them around. First we met Emily (the other new year 6 pupil) and her mum Jill, who had moved from Lincoln over the summer. Shortly after, two girls from their class arrived and were asked to show them around.

I then headed to the office to pick up the forms and leave emergency contact numbers, leaving Lay with William who was soon met by Ollie – a keen footballer who’s dad runs the local team.

Both children then disappeared off with their new friends and the bell rang marking the start of registration. We had spotted one of the local nursery staff dropping off children from the breakfast club so took the opportunity to ask about getting registered and booked in for the days we needed cover. Having picked up the necessary forms, Lay and I decided to explore the surroundings on foot to explore alternative parking places. There is a lovely footpath close to the school that leads to a small play area in Pennington Village. We are likely to target this in future so we can ‘park and stride’ rather than battle with the school traffic each day.

We returned to Langholme Mill the same way we came, with stunning views of the Cumbrian Fells as far as your eye could see. Unfortunately there was terribly slow moving traffic en-route and we got caught in the tail-back!!

Traffic jam – Cumbrian style!!

I am not sure the day could have started any better. Megan and William took the start of school in their stride and we are extremely proud of them for conquering any pre-school nerves and getting on with it. The commute is simply stunning and I can’t see us getting bored of the ever changing views of the landscape as we make the journey each day.

Lay and I returned to the school for pick up at 3pm. We were delighted to see two smiling faces emerge from their classrooms and hear all about their new friends and the things they had been up to. Megan had to crack on with homework when she got home (things start to get serious in year 6) and whilst sitting with her at the kitchen table the view opened up as if to reward us.

Mountains, upon mountains, upon mountains.

Another tick for Cumbrian life – the jigsaw is almost complete…

As one door opens…

Another one closes…

Today, we close the door on our Clanfield home – not for the last time as we have the small matter of actually selling it, but this time definitely marks the end of an era and the start of our new life in Cumbria.

Farewell 58a

After what can only be described as an epic few weeks of de-cluttering, packing, cleaning, lifting and shifting we made it up to Cumbria in time for lunch. Clare and Tony were eagerly awaiting our arrival. Not because of we were going to be living around the corner from them and seeing them ALL THE TIME, but because of the intoxicating smell of homemade soup filling Holly Bank Barn that they had been resisting starting until our arrival!!!

After a hearty lunch Clare and I went to the new home at Langholme Mill to do some initial cleaning, sorting (making beds) and rationalising (packing away of breakables) whilst Tony and Lay took their charges for a walk – the Nibthwaite route in reverse.

We all reconvened at HBB for one of Clare’s delicious lasagna suppers and a good excuse to crack open a bottle of fizz (kindly given to me by one of my friends). A lovely start to our life as Cumbrian locals.

Cheers!! (Thanks Ross)

The new day brought an opportunity for Lay and I to unload the van and get organised at Langholme Mill ready for the start of family life here. Space is more limited than we are used to but this is no bad thing, allowing us to focus on time together as a family and enjoying the area we live in rather than being swamped with belongings.

After re-jigging furniture, a lot of unpacking and a trip to Asda, we returned to HBB. Not only had Clare and Tony entertained Megan, William and Togo for the day (exploring Fell Foot National Trust Property), but they had made yet another fabulous meal (a curry feast this time). However, after supper Clare and Tony waved us farewell (was it my imagination that they waved goodbye as eagerly as they greeted us 30 hours ago) and we made our way as a family to our new home at Langholme Mill.

Megan and William seemed thrilled with the set-up of their rooms and enjoyed a game of Labyrinth (Megan’s birthday present from Grandma and Grandad) in the communal area in William’s room. This gave Lay and I a chance to sit and reflect on just how lucky we are.

Happy children in their new home
Happy Lay in ‘his’ chair!!

We feel very lucky to have this opportunity to relocate to Cumbria. Sitting in our new home we feel grateful that not only did the right job come up, at the right time, in the right place (something I actually said in my job interview), but that we are lucky to have such supportive family and friends who have all helped get us here today.

Footnote: Of course when I said we would be seeing Clare and Tony all the time I was only joking – it’s Grannie Annie Annie and Grandad they have to worry about!!!!!

Migrating South

From our new home in the North-West we will still be frequent visitors to the south to catch up with family and friends, including the rest of the Harker family.

It’s a 4.5 hour journey from Lowick to Maidenhead. If we time it right (and traffic is on our side) we can be with Grandma for a Swift House cooked breakfast. More practice required as we had to defer to lunch on this occasion !!!

Grandma and Uncle Gaz were pleased to see us when we arrived and we were lucky to be able to use the function room for our meal so Togo was able to join in too. He nearly had a feast of his own as the tame grey squirrels, who clearly know where to come for food scraps, had to beat a hasty retreat on more than one occasion.

After lunch we headed over to Cliveden Manor to catch up with Grandad. He was on good form having recently got a new wheelchair that he was clearly more comfortable in.

It was a blisteringly hot day and we were grateful for the air conditioning and freezer full of ice-creams we could help ourselves to.


There were also lots of toys for Megan and William to enjoy including a large dolls house and oversize dominoes that William enjoyed playing with Grandma.

Pile them up!!

After a happy afternoon with Grandad, we returned to Swift House for tea and cake before completing our journey back to Clanfield to finish packing and clearing our house ready for the big move. Perhaps we will be lucky enough to sample Grandma’s infamous chocolate cake on our next migration to the south!!!

Hang on – its still my birthday!

Megan wanted to hang out with her family on her birthday – and as she chose to celebrate by doing GoApe, this was meant quite literally!!

Our destination for this activity was Grizedale – a Forestry England site located in the heart of the Lake District and not far from our new home. We had allowed plenty of time to park, but were lucky to get a spot in the main car park straight away so had time to enjoy the play area before registering.

Balance practice

It wasn’t long before we were heading over to the high ropes course to be fitted with harnesses, having our safety talk and a low level trial run. This went without a hitch so we were released into the trees…

Hang on tight!
Hello down there!

You know the saying – what goes up must come down. In true GoApe style this means only one thing – a zip wire!! After some initial nerves Megan was soon zipping her way down from the branches and soaring over our heads.

Mind your head!

William decided he was less of a monkey and more of a mountain biker so he and Daddy went off to inspect the superb bikes available to hire at the bike hub whilst Megan and I continued to hang out together and complete the Treetop Adventure+ with its challenging course (ask Megan about the twisted bridge that I catapulted her off) and the 130m long zip wire at the end.

After all that excitement, we met up with the boys for a well deserved ice cream before heading back to the barn.

Thanks for sharing your birthday treat with us Megan – I think I know what I want to do for my birthday now!!!!

Double Digits

At 9:49 on 24 August 2009 we welcomed our little girl into the world. Ten years later we are waking up on Megan’s birthday to an incredibly beautiful sunrise over Haweswater and the surrounding fells.

Sunrise at Haweswater

The good thing about 10 year olds, is they don’t wake up as early as new born babies so we had time to arrange a rather impressive stash of presents.

A birthday stash in the campervan

However…. the (only) downside of being in a campervan is that nothing you do is private, so it wasn’t long before two heads appeared from the pop top and the unwrapping began.

More presents!!
Even more presents!!

As a bookworm, there were numerous books to unwrap as well as LOL dolls, a ‘Let’s go Eevee’ game for her Nintendo Switch, a new Harry Potter board game and lots of cards – most of which seemed to contain money!!!

Megan, you have brought us more joy in the past ten years than you could imagine. Your love of life and empathy with others are just two of your most endearing qualities. You are beautiful inside and out and have such an amazingly creative imagination. The next 10 years will see you transform from a child into an adult, start (and finish) secondary school, learn to drive, fall in (and probably out) of love, and quite probably leave home (at least temporarily).

Hodding Carter once reported that good parents give their children both roots and wings. We are extremely proud of how grounded you already are and we look forward to watching you fly in the years to come..

Happy 10th birthday Megs xxxx