I had a day-trip to Grange Over Sands on Saturday to watch my friend Mike launch the wooden kayak he has just finished building (with a little help from a professional boat-builder). Around 20 of Mike's friends turned up to watch him splash a small bottle of champagne over the bow of Lynne, named in memory of his long-term partner, and wife of only a few months, who died after a long illness last year.
Some of Mike's more adventurous friends had brought boats of their own along, so, while they made a brief tour of the Kent Estuary, the rest of us hung around eating pork pies and drinking champagne (a classic combination). I'm sure Lynne would have been very pleased. She was a nice lady.
Oh, and I saw my first swift of the summer, not far from Skipton. It made me happier than was strictly reasonable.
My friend Mike is currently building a kayak in Cumbria, so I went over to stay with him for a couple of days. On my way there, on Tuesday, I took a spin through the Yorkshire Dales, visited my joint-favourite second-hand bookshop in Sedbergh, drove over to Windermere, then took the Kirkstone Pass to Brothers Water.
I've wanted to visit Brothers Water for about 20 years—ever since Mum returned from a holiday in the Lake District with Dad, full of excitement at having seen red squirrels in the woods next to Brothers Water. She thought I should drive up there right away to look for them. On Tuesday, I finally got round to it.
Not wishing to build up any sort of suspense, I should tell you right away that I didn't see any red squirrels. I've only seen one red squirrel in my entire life: out of a car window, when I was about six, in Dibbinsdale, near our home in Bromborough. You won't find any red squirrels in Dibbinsdale today. Or ever again, most likely. They've been seen off by the pox, and a nationwide cull of the invasive grey vectors seems unlikely.
Who needs squirrels? It was a lovely walk along the footpath near Brothers Water. The weather was unseasonably warm, but there was quite a lot of mist about. Despite the mist, my photos came out better than I expected:
The following day, yesterday, with Mike taking almost as long as Noah on his boat, I took a spin up to Keswick to visit Castlerigg stone circle. I then popped into the town and visited the pencil museum. There's 15 minutes (and £4.50) I'll never get back!
I stopped for a brew at Coniston Water on my way back to Mike's place. As I tucked into my, I felt, well-earned Eccles cake, I was visited by a pair of robins, on the scrounge for crumbs. Unfortunately, they took it in turns coming over to me, so I wasn't able to get a photo of the two of them together. But they did come sufficiently close to enable me to use my favourite macro lens:
Yesterday would have been Mum's 76th birthday. She'd have been delighted to hear of my close encounter with a pair of her favourite birds. Even more delighted than if I'd seen some red squirrels.
By a serendipitous coincidence, two of my best friends were both staying in or very near to Grange-over-Sands last weekend: Mike until noon on Sunday, and Stense on Sunday evening and Monday. So I invited myself over to Mike's place to kill two birds with one stone.
The weather, it must be said, wasn't much to write home about, but I did manage to get a hill-walk in with each of my pals: Hampsfell with Mike, and Whitbarrow Scar with Stense. Both of them brought black dogs named Milly along. In between these walks, I even managed to slot in a solo trip to Coniston Water on a brief literary pilgrimage.