Countrystride
Countrystride #60: Wad - The wealth of Borrowdale

Countrystride #60: Wad - The wealth of Borrowdale

July 23, 2021
…in which we stride out from Seathwaite with mining authority Mark Hatton to unearth the turbulent history of Borrowdale graphite. As we battle bracken on the fellside of Low Bank, we seek out the nature-reclaimed remains of a mining industry that played a key role in the emergence of industrial Britain. In a story that starts with a lone farmer discovering a means to mark his sheep and ends in financial collapse on a huge scale, we learn how critical Borrowdale and Keswick were in the development of early capitalism; we debunk the myth that Derwent Isle was used to safeguard German immmigrants; we meet counterfeiters and bandits; we wonder whether ‘breathing’ mines might explain legends of dragons; we consider how lawless this wild-west hamlet once was… and, last but not least, we talk pencils…
Countrystride #59: Rural visionary - John Dunning in the Westmorland Dales

Countrystride #59: Rural visionary - John Dunning in the Westmorland Dales

July 9, 2021
...in which we swap walking boots for the wheel as we journey down the M6 to meet John Dunning, founder of the nationally-acclaimed Tebay Services, sited above his beloved Westmorland Dales. Taking the long view of a man wed to land and community, we discuss farming roots; we hear about spiritual moments on the fells; we plot the insights and drive that turned an unremarkable stretch of motorway into a family-owned Cumbrian institution; we ponder the age-old history of travel through the Lune Gorge; and we consider the steps needed to build a resilient upland economy.
Countrystride #58: Swaledale - Meadows & mines

Countrystride #58: Swaledale - Meadows & mines

June 25, 2021
…in which we cross county lines to visit the internationally-important hay meadows of Swaledale. As we amble out from the Dales village of Muker with local lass and Keld Resource Centre manager Helen Guy, we discuss the traditional farming methods that support a wealth of wild flowers; we delve into the arduous, short lives of Swinner Gill lead miners; we discover David Attenborough's unlikely link with this isolated dalehead; we consider why sometimes you need to leave home to fall in love with it; and we revel in the dialect meanings behind Hartlakes, Crackpot, Buttertubs and 'tow'd man'.
Countrystride #57: Helvellyn

Countrystride #57: Helvellyn

June 18, 2021
...in which we tackle one of Lakeland's most iconic fells via the rocky arête of Swirral Edge. In the company of Tom Hayek from the John Muir Trust – the charity which manages Glenridding Common – we discuss people pressure in a post-lockdown world; we discover how locals are nursing sub-alpine plants for the high fells; we hear about Tom's journey bagging the Nuttalls; we take in Mark's panorama from this finest of felltops; and we consider why, when undertaking landscape-scale work, we must be prepared to make change we’ll not live to see.
Countrystride #56: Life in the woods - Working the Rusland rainforests

Countrystride #56: Life in the woods - Working the Rusland rainforests

May 28, 2021
…in which we explore a rainy Rusland valley – the wooded lowlands between Windermere and Coniston. As we wander, with Rusland Horizons’ Marion Brown, we learn about the industrial heritage of bobbin mills, charcoal pits and tanneries, and the extraordinary rarity of Cumbria’s Atlantic woodlands - Britain’s temperature rainforests - before being joined by Jo Clayton and Darryl Kelbrick, who abandoned the nine-to-five to buy, live in and work their own 33-acre wood. In the sheltered porch of their off-grid home on the hill, we talk about the highs and lows of a simpler way of life; we hear why trees don’t just need planting - they need long-term care; we discuss the couples’ sustainable lifestyle making charcoal products and traditional woodland crafts; we witness the devestation inflicted by out-of-kilter deer populations; and we abandon decimalisation in favour of the Cumbrian pimp.
Countrystride 55: Threlkeld - A story of stone & steam

Countrystride 55: Threlkeld - A story of stone & steam

May 21, 2021
...in which we stride out from the gateway village of Threlkeld, once a thriving industrial hub, with local lad, ex-forester and third ever Lake Distirct National Park warden, Donald Angus. As we walk - up the bluebell-flushed outgang of Blease Gill then down to picture-perfect Derwent Folds - we learn about the mining heritage of Threlkeld and the history of its quarry, whose stone flags and setts pave many northern towns; we talk about trainspotting on the old Penrith – Workington mineral line; we consider Tewet Tarn’s unlikely contribution to Cumberland brewing; we share recollections about the one-time TB 'sani' on the hill; and – most importantly of all – we ask exactly who was Fisher’s Wife?
  • This walk is one of 18 in our debut walking guide, The Threlkeld Walking Companion. Packed with heritage insights and fabulous walks from Mark, 50p from each copy sold is gifted to the community-owned Threlkeld Village Hall. You can find out more details about it here.
Countrystride #54: Damsons of the Lyth Valley

Countrystride #54: Damsons of the Lyth Valley

May 7, 2021
…in which we journey south to the snow-blossomed Lyth Valley to unearth the heritage of damson plums with long-time friends and local lads Desmond Holmes and Hartley Trotter. As shadows lengthen over the peat-cut mosses, we take a trip down memory lane, considering the history of the nutty-flavoured ‘Shropshire prune’ - from its use in the Kendal tanning trade to its long association with northern jam; we hear tales of the families, prisoners of war and Land Girls who picked the fruit; we reminisce about bonfires on Whitbarrow, Melvyn's Mobile Cinema and threshing-day hotpots; and we discover why retirement is still a long way off for the two octogenarians…
Countrystride #53: The lost history of hill farming

Countrystride #53: The lost history of hill farming

April 26, 2021
...in which we head to Borrowdale in Westmorland with author and dry-stone waller Terry McCormick to uncover the lost history of hill farming. As we explore one of Lakeland's quietest valleys, we take the long view of a turbulent history, starting with the David vs Goliath battle of the Kendal Tenant Rights Dispute 1619–1626 that established the pattern of resilient farmsteads still operating today; we consider why writers – from Wordsworth to Wainwright – have frequently misunderstood or ignored the lives of upland farmers; we ponder how a new golden age of farming literature – championed by James Rebanks – can co-exist with the closure of Newton Rigg; and we discover why Terry's new vocation as a waller ('Aim for beauty; settle for strength') at the age of 55 felt like coming home.
Countrystride #52: Cumbria Way with Paddy Dillon

Countrystride #52: Cumbria Way with Paddy Dillon

April 5, 2021

 ...in which we track the undulating west shore of Coniston Water from Sunny Bank to Coniston Hall with backpacker, long-distance walker and prolific outdoors author Paddy Dillon. As we wander, through woods and over meadows, we discuss the origins and delights of the Cumbria Way – the Lakes' only dedicated long-distance footpath; we challenge Paddy to sum-up each of the UK's National Trails in just one word; we consider why patience may be the best approach to tackling problem campers; and we discuss two great Lakeland eccentrics: W. A. Poucher and George Constantinescu.

Countrystride #51: Skiddaw House - Loneliest house in England

Countrystride #51: Skiddaw House - Loneliest house in England

March 19, 2021
...in which we enter wild country at the Back o'Skiddaw to visit Skiddaw House - the loneliest house in England. As we wander, with former wardens Martin Webster and Marie-Pierre Gaudez, we talk through the history of the one-time hunting lodge, learn about the icy perils of Whitewater Dash, discuss the off-grid practicalities of living and working four miles from the nearest road – and discover what it takes to turn a House into a home.
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