Countrystride
Countrystride #83: Alston & Isaac’s Tea Trail

Countrystride #83: Alston & Isaac’s Tea Trail

July 4, 2022
...in which we stride out from the North Pennine market town of Alston on an amiable wander along the Isaac's Tea Trail footpath. In the company of Tea Trail creator Roger Morris and 'tea lady' blogger Anne Leuchars, we unearth the remarkable rags-to-riches tale of 18th-century tea-seller Isaac Holden, who escaped a childhood of lead mining poverty to become an entrepreneur, fundraiser and pillar of Allendale life. As we dodge blustery showers, we soak in the sights and sounds of a far-from-the-madding-crowd valley, reflect on the early days of the British love affair with tea; visit the remarkable Roman fort at Epiacum; consider the state of our footpaths... and meet a couple walking from John o'Groats to Land's End.
 
Countrystride #82: Dry-stone walling

Countrystride #82: Dry-stone walling

June 10, 2022
...in which we wander the wildlife-friendly meadows of Strickley farm, Old Hutton, with geologist and waller Arthur Robinson to learn about the history, heritage and practice of dry-stone walling. After a brief overview of the landscape's geology – which gifts Kendal walls a unique array of stones – we look back over the long history of walling and hedging in Cumbria, from the creation of early fields to the frenetic Victorian era of Enclosure. We explore the techniques that ensure a wall stands for centuries and consider different walling patterns around the county and country. We learn the economic importance of the not-so-humble hedgerow and ask why farmers might opt for hedging over walls. Finally, we quiz Arthur on the early-morning satisfaction he gets from placing 'one over two, and two over one'...
 
Countrystride #81: Cumbrian dialect

Countrystride #81: Cumbrian dialect

May 20, 2022
...in which we trace the rise and fall of local dialect in the company of long-time friends and Cumbriana champions Jean Scott-Smith and Donald Angus. On a journey that begins with the earliest Celtic settlers, we learn how Angle and Norse immigrants left their mark in the language of landcape; we mull the meanings of Blencathra, Wetherlam, Coniston and Catstycam; we hear how Donald perplexed walkers by posting a National Park weather forecast in dialect; and – after a nostalgic diversion to consider unlikely Cumbrian remedies and the 'mobile bomb' dangers of petrol irons – we bow out with two note-perfect renditions of dialect poems.
Countrystride #80: ILLGILL HEAD - In search of the sublime

Countrystride #80: ILLGILL HEAD - In search of the sublime

May 6, 2022
...in which we set out from the secluded valley of Miterdale for a wet-weather ascent of Whin Rigg and Illgill Head. As we walk, with author and Lakeland Walker columnist George Kitching, we explore the concept of the 'sublime' – the awe-rooted spiritual response to mountain scenery first identified in 18th century philosophy. Tracing the sublime through early Lakeland guidebooks, we enter the Romantic era to arrive at Scafell Crag and the writings of Alfred Wainwright. With a backdrop of ever-shifting cloudscapes atop Wastwater's tumbling screes, we consider the Beckside Boggle, the historic 'earth spirit' stronghold of remote Wasdale, and the tragic tale of French student Veronique Marre.
Countrystride #79: Arthur Ransome - Life, loves & literature

Countrystride #79: Arthur Ransome - Life, loves & literature

April 18, 2022
...in which we descend upon Coniston Water to talk all things Ransome with lifelong Swallows and Amazons devotees Paul Flint and Geraint Lewis. Embarking from Bank Ground – a familiar location to the young Arthur – we journey past springtime Brantwood before crossing to Coniston on Gondola, one of the inspirations for Captain Flint's houseboat. As we travel, we learn about formative Nibthwaite holidays in which Ransome fell in love with Lakeland; we talk about the Great Freeze of 1895, which an unhappy schoolboy was to return to with nostalgia in Winter Holiday; we discuss Russian adventures and the lure of Bohemia; and we discover why lifelong wanderer Ransome – who suffered ill health for much of his adult life – never quite found home. We close, besides Titty's grave, with a favourite Ransome excerpt from each of our guests.
  • Paul and Geraint are trustees of the Arthur Ransome Trust. You can find out more about their work at arthur-ransome-trust.org.uk
  • The exhibition 'Swallows and Amazons as Seen from Abroad' will run at Brantwood Saturday 18 June – Tuesday 9 August.
  • An App featuring locations from the novels will soon available via arthur-ransome-trust.org.uk
Countrystride #78: The Carlisle-Settle line & springtime in Eden

Countrystride #78: The Carlisle-Settle line & springtime in Eden

April 1, 2022
...in which we take a springtime stroll from Langwathby to Lazonby in the company of author Stan Abbot to track the route of the Carlisle-Settle line, one of Britain's most treasured railways. As we stroll, through sandstone villages immersed in birdsong, into age-old alder carr and over busy becks, we learn about the navvy construction of this most iconic of lines, and of the Blea Moor shantytowns in which drunkenness and disease ran rife; we relish the pastural loveliness of backwater Eden; we consider a perfect Lakeland day in Newlands; we discuss the six-year campaign that saved the railway – alongside Michael Portillo's ambiguous role in it; and, arriving at Long Meg and her Daughters, one of the UK's oldest stone circles, a poetic Mark ponders 'the enormity of time and our quiet little place in it'.
Countrystride #77: Fell ponies – On Roundthwaite Common with Libby Robinson

Countrystride #77: Fell ponies – On Roundthwaite Common with Libby Robinson

March 18, 2022
...in which we depart busy Tebay to climb atop biting cold Rondthwaite Common on a trip to meet some of Cumbria's oldest residents: the Globetrotter fell ponies – roamers of the uplands since time immemorial. As we trail above the 'other Borrowdale' with long-time fell pony champion Libby Robinson, we hear about the moment in Kentmere, aged eight, when Libby first fell for the semi-wild breed; we reminisce about a Lakeland childhood – otters under the bridge, minnows from the tap; we look back at the remarkable industrial history of the pony, and the part it played in the north's historic economy; finally, we consider what role the pony might play in 21st-century Lakeland.
Countrystride #76: Wild Fell – Restoring Haweswater, with Lee Schofield

Countrystride #76: Wild Fell – Restoring Haweswater, with Lee Schofield

March 4, 2022
...in which we explore the lonely eastern valley of Haweswater, where one of the Lake District's largest landscape-scale restoration projects is being managed by author and ecologist Lee Schofield. Celebrating the publication of Lee's new book Wild Fell, we set out from sunshine-bathed Naddle Farm to visit a range of projects – from tree nurseries to reborn tarns – that showcase the RSPB and United Utilities' vision of marrying light-touch farming with ecological recovery. As we wander, we recall the declining years of England's last golden eagle, we seek the ghosts of beasts that once roamed the fells, we consider why fighting for change in a heritage landscape can be a lonely – sometimes bruising – business, and we learn why Lee sees hope taking root across the Lakes.
COUNTRYSTRIDE #75: The battle to save Ullswater

COUNTRYSTRIDE #75: The battle to save Ullswater

February 20, 2022

...in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of a decisive House of Lords speech that saved Ullswater from being turned into a reservoir. Setting out from Pooley Bridge with valley born-and-bred Miles MacInnes, we learn about the arrogance of Manchester Corporation, who after wins at Thirlmere and Haweswater, considered Lakeland water its own; we learn about the grass-roots campaign that fought back, and which garnered support from around the world; and we consider the leading voice of that campaign – Norman Lord Birkett QC – Ulverstonian and alternate British judge during the Nuremberg Trials, whose barnstorming speech to the Lords saw Manchester's water bill defeated by 70 votes to 36. As we wander, we talk with Miles about a Lakeland childhood, about Pooley Bridge's fishy past, and consider why Ullswater might be the best lake of all.

 
Countrystride #74: Railways of Cumbria

Countrystride #74: Railways of Cumbria

February 4, 2022
...in which we walk the popular Railway Trail between Threlkeld and Keswick to explore the history of rail in the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. In the company of Peter Rooke, curator of the West Cumberland Railway Museum, we embark on our journey in the pioneering age of steam, when Carlisle offered a west coast port for the metalworks of Newcastle. As lines spread – around the west coast and reluctantly over Shap – we learn about the Lowther decree that split Whitehaven in two and the overseas fate of Europe's then-longest viaduct across the Solway. Entering the tourist age, we consider why golf-loving Scots were the making of Silloth and why La'al Ratty once had ambitions on Ambleside, before arriving in rail's sunset years, when consolidations and Beeching laid waste to many still-lamented rural lines.
 
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