|"Swinside Inn" courtesy of Google Streetview|
With a dreaded "For Sale/To Let" sign attached
Over at "Kitchen Connection", Lee has composed many nostalgic blogposts that take readers right back - allowing us to share vividly some of her remembered times. Lee is very good at conjuring up the past. This morning, partly inspired by Lee, I have set myself the task of delving into my own library of memories in order to come up with a fresh blogpost.
Now where shall we go? Back to the East Yorkshire village where I grew up? Holidaying with my family? University days? The island of Rotuma? Marriage? Early years as a teacher? Fatherhood? Thailand? Ohio? Even though this blog is in its thirteenth year, there are still so many avenues to travel along. Let's go to Braithwaite...
As my father was a village headmaster, his holidays corresponded exactly with his four sons' school holidays. Every Whitsuntide for ten years we would hitch up our old caravan and travel to the other side of the country - to a beautiful, mountainous area known as The Lake District. And every year our exact destination was Scott's Farm in the village of Braithwaite just north of Keswick.
Getting to The Lake District in those days wasn't particularly easy. There weren't many dual carriageways in the entire country and the motorway network was in its infancy. It was always a relief when we reached Scotch Corner on the Great North Road. We knew we were halfway to Braithwaite but with the legendary A66 still to travel - over the top of England via Bowes, Brough and Appleby to Penrith.
Dad's old car would strain to pull our fully-laden Lynton Triumph caravan over those bleak hills with four sons squabbling in the back and Mum sometimes yelling over her shoulder, "Stop it right now or we'll stop the car so I can smack you all!" We soon settled down as the palm of her right hand was capable of delivering cruel blows that left your backside or bare legs stinging for ages.
Then the familiar mountains of The Lake District would appear in the front windscreen - mountains with evocative names like Skiddaw, Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Helvellyn and Catbells. It was a landscape so raw and different from our starting point - the tamed green fields of The Plain of Holderness on Yorkshire's east coast.
|Entering Braithwaite - courtesy of Google Streetview|
With Scott's Farm (now Scotgate) caravan site on the left
The jacks would be lowered and Mum would get on with preparing our tea while my brothers and I reacquainted ourselves with the Scott's Farm caravan site and its surrounds. One of our favourite places was a nearby hollow oak tree that must have died years before. You could get right inside it or climb above on still sturdy branches.
Then Mum would call us back for the first evening meal that she had magically conjured up on the caravan's Calor Gas stove. All six of us squeezed around the table and cleared our plates - never complaining about anything that was placed in front of us. Whining and being picky about food is characteristic of many modern day families but back then it was unthinkable. You ate what you were given and you said "thank you" too. Then you said, "Please may I leave the table?" before going back outside to play football or cricket on the big green space in the middle of the caravan site.
Beyond the hollow tree there was a mountain stream. You can imagine how cold that water would have been at the end of May in north west England and yet every year my brothers and I would swim in it at a point where a rocky dam had been built to deepen the pool behind it.
During those Lake District holidays we would always climb a mountain or two. During the second world war my father had climbed in The Himalayas and he loved the sense of space and freedom that mountain walking can give you. There was one smaller mountain that we climbed every year and you could easily reach it from the caravan. It was and is called Barrow - a great lump of a hill with many false summits but when you finally reached the top and saw the view you felt a real sense of achievement.
|Rowing boats by Derwentwater|
© Copyright Chris Allen (geograph.org.uk) 2017
On Derwentwater it was a pleasure to hire an old rowing boat and travel out to an island in the middle of the lake - just like being in Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons". And in the quaint town of Keswick itself there was a wonderful sweet shop that sold woody sticks of liquorice and sugary treats in the shape of babies' dummies or bananas or pebbles. In my mind's eye I can still see the tempting jars of barley sugar sticks, aniseed balls, pineapple chunks and spearmint chews sparkling in the window.
On these caravan holidays we never once went out to eat in a pub or restaurant but sometimes on nice evenings we walked down a nearby lane to "The Swinside Inn". I remember shiny black slugs on the tarmac, sliding to the opposite grassy verge. I never saw slugs like that in East Yorkshire.
At the isolated "Swinside Inn", my brothers and I would sit on the pub wall because children were not allowed inside. Dad would bring out potato crisps and bottles of pop in different shades. My preference was always black dandelion and burdock. Then we would pass a pleasant hour or so waiting for our parents to re-emerge. There would be other children to play with - also excluded from the pub itself.
Mum and Dad were never great drinkers or frequenters of pubs but they enjoyed those walks to "The Swinside Inn" with their boys and always came out a little merrier than when they went in. We would all walk back to the caravan in the gathering gloom of night-time, trying to avoid stepping on black slugs. The beds would be made up with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows and we would sleep soundly till morning light seeped through the floral curtains.
It was a time of innocence and magic. Our little family all together. Days that we thought might never end but all too soon the A66 would be calling us back over The Pennine Chain till the next Whitsuntide came around and we would once more chime in unison, "Are we nearly there yet?"