If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter shall take another flight
If Candlemas be clouds and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again
And another old one for the farmers
You should have half your straw and half your hay at Candlemas
Meaning you are half way through the bad winter weather.
Candlemas was the day when it was deemed candles were no longer necessary for dressing when rising. In the north of the country snowdrops are often called Candlemas bells. Mine were always out for January 11th – my father's birthday
So the day dawned dry by Coniston Water and as we drove along it got brighter and the sun got stronger, and if the old words hold true then winter may not be finished and done with yet.
I feel rather guilty saying this after all the rain we have had, but the sun was a blithering nuisance to me today. I was driving due south pretty well all the day and the wet roads were black and shiny, plus the sun was low, so driving directly into the sun like that was really not pleasant Plus it was so 'lovely' and bright that I really couldn't see any of the scenery I was driving though.
One thing I noticed when I first got Thebus was that his sun visors are in a very fetching shade of green glass, rather than the padded imitation leather ones I was used to in the Volvo and Jag. I thought how clever of the Americans. Also because Thebus' ceiling is so high inside they have them fitted to a nifty double folding down device. But don't be deceived. One of the jobs I shall ask Signature to do for me tomorrow is to put something opaque over the glass and maybe see if we can cannibalize the passenger side to make the drivers one descend to somewhere approaching my eye-level. I suppose most of the US drivers of these vehicles are men of six foot two plus, not women of five foot nothing minus.
When the sun started to brighten I automatically reached up to flip the visor down – not a hope, I had to drive on until we could find a pull-in big enough to fit Thebus without bits of him projecting into the traffic. Once this was achieved I had to park up, unfasten the seat belt and actually stand up to reach the visor. I suppose I could have got it down half way before we started out this morning in which case I might just have reached, but who it their right mind would have expected hours and hours of bright sunshine today after the weather we have had recently.
Okay enough of the moany bit. Now let me tell you a nice bit. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay up in the Lake District, I had been told there were Roe Deer visiting the site, though we saw nothing of them, but last night there must have had one right by us and it was calling. I have never heard a deer call, so I can only assume that was what it was. Either that, or it was a rather large and extremely low flying duck of some description. It called a few times close to where we were parked , then again in the far distance. Once woken I got up to fetch a drink of water, and Phoebe - who normally stays firmly in bed till she is absolutely certain it is a sensible time for a dog to get up and has checked that it is not raining – leapt out of her 'nest' and rushed over to me for reassurance, and I think she would have liked to get into bed with me. She probably didn’t know what it was but was too worried to come and tell me.
I had decided to make an earlyish start to avoid as many of the Lake District day trippers as possible along the very narrow A road which approaches the site, but not so early as to disturb those parked up who were expecting a nice lazy Sunday morning lie-in. When I was sure the timing was about right I went to bid farewell to a nice couple who were on their way down to the Forest of Dean, and feeling refreshed and relaxed after our stay in the peace and quiet we started out.
Strict Lady was talking to me so that was another plus to the day, and before long we came to a good big pull in where I stopped and took some photos of Coniston Water. The sun by then was through, but not strong, and there was very little wind, just a breeze ruffling the lake and making the water lap against the rocky shoreline with those lovely, watery, plashy sounds (shades of William Boot?) Anyway it was a beautiful spot. But once again I didn’t feel I had the time to linger too long, though I did take some photos
The road I was on was very narrow in parts with lots of bad bends but the traffic wasn't all that heavy, so apart from one or two times when someone had to pull in or back up for us it was all ok, and I was within about two hundred yards of the main road when suddenly the road ahead was just completely closed!
I remembered when I had driven through on my way to Coniston Water it did say that the bridge would be closed from the beginning of February, but at the time I had expected to be down in Wolverhampton long before that. It wasn’t too bad doing a three point turn, as the road there was quite wide, plus there was a fish and chip place – firmly closed – but with a nice big empty car park to reverse into. Off we went back up the road. The Hosts (see I shan't call them Wardens) at the campsite had warned against approaching from the north end of the lake as the 'roads were very narrow' so I didn’t want to go back and round the top of the lake. But – what was this – a half concealed sign mentioning a diversion, which driving into the strong, low sun had been impossible to see.
As soon as I had turned round by the bridge Strict Lady had sprung into action and told me to turn first left, left again and then right, obviously lining me up for another run at the closed bridge, but now we had gone a little way she liked the idea of the signed diversion and told me to turn left at the appropriate point.
Uhhmmmm...... this left turn was now nearly doubling back on ourselves whilst going up a nice sharp incline with a row of stone built cottages directly fronting the road. I did make an attempt but thought I would have grounded on the left hand side so reversed back out again and headed off to find somewhere to turn round and take a try at it from a better angle. After a few miles (I told you this was a narrow road) I found someone's drive where the actual road was quite wide. I hate reversing into private drives as I think its a real cheek, but from memory there was no where any better before I actually got back to the campsite, and even then I would have had to go right in to turn round. There was a bit of a scraping sound as something hit the road surface – don’t forget I was driving along the edge of Coniston Water where the land on either side rises steeply and quickly.
Turning round cheered Strict Lady up who had been telling me to 'Turn Round at the first opportunity' for some time now. We got back to the rather narrow looking lane, but it just had to be done. Up we went through a close double row of quaint stone cottages, all with little iron railed forecourts, giving nowhere for the occupants to park their cars. Fair enough there was room for a vehicle to pass in between the cars parked on both sides, and in the fullness of time we proved there was space for a bus to pass in between, but my goodness it was hairy.
Various Sunday morning dustbin emptiers and step sweepers watched my progress, though no-one gave any signal at to whether I was just about to grind into one of the parked cars. And the hill was about one in ten, maybe not quite that steep but certainly getting there. I was glad that Thebus has a V10 engine. Obviously there were cars coming in the opposite direction also using this 'diversion' and two at least had to reverse back quite a way - why it didn't occur to them they had absolutely no chance of getting past me is quite beyond my comprehension. By now I had acquired a goodly queue behind me, but we were out of the village and high up into Cumbrian hill farming country with no chance of letting anything by.
After the first sign saying 'Diverted Traffic' there were absolutely no further directions from the Highway Authorities, but Strict Lady did a sterling job and finally got me back onto the road I was originally headed for but about a quarter of a mile up-stream of the closed bridge. How or when we managed to cross that particular river is something I don't remember, and have no intention of going back to check out for future use. I think we started our journey at about ten'ish in the morning. I finally and gratefully pulled into to Signature's Carpark at around three that afternoon. I must change the settings on Strict Lady for a much slower speed of travel, she estimated three and half hours and it took us five.
I made myself a very welcome pot of tea and afterwards cooked the last of the excellent Belted Galloway rump steak from Tebay M6 Services and made a nice steak sandwich with some of their Sour Dough bread. Phoebe had a bit, plus some extra bread dipped in the juices followed by a bowl of dog nibbles and tin of sardines, and a drink of milk, followed by another very large drink from a good big, muddy puddle she found in the field surrounding Signatures premises. So hopefully not too stressed out from the journey. You could see she recognised where we were as we mooched round the forecourt. A small group of youths on the pavement opposite were lurking around and showing an interest in Thebus. Phoebe homed in on them straight away and standing to attention gave them a good barking at – which sent them on their way. It was strange as she hasnt barked at anyone she has seen till then. I think dogs do sense intentions, well Phoebe certainly seems to.
A fellow traveller arrived not long after for work on his RV tomorrow, it looked enormous but it is apparently a foot shorter than Thebus – I still haven’t got to grips with the size of the thing I am driving.
One last photo of Coniston Water, from just above where the water was lapping at the rocks, you can just see the little waves coming in, and the huge mossy rocks in the foreground. The air was very fresh there even though we were on the side of a road.
Coniton Water looking North from the West Bank
Coniston Water looking South from the West Bank