PENRITH AND LONG MEG
The birds were still chattering in the trees by the carpark when I got up to take Phoebe for an early morning leg stretch. She did it again and started to pee right in the middle of the main lane for the lorries going through to the fuel pumps, fortunately the big lorry which appeared almost the instant she started was parking up, but I panicked and was hauling on the lead trying to get her to move, but she is firmly of the opinion – I have started so I'll finish.
She seems very depressed about things in general and that was almost the final straw as far as she was concerned. Ok - its bad enough being watched whilst you perform your 'ablutions' and its pretty inconsiderate having to be tied on the end of a piece of string, but to be yanked away in mid-stream...... I took her over to the pavement, but she spent the entire time trying to get back into the traffic lanes. It was still pretty dark, but I could see a track and a small gate and thought we would take a chance of seeing what was there, and when I got down to it the sign on the gate, well picture actually, made it clear it was for dog walking and nothing was mentioned or shown about leads so I let her off, which is almost the first time bar a few odd minutes she has had a chance.
As I said she is too wary of new situations to do what every other dog I have had would have done, which would have been to bound off, so instead she trotted sedately along the tarmac walk a few yards away from me, but having a good sniff round. All of a sudden the night perched flock of birds took off, and though it was still too dark to see what they actually were, I have a feeling they might have been a mixture of starlings and jackdaws. Anyway they circled and then departed with much cawing and chattering. And by now we were nearly level with the duck lawn, and the sight of Phoebe set the ducks in a panic, but she is used to ducks and ignored them disdainfully. I know their lawn is fairly close into the main building but I am surprised they don't loose them all to foxes. Or perhaps they have a standing order with a local breeder for any unwanted males – as they seemed to be Khaki Campbell type and mostly drakes. That way they could fill in the gaps caused by the cars on the one side of the duck lawn, and the foxes on the other.
Just then Phoebe was off and running fast – she had put up a rabbit. But she is too old to stand much of a chance, and it was into some hawthorn before she really got going. When she came back to me I expected to see her excited and happy, but she still looked wan and lost. My girl does worry me. And just at that instant I caught a sniff of woodsmoke from someone's woodburner, which made me feel a bit sad and wan, it was such a smell of 'home' - the living room woodburner was kept going all winter. I think that the sense of smell is the most evocative of the senses – I bet Proust could smell that madeleine before it even touched his lips
It was, surprise, surprise, raining, but really not that heavily, so I decided to take a chance of getting to Penrith before the morning traffic in the hope we might have a bit of dry weather for me to look round in, especially as I had been told of a 'wonderful' fudge shop in the town there.
I had phoned up and got the postcode for a carpark with space for Thebus so off up the M6 we went. As the day went on a bit I could see the tiniest of breaks in the cloud. I remembered the old saying 'If you can see enough blue in the sky to make a sailor a pair of bellbottoms it will be a fine day' and I thought that very soon there might just about be enough. It reminded me of the day my brother got married, the wedding was at my house and they were having a coach and pair to the little local church so the weather was important, especially as the chuch is across a field so there is only grass to walk on. That morning it rained so very, very heavily that the bride's party had to stop and pull over onto the motorway hardshoulder till the worst of it passed. We were all very worried about the day but I said to Mum, well I can't see enough blue to make a pair of bellbottoms, but maybe a pair of underpants - and by eleven the day was dry. When they arrived back from the chuch the hood of the carriage was down and we were all eating strawberries and drinking champagne in the sunshine. And sure enough the day for me turned out dry, and though not really sunny I was grateful enough for what I had.
I have taken to turning Strict Lady off at nights and unplugging her in the hopes that if she doesn’t stay awake all night mithering about whether she can find a shorter route she might start the day refreshed , and sure enough I felt I detected a lightness in her tone when we started out. Really I was just delighted she was actually speaking to me. Once she is plugged in there is a long pause then some time later she says, just a little crossly 'Phone not connected' but at least that establishes that we are on speaking terms.
We got to Penrith, but whether I wasn't following her instructions correctly or whether she was getting slightly confused we circled the town several times. In the end I saw a bus and in the vain hope it was going to the bus station, which was part of the carpark we were headed for I followed it. Unfortunately it must have been on its way from said carpark, rather than to it, and we soon found ourselves heading out of town. Of course with something the size of Thebus you can't just pull over as he tends to immediately cause a traffic blockage, but there was a sign down a wide'ish road saying 'Lorry Services' and I thought there may be somewhere for us to pull in and me to recover my composure after a few tours of the centre of Penrith, in what was now the early morning school and office traffic.
We found a huge, and I mean huge, and almost empty lorry park, which said in very large letters on the gate NO UNATHORISED PARKING but I am getting a bit braver about such things, probably it's just desperation - at times I really do need to stop and regroup my forces so to speak.
We pulled up and Phoebe immediately wanted to go out, but I thought for once I would not take her as I really didn’t want to look too cheeky if someone was watching from a hut somewhere. While doing the second or third circuit of the Penrith centre, I had more or less decided to give up the idea and head on further north, but once calmed down I decided I must not give in at the first hurdle, so resetting Strict Lady we sallied forth for another attempt. This time I managed to get into the wrong carpark which was much too small for us, but fortunately there was a lorry loading bay at the back of the supermarket with only one lorry unloading, which meant I had room for a three point turn and back out. This time all went well and we found the bus station and pulled onto the last remaining coach space.
I did take Phoebe out this time and once again she looked sad and wan. I popped her back in and set to for my first unloading of the scooter. I am sure I will get into it, but at present it is just something else new to learn. Still it wasn’t raining much, though I did grab a towel to wipe the seat if necessary, and taking Strict Lady with me, now reprogrammed with the Toffee Shop postcode off we set with her chuntering away from my coat pocket. Its the first time I have tried a mobility scooter other than in the garden and it surprising how high some of the kerbs in such an old town can be. They have lowered them in lots of places for scooters and chairs to use, but of course in a strange town you are not sure where the lowered bits are. But we got there and I felt quite pleased with the whole performance. I bought some fudge, together with some treacle toffee and butter toffee, chatted to the nice girls in the shop and off I went
Except I didn't went. The scooter flatly refused to start. I worried that it might not have been fully charged when I started out, as foolishly I hadn’t checked, but then various other things such as the lights and horn worked which required battery power so I just couldn’t understand it.
I had decided I would have to walk back to Thebus, quite a longish way for me, and drive him to the shop, pull him onto the pavement so as not to stop the traffic and push the scooter on manually. I went back into the shop to explain I would have to leave the scooter for a while and they came out and tried to help but to no avail. Not feeling wonderfully happy I started off, and just at the corner of the street was a cycle shop. I thought they probably wouldn’t be able to help, but they might of known someone who could. A really nice young guy said he would come and have a look and with much prodding and poking of the ignition he diagnosed a loose fitting and went to get a screwdriver.
When he came back he said – You are using the right key aren't you - so we tried every key that looked as though it might fit (I had added the scooter keys to the key ring with Thebus' keys when I started from the carpark) and guess what? It sprang into life. I felt a real prune, and I am sure he thought I was a real prune, though in fact after about another five hundred yards or so it did the same again, so it was a loose wire. Eventually I worked out that by taking the extra weight of the keys off and holding the single key in with one hand whilst driving with the other I could limp back to the carpark. I loaded the scooter up and worked the hoist, put on all the straps and racheted them tight to hold it down, refitted the waterproof cover and tied that down and went to have what I considered to be a well deserved cup of tea and some fudge for a sugar rush.
I have to say that travelling would be so much easier if I could just get about as normal, but then perhaps if I was fit and well I would never have considered doing what I am doing now.
I had made the effort to get to Penrith as the fudge shop has such a good reputation , and good as it is you won't wean me off my current craving for Tablet – though I will say Penrith Toffee Shop's Treacle Toffee is excellent. Yum!
The other thing I had decided on if I was spending the day in the area, was to visit Long Meg and her Daughters. This was almost a bit of a challenge to myself, and to be honest I would have willingly chickened out, but I decided that if I backed out of the Penrith visit and the Long Meg visit I might find it difficult to face up to any other challenges that lay ahead, so with Penrith town centre under my belt, Long Meg it was to be.
I had checked it out on the map and the roads looked pretty narrow, but worst of all ended in a dead end at a farm. The google earth pictures showed the farm one very dry May/June judging from the cow parsley or Queen Anne's lace - depending from which part of the country you hark from. But it was the white, frothy early one, rather than the rather pinky brown later one that I call Hog Weed. And as everything was dust dry on the pictures it looked as though there might be some turning places near the farm. The guy I spoke to at the Tourist Information Office seemed a bit doubtful about the possibility of me even making it up the lanes, and even more doubtful about my turning at the farm, but as I say it was something of a challenge and an obstacle to be overcome.
I set Strict Lady for the new destination and she was once again prepared to oblige, and leaving Penrith behind us we set off up to the high plateau where this Bronze age circle, the sixth biggest in our part of Northern Europe, is to be found. Climbing up towards the plateau the lanes were too narrow for me to concentrate on the view but when we got there it was panoramic - though we had one or two more hurdles to overcome before we got to that bit.
Because it was such a narrow road I had done the google street view thing, and there was one section of very narrow road that was avoidable, unfortunately I haven’t worked out how to set Strict Lady to understand this (assuming that it is even possible) so when we got to the turning we needed and it looked so grassy and narrow I thought it was the avoidable bit, and sailed on past. Of course it wasn't so that resulted in a three point turn at the first T junction we reached, which happened to involve some stone walling and a small bridge, That accomplished we took the 'track' and I put Thebus into a lower gear in case he got stuck in the mud. Over the really narrow cattle grid, and then the trackway actually goes through part of the circle to the farm beyond. It is really narrow, very muddy with huge potholes, and it actually passes tight between two of the stones. I did just catch a little bit of Thebus on the lower stone - I would have taken the extremely muddy and potholed by-pass obviously used by the farm vehicles, but someone was parked in that bit.
So on up to the farm. The farmer there must hate this monument being on his land, and does his best to make things as difficult as possible – I don't blame him in a way, but can't help but think he is cutting off his nose to spite his face, as in this day and age he is sitting on a potential gold mine of bed and breakfast, caravan parks and afternoon teas, but fair enough he just wants to farm and these people keep turning up to look at the dratted thing. His solution is to make the approach as difficult as possible. So not only was there deep mud everywhere but plenty of parked up farm vehicles making turning nigh on impossible anyway.
As I said before, I always think its a cheek turning in folks drives, but in this instance it really was the only place. I made sure I asked permission, which was abruptly given then he turned on his heel and walked away. So it involved about a fifteen point turn into the only available gateway, which was between two high stone walls with a muck spreader tight on the field side in front. I am ashamed to say I broke one of the lights on the new scooter lift, but all in all I felt a sense of achievement, and when I got back to Long Meg and her Daughters the other folk had gone so I could park in the muddy potholed bit and have the monument all to myself .
The photos show Thebus actually inside the Henge itself. Walking up the field the sun had come out a little and there was a fine view of the surrounding countryside, and though windy it was not desperately cold, so I could spend some time looking round. This is the sort of thing I want my travelling to be about, and though I will look after Thebus as best I can, if he does get a few war wounds on the way they will have been honourably acquired.
I thought it best to leave Phoebe behind as I wanted to take photos and wouldn’t have risked letting her off the lead and in doing so quite rightly incurring the wroth of the farmer, so she was glad to see me back as I expect she was watching my every move thorugh the windows. Exiting we made it through the last and deepest pothole, and though I worried about Thebus' steps and exhaust and the scooter rack on the back they all survived.
Thebus Inside the Circle of Stones
You can see how vast the circle is -
even on wide angle lens I couldnt get all the stones in, and Thebus looks tiny
This was the track through the stone circle leading to the farm
There are two 'fallen' Daughters - One on each side of the track
The one on the right is almost concealed in the grass but acutally projects out over the track
This is Long Meg herself, standing alone nearly 3.6m tall some 25m beyond her circle of Daughters
She is called Long Meg because she almost has a face with a long forehead and nose beneath
The earlier photos don't have the mark - that appeared when I took this photo, which then showed on some,
though not all of the later ones. Okay its just a smear on the lens, but a bit spooky or what!
Long Meg showing behind some of her Daughters.
You can get some idea of the scale of the stones from this photo - they are massive
This photo gives some idea of the scale of this Bronze Age Circle, though even then I couldn't get it all in,
And the Spirit of Long Meg is following us. and if you notice goes back up to Meg herself!
From Wikipedia - An Ariel Photograph taken by Simon Ledingham
Showing the full circle of Daughters with Long Meg standing alone outside