13th - 16th SEPTEMBER 2011



There had been some quiet anticipation amongst the Hug about Dad and Uncle Brian's forthcoming holiday at Armathwaite Hall, but finally the day of departure arrived.

"What's this", remarked Uncle Brian, picking up the piece of paper that I had left on the table. He let out a laugh as he read the heading, 'Fletcher's Guest List'. "What are you like!"

"It is for Dad, so that he can make sure that all my guests are safely settled in the car, before we set off", I replied.

Nicholas strolled in, saying, "can we go out to the car now?"

Uncle Brian replied, "you will just have to be patient, as your Dad is having to juggle the luggage and my mobility scooter, which we are taking for the first time".

"It maybe that we will have to sit on the suitcases for the journey, but that doesn't matter, as long as we can still go", I added.

A few seconds later Dad walked into the kitchen. "I have managed to get everything in the boot of the car, apart from the mobility scooter battery."

"That's great mate", Uncle Brian replied. "Just goes to show what a big boot the car has."

"Right", I called out, "come on pals lets get settled in the car ready for the off.

"OK", called out Fred, who with Gladly led the way the others trailing behind.

Goodbyes were said to the rest of the Hug who were staying at home, then the door was securely locked, and off we went. The day was cloudy with strong winds and rain at times, so Dad decided to take the quick route via the M6 to Penrith then west along the A66.

"I could almost drive this route with my eyes shut, as I have made numerous trips with STAG recently on the quest to complete the Birkett Fells", said Dad.

Beyond the Sedbergh exit, a range of hills came into view, and we swung round into a gorge through them. "What are those?", asked Nigel who had not been this way before.

Before Dad could get a word out, Fred piped up, "they are the Howgills, and highest one directly ahead is Fell Head, and the one to the left Linghaw, which was STAG and Dad's last summit!

Gladly turned and just gaped at his brother. Then Fred went on, "you thought I was asleep on previous journeys, but I was only resting my eyes, and took in what Uncle Gerry has said. I have enjoyed spiking his guns for once!"

His guns were spiked even further, as we travelled along the A66, the tops of the mountains being largely lost in the clouds. It did not seem long before we were passing Keswick, and then turning right on the road leading to the Castle Inn. Soon we were crossing the bridge over the River Derwent, and passing under the bridge that carries the path in the grounds of Armathwaite Hall leading to the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, to come to the entrance, and along the drive to the car park. We knew that the room would not be ready, so my pals were happy to sit in the car, and have the picnic lunch that we had brought along. I meanwhile went with Dad and Uncle Brian to check-in. Aunt Kim was on reception, and greeted us warmly, and I smiled and waved my paw, as she passed Dad the registration form to sign. It was now that Dad, silly boy, realised he had forgotten his reading glasses!!

As we settled in the Lake View Lounge, the peace and tranquillity of Armathwaite Hall washed over us. Dad and Uncle Brian had lunch. A nice savoury cheese and carrot baguette, accompanied by their favourite Assam 2nd Flush tea. Then after chatting to a couple who were staying here too, Dad got the key and while Uncle Brian rested, he brought all the luggage up to the room, and my guests and I settled in on the sofa.

l-r - Nigel, Nicholas, Fletcher, Gladly, Fred, Ralph, Craig, Kieran & Sandie, with in front Tristan, Pepsi & Marty the donkey

Nothing was going to shift my pals and I for the rest of the day, but that was not the case for Dad and poor Uncle Brian. I say poor Uncle Brian, because it was Dad's stupidity in forgetting his glasses, that meant they had to make a trip into Keswick to get a temporary pair. You might wonder why Uncle Brian had to go, but without him Dad could not use the disabled parking spaces, and also park for free. Aunt Kim on reception kindly told Dad where the pharmacy was, so he was able to find it without any problem, and the purchase was made. When they returned Aunt Lorraine, had taken over at reception, and suggested that I might like to come down and help her with some e-mails etc. In the event however I did not, as I wanted to ensure that my guests were properly attended to during the evening, while Dad and Uncle Brian were having their excellent dinner in the restaurant. We of course had room service.



The weather was rather poor yet again today, but in the event Dad and Uncle Brian were not too bothered. as they had decided to spend the day in the hotel resting and relaxing. Uncle Brian had brought his new iPad 2 with him and also his book, and Dad had his laptop. They went for breakfast, and afterwards saw Aunt Lorraine, who mentioned I had not come down last evening. When Dad told me, I felt rather guilty, so while he and Uncle Brian spent most of the day sitting in the Hall area, I busied myself on reception. Besides Aunt Lorraine, Aunt Mia and Katherine were there too.

The first job that needed to be done was polishing the apples, that are there for guests to take.

Craig, our John Lewis partner bear, was one of my guests. John Lewis have a very high standard for their employees, so it was natural for him to have come to down to make sure that I was doing a proper job. Thankfully, for my sake, he approved.

I then helped Aunt Mia, doing work inputting information on the computer system. It is a very complicated system, but I did manage to grasp some of the screens and processes, which was just as well a little later when there was no one but me available to deal with a telephone enquiry for a potential booking.

Aunt Lorraine had some e-mails to do, and I was happy to help her, although I was not as quick on the keyboard as her. I definitely need to hone my typing skills, so to this end I spent some time on Dad's laptop doing this when we got home. At one point I had to break off again to take another call from a customer.

In all I was there most of the morning and afternoon, and I thank everyone for their forbearance, and for giving me a most enjoyable day. I really did try to do my very best, and hope that I gave a good impression. So thank you once again to Aunt Lorraine, Aunt Katherine & Aunt Mia.


Today dawned with brighter skies, and finally the winds that had plagued the weather all week, had blown themselves out.

"Looks like we will get to go out today", enthused Pepsi.

"Great", replied his pal Tristan, pouring himself another cup of tea, "it will be nice to get some fresh air.

"Where are we going", asked Gladly, as he tucked into his toast and marmalade.

"Not sure as yet", I replied. "Before we came, St Bees was mentioned, but as yet this morning Dad and Uncle Brian have not made a final decision."

"Well it won't be long now before they return from breakfast, so we better make sure that we are ready for the off", said Fred.

As it turned out, they indeed decided to visit St Bees, so after Uncle Brian had had a little rest, we all dashed down and settled in the car. The route took us along the A66 to Cockermouth, but instead of going into the town we took the road left. As we drove along fells could be seen on the left side.

"I know", said Fred, "you have climbed them all with STAG, Uncle Gerry."

"That's right Lad", and that rounded hill just ahead to the left, half covered with trees is called Knock Murton. It was the last of a number of fells on a long hot day. Exceedingly steep too. Boy was I glad when I got to the top."

The road led on and we passed through Cleator Moor, then joining the main coast road, we turned right and very soon we were taking a narrow road left that wound its way down to the pretty town of St Bees, with its ancient Priory Church. This was the first focus of our visit, Dad finding a space in the car park.

A lady kindly directed us to the entrance, this being through the magnificent Norman west door, dating from about 1160. This was the main entrance to the Church built on this site by the monks.

Inside the nave with its arches and pillars to either side stretched away towards the chancel. There are six bays with alternate round and octagonal piers, being in the Early English style of plain pointed arches, and belong the the years after 1200.

We sat looking around, while Uncle Brian read out some of the information from the guide sheet. Just then a gentleman arrived, who we were to find out later was the organist. He was most welcoming and directed us to the interesting parts of the church and the extensive information boards about the history.

St Bees has been a centre of Christian worship for over a thousand years, but it is not known what drew worshippers first to the site. The Priory is dedicated to St Bega, and it maybe, as the medieval legend has it, that fleeing from Ireland and her father to escape marriage, she by chance landed here and then lived for a time as a hermit, perhaps about 900AD. It is a fact that within the next two hundred years Scandinavian settlers were calling the place Kirkeby Beghoc, meaning 'Village by Bega's Church'.

The Normans came eventually to Cumbria, and castles were built at Carlisle and Egremont. Following the castle came the Norman monastery, and soon after 1120 William le Meschin, Lord of Egremont, founded a house at St Bees for a Prior and six monks of the Benedictine Order from St Mary's Abbey at York. There were never more than seven monks, although they would have also employed many more residents, servants and labourers. The Priory was neither large nor wealthy and its uneventful history, punctuated by raids in the course of border warfare, ended in 1539, when it was dissolved along with other religious houses on the orders of Henry VIII.

The lands then passed to various secular owners and then ultimately to the Lowther family. Some however went to the Wardens and Governors of St Bees School, founded in 1583, and opened in 1587.The monks' domestic buildings may well have provided the stone for the original school. Although the church fell into decay, the registers show that parish life continued. Extensive repairs were made in the seventeenth century, re-roofing the nave, rebuilding the tower and walling off the old chancel. The present chancel is only the first bay of the original monks' chancel, hence there being a wall instead of an east window. The part of the chancel beyond, had remained roofless since the Reformation, but was re-roofed by the Earl of Lonsdale, to provide a lecture room for the theological college, the first successful one outside Cambridge and Oxford, that was founded in 1818. The college however closed in 1894. The school now use this as a music room.

While we were walking round the vicar came in and chatted to Dad and Uncle Brian, and he showed them the former lecture room, which is not normally open to the public. It is necessary to climb steps to enter, as when it was restored, a false floor was inserted half way up the height of the building. It seemed odd seeing just the top parts of the windows above floor level.

We looked with interest at the display case relating to St Bees Man. On an archaeological dig, a lead coffin was discovered of a man who had died in 1369. The amazing thing was the body by chance was perfectly preserved. In the display case was a photograph of one hand, so perfectly preserved with the skin and nails on the fingers. There were also some of his hair and the sheet that the body had been wrapped in. Close by were some impressive stone coffin covers.

The one to the left dates from the late 12th century, but has no positive identification. The symbols - bowman, broadsword, horseshoes and stirrups, suggest it was that of an armed retainer of some importance who served at the Priory.

That in the centre celebrates Thomas de Cotyngham, Prior of St Bees, who died in 1379, although the slab carries the date 1300. Examination reveals that after MCCC... there are blanks, so a possible explanation is that the slab was carved during his lifetime, but the addition of the extra letters to give the date of death was omitted.

The one to the right was discovered during excavations in 1981 on the site of the old Lady Chapel. Curiously, there were the remains of a Prior clutching a lead chalice lying roughly across it, but no remains were found under the slab. The style indicates it dates from the 12th century.

Some time was spent sitting in the north transept, that is now the St Bega Chapel. According to legend, when Bega landed from Ireland, she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and fell to her knees on the beach. This is wonderfully depicted through two statues by the renowned sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos.

Returning down the nave, Dad and Uncle Brian chatted on to the vicar, organist and his wife. It turned out the organist came from near Chesterfield, where Uncle Brian had gone for singing lessons. It came out about Uncle Brian having sung in church choir, and done many roles with the Ripley Operatic Society.

To this the organist replied, "I gave my first recital in Ripley Parish Church."

His wife asked, "what are you doing on Sunday."

"We will be back home", replied Uncle Brian.

"What a shame, as we would have made you an honorary member of the choir!"

Saying goodbyes, we left by the west door, where some of my pals posed for their picture.

l-r - Pepsi, Nigel, Tristan, Nicholas & Marty

As they posed, Nicholas said, "that looks to be an interestingly carved stone.

This is a Norman lintel stone, dating from about 1120, depicting a fight between St. Michael and a dragon. The dragon has a head at its tail - to show the eternal fight of good and evil - and towers over St. Michael threateningly. This is flanked by interlace and a dove of peace with Scandinavian and Celtic influences.

In the alcove beneath the lintel is this cross, which stood at the breast of the hill on the main road to Whitehaven.

It is variously thought to be a "sanctuary" cross, marking the boundary of the parish, or a resting cross on a coffin road. 'Coffin roads' date from medieval times when many West Cumbrian parishes did not have the licence to bury, and bodies were brought to St. Bees. These crosses served as symbolic resting-places en route.

We now sat for a little while on a seat, and met once again the organist, who was taking the church dog Bega, for a walk. Then we walked across to the Sleeping Child Garden.

This was the inspiration of the internationally renowned sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos (1905 - 2006), who perceived a need to create a tranquil space for all those who have suffered the loss of a young life, before or after birth, to come and find comfort. Amongst the trees, shrubs and flowers of the garden setting she designed, are three of her works of art - 'Heavenly Twins', and 'Sleeping Child' and 'Adoration of the Holy Innocents', this latter seen here below.

So that was the end of a most interesting visit, and just in case you are wondering why there is not a general external picture of the Priory, it is because it is surrounded by large trees, that in full leaf make taking a picture impossible.

Dad now drove the short distance to the large car park by the beach. Uncle Brian's mobility scooter he calls Beauty, was unloaded and assembled, then he was off riding along the paths by the shore. We had all scrambled out of the car, and made our way down over the grass.

"What is that land out there across the sea?", asked Nigel.

"The Isle of Man", Gladly replied.

Craig shouted, "Aunt Tish & Uncle Eddie are over there just now." He stopped as we all did, then we waved our paws to them.

We continued down to the section of wall with the information board, and settled ourselves by it, to have our picture taken.

As all walkers will know, St Bees is the start of Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk. In total a distance of some 192 miles it passes through the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, ending at Robin Hoods Bay on the east coast. It is traditional for walkers starting out, to dip their feet in the sea on the beach here at St Bees, before taking the path that climbs the headland.

As we got up to move on again, Fred said, "just look at this huge anchor, on the other side of the wall. There's an information notice about it but I am not tall enough to read it."

"If you stand on my shoulders, maybe you will be able to see", said Gladly.

Fred scrambled up, but he still could not read the notice. He called down, "do you think you can get on to my shoulders Pepsi, as that will give us just enough height."

"OK", called out Pepsi, leaping up. "It says the anchor is off the SS Izaro, that was wrecked here in 1907. We'll have to look on the Internet to find out more.

The SS Izaro, was a Spanish steamship that was wrecked on Tomlin Rocks on 20th May 1907. It was on its way to Maryport with a cargo of iron ore, when it ran aground. The crew got safely off, but the ship was stuck fast, with bow and stern on the rocks, but midships unsupported. The weight of her cargo caused the ship to split in two. Whilst the cargo was salvaged the ship was a total loss. As much as possible of the ships ironwork was salvaged, the rest being dragged out to sea. At very low tides the remains of her boilers and keel can still be seen.

By now Dad and Uncle Brian were hungry, so they went off to Hartley's Cafe, for a snack. Dad had a toasted sandwich then a piece of chocolate caramel shortbread, all washed down with a pot of tea.

I had arranged for the hotel to pack a picnic for my guests and I, which we enjoyed sitting on the beach, watching the waves lapping the shore.

"It is just so lovely here", sighed Nicholas. "How lucky I was to be rescued by Dad from that market stall in Lancaster. I have so many friends now, and coming on holiday is wonderful. Thank you Fletcher."

"You're welcome pal", I replied.

"Dad and Uncle Brian are coming back", called out Gladly, who had been keeping an eye on the cafe from time to time.

"Now Lads, Uncle Brian is going to sit in the car, but I want to take your group photo before we leave."

"Great", cried Marty, as he and the rest of us scampered off.

"Look there is the Lifeboat Station", called out Fred. "Uncle Gerry you will just have to take a picture of that."

Just beyond there was a convenient grassy bank where we huddled together for the group shot.

"Well that's it pals", I said, "Time to get back to the car, so Dad can drive us home.

"On behalf of us all, thank you for a great day out Fletcher", said Kieran.

For the first part of the journey, we took the same route, but then Dad turned off and took us through Ennerdale Bridge. Beyond lies the valley and the lake, with its high fells and mountains on either side.

"It looks wild country", said Sandie.

"It is Lad", Dad replied. " I was there recently with STAG, and I have another very hard walk still to do, one I will be mightily glad to get out of the way."

At the next village Kirkland, Dad turned right and as the the road climbed up we could see more of the valley and glimpse the lake too. Presently we came to a junction.

"I started a walk from here in May 2009", said Dad. "It was the day STAG and I climbed Knock Murton, that I pointed out on the way this morning. You go through the gate by the signpost, which I call the football score signpost."

Turning left here, the road took us through the village of Lamplugh, another start point for Dad and STAG, for a walk, that same year, then to the main road, and so on to the hotel. By now we were tired, and after trudging up the stairs we settled on the sofa to rest, over tea and biscuits. Meanwhile Dad and Uncle Brian, went and sat in the Hall, and had delicious home made shortbread and a pot of Assam 2nd Flush tea.

Later as the sun was getting low in the sky, the view over the lake to the distant hills was quite clear, and I asked Dad to take a shot for the story.

"What about booking for December", remarked Uncle Brian.

"Oh yes, we better go and do that now", replied Dad.

I'm coming too", I said.

"Of course Fletcher", replied Dad.

Aunt Lorraine was on reception and Aunt Gemma too, and they both made a fuss. Dad told them the dates and Aunt Lorraine, confirmed our usual room was free, and that there was a 3 nights for the price of 2 offer as well.

"That's good", said Uncle Brian.

The booking done we chatted on for a little while, before returning to the room. We had a quiet evening, dinner being served in the room as usual , while Dad and Uncle Brian had a lovely meal in the Brasserie.

So, that was the end of another very very enjoyable stay here. We slept soundly, after our exciting day out. None off us were up early next morning, and in fact it was quite a late breakfast. Then after packing Dad took the luggage to the car, and my pals settled on the back seat. I of course went with Dad and Uncle Brian to check out and said my goodbyes to Aunt Lorraine and Aunt Gemma.

All I can say is roll on December!

Love & Hugs always




shopify analytics