2nd - 7th MARCH 2014



February had not been a very good month for us all, as Dad had suddenly been taken ill and was rushed off to hospital. Fortunately the problem was quickly diagnosed, but he had to have an operation, to remove his gallbladder. Whilst done by keyhole surgery, it was still a major operation, but thankfully all went well. Nevertheless we were all very worried, not least for the fact that shortly he and Uncle Brian had a planned stay again at Armathwaite Hall.

"Are you sure you will be well enough to go, Dad?", my girlfriend Polly asked.

"Absolutely", Dad replied, "Wild horses would not keep me away, and it will be a good convalescence too."

"But your surgeon said you cannot drive for a few weeks", I went on.

"Yes Fletcher, but the two weeks will be over by the time our departure day comes, and I will have driven to Elaine's at Feizor, so that will be a good test", said Dad.

"It is your birthday the day before we go, and it will be Uncle Brian's while we are there", said Polly.

"That's right, it had become a tradition now that Uncle Brian and I celebrate our birthdays with a stay at Armathwaite Hall. Who are you planning to take along as your guests this time, Fletcher?"

"Me for one", called out Polly.

"That goes without saying", replied Dad.

"Jacques, as he is from Armathwaite too, being the Spa bear, with his pals Southey and Wray & Ashley. Gerry Giraffe, as Johnny in the Brasserie wants to see him. Also Figaro, who will be going for the first time too, and Fred, Gladly, Craig and Ralph will be amongst my guests."

"I wonder if you will get a bear from Aunt Wendy for your birthday, Dad?", wondered Polly.

"Well I would not be surprised, but it would be wrong of me to presume", Dad replied.

The days passed by, and we were pleased to see that Dad was recovering. In the week before, a ring on the doorbell heralded the arrival of a parcel from Aunt Wendy, as we had all expected.

"You cannot open it until your birthday on Saturday", said Uncle Brian sternly.

"I am not going to", replied Dad.

This did not stop us being intrigued, and when his birthday arrived, we urged Dad to open the parcel as soon as possible. Dad had been mystified by the fact that it was rather heavy, making him think that perhaps it was not a bear after all. Well as we found out, it was indeed a new pal, called Marmite, and he came sitting in a mug with that logo, so resolving the mystery of the weight.

"He's lovely", exclaimed Gladly, who with Fred gave him a welcoming hug.

Here he is sitting in the mug......

and then just on his own.....





Sunday dawned the skies cloudy, with rain forecast. We had packed last night as had Dad and Uncle Brian, so it was not long before Dad had all the luggage stowed in the car.

"Come on", I called out, "time for us to get settled on the back seat."

"Just coming", replied Craig.

As Dad backed out of the drive, Ralph asked, "which route are we taking?"

"Via the Lakes today, as we need to call at Lakeland Ltd in Windermere, to get some cling film", Uncle Brian told him.

Well as it turned out we were not to get the item today, because even though Dad was able to get into the store, being Sunday, it was only open for browsing and he could not purchase it for another 20 minutes. So the decision was made to get it on the way home on Friday. The drive was lovely as always, and we waved a paw to Kim, as we passed Grasmere, where she works now.

As we walked into the hotel, we saw Rytis, Dad having a chat to him about which television programmes he is currently watching, as they both have similar tastes. I had come in too, with Polly and Marmite, who got introduced.

We settled in the hall, Dad waiting a few minutes, as it was busy at reception, before taking me with him to check-in.

"Right time for lunch", said Dad. So we headed to the Brasserie, to be welcomed by Johnny and Daisy. Hugs were exchanged with Daisy. 

She was most concerned about Dad's health, asking if he was OK now. Marmite was introduced, who she thought was just lovely, and he settled with us on the chair provided for us at the usual table.

So lovely and thoughtful too, was the floral table decoration of hyacinth, white roses and orchids, that Daisy had done just for us.

"Mmm, it is so fragrant", enthused Polly.

Dad said, "it brings back memories of how mum would put the hyacinth bulbs away in the dark to bring out and flower in spring."

For Dad and Uncle Brian a very nice meal was had. Creamy mushroom soup with a roll.  Then Uncle Brian had a prawn open sandwich on brown bread with chips and salad, while Dad had pork steak served on a bed of mash with green beans, apple sauce and crispy sage leaves.  All was delicious. Tea and coffee followed to round off.

Afterwards, Johnny asked, "where is the giraffe?"

In the car, but I will go and get him", said Dad

Meanwhile Uncle Brian suggested, "it would be lovely if you would come and visit us at home, and then we could all go for lunch at Elaine's."

"What a super idea", replied Daisy clearly excited at the prospect.

Dad arrived with Gerry Giraffe, and liking him, Johnny then grabbed him and pretended to run off! He then stood him on the bar towering over us all.

Looking at Dad's new camera, Johnny said, "I have been thinking about getting one similar, such as the EOS40D."

Dad replied, "that is my old camera. The body works perfectly, it just needs a new lens, which has gone faulty. It is only gathering dust in my wardrobe, so you can have it for nothing."

"I have to give you something for it."

"Well OK, if you insist", agreed Dad. "How about you treat us at Elaine's when we go."

"OK", agreed Johnny.

Then we went and sat in the hall again. Well Uncle Brian and us that is. Dad meanwhile brought the luggage in and the rest of my guests, who had sat patiently in the car, enjoying the picnic we had packed. Soon we went up too, and it was nice to settle in our usual room, 131, with that wonderful over the lawns to Bassenthwaite Lake.

The pointed fell is Catbells (1481ft), while on the right is Barf (1536ft), rising to Lord's Seat(1811ft).

"What a beautiful view", cried Figaro, who had not been here before.

Relaxation time now before Dad and Uncle Brian went for dinner in the Lake View Restaurant. We as usual had ours in the room, as I had arranged.

I said, "you must go down with Dad, Marmite, as he will want to show you off."

"OK Fletcher, if you are sure."

Well a lovely meal was enjoyed. For dessert they both chose the scrumptious, dark chocolate tart with white chocolate sorbet. We know this because it is what most of us had too. Dad's arrived on a decorated plate, to celebrate his birthday and Marmite joining the Hug...

and here is Dad, with our new pal.

Afterwards, coffee and tea is served in the Lake View Lounge, and we thank Christian, for taking this picture of Dad and Uncle Brian.

A good start to our stay!



One of the consequences of Dad's stay in hospital was that his sleep pattern had been disturbed, so he and Uncle Brian were up rather early. Dad threw back the curtains.

It was just getting light outside, and looking out Craig said, "quick Dad get your camera, the view down the lake is rather atmospheric just now."

Looking left Fred said, "the mountains are silhouetted too. That is mighty Skiddaw (3053ft) at the left, then Ullock Pike (2270ft) and Dodd (1647ft). I still think that you and STAG are very brave to climb them. I am more than happy to look at them from the warmth of the room."

"Magnificent", said Figaro in wonder. "Thanks so much for inviting me along, Fletcher."


Since his operation, walking had been off the agenda for Dad, so it was with some surprise that when he and Uncle Brian returned to the room, Uncle Brian said, "I am happy to just sit in the lounge this morning, while you go off for a walk."

"Right", replied Dad. Then turning to us, he said, "do any of you want to come along?"

"Yes please", called out Southey.

"Me too", cried Jacques.

"Ashley and I want to come too", called out Wray.

"OK, I'll just get my boots on and the map, and then we can be on our way."

Fletcher said, "Jacques will you narrate this part of the story for me?"

"Sure pal."

Walking out of the front of the hotel, Dad then said, "I had planned to redo the walk, when I took you through Messengermire Wood, Jacques. However I have had second thoughts and I have decided to do a round that starts along a track called Buckholme Lonning, on the Allerdale Ramble."

"How far is that?", asked Wray.

"About six miles."

"It's only three weeks since your operation, don't you think that is a bit far", went on Wray worriedly.

"It is pretty flat, so it shouldn't be a problem, and I want to see how well I am recovering."

"Well all I can say is that Uncle Brian would not be too happy about it", said Southey, "but if you are determined, we are still happy to come along. Who is going to be the guide, as when I am with STAG, Shaun does the map reading."

"You", stated Jacques, "As after all you have been going with STAG recently."

"Well OK, but I am not that confident yet", replied Southey. "I will do my best though. First we need to walk along the drive and then down the road towards the Lakeland District Wildlife Park."

At the end of the drive, we were looking to Skiddaw, the cloud swirling around the mountain. "Wow that's dramatic", said Ashley.

Nearing the entrance to the wildlife park, we saw Dan, Antonio and Michael, who work at the hotel. They were going to the cafe there, but stopped to chat to Dad.

Dan said to Dad, "where are you going?"

"Through that gate and on that track."

"Good luck", he replied, "it looks to be very muddy. I think we will be happier in the cafe!"

So off they went, meanwhile, I said, "the signpost for our direction reads Isel 3 miles. Is that where we are going?"

His head buried in the map, Southey replied, "we only go as far as the road just beyond Long Close Farm, which is just under 2 miles."

Dad strode out, the path being every bit as muddy as Dan had predicted, so it made for quite hard going. Shortly there was a section of wall to the left and Wray called out, "if we settle ourselves on the wall, will you take our picture."

"Of course Lads", was Dad's reply.

l-r Jacques, Ashley, Wray & Southey

About halfway, we crossed a footbridge over a pretty side stream that was soon to join the River Derwent.

A short way beyond, a narrow path led off left, where there was a lovely view of a wide sweep of the River Derwent.

I said, "This river starts way up the Borrowdale Valley, amongst the high mountains, flows into and out of Derwent Water, and into and out of Bassenthwaite Lake. From where we are now, it flows on to Cockermouth, where it joins with the River Cocker, to then finally empty into the sea at Workington. It was heavy rainfall up in the mountains that resulted in these rivers rising, causing all that terrible flooding in Cockermouth, and a bridge to be washed away in Workington, on 19th November 2009".

On towards High Close Farm, the track kept pretty straight, but the river bent away south in a loop. We had left the forestry, and the views opened up.

"That is Setmurthy Common (833ft) over to the left", Dad said. "It is one of the Wainwright Outlying Fells, that STAG have climbed.

"I can see the farm", called out Wray.

A gate gave access to the yard, where in a barn, some cows looked inquisitively through the gates.

We continued along the access, coming to the road at a sharp bend. Dad had stopped just before, hauling the camera out once again to take this view to Binsey (1466ft). "Another that STAG has climbed, more than once too. They have nicknamed it 'Wheelie'

"We go right here", instructed Southey. Then as he spotted a signpost further ahead, "at that junction we go right again. It will be signed to Bewaldeth."

As the picture above illustrates, the road from this sign ran pretty arrow straight with gentle undulations, and seemed to be never ending, especially as we had got a bit behind schedule.

"I promised Uncle Brian that I would be back before 12:00, but with the heavy going on the muddy track to the farm, it has taken longer than I expected", remarked Dad. "I will have to try and pick up the pace a bit on this road section, but the operation has temporarily caused me to get out of breath more quickly. Still, we will get back in time."

Well it was best foot forward, for about ten minutes, when Dad's progress was halted, as Wray called out, "look Dad, there are some of your favourite Herdwick sheep."

"They will be last years' lambs, as there fleeces are brown. In another year the fleeces will have changed to the blue-grey, for the rest of their adult lives", informed Dad.

We kept on and after a while the road bent slightly right. Then after a further quarter mile we reached a junction, where a road went off left.

"The buildings to the right are Isel Old Park", informed Southey. "We keep on ahead for just over half a mile now, and then take the path right to Irton House."

"We're not going to the Castle Inn", said Ashley.

I was looking over Southey's shoulder, and replied , "no pal, but we have to follow the path part way. Then at a junction, the route to Castle Inn is left through Messengermire Wood, which Dad has taken me on before. In fact that was his original idea today. We go straight ahead and then we will soon be at the wildlife park."

Just about to set off, Dad was stopped again, as Wray said, "those snowdrops on the banking make a pretty picture."

As Dad walked the access drive, Southey called out, "the map indicates the right of way is off to the left over the fields."

Sure enough there was a waymarked stile. This took the path left of the buildings, to a gate into another pasture, where the fence bent away right in a loop."

Dad started to follow the fence, but Southey said, "the map is not very clear here, except to indicate we should keep on in the same direction."

"OK lad", replied Dad, as he turned away left.

This proved to be the correct route, and soon then we reached a gate on the right.

"We take the gate", called out Southey.

This crossed a grassy field, to come onto a track. After a little way on the track, I called out, "I know where we are. That is Messengermire Wood on the left, and we crossed this rough ground to a gate into it."

"That's right, Jacques", agreed Dad.

Southey now directed, "by the end of the wood, the path goes left."

It crossed another field, then descended sharply for a short distance, to reach the track at the wildlife park, and followed this to the road, thereby completing the circuit. Returning along the road we soon reaches the hotel entrance.

We had set off at 09:30 and it was just 11:50 when we walked into the Lake View Lounge. Uncle Brian was relieved to see Dad, but said, "I was wondering where you had got to."

"Well mate, I decided to change the route. I have walked just over 6 miles, but I feel fine, and it gives me confidence in my recovery."

"Hmm", replied Uncle Brian, "it was a good job you did not tell me where you were going, before you set off!"

After Dad had changed, they went to the Brasserie for lunch, and we all went too, sitting on the window ledge, which amused Johnny. Later we returned to the room, and told our other pals all about our adventure.

"I'm glad you had such a good time", said Fletcher. "I want you to enjoy your stay."

"We always do that", cried Wray. "It is so good of you to invite us."

The view from the room is ever changing, which is why Dad and Uncle Brian, always have room 131. This afternoon, it was beautiful and clear, and we make no apologies for including this shot.



While having our breakfast, I said, what would you like to do today."

"After the exertions of yesterday, I would rather just have a quiet day in the room Fletcher", said Ashley.

"My thoughts exactly", agreed Craig, who like Ralph just wanted to chill out."

"That's fine then. Dad and Uncle Brian are entertaining, with Aunt Tish and Uncle Eddie coming for afternoon tea. I have got a selection of games we can play, if you like. "

"Thanks Fletcher", replied Figaro.

Fred said, "Gladly and I are going to go down and see Aunt Tish and Uncle Eddie."

"OK pals."

They arrived about 13:00, and it was a very very enjoyable afternoon, the tea being absolutely delicious. Not all was eaten, so this was boxed up for Aunt Tish and Uncle Eddie to take home. Dad had left his camera in the room, but Uncle Eddie had his, and took this super picture of Dad and Uncle Brian.

photo courtesy of Eddie Williams

Uncle Eddie also came up to the room as he wanted to take a picture of the view, and to see us too. It was just lovely to see him and made a fuss. We responded by calling out, "hello, hope you have had a good time." As to the view, he took two shots and using the clever software that enables them to be stitched together, this was the amazing result.

photo courtesy Eddie Williams



This was Uncle Brian's birthday, so before he and Dad went down for breakfast, we all sang him, 'Happy Birthday'.

"Thank you Lads!"

Then he opened his cards, that he had brought with him. He had some really nice ones too. During the day he had a lot of birthday wishes via his Facebook page, as well.

We were once again mostly chilling out in the room, although unbeknown to Dad, some of us went for a short walk in the grounds. Dad and Uncle Brian went and settled as usual in the Lake View Lounge for the rest of the morning. 

Can Ralph and I come down with you", asked Craig.

"Of course", replied Dad.

Here they are settled comfortably on a chair.

About 12:30 they went to the Brasserie for lunch, Craig and Ralph going too, and as usual there was a chair at the table for them. Nicky was on and wished Brian, Happy Birthday, as did Johnny when he came on a little later.  Lunch was delicious leek and potato soup, which Dad followed with a cheese and chutney pannini with chips and side salad, while Uncle Brian just had a bowl of chips. This was served with one lit candle and Nicky sang Happy Birthday!  Uncle Brian made a wish and blew it out! 

It was Daisy's day off, but despite this she came in to personally give Brian birthday wishes, which was very kind.  Then too there was an extra surprise. Dad and Uncle Brian love crumble, but it is not longer on the Brasserie menu. So Daisy had made individual apple and blackcurrant crumbles just for us, served with real custard, as a birthday treat for Uncle Brian.  So, they wish to say a big big thank you to Daisy and Johnny for this! Here is the birthday boy.

Now we all just rested in the room. Dad had not slept well again last night, but made up for it now. Then while we had room service again for our dinner, they went off to continue to celebrate Uncle Brian's birthday in the Lake View Restaurant, where this is what they had-

Amuse Bouche (a pre starter) Carrot soup
Starters Twice cooked Pork Belly, Scampi Tails, Fondant Potato, Apple Foam (D)
Tasting of Melon, Squash Sorbet, Micro Coriander, Parmesan Textures (UB) (the last were like crisps, and absolutely gorgeous - if only we could get a packet of them!)
Sorbet Apple
Main Courses Pan fried Screa Cod, Crushed Saffron Potatoes, Chicory Jam, Cucumber, Tomato & Chive Butter Sauce (D)
Braised Blade of Cumbrian Beef, Horseradish Creamed Potato, Confit of Shallots, Sprouting Broccoli, Red Wine Sauce (UB)
Desserts Lemon Gateaux served with ice cold lemonade. (UB)
Baked Apple stuffed with Almond Cream, served with sauce Anglaise (D)
Afterwards in the lounge Coffee & Tea, with scrumptious home made chocolates

Uncle Brian’s dessert was truly delicious with the wonderful lemonade, and made even more special by being served on a decorated plate with ‘Happy Birthday Mr Brian’!  This had been arranged by Rytis. 

This truly rounded off his birthday which Uncle Brian said has been lovely. Well he deserves it, being the best Dad and Uncle in the world to us all in the Hug!



Today Aunt Eileen and Aunt Vicky came to have lunch with Dad and Uncle Brian, and Polly, Marmite and myself went to meet them too. The lunch was really delicious and a most enjoyable time was had by all. Just to clarify, Aunt Eileen makes the wonderful cakes for Dad, which he discovered some years ago, when he passed by Newby Head Farm, near Ribblehead in Yorkshire, on the way to meet Uncle Bob for a walk. The cakes are truly delicious, and he has visited many times with Uncle Brian, for fresh supplies. They always stay about an hour or so for a chat too.

In the evening, Dad and Uncle Brian went to the Brasserie, and my guests Figaro, Jacques and Marmite went with them. Well, some of my guests are always expected now, as there is always the additional chair provided at the table.



Today it was time to go home, at the end of yet another lovely time here. My pals and I felt the benefit, being relaxed and chilled, and we know too that it had helped Dad in his recovery.

As we were packing. I asked, "if we get settled on the bed, will you take the usual end of holiday group picture."

"Sure Fletcher."

top - Ralph, Craig, Fred, Marmite, Gladly & Figaro
bottom - Wray, Ashley, Polly, Fletcher, Jacques & Southey
with of course Gerry Giraffe!

Time to vacate the room, most of my guests settled in the car, ready for the journey home. I always go with Dad to check-out, so went and sat with them in the Lake View Lounge, and Polly and Southey came with me.

As we sat relaxing, there was some excitement, with the arrival of two helicopters, operated by Multiflight Aviation Services Ltd. Whilst this is not uncommon here, we went and sat looking out of the window watching them coming in to land. Then after the passengers had disembarked, Dad went and took a few photos.

First of the pair...

Then in more detail, each of them. They are Eurocopter AS365's. We looked up the website, and found that the cost of hire is £2,200 per flying hour. So... I do not think it is very likely that we will be making our arrival for future visits to Armathwaite Hall, this way!

"Wow", cried Southey. "That was exciting. I have never seen anything like that before. What a way to round off my holiday"

Soon, it was lunch time and we went off to the Brasserie, settling on the chair provided for us.

Daisy and Nicky were on today, and looked after us. Uncle Brian had the lovely leek and potato soup, while Dad had a substantial beef burger with chips and salad. Well his excuse was that he had to do the driving!

Then finally I went with Dad to settle the bill and formerly check-out, at reception. Then there were hugs with Daisy, before setting off for home. Again the lovely journey through the Lakes, seeing all the mountains and fells that Dad and STAG have climbed. After a brief stop at Lakeland Ltd in Windermere, to get the cling film, we were home about 15:30.

Another lovely time, and the great news is that further stay has been booked, in just 9 weeks time!! Roll on!

Love and Hugs always.




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