Tuesday, 30 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal, home of the mint cake, which is not really a cake, its a minty slab of sugar.  Kendal is known as "the auld grey town" but this is because of its grey limestone buildings not its mint cake, which comes in white, brown or chocolate covered slab.  The complete recipe is supposed to be a secret and the story is that Joseph Wiper intended to make some glacier mints in 1869 but left the mixture boiling, and when he returned it had started to 'grain' and become cloudy instead of clear, the rest, as they say, is history.

Wiper retired to Victoria in British Columbia in 1910 and his son set up a shop and sold Wiper's Mint Cake, which was supplied to Shackleton's 1914-17 Transarctic Expedition. In the days before energy bars and isotonic drinks this was the ultimate sugar energy hit.

The most famous of the expedition carrying Kendal mint cake was Sir Edmund Hillary's to Mount Everest where, as it says on the back of Romney's Kendal Mint , it was carried to the summit on 29 May 1953 and eaten by him and  Tenzing Norgay.  The original order for the mint cake was last minute request and was supplied in seven days, in high altitude packs.  Sweets were still rationed after the war and the staff gave up their sweet ration coupons to comply with the law, which the Ministry of Food later refunded.

In the shops of Kendal and the Lake District there is always Kendal Mint Cake in gift packs, usually with pretty pictures of the Lake District on the front, ready for people to buy and press on unsuspecting friends. It is something you either love or hate, depending on your love of sugar.

There are three main manufacturers of Mint Cake each jostling to claim themselves the authentic one.  Romney's (named after the painter),

Wilson's which is called the Original Kendal Mint Cake who started production in New Inn Yard in 1913 and which is still hand produced by boiling slowly in open copper pans.

It says on the back it is "delicious, nourishing and sustaining".  Yes I got this from Booths Supermarket today, I have not had it for years. My tooth rot of preference is Clarnico Mint Creams for the energy boost of morning mountain climbs.

Lastly we come to Quggins, "The Home of Kendal Mint" cake

"suppliers of energy and therefore very popular with outdoor pursuits like climbing and walking"
 They also produce rum butter, another Lake District delicacy, which is a whole other story.

Here is Jack Dee's take on Kendal Mint Cake.

Keen to see more words beginning with the letter K?  Jump over to ABC Wednesday for lots more.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Spring Came Slowly

One of the turnings of the seasons is on the day the clocks go forward, we head for Whistling Green and the Ulpha Woods in the Duddon Valley. This is a treat of a walk for spring, but as we all know things are different this year after an unusually cold, snowy and long winter.  The forsythia by the Bobbin Mill Bridge was only in bud

the fields of gold that usually great us were sparse. Few flowering daffodils, some in bud but most holding their glow within green leaves.  The daffodils in gardens are indeed out but the ones here are wild and always the last in any year, that is why we always leave it until the end of March to visit.  If you wish to compare and contrast then my post for the 30th March last year shows everything in full bloom, go here

A lovely sunny breezy day for a walk in the woods, even if there was a lack of daffodils the birds were in full song

and there is always lots of lovely moss.

"And the Spring came slowly up this way" wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Just In Time

Joyce of Whitchurch, clock-makers since 1690 and still going strong all over the world. Supposed to be the oldest tower clock makers in the world. This is probably an equivalent of a wrist watch to them, but it is one of their most famous.  Have we time, are we just in time

to jump on board the train....the doors are open.  Or should we go underground to the other platform

out into the light. What is this,  is it the cavelry

no, just in time to see the Oliver Cromwell steaming as the Cumbrian Mountain Express as it takes on water and then crosses the tracks to join the main line for the run up to Shap Summit en route to Carlisle.  A train built in 1951, the Britannia class was part of the  railway post war revival.  It was also chosen in 1968 to be the last passenger steam train to run between Liverpool Lime Street and Carlisle as 'The Fifteen Guinea Special'.  Just take a minute to watch a minute of that last trip, the commentary is just of its time, with its  juicy vowels.

Are you thinking what about the Joyce clock.  Built in the 1890s it has had a tough times in those past years (there is a rather wonderful poem by Lynne Alexander on its five ages just by the clock on the wall) but it was made famous by David Lean

in Brief Encounters, filmed in February 1945 on Carnforth station.  Here is Celia Johnson getting a speck of dust in her eye, ready for Trevor Howard to come to the rescue with a handkerchief.  The station and the clock is a major part of the film, although the clock was actually given a false face to prevent continuity errors, so the clock  showed the right time for the plot.

It you ever visit Carnforth station you can go into the cafe this 'still' shows, it is identical to the film, not only that there is not a tea bag in sight, proper pots of tea.  That this exists is testament to the Carnforth Station and Railway Trust formed 1996 in attempt to rejuvenate the station after years of decline, which started in the 1970s with the electrification of the west coast main line (those pesky wires on my train photos). Carnforth was no longer part of the main line, one of its platforms was demolished, and it became just a branch line.  It was a sad sight as paint flaked, the station became grubby and the cafe was boarded up, it only needed tumble-weed rolling across it to complete the picture.

After fund-raising, including a donation from the David Lean Foundation, and with Railtrack's assistance work started in 2000, and was completed in 2003.  The cafe and visitor heritage centre was opened.  So not only can you see lots of railway memorabilia, Brief Encounters playing on a loop, old photographs and browse round the shop, but there may be some live music in the cafe.  The owner is ex RAF and as he says never thought he would end up on a railway station, but he always wanted to run a tea shop and wishes everything to be made fresh as it would have been in the 1940s.   He has recently installed equipment, purchased from a bakery that was closing down, so they can make their own bread. While we were there one of the volunteers from the Trust was playing the piano, the atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful, so unlike the time of quiet desperation that Lean filmed so long ago. 
Celia Johnston and Trevor Howard would re-unite in 1980 in Staying On as an elderly couple in India but they will always be remembered for the wonderful intense Brief Encounters.  Lean was a film-maker who could portray the intimate and the immense with equal skill.

Jump over to the ABC Wednesday meme for more words beginning with the letter J

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Ille et Rance

Last week I was on my local canal, but continuing the theme this week I am further afield, in France on part of the Ille and Rance Canal.  Starting at Bazouges-sous-Hede which was about to have a Jazz Festival and here are the dancing musicians. The building in the background is the little museum which tells the history of the canal. I love the variety of little local museums whether municipal or run by enthusiasts. I'm not sure who ran this one but the young guardian made us very welcome, possibly because we appeared to be the only people there. After we had taken in all the exhibitions, artefacts and information she asked if we wanted to see the film about the canal, and looked so disappointed when we declined that I felt a little guilty.

Anyway lets see how much I remembered from that museum.  The canal runs north to south through Brittany from the English Channel to the Atlantic for 85 kilometres linking the rivers of Rance and Ille. It was started in Napoleonic times and one of the reasons was because the British Royal Navy had a tendency to blockade the ports in the north. One of our falling out periods.  The majority of the labour used to build it were Spanish Prisoners of War.

 There are 48 locks along it length, in contrast to last weeks Lancaster Canal which uses the natural contours of the land and only has one in its entire length, but the incline is greater here.

This section from Hede to Tintenieac has many locks and the paths are

beautifully tree lined.

and pretty Loch Keeper's Houses at intervals along its length are festooned with flowers, but don't think it stops there for some of the

locks are decorated too, depending on the enthusiasm of the keeper.

The day we were here we did not see any moving barges on this stretch only

the odd immobile moored boat which unfortunately was not going

through here, or there would have been even more pictures of locks.

I will end with  not a loch in sight.  Sometimes I can resist them.

For Inventive uses of words beginning with the letter I visit the  ABC Wednesday meme

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Crosses and Crocus

"Of all the pulpits from which the human voice is ever set forth, there is none from which it reaches so far as from the grave" The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin (1849)

The cross of John Ruskin in St Andrew's churchyard, Coniston. It is a beautiful object carved by H T Miles on green slate from the local quarry at Tilberthwaite, and designed by W G Collingwood, an expert on Anglo Saxon crosses. It depicts some aspects of Ruskin's work and it captures the essence of his artistic philosophy.  The afternoon light was shining on this side which highlighted the carving so a photograph was irresistible.  I will have to go back next time in the morning to capture the light shining on the front.

"There is no wealth but life"
Could not resist another Ruskin quote. The churchyard was full of  snowdrops and crocus basking in this marvellous spell of sunny weather.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Hest Bank

No question of where I am this week. The sign says it all.  And as a side issue you may notice there is a fish and chips quiz night on Friday the 19th.  Nothing beats the British love of deep fried cuisine.

After all that build up it might be a bit of a disappointment to see the bridge, which is practical rather than beautiful, a footpath over the canal, and as you know already, swings away to let the canal boats pass.

It is located by the village of Hest Bank (which has become sort of dormitory town for the nearby city of Lancaster)
and sits on the shore of Morecambe Bay.  The views were hazy on Monday but on a clear day you can see the hills of the Lake District so it is the opposite of the view I normally have, as I look across towards Hest Bank.

Three photographs and not a sign of the canal so here it comes
round the bend, with just the remains of a sliver of morning ice on the surface,

and to Hest Bank Bridge, stone and solid.  For any Arsenal fans that may be reading this, one of yours lives here, because the red boat far left is called, The Gooner.  There are also a fair number of seagulls in this image because the canal runs very near to the shore and at one time (pre 1826) goods were trans-shipped here between sailing boats in Morecambe Bay and canal barges.

You have seen the practical bridge and now here is a pretty one.  The Hest Bank Occupation bridge.  I don't know why it is called that, but the Hest Bank Hotel is near here, which was on a coaching route to Grange Over Sands on the opposite side of the bay. A light in the window facing the shore would guide coachmen across the sands.
But now I journeyed on and past the Hest Bank bridges and looked back to the white houses of the village standing on the horizon. This next section from Hest Bank to the Lune Aqueduct is pretty part of the canal, it runs through fields and agricultural land but no more H, apart from a

Heron which was perched firmly on the fence looking well away from the water, I wonder what it was looking for, perhaps there is a fish farm nearby, or perhaps like us, it was just enjoying the warm spring day.

 Hurry over to ABC Wednesday where there are lots more words beginning with H

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dozing Ducks, Bridges and An Aqueduct

Dozing while waiting for the ice to melt. I'd do the same if I had an inbuilt duvet.

Mallards on the the Lancaster Canal, just in shot on the barge is where they and I was, Carnforth. Setting off this morning for a stroll along the winding path, heading for Lancaster.

A blue, sunny and cloudless day. How still was the water, I may have overdone the number of bridge pictures taken today. Here is Barkers Bridge, its canal number, 126, if you were puttering down the canal by boat and wanted to check where you were.

Not a bridge but the Lune Aqueduct.  There is always something wonderful about aqueducts and this one is a beauty. Built from local stone, designed by John Rennie, it carries the canal 51 feet above the river and 664 feet from one side to the other. It is showing some wear in part but its been stood here since 1797

On the top the canal crosses the Lune, in the distance are the faint outline of the snow topped Yorkshire flat top hills but we are definitely in red rose Lancashire here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

ABC Wednesday - Galanthus

They were late, but now are in everywhere and how happy to see them as they push against the door called spring.  The snowdrop's Greek name is from its milky white colour, gala (milk) and anthus (flower) giving Galanthus.  Experts can identify the 350 different species and cultivars from the green markings and the people who love them are called Galanthophiles.  Who could not love these little flowers that appear in the cold days of winter.  In the Victorian 'Language of Flowers' they symbolised hope.

Covering the woodland floors and nestling in hedgerows.  If the temperature reaches 10 degrees centigrade

the outer petals open horizontally, attracting pollinating insects.  This little bunch was in a sheltered spot and they were opening but it hadn't reached that magical warmth so were only half heartedly thinking about. it.

I always though of snowdrops as an indigenous flower but it is not. There is some dispute of how they arrived but the consensus seems to be that monks brought them to Britain from Italy in the 15/16th Century and that is why they are often seen in monastery grounds.

There are many beliefs about them, such as the first sight represents the passing of sorrow. The Christian story tells of an angel turning snowflakes to flowers to give Adam and Eve hope after being cast out from the Garden of Eden.  However folk law can see them as unlucky perhaps because

they grow in cemeteries and churchyards.  Never bring a bunch into the house for it is to invite death, so if you

 St Mary's at Whicham Churchyard
are using them as pain relief for a headache then it might be a precaution to rub them on your forehead outdoors.

No wonder our little Galanthus like the sheltered places for the only flowers on the hill tops are plastic ones.

See how brave those little snowdrops are, nestling in the Whicham valley, below these cold tops, but the snow was delightfully crunchy.  And how delightful that I found a flower beginning with G by accident when setting off for a walk.

Many poets have written about snowdrops and Wordsworth wrote at least two poems but I'll leave with one expressing Tennyson's simple joy at a first sight

The Snowdrop by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Many, many welcome
February fair-maid
Ever as of old time
Solitary firstings,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair maid.

Gallop over to the ABC Wednesday meme to see more words starting with G