England, Studio on the Corner Etsy Shop

Falling in Love with the Lake District

Oh where to begin….the journey to Windermere was fraught with anxiety & nerve-wrenching exhaustion, but once there we parked the car & did not get back in until it was time to travel to the next destination. Instead, we took Sharon’s advice.

In the middle is Sharon, one of the very helpful people we met in England.

We were happy to gaze out the window at the mountains of the Lake District & also stopping to get a closer look at some of the more interesting points of interest in the area instead of navigating ourselves down narrow, winding roads closed in on both sides by stone walls or hedgerows

welcoming us to….

The Lake District copy

The loveliest spot man hath found

 

Two things I love: 1. Dogs/animals of all kinds   2. Flowers of all kinds

Everywhere we went in England we saw both in an astonishing number in the most unexpected places, but the Lake District, Hawkshead in particular, seemed to have both in happy, beautiful abundance.

We took a Mountain Goat bus tour, Heart of the Lakes, to see as much of the Lake District as we could with so little time. Our bus driver was fantastic, a story teller & fearless driver. As he drove he pointed out landmarks of interest, gave us names of fells. I must confess, I love English names of places & things, like the word fell. It has a romanticism to it, perhaps because it’s so new to me. According to the Oxford English dictionary, a fell is an old English word that means a hill or stretch of high moorland, especially in Northern England. Though the fells in the Lake District are not that high, they have a rugged, lonely feel that adds to their majestic mystery. Sheep graze on grasses that grow up the craggy sides of the mountains & hills.  It’s open range farming called fell farming & since we were there in May lambs were cavorting across the meadows & pastures. It was just about as charming a sight as can be seen.

The Lake District, Cumbria UK Photo taken by MJ

 

Everywhere the stone walls crawl over the countryside, up & down hills with the fells in the background. Photo by Teresa O

Taken from the window of a moving bus the 2 photos above tell the story of hills & farming. Herds of hearty sheep, the Herdwick breed promoted by Beatrix Potter, wander the hills & dales as part of the National Trust’s promise to Beatrix. In her will she left acres & acres of farms & robust countryside to the National Trust to be protected from commercialism that may have destroyed the breath-taking views & rural life of this treasured part of England. Today the main industry in this region of England, called Cumbria, is fell farming & tourism.

We held our breath as we squeezed through the smallest of roadways, skinny branches of the hedgerows scratching the windows. I loved it!

Our first stop…   

 

Once upon a time around the year 1840 a wealthy doctor wanted to build his wife a grand home filled with the romance of chivalrous knights, fair maidens & courtly love. So Wray Castle rose up on a hill overlooking Lake Windermere. It has all the ambiance of a gothic novel, but Dr. Dawson’s wife found the place to be hideous & never spent one night in the johnny-come-lately castle that is now a popular site for visitors. It’s easy to dream of another world, but truth is it’s not old by European standards where buildings have been standing in the same place for over a thousand years.

Wray Castle Photo by MJ
Inside Wray Castle Photo by MJ
From behind a stone wall at Wray Castle

 

The ceiling in the music room now gift shop Photo by MJ

Inside, the ceiling in what was once the music room now a gift shop, was an eye-catcher. One of the volunteers struck up a conversation with me & we shared a bit about farming in our countries. We both laughed when we said we raised Black Angus cattle. Her farm hilly & filled with history; the farm where I raised my children as flat as a pancake & filled with the family history of my ex-husband. I could have sat & had a cup of tea, nibbled on a scone & talked with this lady for hours, but sojourners were getting on the bus & our time at Wray Castle over.

Off we went down more crazy, wonderful roads with stunning views on both sides. So many photos didn’t happen as we traveled along…the gigantic exposed roots of trees that surely houses fairies, sprites, & elves. I failed to capture that mournful, dark feeling of a primal forest, so old & so full of stories. I missed the babbling brooks that skittered over stones, the rugged hikers trekking from one village to another through the woods, over hills, & along waterways. There was so much to see, so much to take in & my mind rushed forward with so many thoughts. Did I take enough time to truly let it all soak in? Did I look with eyes wide-open & appreciate every nuance? I think I did because there was no lack of tears when something so magical would occur & that magic might be nothing more than a thought that I was very near the settings of some of my favorite books…Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, for one. A long held dream coming true is sure to overwhelm & it did…just ask MJ.

Late in the afternoon we pulled into a little stop where a sign said it all…

Photo by MJ

We stopped for a just a few minutes at Hill Top Farm the house that Beatrix Potter loved so well. When we got off the bus we noticed a gathering across the way & like 2 little girls with their noses pressed against the window of a toy shop, MJ and I stood watching the group that we were supposed to be a part of. We both felt a bit sad that we were not able to attend, but nonetheless we both got photos of the picnic at Castle Cottage with author & water colorist Susan Branch.

MJ’s photo shows a bit of the house, which I like very much, as well as the diminishing picnickers.
Photo by Teresa O

You can read about Castle Cottage picnic on Susan’s blog. Just click HERE. It was a marvelous day, I’m sure, filled with all the quaintness of a Beatrix Potter illustration, but a blustery day that was quite chilly. I didn’t get to attend & perhaps seeing the group made the hurt just a bit deeper, but no matter, there was time to take a quick jaunt through the garden. We would be back tomorrow to see the house, spend all the time we wanted in the gardens, & walk the road to a pub for a bite.

Back on the bus we were off for a longer stop.

Here I found the England that I knew from books, movies, & PBS!

We ventured up a little hill & to a closer look at Hawkshead Grammar School where Williams Wordsworth (1770-1850) studied & grew up to write some of the loveliest poems. The first stanza of Daffodils written in 1802 certainly makes me think of the Lake District now & surely Wordsworth’s inspiration.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Just a quick peek into the school room & then MJ & I parted ways. I spied an iron gate & headed toward it to discover a magical, mystical site….
Beyond the gate stood grave stones, time-worn & weathered from the years & standing proudly on top of the hill, part of St. Michael and All Angels church. The people of Hawkshead have been making the walk up the hill to worship since the 12th century. The building has changed, been added to, revamped, but it remains a wonderful testament to the ingenuity & persistence of the human race. No one described this beautiful landmark in a better way than William Wordsworth, who attended the church,
I saw the snow-white church upon her hill
Sit like a throned lady sending out
A gracious look all over her domain’
– The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Beautiful photo by MJ
One more because that’s how much I loved this very old place
Another wonderful photo by MJ
The inside was just as grand as the exterior & even more amazing that it continues to be a place of worship.
Photo by MJ
After spending so much time soaking in the age & wonder of St. Michael and All Angels church on the hill I had just enough time to get back to the bus to continue the tour. Want to know more? There’s lots of information about this glorious place but here’s a start….click HERE  Check out the cobblestoned village Hawkshead, too
Back on the bus we were once again on narrow roads that wound upward into fells. Our driver pointed out the Old Man of Coniston, the Langdales, & what one fellow claimed to be the most beautiful point in England, Tarn Hows (more about that tomorrow). I’m so glad we took the drive…it was a great way to see this spectacular part of England.
Down the hill & back to our Airbnb we went, still tired from our drive the day before. We dined on leftover fish & chips that we were too tired to eat the night before & mapped out the next day. I slept happy that night, content with what I saw & knowing that tomorrow would be even better. I was going to tour Hill Top farm & for just a small moment in time be part of a world where Peter Rabbit hopped, little mice sewed a brocade coat & ran out or cherry twist, & Mrs. Tiggy Winkle would find a new home in Ohio.
Regaling you with my momentous trip is taking longer than I expected. There’s so much I want to share.  Did my trip to England inspire me to create? Absolutely! I have a new invitation listed at Studio on the Corner Etsy shop
& I’ve created a whole collection of items under the title A Ginger Piggery Party! The collection will include: invitation, candy wrappers, cookie bag, banner, cupcake topper, & more. I’m trying to work out an adorable centerpiece that can be printed, cut out & assembled. There are so many inspirational moments that I’m hoping to transform into printables & papers, maybe a scrapbook kit.  Only time will tell.
Look for a tutorial coming out in the near future. It’s all about putting your own creative touches on printables.
Have a wonderful weekend!
England, Studio on the Corner Etsy Shop, Travel

To England & Back

To England

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When I think of England, I will always recall the rugged stone walls & hedgerows lining roads & pastures & homes that have survived centuries all settled upon green hills with sheep grazing in contentment.  (photo by MJ)

Hello friends! Yes, I have been to England & back home. What an adventure it was to visit this land that I’ve read about, dreamt about, & longed to see with my own eyes. My next several posts are going to be about my journey, the ups & downs, the magical surprises & emotional experiences. After a 4 hour drive, my friend MJ & I sliced through the night sky from Chicago to Heathrow airport outside of London, England, but let me digress for just a moment & tell you about. . .

Premimum Seats

When 2 slightly confused 60-something ladies come upon the airport scene people just seem to take pity & offer advice or just do it. Such was the case of a customer service person. She typed in all the pertinent information at a kiosk & handed us our boarding passes. I took a look at the seat assignment on the pass & grimaced. These seats were not what was on the printed confirmation that clearly stated, Row 9 Seat A & Row 9 Seat B. When I questioned the seats, the woman who spoke with an accent began to explain that these seats were better, some called them “premium seats” she insisted while pointing to seats on a chart that were located behind the bathrooms which offered extra leg room. I liked the idea of extra room very much.

On to the plane we went with carry-ons in hand. Back we went, passing by row 9 & that lovely window seat, shimmying passed people tucking things away in overhead bins & getting settled in. At last we came upon the “premium” seats…directly in front of the toilets. There was no time for disappointment. MJ graciously gave me the aisle seat & we too stowed away our valuables beneath the seats in front of us. Settling into a long night flight is not an easy task in the best of circumstances, but now we dealt with a steady stream of people walking by & an audible swoosh with a clang each time the toilet was flushed! So much for premium seats.

Driving in England

Researched: road signs, highways, traffic laws, roundabouts. I can do this! How hard can it be?  Opposite side of the road. . .opposite side of the car. I got this! Driving in England was an adventure that I really don’t want to go on again. After landing we scurried to get our car rented & head out on the open road. No worries that neither of us had slept much in the last 24 hours. Sure I was a bit nervous about the driving  bit, but I knew I could do it. Yes, I did do it, but it was a nerve-wracking, steel-grip on the steering wheel, leg shaking drive to Windermere. Each time we exited the motorway, on purpose or not, we wound up trying to navigate a roundabout which ended up being a disaster. The word that goes with roundabouts is lost! Panic ensued & we pulled over as soon as possible. MJ would put on her pathetic look & received help from road angels. Thank goodness for the kindness of the English people, four times we were not just given verbal directions, but heard these words, “Follow my car, I’ll take you back & get you on the right road.”

There was the handsome man at a service area, the fellow in a Mazaratti, another man who I’m sorry to say wasn’t as memorable, & then there were the road workers who showed us the way through Kendal & back to the right road that would lead us to our airbnb in Windermere. These 2 fellows stopped & waited for us when I drove too slow & got behind. They’d flash their yellow caution lights so we could see them ahead, they went out of their way to help us. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we were to these generous, thoughtful Englishmen & I wish I knew their names so I could thank them. It still took us twice as long as it should have, but we made it to Windermere & after a frantic call to my son for the code to get in, we dragged our luggage up the winding stairs & into  a lovely apartment. A few tears of relief were shed, family contacted that we made it, & long sighs of relief that after nearly 40 hours of no sleep we could finally lay our heads down, close our eyes, & feel secure.

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Our lovely flat in Windermere  We lugged suitcases up that winding stair case, one exhausted step at a time. (photo by MJ)

After a solid night’s sleep we got up feeling better, but we had to make a tough decision. We would not be able to attend a special picnic at Castle Cottage near Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Home that day. I think we were both suffering from PTSD after the harrowing drive from Heathrow to Windermere. Crawling into that car with me behind the wheel was not going to happen.

On our way to explore we had a serendipitous meeting with Sharon, the lady who owns the downstairs airbnb. You can see the door through the little arch of her flat. She gave us advice, she offered her thoughts on driving in England, & suggested we take a bus tour. She pointed us in the right direction & we struck out on our own, up the hill to Mountain Goat bus tours. Here I have to stop to make a pitch…if you or anyone you know is planning a getaway to England & the Lake District in particular do check out Sharon’s airbnb. Here’s her information:

Sharon's info

Here’s a link to one of Sharon’s rentals: Click HERE

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Here we sat to drink tea or coffee, have a bite of breakfast or journal. It was a fun view of people coming to & fro. 
View from Window Windermere
The view from our window overlooking College Road was breathtaking to me; my dreams of a romantic England.  
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Fascinating wall art in the living room of our Airbnb. 

This was a wonderful place to stay while in Windermere & the Lake District. Want to see more of this Airbnb? Here’s the link: Foxgloves in the Heart of Windermere

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We’ve been home for a few days now & one thing I missed while touring the English countryside was my computer & Photoshop Elements. It’s a rare day that I am not working on a digital project or creating something. Within a day or so of being home The Fair Child tags were created.

fair child etsy image 8 copy

 

The sheet of 9 different images on oval tags will be available in Studio on the Corner Etsy shop soon. All that needs to be done is a PDF of directions written.

Packages of English inspired items are developing. I saw a sign that said Ginger Piggery & I want to turn those 2 words into a fun package. The romance of the English countryside provides so much inspiration that is sure to turn into some lovely papers, perhaps tags & more.

Tulip Border copy

This is just the beginning of my dream trip to England. I want to share it with you in 5 or 6 installments. One for each of the locations we visited: The Lake District, The Cotswolds, Bath, London, Kent, & home again.  I hope you’ll join me.

Until next time!

My Printed Signature