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Memories of Buttermere

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Old Tuesday 31st March 2015, 14:28   #1
halftwo
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Memories of Buttermere

Fifty years ago I walked around Buttermere, and up on the fells that set off the lake in perfect proportion. And there I had had one of those never-to-be forgotten moments. Fifty years ago one sunny morning my mother had sent me out to collect milk from the farm nearby - carefully brought back in a balanced jug, still warm from the just-milked cow steaming in the early air.
It was April, the hawthorn was fresh out along the footpath, the birds were singing. In the hedge the boy that I was then spied a tiny dome of lichen, pink and grey, as small as my palm. On top of this sat a Chaffinch. It was my first nest.
The bird got up at my approach, slipping away silently, and revealed her exquisite eggs deep within the feathered cup. Tiny and speckled: little jewels.
This sight remains etched permanently in my eye, as if scratched on my retina, though almost everything has washed away on the ebbing tide from the sands of my mind. Vague dreamy images are all else.
I quickly retreated and watched as the hen bird returned, happy that my intruding had not harmed.

Today I returned to Buttermere for the first time since then and walked that same path to the lake. The skimming stones still skipped across the sparkle of that water and the hedge was just beginning to burst its buds. Too early for the Chaffinch's descendents to have begun their nests, but they sang in the sunshine despite the cold and the snow - sprinkled like icing on the crags above.
Back on that day in April it had been warmer and my mother had walked those hills with my baby sister on her back, alternating the rucksack and papoose with my father. Now too frail to walk far at all, a widow of decades, and my baby sister over fifty herself. The details of that holiday are long gone - but for that Chaffinch and her nest.
Buttermere and the hills are still just as they had been. That hedge remained. Gravity still pulled against the heft of boot up the steep valley and cascades of white water still rushed from the tops.
Time has crawled over these glaciated valleys and deep waters. Only the birds remain.
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2015, 14:54   #2
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There really is a timelessness to some of these places, like the Lake District and the Dales, isn't there.

I have a memory of us fetching milk in a jug from a farm too, but it is now too remote for me to recall any details of the where and when.... I was just remember being amazed that fresh milk was warm LOL.

It's a bit wintery today, isn't it!
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2015, 16:13   #3
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Such a lovely memory, H2. As always, brought to life with such skill and passion.
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2015, 18:45   #4
brianfm
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Your post has brought some memories flooding back to me. I wonder if our paths crossed all those years ago.

I began to visit Buttermere as a small boy around 1961. My brother had just started work at the farm at the bottom of Honister Pass and he continued to work there as a shepherd for many years, a time during which I spent at least one holiday a year there. In fact both my brother, myself and my cousin celebrated out 21st birthdays there. Mine in the cottage at the foot of Honister Pass. I well remember my brother delivering milk, as you say still warm from the cow, to the few establishments around the area. Health and safety would have a fit these days! My brother still swears that milk never tasted better than fresh from the cow. It doesn't seem to have done him any harm as he's still building dry-stone walls in his spare time, but in Northumberland now.

I remember my first visit to Buttermere very vividly. I belonged to the east end of Newcastle upon Tyne but knew the west coast of Cumbria very well as I had relatives living near to St Bees. However,I'd never really been deep into Lakeland. We had no car at the time so I remember the bus ride to Buttermere village on the bus and then the two mile walk from the village along to the farm with my father carry out suitcase on his shoulder. Yes, he carried it all the way. This didn't do him any harm either, as he is still thriving at 95 years of age. I was quite daunted by the fells all around me but came to love them and as I grew older I walked along the tops of many of them. During my early visits to Buttermere you barely saw a soul about especially on Sundays. I remember walking to the village one Sunday and the only thing we saw on the road was the guy on a motor bike that took newspapers to the farm. It was so different a few years ago when I last visited with folk fighting over parking space near the lake.

My ornithological memory concerns Grey Herons. I saw my first ones at Buttermere. My brother had told me that they were in the valley and when I found them I spent what seemed like half a day watching them from a distance. Grey herons were pretty special to a Geordie towny. I still think Grey Herons are special.

Just writing this makes me feel I want to visit again. The family loved the area, especially my mother who had worked in the Woman's Land Army with her twin sister in Cumbria during the war. Sadly my mother passed away last year aged 91, but she had brought me up on tales of the area and the local folk.

Buttermere is a a rugged but beautiful valley whether or not your in sunshine or under thunderous clouds, and it is very often the latter. I remember camping there and my mates and I having the only tent left standing after two days of storms. All the other campers left the valley, but we braved it out and were rewarded by a week of hot sun. Great place, great memories and I really do wonder if our paths ever did cross fifty years ago. Blimey I'm getting old!

Cheers
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2015, 20:41   #5
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Wow, very nice posts, brought back memories here of my first trip to the lakes I was 15 years old in 63 and on a school trip, we visited most of the lakes even Buttermere and walked up a lot of the mountains like Scafell Pike - Old Man of Coniston and others that I can’t remember off hand and I was in short pants and shoes with a Pac a Mac in case it rained and one teacher, I was always the first to the top and first to get to the bottom again :) loved it but some of the girls were a bit scared up them mountains but I was always there to help them :)

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Old Wednesday 1st April 2015, 06:39   #6
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Thanks folks, especially Brian; this post seems to have evoked deep memories from the Lakeland's dark waters.
Like Brian and Fixer I returned many times to the Lakes - but not Buttermere until this week, when I took my partner to see the beauty of it all.
I too have been up all the fells - except Helvellyn - though I did attempt it only to be lifted off my feet by the gale!
And yes, milk does taste better unpasteurised and straight from the cow - I remember that the farmer's herd had to be TB free (?)
The smell of cow, hay and milk (it was cooled over a corrugated metal plate before we got our jug full !) still persists in my nostrils even after all this time.
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Old Wednesday 1st April 2015, 08:13   #7
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Quote:
I too have been up all the fells - except Helvellyn
LOL H2 I've done a few too, including Helvellyn in my late teens, early twenties. Striding Edge terrified me! It's very narrow and was blowing a gale. At one point we had to get down on our knees for a bit to avoid being blown off the mountain!

Happy days.
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Old Wednesday 1st April 2015, 08:51   #8
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That beautifully encapsulated the magic of childhood.

The memory you brought back to me wasn't of the Lakes but of the warm milk. When I was a child I stayed with an aunt and uncle on Loch Arkaig. We'd go fishing for trout before breakfast, bring back the catch and fry it straight away. Afterwards we'd walk around the lake to a farm and get our day's milk straight from the "coo" (to be said with a Scottish accent). The treat was to have a glass of it while we were there, still warm and frothy :-)
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Old Wednesday 1st April 2015, 11:23   #9
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Yes, Delia, it was Striding Edge where I almost blew away. I was linking arms with everyone else, otherwise....
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Old Wednesday 1st April 2015, 11:45   #10
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Oh yes, of course, that's actually completed the snapshot memory for me H2. I was with a party of about a dozen that day, and we had to crawl to meet up with each other, then held hands to get off the Edge. I couldn't remember crawling all the way.

Cheers for that!
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