A rock and a soft place


FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Driving to the Furness peninsula to say our goodbyes to family and friends. Suddenly, as we’re joining the M6 at junction 38, the sun breaks through low clouds and patches of emerald shimmer on fellsides. Familiar ridges appear through cracks in mist and broad fields are washed with vivid colours. This is one of my favourite places on Earth – the Tebay Gorge, the divide between the Howgill Fells and the Lake District mountains. Houses in Tebay reflect warm sunlight. The River Lune sparkles. There are sheep in the meadows and, somewhere, cows in the corn. And I get emotional and think: why am I leaving this? I’ve driven these roads hundreds of times. I know almost every inch of these fells, have climbed every summit, know the names of their becks, their crags and their gills. Then I think: perhaps I’ve answered my own question. Perhaps I need something new . . .

FRIDAY NIGHT: Askam-in-Furness, a post-industrial settlement on the Duddon estuary, is where I emerged into this world and where my family still live. I wander through fields of hay and buttercups with my granddaughter and my mother’s border collie, hoping to capture a memorable picture of Black Combe.

Black Combe is Lakeland’s most southerly fell and it dominates the Duddon estuary. It’s part of my life. As I wait for its cap of cloud to disperse, an old British Rail Deltic growls past on the Cumbrian coastal line pulling four coaches and a second Deltic. This pleases me no end because I’ve just used a picture of a Deltic on my introductory blog post. I’m two posts in, and already a theme has developed. Might be a challenge to maintain in Spain, mind.

this2SATURDAY NIGHT: Taking more shots of Black Combe, this time looking across the Duddon estuary from my mother’s garden as the sun sets. Getting nostalgic again over a lump of rock. The Scafells, Harter Fell, Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags, Dow Crag and the Old Man hide behind a bank of cloud. Only Black Combe is visible.

The easiest thing in the world would be to stay here and gaze at its slopes for the rest of my life, watching cloud shadows drift across swelling landscape. But I’m off to live in Spain. Black Combe will still be here when I return. It’s been around for 500 million years. It’s not going anywhere. Not in a hurry, anyway.

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11 thoughts on “A rock and a soft place

  1. I imagine the nostalgia will all disappear when you feel the warmth of that Spanish sun on your new (?) door! The paint may be flaking so you’d better find a brush & some paint & start that settling in thing we all do. You mentioning Tebay set me remembering something from years ago when we lived in St.Albans in Hertfordshire. I signed up to a weekend map reading course in Tebay which included walks on the Howgill Fells. I drove my battered old Fiat Panda (did I really have to admit that?) the 250 miles to the hostelry there & had a great time. Over dinner on the first evening I said to the man (one of the guides for the course) sitting opposite “don’t I know you?” “Don’t think so” said the man at which point I realised he lived just around the corner from my house in St.Albans! What a small world!


    1. Hi Ash. That’s a good tale. There’s almost a short story in that one.
      I have already (and I feel slightly embarrassed admitting this) packed the paint rollers and brushes in the back of the van – not that I’m an ardent decorator, it’s more that I’m a tight sod and didn’t want to throw them out and then buy new ones over there.
      Cheers, Alen


  2. Re-visiting those places must have made it very hard to leave but I can see you wouldn’t have wanted to without seeing them again first.

    I love Deltics and didn’t know any were still in use (also love Type 37s).


    1. Carol, I didn’t realise you were a Deltic fan. I love them too. Also, I didn’t realise they were still in service until that one chugged by on Friday night. Apparently, they are in regular use on the Cumbrian coastal line, hauling passenger services.
      Cheers, Alen


      1. I’ll have to quiz Richard about that – he’s a train buff. I’ll ask him why he didn’t tell me where I could go and watch some. I often watch the 37s on the West Highland line – we call at Fort William station quite often to see them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Next time you start to feel these pangs of homesickness and ‘are we doing the right thing’ thoughts would it help if we chuck in a few ‘here’s what’s happening in Britain while you’re gone’ observations? Just to balance out the withdrawal symptons.

    eg Black Combe, yes, but Iain Duncan Smith is on the telly again…


        1. That bloody Macmillan. He’s never had it so good.
          We heard about Val Doonican. Good job we didn’t pinch the rocking chair or we’d have looked like the Clampetts driving through France.
          Cheers, Alen


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