Even horses need hugs…after a difficult dressage test this horse seems to be enjoying his hug! Dressage is a real test of control for both the horse and rider and although it seems to look effortless and easy there is a tremendous amount of work going into the combination to ensure success. In fact if you watch a dressage rider and their horse and it looks effortless then they have succeeded! It is a display of all the paces a horse needs to master including walk, trot and canter although these are just the basic paces most people associate with riding and there are many more difficult movements that the horse is required to perform including extended trot and counter canter. The rider should always remain almost static with very little movement coming from the body arms or legs, as if the horse needs no instruction and is performing the test from memory, something which the riders sometimes suffer with – memory loss half way through the test! But this combo performed to perfection, smooth flowing and rhythmical, in tandem, perfectly together, a well deserved celebratory hug!
The sun has finally made its appearance! So in honour of this rare occurance I donned my gardening gloves and ventured into the shed, located my somewhat spiderweb encrusted trowel and rake and headed into the unknown….after several minutes acclimatising to the rather strange sensation of sunshine on skin I remembered just what hard work gardening is! But it is another of my absolute passions, getting you hands dirty and breaking nails all totally worth it to see those new shoots appearing from beneath the soil, gardening is in our blood and was something my Grandfather and Grandmother all taught me about from a very young age. One particular plant is absolutely stunning at the moment, a brilliant yellow Forsythia, all sticks and shoots until 3 days ago when it burst into the most glorious of yellow flowers from top to toe! Instant Summer! The house I live in does not have the best garden, mainly due to the poor quality soil which would suit clay pottery studies better, but having toiled over it several times I now have a border that is ready to accept the first seeds of the season. Hopefully comes Summer the border will be a riot of wild flowers, playing host to bees and insects, butterflies and bugs….my neighbours even kindly donated some rooted cuttings from a fabulous climbing plant that I have admired several times, so hopefully in a few months I will be sharing some of my efforts on here! Green fingers crossed!!
The older I become the more my own mortality plays on my mind. Silly some may say as I am still relatively young, but it is something that creeps into my thoughts more and more, triggered by some song on the radio, or by the sight of another season passing you by. Someone once said ‘Youth is wasted on the Young’, maybe, for sure I couldn’t wait to be an adult and live my life my way when I was a teenager. But now I see things so differently, almost as if I’m losing my grip on the life I so wanted and yet still eludes me, all the things you set out to achieve suddenly seem so far away that you wonder if you will ever achieve them. It’s my Mum’s birthday tomorrow, I wont give away her age as she would be most upset, but every year that we celebrate becomes a reminder that my beloved parents wont always be there, a sobering thought, for something so constant, so reliable and predictable will one day be lost forever. But that is where my thoughts turn to a new way of thinking, Ive never been one for practising religion but I believe in something more than just this life, that one day I will be reunited with all the loved ones that I have lost, somehow that thought makes the anguish subside just a little. At some point in our lives we all have to let go, whether that is letting go of a past that haunts you, a deed that you regret or words that were said in the heat of a moment, or the loss of a loved one or a pet that loved you so unconditionally in return, we all hold on for as long as is humanly possible, until the time comes for letting go……….
Some may call it a ruin other may disagree, for Holyrood Abbey still stands proud all be it a shell of its former glory. Founded in 1128 by King David 1st and was the home of the Canons who came from St.Andrews, it has survived attack by the English under Edward II and was burnt by Richard II in 1305 before being restored. In the 16th century Holyrood Palace was added by James IV but only a single tower remains of this addition and the palace that you see today was built by Charles II in 1670. In 1547 most of the main buildings, including the choir, lady chapel, and transepts of the church were destroyed by the commissioners of the English Protector Somerset, and 20 years later followers of John Knox destroyed the interior of the church in a Protestant frenzied attack. On July 22, 1565, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots married her cousin Lord Darnley in the Holyrood Abbey church, and just a year later her Italian secretary and suspected lover, David Rizzio, was murdered by her jealous husband and friends in the stairwell of the palace royal apartments. A plaque – and a bloodstain still visible on the floor – marks the spot where Rizzio died. For all its history it is still a place of inspiration, the workmanship of those who laboured to create it still evident and an atmosphere still hangs around its ruined stones, thought provoking and haunted yet calming and welcoming to those who find themselves stood at its heart.
I wrote recently about my travels across one of the most testing of Lakeland roads, the Hardknott Pass. I could’nt continue my blog without sharing some of the spectacular views that can be enjoyed at it’s highest point of 1289ft, views that would have been seen through the eyes of the Roman soldiers and generals that occupied the fort in the 2nd Century during Hadrians rule. There are substantial walls still remaining and the general layout can be clearly distinguished, from the grain stores that fed the garrisons, the Commanders quarters and the main gate into the Fort. Standing within these walls you feel the atmosphere that lingers, the remoteness of its location, how isolated must those soldiers have felt, far removed from their loved ones and homes far away on warmer shores. The hardship of existence over the seasons, the boredom that must have been mind numbing, military training combined with raw survival, the prospect of battles ahead and a longing for the comforts of loved ones and a Mediterranean summer. Depression and anxiety must have been rife among these men, many of whom never made it home, a road to nowhere for so many, an existence suffered, yet I took my photos, breathed in the air and saw beauty all around.
Travelling across the Cumbrian Mountain range through the beautiful Lake District National Park from East to West I was en route to Wast Water Lake (see post 41 Day 250), nestled below Scafell Pike. There are limited routes to access Wast Water and so I took the decision to travel one of the most testing roads the Lake District has to offer – with the exception of off-roading off course – the infamous HardKnott Pass. At first you would barely know that you were about to have your driving skills tested to the max, it lulls you into a false sense of security, an quiet country B road with its hedgerows pleasantly pass you by, turning right over an old pack horse bridge and a breathtaking view toward the Langdale valley, the thought runs through your head, well this is easy! How wrong, within seconds you are driving up a very steep incline, the road narrowing to nothing more than a farm track, the walls falling away either side and the breathtaking views now replaced by heart-stopping sheer drops to both sides. The engine strains and you automatically ease off the accelerator and hover over the brakes! The twists & turns come fast and sharp, loose shingle on the road where evasive action has lead to previous vehicles leaving the road and coming to a halt at the edge of a drop, skid marks warn of the prospect of vehicles appearing from beyond the ridge ahead middle of the road and with nowhere to go other than to reverse back to a pull-in, not a good idea when the road behind is like a snake, undulating and unforgiving. After many minutes (which feels like hours) you are focused yet exhausted, adrenalin has kicked in and your grip on the steering wheel has caused your hands to turn clammy! The decent is almost as terrifying as the accent, brakes glow hot but at least you have a clear view ahead and can plot your route. Just as the road levels out, still at altitude, you are blessed with a distraction, HardKnott Roman Fort, an amazing example of a Roman encampment high in the mountains, perfectly positioned from attack, perfectly positioned for power, yet inhospitable and testing conditions for anyone to survive in, Summer here is unrelenting and brings little relief from other seasons. After a break I am refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the drive into the Eskdale Valley, a welcoming place of peace and tranquility after the drama of Hardknott Pass. (If you view the image full size, zoom in and follow the road from the bottom of the image right up until it ends at the top of the valley, you will see a vehicle making its decent from the ridge, this is only a small section of the pass & prior to this you have already tackled higher more frightening sections!)
If I could look upon a single scene everyday for the rest of my life I would choose this place, Wast Water, high in the fells of the Lake District. Wast water is a remote area of stunning beauty, I use the word stunning as that is the feeling you have upon first casting your eyes on this place. I remember so well driving through the lanes as they became smaller and more uneven, cattle grids interrupting the drive and the sensation that your wing mirrors were so close to the dry stone walls, that the slightest deviation from the centre of the road would lead to certain removal of said mirrrors! But, that moment when I drove over another cattle grid and passed the National Trust sign for Wast Water I took such a gasp of breath and promptly stopped the car, walked several paces and simply stood in awe at the view before me . The sheer height of the scree covered slopes rising almost vertically from the deepest darkest waters to touch the crystal skies, the contrast to the flat grassy outcrops manicured by the weather, the far shores framed by the rising majesty of Kirk fell, Red Pike, Great Gable and of course the most celebrated of Lakeland peaks Scafell Pike, Englands highest mountain. No written word could convey that feeling on that day in that place. Beauty yet a sense of foreboding combined in a single landscape, pleasure and pain await the cocky conqueror of its peaks, a place where first you loose your breath and then your heart.