Allison Doherty
Allison Doherty - Home

Allison Doherty - About

Allison Doherty - Portfolio

Allison Doherty - Travels Essays and Photos
 
Allison Doherty - England 2016 Travel Journal and Photos
My trip to England’s Lake District encompassed two pilgrimages. Firstly, I explored areas beloved by Beatrix Potter (BP), who is best known for her children's books featuring animals, but who was also keenly interested in land preservation. My sister, Jenifer, would join me for numerous walks through countryside which BP had a hand in preserving. Secondly, through my association with a Quaker school, I was a participant on a Quaker Pilgrimage led by a representative of Friends Council on Education. Assisted by British Quakers in the area, our group accessed sites significant to Quaker heritage and gained a broader sense of Quakerism. Departing from the US in July, with temperatures approaching 90, it was hard to think about long sleeved tops, pants, fleece, and rain gear but the Lake District is the rainiest part of the UK and temperatures there were hovering around 58. My sister’s flight was delayed and as a result, she would unfortunately miss the first day of our trip. So, after settling into Tower Bank Arms, a 17th-century inn and pub located in Near Sawrey, I pulled out my copy of “Walking with Beatrix Potter” to choose a late afternoon walk. If you’re a BP fan, you will recognize Tower Bank Arms from the opening pages of “The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck,” with its distinctive slate-covered entryway with clock. My room overlooked the “main street” of the tiny village, as well as green hills and winding stone walls. After a preliminary wander around the area, I returned and had my supper in front of the immense fireplace. As the only pub in the village, Tower Bank Arms is a gathering place for both visitors and locals, and it was challenging to follow the thick Cumbrian and Scottish accents. Near Sawrey is located on what everyone calls “the back side of the lake” (referring to the west side of Lake Windermere) and, therefore, not an easy destination. Indeed, accounts involving missing (or nearly missing) the last ferry or local bus to “the back side” seemed to be a popular story line and, over pints of locally-brewed brown ale, I learned that they both stopped running around 5 pm.
BP’s original home, Hill Top, is located just behind the inn and the next day celebrated the 70th anniversary of the National Trust taking possession of it. Large crowds were expected and a field was being readied as an extra car park to hold the overflow. I had a short journey from Tower Bank Arms, just through the garden gate, and intended to depart Hill Top before it became crowded, but was hindered by the sudden appearance of a woman dressed in a wool suit, wearing rustic wooden clogs and a broad-brimmed hat, who began greeting visitors. For an instant, it seemed BP had materialized, but then I remembered the celebration! Many people do not realize that, because of the prolific successes of her “little books,” BP became a very wealthy woman. (Peter Rabbit, along with all his animal friends, was among twenty-four hand-illustrated stories that were turned not only into books, but puzzles, games and wallpaper.) Concerned about the threat of tourist development already underway in other parts of the Lake District, BP began purchasing land, upwards of 8,000 acres, particularly farmland. She restored and preserved the farms, and employed knowledgeable farmers to continue to run them, thus insuring that agrarian life remained exactly as she knew it in the early 1900’s. She brought back native Herdwick sheep to the area and supported the efforts of the National Trust (in its formative years during her lifetime) to preserve not only places of extraordinary beauty but also farmland that would be irreparably ruined by development. Upon her death at age 77, BP left all her property to the National Trust, and is credited with preserving much of what now constitutes the Lake District National Park. One can’t help but wonder how she would feel about the crush of visitors to Hill Top every year!
Jen arrived later that day and we lost no time in exploring Near Sawrey’s narrow lanes, walking past lovely farms with sheep in every pasture, in light that lasted past ten o’clock at night. We followed a dirt track, through woods thick with ferns and wild foxglove, which led us to a tarn* high in the hills with wonderful views of peaks and valleys beyond, and admired the many styles of gates and gate latches we saw along the ubiquitous stone walls, the latter of which provoked conversation on every bus ride. With only inches to spare whenever the bus encountered on-coming traffic, we passengers held our collective breath as the drivers squeaked by one another with no damage to stone wall or vehicle. The weather co-operated and we enjoyed sunny days with little rain. One afternoon, after taking the ferry back to “the other side” we decided to return to Near Sawrey via the footpath which began at Ferry House. Enroute, we explored the Claife Viewing Station, overlooking Lake Windermere, which had been used for parties and dances in the 1830’s and 40’s. Now in partial ruins, the building once included windows of colored glass, devised to allow patrons the experience of viewing the lake under different seasonal conditions: yellow created a summer landscape, orange an autumn one, light green for spring, dark blue for moonlight, and so on. When undergoing renovation, the National Trust reinvented this idea by providing colored viewing glasses to gaze through. Passing through Far Sawrey, we stopped for a half pint at The Cuckoo Brow Inn (built in 1800 and recently restored) just as they were beginning to light the fireplaces. Pressing on, we reached Near Sawrey just in time for dinner.
At ten and a half miles long, Lake Windermere is England's largest lake and effectively divides the Lake District in half. After blissfully quiet days on “the back side of the lake,” we decamped to the “other side of the lake” for our remaining time together. We adjusted to life in Ambleside, a large, bustling town situated at the head of Lake Windermere, where we enjoyed globally influenced choices for dinner but missed the locally brewed ales from “the other side.” The weather turned and, in pouring rain, we mistakenly caught a bus heading in the wrong direction and serendipitously happened upon the Rushbearing Festival in Grasmere. The road was impassable due to a parade and we jumped off the bus in time to watch it. Led by a boisterous, colorful band, and followed by clergy, the parade ushered a group of solemn girls into an ancient church. Dressed in green pinafores and flower-bedecked hats, the girls carried a white sheet filled with grasses destined to cover the floor of the church, a custom dating back to the days when the original earthen floor was covered with straw for warmth.
On our last day together, Jen and I followed directions given by our B & B’s hostess and headed out of town on a wonderful walk that took most of the day. In changeable weather, we passed through numerous picturesque villages whose inns and public houses dated from the 17th century, followed beautiful stone-walled farm lanes with ancient bridges crossing swiftly running rivers and forces**, hiked through wooded areas adjacent to an old slate mine, and roamed through pastures, all the while following a public footpath leading to something called Dungeon Ghyll. We weren’t sure what this was, but the name intrigued us, along with a few others. We eventually learned the meaning of several words which were Old Norse in origin, originating from Vikings who had settled in the north of England:
beck / stream; dale / valley; fell / hill or mountain; force** / waterfall; ghyll / ravine;
howe / rounded hill; mere / lake; thwaite/ a clearing in the woods; tarn* / small mountain lake
Dungeon Ghyll, then, was a ravine on the north side of the Langdale Pikes (or the Langdales, as the locals call this section of fells and dales, very popular with walkers). It seemed like the “back of beyond” out here and, as it was getting late, we had just enough time to celebrate the end of our walk with a pint at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel before catching the last bus back to Ambleside. The bus waited for walkers who were hurrying off the fells, as no one wanted to miss it! After a full day’s walk, it was hard to believe we were back in town in half an hour. Jen and I parted ways, she heading to Manchester Airport and me moving on to the Quaker Pilgrimage.
Ensconced now in the beautifully situated Glenthorne Quaker Center in Grasmere, I learned that Easedale Road, on which Glenthorne was located, was named for the upper valley of Easedale and literally on the other side of Dungeon Ghyll! Had we been in possession of an ordinance map and more time, my sister and I might have walked from Dungeon Ghyll up over the fells to Easedale. At Glenthorne, I met a group of Quakers, and educators from Quaker schools, who were gathered together to explore the roots of the Religious Society of Friends in England. Many of us, I discovered, enjoyed walking and after dinner the first evening, I joined others walking from Glenthorne who were eager to explore the path that led to Easedale. Sour Milk Force tumbled down in torrential waterfalls right beside the path, and we immediately fell under the spell of this area. The next morning, our bus approached Pendle Hill (in Lancashire), whose great height loomed ahead, and which we intended to climb. As we gathered our packs and walking sticks, a centering silence prevailed as we recalled our intention to follow in the footsteps of the man credited with organizing the Quaker religion. In 1652, itinerant minister George Fox felt moved to climb to the top of Pendle Hill, where he envisioned a religion of “personal experience requiring no intermediaries” (such as clergy). At that time, Pendle Hill was regarded as a wild and lawless region associated with witchcraft. No one climbed Pendle Hill for fun, so as Fox began to explain his theory of man’s direct access to God, the rural country people assembled before him listened with great interest. He won many like-minded supporters of his ideas, who became known as the Religious Society of Friends, otherwise called Quakers, so-called because they “trembled at the word of God.”
The ascent of Pendle Hill was not an easy job for Fox or, indeed, for many of the pilgrims on this trip. It took the better part of two hours for the group to climb the rocky hill, with younger pilgrims helping a few of the older ones. At the summit, we surveyed the spot where Fox had his vision of a “great people gathered, united by faith,” and understood why he had chosen Pendle Hill: from its height we could see the Yorkshire Dales and the distant peaks of the Cumbrian Mountains, the highest in England. We ate our lunch on a less-windy side of the hill and then slowly made the descent. We visited several 17th century Meeting Houses, among them Sawley, Brigflatts, and Colthouse (where it is documented that Beatrix Potter was an attendee. Although not a Quaker, her biographers maintain she was attracted to the simplicity and silence of Quaker worship.) We explored Fox’s “pulpit” at Firbank Fell, a natural amphitheater created by an outcropping of boulders, where he had preached to more than a thousand people for over three hours, and toured Swarthmoor Hall, the home of Judge Thomas and Margaret Fell which played a role in the growing Quaker movement. Fox visited Swarthmoor in 1652 while Thomas was away but had an audience with Margaret, who became interested in his new doctrines; over the next six years, Swarthmoor Hall became a center of Quaker activity. After Thomas Fell’s death in 1658, George Fox married Margaret. In 1664 she was arrested for allowing Quaker Meetings to be held in her home and jailed in Lancaster Prison until 1668. During her imprisonment she began to write of equality of the sexes in all matters and based her thoughts in Quaker beliefs, a woman far ahead of her time. We were given a tour of gloomy Lancaster Prison, whose origins date to the 12th century, where it was terrifying to think of George and Margaret incarcerated for long periods in very bleak, dark and damp conditions. We were escorted through a trial court still used today; the dungeon, which held a number of horrors; and through modern prison cells, in use until quite recently as Her Majesty’s Prison. Afterwards, we walked to Lancaster Meeting House, where we were offered refreshments prior to gathering in their modern worship room.
We had a day off and the group scattered in many directions. I took a bus and then followed the path to Castlerigg Stone Circle, thought to have been built by pre-historic farming communities some 4,500 years ago, and possibly used as a place to negotiate the movement of animals into the higher grazing lands that surround the circle. Because visitors were chipping off flakes of stones as souvenirs, it became one of the first archeological sites to be protected by the National Trust. Later that day, I visited the comprehensive Armitt Museum, to which Beatrix Potter willed an extensive collection of her books, fungi drawings and other memorabilia. After re-grouping the following morning, our last bus ride was to view the Quaker Tapestries, 77 individual panels which illustrate the history of Quakerism from the 17th century to the present day. These colorful pieces were made by 4,000 men, women and children from 15 countries between 1981 and 1996 and are permanently exhibited in Kendal Meeting House. A celebration of Quaker life and events across the centuries, they portray the industrial revolution, banking, famine aid, developments in science and medicine, astronomy, the abolition of slavery, social reform, work camps, service overseas, opposition to war, and ecology, among others. A link to view all of them is https://www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk/museum/tapestry-panels/. Our final evening at Glenthorne found us gathered as pilgrims for the last time to discuss highlights of the trip and meditate on a poem entitled “For the Traveler,” by John O’Donohue. Travel had been important to him and excerpts resonated: “Every time you leave home, another road takes you into a world you were never in….May you travel in an awakened way…that you may not waste the invitations which wait along the way to transform you…”
Back to TRAVELS page
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
 
Allison Doherty Travel Photos - England, 2016
Back to TRAVELS page

 A L L I S O N  D O H E R T Y   |   516.759.2533   |   info@allisondoherty.com
Copyright 2011.  All rights reserved.  No images may be copied or used for any purpose without the consent of the artist.
Site design and maintenance:  jeniferdoherty.com