Category Archives: Historic ramblings

Copt Howe boulder-A

Beneath the tree to the left is a group of large boulders of volcanic ash deposited by glaciers at the end of the last ice age. It stands between Great Langdale Beck and the road that leads west to the axe factory at the Pike of Stickle, amongst the Langdale Pikes seen in the distance. On the eastern face of the rock are a complex series of carvings that consist of several groups of concentric rings with some linear grooves and groups of micro-cups.


What is amazing is that despite the fact that the boulder is popular with climbers and the whole area popular with walkers and holiday makers these late Neolithic or Bronze Age carvings were not recognised as such until as recently as 1999.

(Gavin Parry 2003)
It is thought that this site was linked in some way with the nearby axe factory; the Langdale Beck valley would have made an easy route eastwards for the transportation of the axe blanks and it could even be the case that the carvings represent a stylised map of the peaks and features of the area.


Phil’s painting of the boulder is currently on display until 6th September at the     Lake Artists summer exhibition, at The New Hall, Grasmere.


Metal leaf, coloured ink and beeswax on watercolour paper.


England after the rain

In 2005 Carlisle was unexpectedly hit by devastating floods and 1600 properties were affected directly. Many householders lost everything and when the water subsided, every home affected had a skip outside. It took some over a year  before they were able to return and then on 5th December 2015, when those same residents were preparing to celebrate Christmas, they were flooded out again in the aftermath of storm Desmond’s record breaking rainfall. This time 2100 properties were inundated.

Carlisle is at the confluence of three major rivers, the Rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril, and is therefore highly prone to flooding. The city has a long history of flooding with notable floods in 1771, 1822, 1856, 1925, 1968 and more recently in 2005. The 2015 flood level on the River Eden was 0.6m higher than in 2005.


The 1/8 scale model pictured, is a work in progress and is being created by Phil for C-Art Cumbrian Artist of the Year 2017. Note the logo on the side of the skip which is the alchemy symbol for gold rising  out of the alchemy symbol for water. It resembles a cocktail glass. Some did undoubtedly profit from the misfortune of others.

The prophesy shown above was on the front page of the 2005 Cumberland News souvenir edition. Today, some properties still have a skip outside. Some homeowners have left for good, their houses up for sale or sold at auction.

On Dancing Ledge

Back when we lived in Dorset, one of our favourite spots for dog walking was Dancing Ledge. It was quite a hike across fields and then down a very steep path and further down a very steep scramble onto the ledge itself. For this reason, you can often have the place to yourself and on this occasion, Phil took a trip there on his bike, just because.

Dancing Ledge is one of the many quarries in the region worked for the Purbeck limestone, which was used for building work here as well as much further afield. Some of the stone removed by the quarrying was transported by ship direct from Dancing Ledge, round the south coast to Kent in order to construct Ramsgate harbour in the 18th and 19th.

A swimming pool refreshed naturally by the tide was blasted into the rock for the use of local preparatory schools, sometime near the beginning of the twentieth century. The last surviving school (The Old Malthouse in Langton Matravers, which closed in 2007) and one of the schools for which the pool was originally created recently arranged for debris, including several large rocks, to be removed, making swimming possible once again. The sea itself is not suitable for swimming, as there is no shoreline, simply a rock shelf under which people have been pulled by the current to their deaths.

The stone in this part of the Dorset coast was laid down in layers, or beds, over the course of many millions of years. Kimmeridge Clay was the first layer to form, during the late Jurassic geological period and the Portland Sands were laid down on top of this, with the Portland Beds on top again.

Fossilised Ammonite on the ledge

After this, in the early Cretaceous period – approximately 155 million years ago – the Lower Purbeck Beds were deposited in shallow seas, brackish lagoons and freshwater. From fossils found in these rocks, geologists and palaeontologists have been able to work out that shellfish, shrimps and insects lived around the swampy marshlands at that time. Later, there were fish, amphibians and reptiles; and after them came the Purbeck Mammals. Over 100 different species of small vertebrates have been found in fossils in the Purbeck Beds, most of them the size of a shrew or a rat.

‘On Dancing Ledge’ Dorset. 2011   Raw silk, metal leaf, plaster and oil on oak panel. The oak had been taken to the ledge by someone to be used as kindling. They failed to light the fire. The swimming pool is on the left of the lower shelf being refreshed by an incoming tide.

This special place provided inspiration for others too….

HEARTS TOGETHER-  by John Betjeman

How emerald the chalky depths
Below the Dancing Ledge!

We pulled the jelly-fishes up

And threw them in the hedge

That with its stones and sea-pink tufts

Ran to the high cliff edge.
And lucky was the jelly-fish

That melted in the sun

And poured its vitals on the turf

In self-effacing fun,

Like us who in each other’s arms

Were seed and soul in one.
O rational the happy bathe

An hour before our tea,

When you were swimming breast-stroke, all

Along the rocking sea

And, in between the waves, explain’d

The Universe to me.
The Dorset sun stream’d on our limbs

And scorch’d our hinder parts:

We gazed into the pebble beach

And so discussed the arts,

O logical and happy we

Emancipated hearts.
(Poor little jelly-fish!)

Summing up!

I recently had the pleasure of working at ‘Our Lady and St Wilfrid’s Church’ Warwick bridge Carlisle.

It is the only church in Cumbria  designed by Augustus Pugin. The building was completed in 1841 with a construction cost of £2,586. The church is currently undergoing major renovations with the aid of a National Lottery grant in the order of £240.000.

During a brief delay in the re-Installation of two stained glass panels (the stonemason making some sizing adjustment to the new sandstone cill), I took the opportunity to take a couple of snaps of the interior with my phone.

The Palace of Westminster was designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. Building work began in 1840 originally estimated to take six years and cost £700.000 it was formally opened in 1852. The building work wasn’t  finished until 1870 when the clock tower housing the bell ‘Big Ben’ was finally completed. The construction cost was closer to £2000,000.

Recent proposals for much needed renovation work to The Palace of Westminster have suggested a 32 year rolling program of work with an estimate of £5.7 bn. If the work was to run over 40 years the cost would rise to £7.1 bn. 

Face Time

The river Eden at Armathwaite flows through a sandstone gorge. The sandstone is actually fossilised sand dunes formed 250 million years ago when this area was a hot desert.The towering cliffs have five faces, a salmon and a poem (a corruption of ‘The compleat angler’ by Izaak Walton 1653) carved into them. The carving of the poem is thought to be the work of a Victorian gentleman, William Mounsey and dated 1855. The faces, one of which is represented in the church window (see ‘Return to Eden’ post in ‘stained glass’ category) are thought to be considerably earlier.

The faces are only accessible when the river level is very low and a spirt of adventure and the possibility of an ‘early bath’ should be given some consideration.






Bob, the proprietor of our village shop Eden Stores is looking to sell postcards of Armathwaite and so Phil took these photographs on a blazing hot spring day (25c !) last week.

Seeing red

Not too far away from us is a small village called Askham. Phil was over there having a look at some unusual windows in the church of St Peter, built 1832 next to the river Lowther. Luckily he had the camera to hand.





“Rear Window”

At the top of a tall tree in the church yard was this little fellow….. Once again the Sony has come into its own; the photograph below was taken hand-held at full 100x digital zoom.



Red squirrels are on the decline in this country. There’s quite a large colony of them on Brownsea Island in Dorset where we used to live but in the five years we’ve lived in Armathwaite we have only caught a brief glimpse of one and didn’t have the camera to catch the moment.


Grey Yauds & King Harry’s Stone

A short distance away from us near Broomrigg is a fell known as King Harry Fell or King Harry Common. An article written in 1906 by THB Graham noted that ‘not many years ago, there existed one of those rude circles of stones which never fail to awaken in our minds a lively sense of wonder.’


Chris ….. “I wonder where it is?”

It is known locally as Grey Yauds or Grey Mares, Yauds being an old Cumbrian word for  mares. In documentation from 1777 it is described as ‘consisting of 88 pretty large sparry stones, set nearly in an exact circle of about 52 yards diameter; and one single stone, larger than the rest, stood out of the circle about 5 yards to the north West’.
In later accounts they were described as ‘granite stones lying in the middle of a dark and dreary waste, and being comparatively small, the largest not exceeding 4 feet in height, but nevertheless distinguishable from a distance’.


A dark and dreary waste


There are further descriptions later in 1882 by a Rev G Rome Hall who found the number of stones ‘now much reduced, by the supposed necessities of agriculture; the stones having been broken up and used for the adjoining field walls.’

The locals of the time said that King Harry once pitched his camp here and that he used the large stone to help him mount his horse. However, the stone is over 6 feet high and as far as we know, no Kings named Henry who lived before 1268 ever came to these parts although it is known that Henry II as a youth of 16 was knighted 10 miles away at Carlisle in 1148, by David King of Scots.


King Harry’s Stone

Prior to visiting the site, Graham made further enquiries with the locals and although they had heard of the place known as Grey Yauds, none of them could recall a stone circle being there. What he found at the site was a solitary block of stone, standing at a point marked on his OS map as a dot and ‘stone circle’ but this had entirely disappeared. He did note the foundation of the wall along the western end of the pasture was formed of ‘large blocks of sparry granite’, and concluded these to be the old grey stones or their fragments.

Keen to preserve what was left, he proposed that the stone should be fenced ‘to prevent damage by cattle or irresponsible persons who carve their initials into the stone.’ When he mentioned this to a local resident, the suggestion was laughed at and Graham noted ‘such is the mind of the average rustic, and so wanting in imagination, that he actually appraises these venerable relics of a bygone age at their value for road metal!’