Hit the North was never a big fans of damsons. That is, until we spent time over Easter in Cumbria’s Lythe Valley.
Damsons are, we discovered, more than just a plum-like fruit. They’ve inspired a festival, a host of local chefs and a rather fine line in damson gin.
They are, most of all, the true taste of spring.
Read my story from the Independent here.
Damson blossoms in full bloom
It’s about time Hit the North received a knighthood. Services to Northwest tourism, maybe? Perhaps not after last Monday’s post.
Anyway, I did try my luck on a recent visit to Piel Island, a remote community of pub, castle and wildlife set adrift off the South Lakes coastline towards Morecambe Bay; see a selection of images here.
The King’s speech
As landlords of the island’s Ship Inn, Steve and Sheila Chattaway are crowned the King and Queen of Piel, a symbolism-heavy ceremony that dates back to the 15th century.
So, if anyone can make me a knight, then Steve can. But, as I found, it’s not that easy. The Knights of the Order of Piel have to earn their title through years of selfless service.
King for a day
After a day of rock pooling, shell skimming and crab collecting on Steve’s island fiefdom, I plucked up the courage to request a go on his throne.
The next morning I came down for breakfast after a night in the pub’s new B&B accommodation and readied myself for the crowning glory.
But Steve had disappeared and my hopes of a knighthood with him.
The king, it seems, had left the building.
To find out what happened next, look out for the story in the October issue of Coast magazine.
Blimey. Hit the North must have touched a nerve somewhere with Monday’s post, a wake-up call to readers after my extended hiatus.
Judging by the flurry of phone calls, emails and Twitter messages I fielded on Monday morning, this blog is not about to be consigned to the recycling bin of history anytime soon.
Thanks to everyone who did get in touch. We’re all busy and I appreciate your efforts. But what have we learnt from this – apart from some people are rather touchy about their brand yet reluctant to post a view-by-all comment on the blog?
No much so far. I’m still looking for inspiration from across the region, although an autumn visit to Lancashire is looking increasingly likely. It’s early days but I suspect this idea will turn out to be a good story.
Does anyone remember them?
Personally, I’m not bursting to read yet another top ten round up of catch-all lazy journalism, nor swooning over another nicey-nicey review of a free cream tea the writer scoffed on the way to their spa treatment.
I like reading real stories. Or is that just me?
I still think the best travel stories are not about places but the people who live in them. But they also need a bit of proper journalism, human interaction, research, a timely hook etc.
It’s easy to appear belligerent but I’m trying to be practical. So I’m planning to post some examples of recent assignments I think made good stories over the next few weeks.
Then I’ll shut up.
Waiting for the ferry at Rampside
First stop: Piel Island, Cumbria.
Get those comments ready.
First the apology: Hit the North has been quiet of late. External forces are to blame and thanks for hanging in there.
Normal service will resume from September 1st but, during August, I’m going to bring you some snippets of stories I’ve been working on while juggling numerous deadlines and various other things over the past six weeks or so.
You can read the final cut of these stories this autumn into winter. Follow me on Twitter for the URLs.
Wasdale Head Inn
On a fine day in 1930 a mild-mannered accounts clerk from Blackburn took a bus to Kendal and walked out to Orrest Head above Windermere, Cumbria.
It was a walk that would initiate a life-long affair with the Lake District, spawn a publishing phenomenon and, albeit rather unwittingly, inspire new generations of fell walkers to explore the Lakeland landscape.
I recently went to Wasdale, tucked into the remote southwestern fringe of the Lake District National Park, to mark 80 years since that first fateful walk. I was guided for the day by mountain guide Cathy Colam of Pace the Peaks.
The assignment was to tackle Haystacks, one of the Wainwright’s favourite peaks, from the Wasdale Head Inn and visit Innominate Tarn, just below the summit, where Wainwright himself chose for his ashes to be scattered.
Wainwright famously wrote:
‘For a man trying to get a persistent worry out of his mind, the top of Haystacks is a wonderful cure.’
Was it? Read the autumn issue of walk magazine for the lowdown.
Innominate Tarn, Haystacks
It’s a big year for our William: 240 years since the birth of Cumbria’s literary poster boy and 160 years since his death.
Wordsworth's grave, Grasmere
Cumbria Tourism is promoting a programme of events to mark Wordsworth’s contribution to British literature, proving that not only is Cumbria open for business, there’s also never been a better time to visit.
How apt as Cumbria strives to recover from the floods of November 2009 that his words will be resonating around the fells on St George’s Day this year – his birthday.
“The rain came heavily and fell in floods; But now the sun is rising calm and bright…” (Resolution and Independence)
I’ll be blogging more about Cumbria and Wordsworth in the months to come but, as a taster, here’s my latest feature as a wordle.
Plus there’s a link to it here and you can read more in the April issue of Heritage magazine.