A thirteenth century church, an equally ancient castle ruin, miles and miles of green pastureland outlined by ancient stone walls and worse weather than Belgium can only describe one place I know of: England’s spectacular Lakes District just south of Scotland. I spent a few days with friends there recently; there is a lot to love about the Lakes District. Except the weather.
Did I mention the weather? Here is a snippet of a conversation heard a few days before my return home to relatively-sunny-Belgium:
“So, did you see the sun break through yesterday?”
“‘Twas about three in the afternoon, I think it was. ‘Bout five minutes. I put on me shorts.”
Not a lot of exaggeration, really. Maybe a little. About the shorts, probably.
Nevertheless, the wet weather makes for some very green countryside and early daffodils. And lambs. It was lambing time. If you read my other blog, What Living Feels Like, you know I’m vegetarian, and lambs are way too cute to eat even if I weren’t. Did you know lambs are often born in pairs? Twice the cuteness!
Honestly, is there anything cuter than a lamb? Well, yes, twin lambs butting heads!
The fifteenth century church is called Holy Trinity. It boasts an unusually wide nave, one of the widest in all of England, and it is very impressive both from the exterior and interior. It sits beside the Kent River on a very picturesque parcel of land called Kirkland, naturally. While it began as a Catholic Church in the thirteenth century, it is no longer. As you probably know, Henry VIII took over all the country’s churches and now it is part of the Church of England, and so of course, is Anglican.
The Parr family, from whom came Catherine, the last wife of aforementioned Henry VIII, was pivotal in the community during the Church’s early life. Thus there is a Parr Chapel in the church. Some of the Parr family is said to be buried in the church, as was the custom in those days. In fact a lot of the burials are very interesting, dating from hundreds of years ago. Sometimes you can even read about the life of the deceased person.
I was especially taken with some of these rememberances. One tells the sorrowful story of a young and highly respected lawyer’s demise; he left a disconsolate widow and six children, the second oldest of whom lost her life only a year later. The image of the memorial is below.
Did you know that many Anglican churches have angels flying around them? Beautiful, painted angels adorn the ceiling. They are all different! You also know I’m a fan of stained glass, and some of the windows here are worthy of a glance or two.
If you visit, there will likely be a nice lady who will greet you and give you a flyer in your choice of one of a number of different languages. Be nice to her; her day can be very monotonous. Here’s a challenge: make her laugh once.
Kendal Castle occupies an imposing position on the highest point overlooking the town. There isn’t much left of it, but what remains is fascinating and getting there makes for an interesting and mildly challenging walk from the town. The ruins date from the 1200’s and belonged to the Barons of Kendal: the Parr family. They actually lived in the castle, along with a lot of other people who helped make their day-to-day lives easier. I suspect the lives of all were pretty difficult, as life in the Middle Ages was for everyone.
The site has been thoroughly studied and there are well-done signs here and there that explain the different parts of the remains as well as what once stood in different spots. You can easily see parts of a fireplace and a “garderobe”‘ which includes the Middle Age’s answer to a toilet: a hole in the floor that opened to the moat below.
Probably the most interesting for me was the location of the apparently original well that supplied the site with water. I love imagining the people digging that well with their primitive tools, and the excitement when they found water and knew the hardest part of the chore was done.
You can walk all the way around the castle site, as well as inside the courtyard and the castle remains. The views from all around are stunning. You can see into Kendal from one side and into the countryside from the other. The surrounding trees are home to quite a lot of birds, and your walk will reward you with birdsong. Do be careful, though, as the ground can be quite spongy and you’re liable to end up at least once on your backside in the wet grass, as I might’ve done. I’m not saying I did or I didn’t. But I might’ve done. Wink-nod-eye roll.
Kendal proper is a mostly modern small city with nice amenities. My friends attend concerts, swim, walk, shop, go to church, the doctor and really everything else they might want to do as a retired international couple (he English, she American) without leaving the town limits. Kendal is a welcoming place to make a home, especially if you don’t mind the sparce sunshine. As a tourist destination, nothing special except as a gateway to the Lakes. If you want to read more about this beautiful area and see some photos of the lovely lakes, check out the post I wrote a few years ago.