Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Moorland Cottage?... on a walk to Hilltop Farm

Thanks to the Gaskell Blog which is hosting the Group Read of Moorland Cottage, I ordered a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell's short novel and am presently enjoying a visit to the countryside in Victorian England.
 The first chapter paints us a picture that reminded me very much of my trip to England's Lake District last July. According to the Gaskell blog Elizabeth Gaskell wrote this work while staying near Lake Windermere, so it is no wonder that my memories of the area kept popping up while I read her lyrical descriptions.

Most comfortable shoes ever!
 I did a lot more walking than I was used to when I was visiting England.  I had hoped to do so and thankfully had brought some comfortable walking shoes, but little did I know how grateful for them I would be.  
While staying at Lake Windermere I had expected to catch a bus to Hilltop Farm, but when I discovered I would have to wait at least an hour for the bus, I decided to walk. Uphill. For over an hour.

That may not sound like much to you heel-toe speedsters, you marathon trainers, you healthy go-getters, but to a couch potato who's bottom is usually firmly ensconced in front  of a television or computer, this little jaunt was an event of gargantuan proportions. Thankfully, we were fully able to appreciate  the beauty along the way due to the frequent rest stops. *Gasp!*
I didn't need to worry that my husband was being held up by my lack of physical fitness. He was suffering from a knee injury and wearing a knee brace to keep the swelling down, so he was even more eager to pause than I was.

 Here are Elizabeth Gaskell's directions to Moorland Cottage:

If you take the turn to the left, after you pass the lyke-gate at Combehurst Church, you will come to the wooden bridge over the brook
(Okay, so it's not a lyke-gate, but it's such a pretty picture! Can we pretend that there is a wooden bridge and a brook over there behind the hedge? hmmm?)

 Keep along the field-path which mounts higher and higher, and, in half a mile or so, you will be in a breezy upland field, almost large enough to be called a down, where sheep pasture on the short, fine, elastic turf.

  You look down on Combehurst and its beautiful church-spire.

(At least I think this was a church.) It doesn't have much of a spire though. I seem to remember it being more brown.  That is what inspired me to start singing "The Little Brown Church in the Vale". O come, come, come, come..... (Nevermind --- off on a tangent again!)

The path goes down a green abrupt descent; and in a basin, surrounded by the grassy hills, there stands a dwelling, which is neither cottage nor house, but something between the two in size. Nor yet is it a farm, though surrounded by living things.

Well, unfortunately I skipped a bit of her lovely description because I didn't have a corresponding picture. You can see a house in the distance behind the greenouse. This is my imaginary Moorland Cottage.
  At the time I took these pictures though, I was wondering if I were anywhere near Hilltop Farm (which was my ultimate destination).  I assumed it was at the top of a hill, (and I knew I was because the road sloped downhill after here) so it made sense that it must be very close.  When we stopped at the nearest pub and asked directions we discovered we had another 3 miles to go!!

I will be posting later about what we saw at Hilltop Farm, (and yes, it was worth the effort).  The only thing that would have made the walk even more worthwhile would be if I had seen a sight such as this:

He looks a bit surprised to see me!
photo courtesy of Richard Armitage Net
"Are you stalking me, Phylly?"
No! *Gasping* Honestly! It was a complete coincidence running into you like this!


mulubinba said...

Lovely post Phylly!! Thank you!!. I cant wait to see what you found at Hilltop Farm :)

Traxy said...

Beautiful surroundings and a wonderful post. Thank you! :)

JaneGS said...

Oh, this is absolutely a wonderful post. One of the things I love about Gaskell's story is her setting--I wanted to live there!--and your photos are superb, so perfectly matched to the story.

Love the RA caption :)

tyme_4_t said...

What a wonderful escape on a crazy busy day...I'd walk anywhere if I could run into Mr. Armitage!

PS...had to giggle - verification word...brudo...brood...brooding looks from RA ;)

Phylly3 said...

@mulubinba-- Thanks! But it might be Easter before I post about Hilltop Farm. :)
@Traxy, JaneGS, and tyme_4_t -- Thank you all for your kind words!

Anonymous said...

Perfect images to go with the descriptions. It must have been quite a surprise to run into Richard Armitage. ;)

Phylly3 said...

@Katherine-- Thanks so much for stopping by! Glad you like the pictures. Little did I know when I took them how they would fit into my blog! Thanks for the inspiration. I am really enjoying your blog and the Group Read!

Fanny/iz4blue said...

Just discovered this post! I've visited Windermere more than 20 yrs ago, took the ferry across the lake with rented mountain bikes.

Fanny/iz4blue said...

Had the best scones with rumbutter somewhere along the trail and never visited Beatrix cottage, I had only heard of her but not grown up with her books.

Phylly3 said...

It is so beautiful there it certainly deserves another visit.

Phylly3 said...

It's never too late to appreciate her artistry and amusing stories! I do regret not having time to visit Dove Cottage (Wordsworth's home). We stayed at a lovely B&B in Windermere. I think I will have another post about that place! ;)

Fanny/iz4blue said...

I tried with my kids, even have a Benjamin :) but they never quite connected with her stories. Looking forward to your next post! The irony for me is that I truly discovered Classic English literature after I left England!