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" Loweswater Farmers Summer Trip 2016"

Date & start time: Tuesday 24th May 2016,  9 am start.

Location of Start : Mitchell's Auction Mart car park, Cockermouth, Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited : Little Salkeld Mill, Fetherstone Arms, Cannerheugh Farm and Sun Inn

Walk details :    An afternoon stroll around the farm near Renwick under Cross Fell.

Highest point :  Cannerheugh Farm 850 ft (260 m) above sea level.

With :                  Our group of fifteen including our driver.

Weather :           Lovely summer weather, blue skies and a slight breeze over the Pennines.

 

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The month of May sees the summer outing of our Loweswater Discussion Group. 

Known locally as the Loweswater Farmers, they meets fortnightly during the winter

with this extra get together in May to visit somewhere of interest to the farmers and non-farming members alike.

The big Herdwick Sheep at the Oakhurst Roundabout, Cockermouth.

A convenient meeting point for the members of the group.

[ Thanks to Mitchells for the use of their parking area during the day ]

We're on the move . . . heading east past Bassenthwaite . . . on a lovely summer morning.

Onward past Blencathra . . . the backdrop to an outdoor cinema experience I had recently.

The new film "Blencathra - life of a Mountain" was accompanied by rain and wind that night . . . one of the few wet nights in the last month.

In no time at all we were at Little Salkeld Water Mill.

We were ahead of time . . . they weren't open yet . . . so our driver went to turn and park.

- - - o o o - - -

At the top of the road was a sign to the Long Meg Stone Circle . . . what a good way to occupy this spare half hour of the day.

'Long Meg and her Daughters' is the name given to an ancient stone circle on the hill above Little Salkeld.

It is so extensive that if fills most of one of the fields of Long Meg Farm . . . we leave the bus and stretch our legs for a short while.

One of the largest stone circles in the north of England, it has a diameter of about 350 feet,

and is the second biggest of its type in the country . . . according to the Visit Cumbria website.

The stones probably date from about 1500 BC, and it was likely to have been used as a meeting place or for some form of religious ritual.

However, local legend claims that Long Meg was a witch, who with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath,

as they danced wildly on the moor. The circle is supposedly endowed with magic,

so that it is impossible to count the same number of stones twice, but if you do then the magic is broken.

Long Meg herself is a red sandstone obelisk some twelve feet high with several engraved symbols on its sides. 

The Daughters are a collection of approximately 68 other granite stones . . . I only counted them once !

How many stones can you spot in the stone circle . . . let's straighten them out and then count end-to-end . . . it's easier.

Click here or on the photo above for a Loweswatercam 360 degree annotated panorama.

 

 

The lads chat about the meaning of life . . . and farming.
No time to dance about the circle or decorate the tree.

But I did manage to gather everyone for a group photo for the day . . .

(l to r) John, Stephen, Jonty, Nick, Richard, Ian, Richard, David, Brian, Martin, William, Kenny, Ted and myself.

[ Photo kindly taken by Robert, our driver]

- - - o o o - - -

Time to make our way back down to the Water Mill and Little Salkeld

where we were met by the owner and invited on a tour of the 1750's mill.

The mill stream or leat is fed by a local river . . .
. . .  and is directed towards the two wheels on the outside of the mill.

The sluice gates can be operated from within the mill using a system of ropes and pulleys.

 

 

The first wheel is a smaller one . . .
. . . a cast iron wheel from Scotland, installed in about 1915.

The second and larger wheel also dates from this same time, about 100 years ago.

We split into two groups and inside the mill we were introduced to the milling equipment.

 

 

The internal gearing that provides the power to drive the mill wheels.
The Miller Dave (Chippy) making sure everything was working well.

An example of the types of grain used and the resultant flour created in the mill.

Phil the owner, continued our tour of the mill, offering William a sample.
Elliot, Phil's son, was packing the flour for the shops.

The grain starts its journey at the top of the building and a sack hoist lifts the raw material to the top room.

Phil engages the gear wheels and the sack hoist starts its journey upward . . .

The lifting chain passes through a trap door in the upper floor.

Here it can be fed into the hoppers that deliver the grain by gravity to the mill wheels.

 

 

One of the two wheels was open for inspection and maintenance.
Brian tries his hand at a hand mill which demonstrated the process.
   

 

 

A crusher machine to roll the grain to make flakes (porridge oats)
Some of the lovely old mechanical equipment.

The mill craft is based around the choice and quality of the grain, the skill of the miller

and the host of other equipment designed to sort, sift and prepare the various flours for sale.

- - - o o o - - -

Time to let the other seven guys see inside the mill as we adjourn to the mill cafe and shop .

An old cast iron gear wheel in the driveway.

Time for some refreshments as we sample the delights of the mill tea rooms.

It has been a really interesting visit to see how this organic grain . . .

. . . ends up as flour for the table.

For full information and to buy some of their produce on line click on their mill website here

Many thanks to Phil and Cheryl and all the staff for such a great visit.

- - - o o o - - -

Lunchtime we drove a short distance north to Kirkoswald, a small village full of character.

We called into the Fetherstone Arms . . .

Had lunch from the hand pump . . .

. . . washed down with delightful soup and sandwiches,

or should that be the other way round ?

Everybody back in the bus . . . the angle due to the road rather than the lunch.

We drive south again through Langwathby (with a few residual scarecrows passed along the way.)

A shepherd and dog in the field . . . scarecrows again.
Sheep behind the fence . . . they were real this time.

We had arrived at Cannerheugh Farm and were met by Paul and Nic, the owners of the farm.

William had only spoken to them by phone, so it was good to meet them in person.

- - - o o o - - -

The farm is an upland farm has both improved grassland and the open moorland under Cross Fell.

The weather tends to be drier than the Lake District but the location at 850ft is consistently windier

and never more so than when the famous Cross Fell Helm Wind blows through.

They have owned the farm for just over ten years and have decided to follow a breeding program in conjunction with

a company called Innovis of Aberystwyth.  Together they have developed a purposeful and measured approach to breeding

with the intention of maximising productivity yet still breed a sheep that thrives on marginal land and lamb easily outdoors.

In recent years they have been breeding by surgically implanting live embryos brought up from Aberystwyth, but now the flock is established

they will return to natural breeding in the traditional way.    Their major breed type is the Abermax, developed for easy lambing and top carcass weights.

Their sheep are now classed as a breeding flock, capable of  being sold on as pure bred Abermax sheep to other farmers.

Their routine has been to select their sheep and lambs based on regular weighing at birth, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 18 weeks, etc.

which is much easier now as all sheep are individually tagged and numbered . . . a very commercial and obviously successful way to rear sheep.

The view behind is of distant Blencathra by the way.

Walking around the farm we notice a lot of new tree planting . . .

Previous owners had planted windbreaks which continue to be very useful

but in recent years there has been a lack of new planting.

Higher up the farm is a very useable cattle shed,

but Paul and Nic have ceased to breed cattle, preferring to concentrate on the sheep.

We discussed their thoughts on sheep breed selection and how crossing the Abermax with other traditional breeds

will bring out desired characteristics for particular farms and locations.

The wall behind is partially repaired after the sheep broke through . . . a problem shared by many a farmer.

Those who recognise sheep breeds may notice an errant Herdwick amongst the flock !

They have two "lowland flocks" on the farm and run fifty or so Herdwicks on the rough pasture under Cross Fell.

These survive well and are really low maintenance as befits the ancient Herdwick. 

This year these have been crossed with another breed hence the non-Herdwick looking lambs.

We chatted about the "Woodland Trust" involvement in providing tree saplings

and the whys and wherefores of replanting hedgerows on this open landscape.

Paul and Nic are also keenly monitoring the meadow grass, often subdividing fields so as to allow one lot of grass to grow whilst feeding the sheep

on another section.  Some lower fields have also been replanted with a mixture of kale and grass to provide maximum sustainable goodness.

They are adopting organic principles as far as possible for production of grass and hopefully reducing the incidence of sheep diseases.

Nic was brought up on her parent's dairy farm and they do have cattle on the farm.

They are first or second year dairy heifers and are here most of the year, a new batch arriving from Shropshire when these depart.

They leave for the lowland farm once they are in calf and ready to start their "milking life".

" Did you say we can't stay here for ever ? "

- - - o o o - - -

We can't stay and talk forever either . . . but Paul and Nic offer welcome refreshments

while we chat just a little longer about the farm, their long term farming plans . . .

. . . the history of the place, the potential for the future . . . and what time the two daughters need picking up from school.

Any later and we'd have to use our Routledge 'school bus' to pick them up !

Big thanks to Paul . . .

and to Nic . . . who both gave us a very interesting and informative visit today.

Lots to think about . . . even for us non-farmers of the group.

- - - o o o - - -

No Farmer's Outing would be complete without an evening meal.

The Sun Inn at Red Dial (Wigton), although slightly out of the way, is very welcoming and always good value for money.

[ Sorry you'll have to make do with last year's picture as I didn't get a new photo this year !]

But I did get a picture of Williams birthday cake, brought specially by his daughter Helen who lives not far away.

Happy Birthday William . . . and thanks for all the organisation that went into making today such a success.

- - - o o o - - -

A big thanks also to Robert, our driver from Routledge Coaches

who navigated his way around impeccably, even through the many diversions on the way home.

- - - o o o - - -

 

 

Technical note: Pictures taken with my Canon 1100D Digital SLR.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . a birthday cake with a few candles.

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Previous walk - 21st May 2016 - Ravenglass Walk with Jo

A previous time up here - 8th June 2015 - Loweswater Farmers 2015

Next walk - 4th June 2016 - Coniston Challenge 2016