Friday, May 31, 2013

Knitting across England - Day 8

We took a small detour today into the town of Muker to visit the Swaledale woolen mill. This small shop is home to the cottage industry of hand  knitters from the area.  It is credited with helping the economy survive years ago when lead mining ended in the dale. Inside there are lovely hand knit sweaters, socks, and mittens made from the local Swaledale sheep. There are also some sweaters made from Wensleydale and Welsh Mountain wool that is also raised nearby. 

The sweaters are beautiful and reasonably priced. Too bad there is not an inch of space in my backpack. 

I enjoy learning of the industry of the women. When a crisis hits they come together and find a way to keep their families and the community afloat. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Knitting across England - Day 7

Today we slogged across the peat bogs for about 15 miles. It was so nice to arrive at our B&B that had a huge drying room where our boots could dry out for the next day of travels. 

We stayed in a very comfortable place where everyone including the locals congregate in the lounge to talk and play games into the evening. We spoke with a local sheep farmer and his wife. He raises mostly Swaledale sheep.  He told us that the sheep will often come up to a person if they hear the rattle of a plastic bag.  They think they are going to be fed. That makes sense because when we were eating lunch on the moors that afternoon, we were unwrapping a cellophane package and two sheep came curiously close to us.

Knitting across England - Day 6

One of the treats of the walk is getting to know the other hikers who are along the path. Today we caught up with Andrew, a man from Canada, a woman from Germany, and two women from the US.   We walked together the last ten miles.

I spoke with Diana, who used to own a sheep farm in Vermont. She told me she started raising sheep because her mother was a hand spinner.  Her flock quickly grew from the one or two pet sheep to several hundred.  I shared with her my experience of a hobby getting out of control when I first wanted to learn how to spin.  I told my family it would just be a small handspindle and a bit of fluff. Who would have thought that several years later I would need to move to another home with a full basement to "try" to contain all this spinning hobby has produced!

Knitting across England - Day 5

Today's walk is known as the toughest length is the journey. It is 16.5 miles and it goes up about 4000 feet while also coming down that much over a very steep, rocky ridge. Let me mention again that there are very few switchbacks in England. One goes straight up and down the mountains.  Add to that the worst weather possible and that pretty much describes our day.

We started our ascent early in the morning to some light rain. As we gained elevation, the winds increased so much that we had a hard time just standing up. As we reached the summit there was fog and driving rain that felt like pins against our face. The paths are not marked well and we could not see ahead of us. It was blowing our waterproof bags right off our backpacks. Thankfully, we met up with two other parties at the crest of the hill and between all of us we were able to find our route. This was the most frightening hiking experience I have ever had.   I literally limped into the town that evening, soaking wet and exhausted.

What does this have to do with knitting?  I am amazed that through all the harshest of conditions, the hearty sheep up on the mountain seemed unphased. Here we were, struggling to stand up and not being able to see more than a few feet ahead of us when suddenly a creature would come into view in the mist.  It would take me off guard for a moment until I could recognize it as a Swaledale sheep, just going about its business as if nothing extraordinary was happening around it.  It made me grateful for the warm waterproof will these sheep share with us. They have been great providers of textiles to their human counterparts throughout the ages. Thank you, sheep!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Knitting across England Day 4

Today I was excited to get to our next B&B because it is a working sheep farm. Our hostess, Beverly of  Green Bank Farm took a few minutes to answer a few of my questions.  One thing I noticed right away was that the sheep were not sheared prior to lambing like they are here in Utah.  She explained that they usually wait until July to shear because during this time there is new growth in the fleece that allows the shears to slide through like butter.  They also wait for a drier season so the fleece will be dry.

They work two farms and had between 1200 and 1400 lambs.  Wow!  That is a lot of wool!

They mostly raise Swaledale and some Cheviot. The Swaledale are well acclimated to the wet surroundings.  They have a fleece that repels the water well.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Knitting across England Day 3

It was a difficult day of hiking.  Since it was a most beautiful day with the sun finally coming out, we decided to take the upper route across the tops of the mountains.  Up and down and up and down finally took its toll on my knees. 

It was a welcome relief to finally reach the charming town of Grasmere. I quickly recognized a friendly sheep on a sign.  I have an apron at home with this sheep named Herdy.  I learned from the shopkeeper that Herdy is named for the Herdwick sheep.  This is the only shop in the UK.  You may read more about this company on their webpage

Friday, May 24, 2013

Knitting across England day 2

Today I met another knitter as I was hiking the 16.5 miles today. She was also wearing her hand knit socks for her hiking socks, too.  We compared fiber contents of sock yarns and had a right jolly old time!

She told me about the Herdwick breed of sheep. We saw many of these as they are very suited to the climate. They do well in wet weather which is a good thing because the local town of Seatoller is known for having the highest rainfall in England. The lambs are black then they turn brown before finally turning gray. We saw so many of these cute lambs. When they saw us they would run to their mothers and want to nurse.  You should see those little tails wag when they are eating.

We walk right through the pastures. They are so picturesque with the rolling hills and stone walls

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Knitting across England day 1

For many years my husband and I have wanted to do Wainwright's coast to coast walk across England. Well, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we have decided to do it this year.  After a 23 hour trip we arrived in the charming town of St. Bees on the western coast of England. It is my hope to share a knitter's perspective on this famous walk.

To begin with, I packed three pairs of hand knit socks and one hand knit wool sweater to wear during the walk. I also brought a knitted sock project with me. I am already on the heel of the first sock from my time on the airplane.

There are sheep everywhere. I wanted to share some pictures but I still trying to figure out how to do this on my phone.  Hopefully tomorrow.