The Farfield Residency (9:14)

Tuesday morning was one of those breathtaking late summer mornings that carried a golden light the colour of ripe wheat. At 5.30am  from my bedroom window there was a little mist in the valley but blue sky above the hills.

The House and Park

Underley House and Park

If it’s the second Tuesday in August then it has to the Lunesdale Annual Agricultural Society Show at Underley Park near Kirky Lonsdale, just 10 miles from Farfield Mill. I couldn’t resist the excuse to have an afternoon off visiting an event that defines what still remains (just) of country life and living (and I don’t mean second homes and retirement communties). Here are the people (with their dogs and horses) who struggle to keep what makes the British countryside the treasure it is, gathered together in a showground against the backdrop of a country park and the gentle Howgill hills. For the last two years the show has been cancelled due to appalling weather. Yesterday morning’s downpour must have worried the organisers, but the way today opened must have seemed a gift from the Gods.

The Dog Show

The Dog Show

It seemed so strange to be at a country show without my children. For years such events have delighted them and I count many happy days with them at the Royal in Harrogate (where I started spending more and more time in the weavers’ tent) and later at the famous Appleby Horse Fair. For my son David it was always the dogs (I find their owners just as fascinating). I have so many photographs of him, an arm around some favoured animal.

David (aged 10) with a new friend

My son David (aged 10) with a new friend

Remembering I’m supposed to be a weaver this week I headed off to the crafts tent and the competitive areas, the latter carrying such categories as ‘Something made for under £3’. The gallery is going to be very full today – I took so many pictures. There were also many trade exhibits. I got talking with Linda Cameron of Hannalin Crafts who has specialized in wool and wool products from Herdwick, Alpaca, Swadale and Jacob sheep. Her stall was full of lovely and practical items: I know I must have one of her Herdwick ties – it will go beautifully with a charcoal Rohan suit I have (but now sadly seldom wear). There were examples of some stylish knitting that stopped me in my tracks – it seems a shame that fashions and materials have made the sweater and the cardigan so neglected (except for those brave young women like my daughter Frances May who know how to manage the colours and combinations – and who love well-cut skirts and kilts – and she’s a pop music journalist!). Frances would say it’s difficult not to look like a Japanese tourist / language student who just love kilts and our intricate knitwear.

The Master with the Lunesdale Harriers

The Master with the Lunesdale Harriers

The Lunesdale show had a busy programme of arena events including a visit from the Lunesdale Harriers whose master led his hounds in full cry around the arena to the delight of the spectators. The show’s ‘voice over the tannoy’ sounded as though he had enjoyed a very liquid lunch – a wonderful, slow south Lakeland ‘just county’ drawl. I kept wondering when he would completely lose the plot with his commentary and explanations. Some BBC producer should snap him up fast as continuity announcer with a difference.

A Patient Dog

A Patient Dog

Of course, it is the animals that are the real stars of such a show. Dogs everywhere – competing and just being shown off, or sitting patiently in the back of 4 x 4s. Horses, naturally, with those svelte young women and red faced, weather-beaten young men who know how to sit on a horse – almost centaurs as they go through and over the jumps. The sheep were the official stars, and if you wanted to see rare breeds this was the afternoon to do it. I even spotted some of the Llyn and Welsh Mountain animals that live on the mountain around my cottage. The poultry was pretty stunning – I had no idea the marking and plumage of these birds could be so exotic and mysterious.

I was only there for the afternoon, but could have spent a very happy day just drinking in the conversations, the competitive stuff (Lakeland wrestling – which I’d never seen), and the gentle flow of families meeting families and friends.

Back to the Mill I tidied up a few errors and details on my warp ready for Wednesday and the weavers’ group day on Level 4. Then it was a quick tea and down to some serious guitar practice – to be ready for Saturday’s concert.

After nine days of this residency I’m really glad I took the afternoon off – even my dear wife (on her way to our cottage in North Wales) – sent me a text saying WELL DONE for taking some time out. She arrived late last night with daughter Meg who, smitten with the sheer grandeur of the location, phoned me with her delight at being there once again. I love it here, but I am looking forward to looking down the length of Lyn from Mount Cottage and spending some quiet days on the mountain.



One Response to “The Farfield Residency (9:14)”

  1. Peg in South Carolina Says:

    Sounds like a day when time stands still. You must be getting tired! You have been working very hard, but I’ll be this revived you. Nice to see a photo of one of your children. He looks just like you!

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