8. Home away from home

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It’s Tuesday evening and I’m sitting cross legged in a brocade armchair in front of a hearty fire with Mum, Dad, Stuart and John. We’re on our week-long Easter holiday in the Lake District. This year we are staying in Sidehouse Farm, a farm house owned by Sue and Eric of Millbeck farm.

Sidehouse sits in the Langdale valley opposite Stickle Ghyll, surrounded by the band of fields spotted with Eric’s Herdwick sheep. Eric’s Herdwicks are young and yet to be sheared, so they are sporting thick, chocolate brown woollen coats. I learnt yesterday that when they’re at this stage in their growth, they are called hoggs or hoggets!

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Snowy mountain tops on the Langdale fells on Friday
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View of Stickle Ghyll from the front of Sidehouse

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Eric’s young Herdwick hoggs are full of character and cheekiness. Yesterday morning a mob had made their way past two gates into the open area in front of the house where they could nibble the daffodils. One was licking condensation from the cars. They knew they weren’t supposed to be there – when I opened the window to see what they were doing they just looked back at me with an expression you might find on a child if they’d been caught rifling through the biscuit tin.

This is the first time I have spent a week on holiday in the Lakes with my family for a good number of years. Growing up we would spend each February half term here, a week of taking walks and wandering around Ambleside, Grasmere or another of the Lake District’s towns or villages. Since I’ve been away at uni my holidays haven’t coincided with February half term – but luckily, Mum and Dad had booked a week during the Easter holidays which I was able to escape Loughborough for!

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Loughrigg, taken on Sunday

Each holiday starts with a trip to Booths in Windermere after the drive up. We pick up some food supplies for the week from the offerings of local produce sold. The shop always includes a couple of milk loaves if they’ve got them in (loaves of bread in the shape of a milk bottle… cut into circular slices of soft white bread – delicious!).

The rest of the holiday varies depending on the weather and who’s around during the week. Our usual activities, in addition to lots of walking, include:

  • A trip (or more likely, multiple trips) to Zefferellis
  • Coffee, cake and a browse of homeware knik-knaks at Chesters
  • A visit to the Rock Shop
  • Picking up a Cornish pasty for lunch at the Apple Pie before an afternoon walk

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Today we visited Rydall Caves with Helen, Brian, Luna and Poppy. This is one of my favourite walks, I think because of the fond memories it holds for me. When we were young children we would often walk to the Rydall Caves with the Hughes family. The parents would hide small coins inside the crevices of the cave for us to find, which was mysterious and exciting. Whenever I’m in the cave, even now as a 22 year old, my sub-conscious eye is always looking out for the sparkle of a twenty pence piece in water droplets falling to the settled water at the bottom of the cave.

The Lake District itself is like a home away from home for me – I have layers upon layers of memories here with my Mum, Dad and my two brothers. I have memories with the Green’s and the Hughes’ children for as long as I can remember, too.

Sidehouse farm is laced into my recollections of the Lake District throughout the last 11 years. One year, it snowed heavily in the Langdale valley – so we picked up some snow sledges in Ambleside and tobogganed down the slopes behind the house. Another year, we came to the house for a week over Christmas. On Christmas day we were treated to wild winds and horizontal rain… but we went to a great Christmas eve mass in Ambleside and had our cousins over on the 27th for a walk to the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub. When I was 11 or 12, I liked to attempt drawings of the mountain views and watercolours of the little hedgehog and mouse ornaments that can be found in the lounge. The first time I saw Beyoncé’s ‘Irreplaceable’ music video was on the small TV in the living room.

Every holiday we came here we wrote in the red visitors’ book. This has made for a nostalgic read…

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I wasn’t always happy to be coming to the Lakes on holiday, especially to Sidehouse. There’s absolutely no phone signal and this is the first year we’ve stayed and there’s been wifi to use – something that was a nightmare to me as a teenager (I hated to be cut off from my friends at home). In fact, when we stayed at Christmas in 2011 I was feeling too bitter to leave a note in the visitors book. This makes me quite sad now as I look back, but I’m just grateful I don’t feel like that anymore.

One of the reasons we have been coming to the Lakes so regularly for years is because of Mum’s love of the place. The prospect of Mum and Dad moving up here in the near future is exciting – to visit my family in a place that’s feels as much like home as the Lakes is something that feels just right. Plus, I’ll be able to get my fix of Grasmere gingerbread, a walk to Rydall Caves and the company of Herdwick sheep much more easily!

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It’s for certain that Sidehouse is a home away from home for me. With its secluded location, homely interior and sociable farmyard residents it’s always somewhere that I’ll like being. Really though, it’s having my family there and the memories embedded over the last eleven years which really make it feel like home to me.

There is definitely much more I could write about Sidehouse and the Lake District as a whole, but I’m just going to leave it there for now. Maybe I’ll write about some of the other (many) parts of the Lakes that give me life, but I’ll save that for another day!

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