Sizergh Castle

Community gardens along the cycle path in Kendal set the tone for the day.

Some of the best destinations are those we never reach.

We pedaled south of Kendal on Wednesday toward Sizergh Castle, a tourist site with noteworthy English gardens.  It was an excuse to get into the country, and when a local described Sizergh Castle as “just a manor house, really” and we contemplated the stiff cover charge, we continued on without much conviction.  After about 7 rolling miles of cycle path and narrow country road, our pedaling slowed and we welcomed a sign to “Old Sizergh Farm” with an arrow up a side road.  It

We were soon into the country. Pretty country lanes have their perils–that is, thick hedges and stone walls tight to the edge of one-car-width paving. There’s no place to dive if a car misjudges so we were thankful to see drivers come around curves and over rises carefully.

proved to be a large working dairy with a charming farm store, just the excuse we needed for a visit to the countryside.

We turned off to reach Old Sizergh Farm.



Any place that promises a fairy crossing must be worth a visit.


Bringing in the cows for milking.

Just another farm along the way….wassup, little feller?

Cycle Hire

The woman in orange shoes was training for a 30 mile trail run in a few weeks.  Her husband, though, was aiming for a 50 mile trail run and had run 30 miles on Monday.  “He’s a bit of a nutter!” she exclaimed.  Those Brits—now we have a new word to describe lots of people we know!

Shortly after arriving in Kendal, we set out to “hire cycles” in Brit-speak so we could extend our range beyond walking distance.  The nearest cycle hire was 10 miles away in Windermere and we went to hop a train for the 15 min. ride, whereupon we learned that the train which runs every hour was canceled indefinitely.  Two local women explained the situation to us, called a taxi and allowed us to share a ride.

The Cycle Hire was immediately adjacent to the train station—a lesson for transit options everywhere—and we were soon mounted on perfectly-tuned Marin hybrids heading back to Kendal.  A “cycle path” picked up 400 m

Those Brits have a different word for everything! We rent cycles and hire people. Brits hire cycles and rent people?

outside the station and took us 4 mi. to where we could roll onto small backroads.  Thank goodness, because car traffic on A591 from Windemere to Kendal was intense with little patience for bikes.  

The last 6 miles on quaint country roads made our day.  It’s why we love to get on a bike!


Well-known craft brewery in Stavely, near Kendal, which happened to be right on our route.  Stop required!

Evidence that the Brits are finally stepping up their beer game. The bar keep did his best to explain the difference between “Cask” and “Draft” beer. “Cask beer is live beer and draft beer is dead beer,” is his summary.

Lovin’ the countryside….



Kendal: Antiques Road Show


Sleddall Hall antiques occupies a structure built in 1550.

The Kendal Museum was unexpectedly closed so we had some time to kill.  We wandered past a humble store advertising antiques and decided to poke our heads in.

We aren’t antiquers, and wouldn’t recognize a “find” if it hit us in the head, but we guessed that “eccentric” could as likely describe many of the shop items as “old.” Luckily, Marjorie greeted us, and thus started our discovery.  She described her granddaughter as a girl “with brains as big as a planet,” which captured our experience of her as well.

It was a delightful hour, not to be found on any TripAdvisor lists.




Marjorie and store owner, Robert, show us photo of BBC’s Antique Road Show host who was present for a shoot 2 weeks ago. It’s the 6th time the shop has been featured on the show, which will be broadcast in September. “They were not at all stuffy–they were quite fun!” she recounts.  Note the Hindu headdress hanging on the grandfather clock.






















Betsy appraises odd and old things. Marjorie has several degrees in design, and volunteers once a week at the shop to organize product display.  Given the volume of things and small shop, her efforts must be diligent but aren’t always obvious.


Marjorie introduces Betsy to a “ginnel”–an old low passageway between buildings. River Kent flooded this ginnel and the antique shop 2 years ago, creating losses and headaches.

The second floor was bountifully loaded with old stuff–and creaky. I avoided standing in the same place as Betsy as I’m sure the loading wasn’t analyzed by an engineer!



Kendal rooftops from our hotel. Many buildings are from past centuries when multiple fireplaces meant multiple chimneys.

We chose to visit Kendal because it is a good entry point to the Lakes District without being as tourist-centric as many of the better known towns (Ambleside, Windemere, Bowness, etc).  It has proved a worthy choice with lots of historical interest, lively streets and an workaday English vibe.  While tourist buses pass through town or stop for an overnight, Kendal doesn’t feel beset by visitors (to this visitor!).

Central street/square of oldest area of town.

Kendal is a “market town” on the River Kent, often known as the “Gateway to the Lakes [District].”  Its origins go back to 100 AD with the founding of a Roman fort in the area.  Normans succeeded the Romans around 700 AD, and Kendal found its way onto the English map when the Edward I, needing Crusades cash, granted a market charter in 1189 AD.

Chocolate was an important early business in which Quakers were prominent.








Kendal came into its own as a trading town in the 1400’s due to its geographical position at the center of the Westmorland wool industry, and its rough sturdy wool became famous as “Kendal Green”–even making its way over the Atlantic with early American settlers. 

Quakers and Methodists came to Kendal in the late 1600’s, eventually giving rise to tolerance, improved political life and new economies such as banking, leather-tanning, shoe-making and water turbines.  Today Kendal remains a market town for the area, and adds tourism to its economic profile.

If Quakers could only do for today’s U.S. what they are credited for in 1700’s Kendal….

The Quaker Tapestry, a 10 year project centered in Kendal, recounts Quaker history and values. It is made of squares composed by Quaker groups from all over the world.

Kendal Parish Church, built around 1200 AD as a Catholic cathedral before converting to Anglicanism under Henry VIII.










We attended a Glasgow University Chamber Group symphony in Kendal Parish Church on Thursday night–two pop music fans’ annual contribution to classical music.








Life-cycles of an old city: New Shambles, known as “Stinking Lane”….

…becomes a new shopping street….


featuring perfumeries, wedding gowns and beauty products!



Cars and Trains

Sarah contemplates the wedding aftermath

Shrigley Hall Chapel has become a spa to serve Shrigley Hall. Someone–not a historic preservationist–forgot to take away the temporary construction entrance.

We rose on time Monday morning, enjoyed a final Shrigley Hall breakfast with Jay, Dale, Sarah, Nick, Aditi, Geeta and Deb, then headed for Kendal and the Lakes District. 

The Lakes District appears to be England’s Yellowstone, or perhaps more modestly, its Adirondacks, featuring low mountains (3,000 ft) and natural lakes.  It is one of the most popular holiday trips, and we had just learned that Monday is a “bank holiday”, and that most schools would be out for the remainder of the week.  We love off-peak travel, but it seemed the Lakes District would be expecting more visitors than just us.  

We arranged a taxi to take us to a nearby train station, and the taxi driver, anticipating a slow day, offered to drive us all the way to Kendal for a special rate.  It would be so easy….no luggage transfers….speedy direct route….country scenery on a calm sunny morning….that we did a quick calculation and decided, why not?  The train would cost $100 for two, the taxi $250, and we’d save an hour and unforeseeable complications and enjoy the country.

Atlantans may feel reassured to know there is car congestion on 3 lane expressways in rural northern England.

After winding through the country for 30 minutes, we passed the train station and hit the “motorway”—i.e. expressway.  Whereupon we spent the next 2 hours amid heavy traffic and typical freeway views before finally exiting for Kendal.  In the end, we saved 15 minutes for our $150 investment and an I-75 experience.

The taxi driver is pleased with the ride results.

Arrived–the Riverside Hotel on the Kent River in historic Kendal.





We will opt for the certainty and minor inconvenience of a train transfer when we return to Manchester airport on Friday!