First day of Lakes & York tour...

Up early yesterday to meet everyone at Manchester Airport for the start of our Lakes & York Knitters' Tour.  We arrived with plenty of time to spare for our 9.30 am assignation with our guests and it seemed all was going to plan until we realised one of the flights was two hours late!  What to do, should we stay, not knowing whether or not the plane would arrive at the new scheduled time or go, leaving detailed instructions for our final guest on how to catch us up later that day.  After much mulling over we decided to stay and luckily the plane caught up some time, so panic over, we all set off together. 

Arriving for lunch at the Levens Hall Café
Lily-flowered tulips in the café garden
Levens Hall, a Grade 1 listed manor on the edge of the Lake District was our first stop for lunch. Dating from 1694, the gardens are home to spectacular topiary that's recognised as some of the oldest in the world. 

When I said that we'd gathered up all our guests at the airport, that wasn't quite true, as we still had to meet up with the final member of our group who was travelling up independently from London. Philip was very relieved to see her arrive during lunch and so pleased to know he had all his sheep in the fold!
Part of the group under the crown arch
Despite the weather forecast, the rain held off while we wandered around the world-famous garden, originally laid out more than three hundred years ago by Monsieur Beaumont and remaining largely unchange to the present day. We played amongst the wacky shapes of the enormous yews, as the cold wind made it hard to stand around for too long.

Under the crown arch

The joys of spring!

Beyond the topiary garden lies a croquet lawn (with people actually playing), a spiral maze, and an orchard with a carpet of ransoms (wild garlic) beneath. I love wild garlic and it was all I could do to stop myself from gathering some up to give to our chef at our hotel for our evening meal.

Finally it was cosy to be able to warm up inside the house, where there was a welcome fire in the Jötel woodstove.  Levens is the family home of the Bagot family and sports a fine collection of paintings by Rubens, Lely and Cuyp, Cordova leather wall coverings, Wellingtoniana, but best of all, the earliest English patchwork quilt.

When asked what was my favourite part of the house, I was spoilt for choice and remarked I loved the lead drainpipes with their hearts and hugs. On hearing this I was regaled with a lovely tale of how at one point in its history the house was won on the turn of a card - this being the ace of hearts.  The lucky new owner was so over the moon that he had hearts and hugs etched and painted in gold on all the drainpipes.

On the way out Mr Bagot came to have a word with us, accompanied by his two lovely dogs.  When he realised we were fibre lovers he told us about his fifty rare Bagot goats which unfortunately had been banished to the other side of the road as they were threatening to kill off the ancient trees in the parkland by eating the bark. Ooops, not something to be tolerated in such a garden -  I wondered if they know it's only their name that's saving them!
As we chatted to Mr Bagot the other attraction was the two steam engines puffing away quietly in the background.  Amazing contraptions, which seemed to run like Rolls Royces, with beautiful brass and paintwork.

There was just time to snap a few chickens and their five-star coup before getting onto the bus for our last lap to the hotel...
Lacy bantam - great inspiration for a shawlette!
What a joy to collect eggs from this every morning.
...arriving in good time to have a quick nap before preparing for our evening reception and my slide talk Behind the Scenes.
Later we were served with an excellent supper that we've come to expect from the team at Cragwood, a lovely old Arts & Crafts hotel on the shores of Lake Windermere.  After a very full day I feel sure, jet lag permitting, our guests were more than ready for their beds by the end of the evening.

I certainly was and went off to make sure everything was ready for my workshop, Design Your Own Shawlette, first thing after breakfast on our first full day in the Lakes.

Off to Show & Share now, more anon...


  1. How wonderful it all sounds! I'm wishing you and all your guests a safe, healthy, fabulously fun holiday!

  2. Hi Jean, I was lucky enough to win a copy of your lovely book, Sweet Shawlettes, on the blog tour. The designs are lovely and I can't wait to start something even though I'm trying to be good and finish my other on-going projects! I love Levens Hall but I haven't been there since I was a child (and that's a long time ago!).


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