Fun Times, Fifty Year Friendships and Forager Fez

Alison was gifted an “experience” voucher for her big birthday in January, which she’d used to book a Foraging Day in Whinlatter forest for the two of us. It seemed like a good opportunity to grab a week in the Lakes, so we booked Ale Cottage in Ireby near Cockermouth. It’s about 2 hours from home and we took the chance to call into Tebay Services for lunch. I’ve got to say that the standards seemed to have slipped since we last popped in. The food was distinctly average and the level of service was less than ideal. The views, though, were as great as ever. Saturday We were soon at the cottage and settled in – even popping next door to the Red Lion for a quick pint.
Sunday We headed to Cockermouth to walk Ralf beside the river, with the Castle on high above us, then wandered into town to find almost all the shops and cafes shut. The town’s looking a bit run down, probably reflecting the fact that it’s off the main tourist routes in the Lake District.
We headed out of town towards the coast – our house has just gone on the market and we’d spotted a property for sale, in the small village of Mawbray, north of Maryport. It wasn’t suitable, so we headed back into Maryport for a quick walk around – the fishing boats were preparing to go to sea and I’ll be honest, I didn’t envy them their journey.
Monday We drove to Keswick on Monday. It’s the town we used to visit from Teesside when I was a boy and it holds lots of happy memories for me. There’s a great walk from Keswick to Threlkeld along a disused railway line that was ideal for Ralf. The last time I’d been along it I was with two friends, cycling the Coast 2 Coast route from Workington to Newcastle (10 years after we’d done it from Whitehaven to Sunderland). It was perfect on a blustery, showery day and all of us really enjoyed it.
Tuesday Time for another Castle on Tuesday as we drove to Carlisle in the rain.
Eventually the sunshine arrived and we could take Ralf for a run off the lead in Bitts Park.
After a quick look at the map we headed to Port Carlisle and a trip along the Solway Coast
Road block
Wednesday Wednesday brought heavy drizzle, so we chilled in the morning, before heading to the nearby village of Caldbeck, just as the sun emerged. Alison found a perfect walk along Whelpo Beck to a Bobbin Mill. We saw Flycatchers, Dippers and Whitethroats and stopped to chat with the only 4 people we met whilst walking.
Thursday We’d had a phone call from one of my oldest friends to ask if we wanted to meet up for lunch, so we headed back to Keswick to the Cafe West at Keswick Museum in Fitz Park. It’s operated and staffed by people with learning difficulties and what a super bunch of people they were. It’s 4 years since we last saw Mike, at the funeral of a very dear friend who died from MND, way before his time. In fact it was him and Mike that I joined for the C2C cycle ride which we did 10 years apart. It was great to catch up and to agree that we shouldn’t leave it another 4 years before meeting up.
Lunch with Mike in Fitz Park
Borrowdale is my favourite part of the Lakes and it’s ages since I’d visited Ashness Bridge and Watendlath Tarn, so Alison drove the Mini up the twisty narrow lanes in lovely sunshine, but still with a cold wind blowing. There was hardly anyone about at the Tarn, unlike the height of summer, when it’s heaving with tourists.
Suprise View is on the drive back to Ashness Bridge, giving spectacular views over Derwentwater and beyond.
This was our foraging day, so we were up early to pack the car and to get to Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre by 9.45. There were 16 of us on the day, led by Mancunian Fez, who did a great job of teaching us about the edible foods in the forest, which we gathered for a meal that he prepared later on site.
I’ve been on loads of courses over the years and there’s always one annoying person amongst the attendees. In fact, I reckon if you haven’t got one on your course, it’s probably you! There was definitely one on the foraging day. He insisted on taking a photo of every plant that Fez picked – brushing past everyone else to get to the front for a close up on his phone. He was insistent that Fez talked about Goose Grass, even though no one would ever eat it, prompting the comment that maybe he should be running the coursese instead. During the cooking part he was told off for walking up and stirring the pot of cooking gnocchi. Surely, eveyone knows not to stir another man’s pot. What a delight he was to have along with us (he’s in some of the photos, but you’ll have to guess which one he is…).
To be honest, there were probably slightly too many people attending, as it was difficult to get close enough to hear Fez on the narrow single track paths at times. We really enjoyed the day and learned lots, but it was extremely cold and we were relieved when the meal was finished so we could get warm in the car.
We’ve had a great week away, but we’ve got viewings of the house this weekend, so instead of having the last night in the cottage, we headed home for a takeaway. Fingers crossed that we get a quick sale so our new adventure can begin.


  1. wheatypetesworld

    What a fabulous voucher experience – you do it all justice here Martin. One of those blogs that makes one want to go there.


  2. Ann Gray

    Great blog as always Martin. The colours in the photos are so vibrant, the scenery looks amazing. Glad you both had a good time


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