A few weeks ago we had tickets for a concert in Kendal by This is the Kit. Rather than just drive up in the late afternoon for the evening performance we decided to make a day of it. We had thought of visiting Blackwell as we hadn’t been there for a while, but found that they were installing a new exhibition that would open a couple of days later so it wasn’t the best time to go. We’ll get up there soon though, Something in Common tells the story of England’s countryside and the peoples’ fight for Common Land, a theme right up my street, so to speak. So, instead we decided on visiting Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property, as we hadn’t been there for quite some time.
The National Trust website describes the property as a “beautiful medieval house with rich gardens and estate“, and I think that pretty much sums it up. The house isn’t owned by the Trust though – this is one of those sites where the owners couldn’t afford to pay for the upkeep of the house and estate so made a deal with the Trust. The castle with its garden and estate is in the care of the National Trust but the house is still owned by Hornyold-Strickland family – a type of arrangement I’m not comfortable with. Most of the house is open to the public, but there’s a private residential wing and I expect the family use the hall for entertaining outside he NT’s opening hours. I’m not sure whether they live there full time, mind.
We parked up and after a coffee went for our self-guided tour of the hall and gardens.
The oldest part of the house, the defensive tower, was built in the mid 14th century. It used to be thought that it was a pele tower, built as a defence from marauding Scots, but these days is considered to be a “solar tower” as it contained private living space for the owners, for their “sole” use – hence the name. A true pele tower was a defensive structure that could be used by the local population when being harassed by the reivers.
The most impressive features of the house for me were the oak panelling and fireplace surrounds.
Some of the panelling had been sold to the V&A in the 1890’s. However it was returned in 1999 on a long-term loan.
As usual with these “stately homes” there was a large collection of paintings, particularly portraits, and we spotted a couple by the local lad George Romney. The Strickland family were Catholics and strong supporters of the Stuart monarchy and one room is full of portraits of the monarchs from that dynasty.
The gardens are particularly impressive. Our previous visit had been during the autumn so the colours were much fresher and greener in early summer. However, I reckon they would look good whatever the season.
The limestone rock garden, which was created in the 1920s, is the largest of it’s type under the National Trust’s stewardship.
I always like a good vegetable garden!
After looking round the garden we returned to the cafe for a light meal before setting out for a walk around the grounds. A misunderstanding on my part meant we ended up following the longer set route which was more than J intended. I blame my poor colour vision for misreading the map!
After walking through some fields and meadows the route took us into the woods of Brigsteer Park
and then on to Park End where a short diversion down a boardwalk took us to a hide overlooking a recreated wet land.
Park End Moss, which is on the edge of the Lyth Valley, was once an area of degraded farmland that’s been “rewilded” by the National Trust into a wetland haven for wildlife. It’s probably how much of the valley would have looked before it was drained to create agricultural land.
Looking back as we climbed the hill up towards the nearby farm we had a good view over the wetland with Whitbarrow dominating the far side of the valley (I must get up there one of these days).
We then had a steep climb for a while to take us to the top of a ridge overlooking the valley (I was getting in trouble now for misinterpreting the map).
A short diversion along the ridge as far as St John’s church
allowed a view over the valley right across to the Lake District Fells. Worth the climb (at least I thought so).
We then followed the route back down through woods and field to Sizergh (down hill more or less all the way), passing some typical Cumbrian farmhouses (I think they’re rented out now as holiday cottages by the Trust).
The cafe was closing up as we reached the hall complex so there wasn’t time for a final brew, so we returned to the car and drove over to Kendal which only took about 15 minutes . We had a mooch around the town centre, including the obligatory visit to Waterstones where, as frequently happens, books were purchased. We then picked up some supplies from Booths supermarket followed by a tour around the one way system so that we could park up before we made our way to the Brewery Arts Centre. There were no spaces left in their car park so another trip around the one way system was needed to find a space on an alternative convenient car park – free after 6 pm – near Abbot Hall (which has been closed for the past few years as it’s being renovated. Hopefully it will be reopening soon – fingers crossed)
We’d decided to eat in the Arts Centre restaurant. Having never been there before I was surprised just how large it was and there seemed to be plenty of customers, many taking advantage of an early evening pizza deal. We were too late to take advantage of that but, in any case, I was very pleased with my choice of a rather tasty pie with sweet potato fries, followed by
a pudding to mark the state of our nation i.e. an Eton Mess.
I rather liked this tapestry representing different aspects of Kendal, that wa son the wall of the restaurant.
We finished in good time for a pre concert drink and then on to the gig.
I’ve known of This is the Kit for a number of years – they’re played regularly on Radio 6 Music – and enjoy their work, and I wasn’t disappointed with the concert. I was impressed with the venue. It was larger than expected but with the main seating area quite steeply banked there was a good view of the stage from most seats. I think it’s likely we’ll be returning in the future as we can combine a concert with a day out in the southern Lakes and a nice meal in the restaurant! I’ll be keeping an eye on their “What’s on” page on their website.
After the concert we headed back to the car passing the Leyland Motors Clock that once stood on Shap summit but in 1973 was relocated to stand outside the Brewery Arts Centre.
So, all in all, a good day out.