Spring in northern England a little more lush than western Mull.
Daughter went on a school trip to Hexham last week and we took the opportunity to deliver the Zwartble fleeces to a mill at Coldstream, en route to collect her. It was fascinating getting a look at how fleece is transformed into yarn, on a small scale. A husband and wife team working from 2 small industrial units near the English border. They will let us know next week what it will cost to do a couple of different options, and we can then decide what exactly we want to do. It is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Difficult to say until the work has been done exactly how much yarn can be produced from the bundles of fleece, and then difficult to price what a throw or a blanket would cost. Hopefully in a week or so we will know what we are doing. The millers were very helpful and explained the whole process very thoroughly.
But of course, I have forgotten what all these different machines do. Most of the wool they process usually is from Alpacas which is very very soft.
Our trip into England was brief. We spent a night at Battlesteads Hotel, another GTBS Goldstar 2011 winner, at Wark, near Hexham. A drive in the falling light over the moor, bleak and wild, to get there. And the novelty of waking up in an English village - pigeons and sparrows. All green and leafy - and lots of bunting! (This was a bit of a surprise as the Jubilee had not really reached our part of Mull and we have been so heads down in Treshnish life, the preparations had passed us by somewhat.)
Early start so we didn't have much time to enjoy what Battlesteads had to offer, but it was good to stay somewhere with a good environmental ethos. We picked up Daughter at 8am and drove to visit cousins for a late breakfast. Got lost a few times on the way. Took a walk to stretch the legs through very different scenery to our usual. It was lovely to see all the blossom and the grass so advanced compared to home.
Huge lambs compared to ours - born earlier in the year than ours.
Someone with an interest in rare breeds, keeping Soays. When I was about 14 my mother bought some Soays from a farm in Fife. She misguidedly decided that we would collect them in the car. A carpeted Citroen. I can well remember the smell and driving through Dundee with the windows down to get some fresh air. The Soays were really good at getting out of fields my father wanted to keep them in. I remember also they liked to eat cake. The interior of the car never recovered.
One of the lanes we walked. Lovely to see the cow parsley which wasn't out when we left Treshnish, but was when we got back - flowering in our garden.
Alston. Where better for an ice cream stop.
The Crown at Alston Town Hall. It has a pretty cobbled in places town centre, with an Award winning pie shop.
After a brief stop in Alston, we headed across to Gilston and stayed at Willowford Farm, which was right on Hadrian's Wall. Neither Farmer nor myself had ever seen the wall before, but we had a lovely stroll along this bit, in the field next to our B&B. (GTBS Gold Award and well worth a stay). We had simple but stylish rooms in a converted Byre, with welcoming homemade shortbread and even homemade (on the farm) natural soaps in the bathroom. We had supper here and enjoyed organic lamb from the farm, and it was delicious! It was a really good example of how you can get it right - comfortable welcoming accommodation with a low carbon footprint, and a genuineness that you don't come across that often. It was lovely and quiet, and very restful.
Thence to Dumfries and Galloway for a bit of Spring Fling. We went to a concert - One Day in June - at Dalswinton Church. We visited Trevor Leat's studio, Anthea Sommers's studio, and this which was the star of the show for me. When I first saw it my feeling was of slight disappointment, that it would have been great to have happened upon it, without knowing it was there. But it was great anyway, and looked fantastic.
As many of you will know we lost Tig two months ago, and Farmer was adamant that we shouldn't get another dog for a good while, especially as we have Cap and Jan. But it became more and more obvious that whilst they are both lovely dogs with friendly kind natures, they are Farmer's dogs, and they have questionable domestic habits. So the arrival of Coco, a small labradoodle, is nothing to do with Farmer, and he is going to have nothing to do with her. (So that is why I couldn't resist posting this photograph of Farmer on the ferry yesterday with Coco on his knee, all tucked up in her dog bed with her special red blanket). We collected her on Monday, and she is running the household already.