Mindy Hammond looks forward to moving into her Lake District home

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When travel restrictions lifted, Richard and I booked an overnight stay in The Bridge Hotel at Buttermere. We were looking forward to a little peace and tranquillity while containing our excitement at visiting our house in the fells.

When I booked, nobody had predicted the hottest day of the year, but by the time we joined the M6 and traffic grew steadily slower we realised many keen weather watchers had noticed Cumbria was about to be bathed in sunshine. We were surrounded by cars rammed with camping gear or towing trailer tents and caravans; small children were either arguing in the back seats or dozing, and all were heading north.

Luckily, by the time we reached Penrith, the weight of traffic had eased, but the final leg of our journey was still surprisingly busy. We passed hundreds of walkers, some strolling, others with tents and roll mats strapped to their backs. Dads with toddlers harnessed to them trudged along while older children squealed as they paddled on the edge of the beck, oblivious to the ice cream dribbling down their hands. Les’s cows were definitely back in production.

While people picnicked and played in the sunshine, their dogs were having the time of their lives. Every shape, size, breed and personality panting with excitement – or fatigue, depending on whether they were pre- or post-hike – and the Herdwick sheep could almost be heard sighing. No doubt they’d enjoyed some uninterrupted peace through lockdown.

Red squirrels had flourished and locals were keen to protect them, posting signs reminding visitors to respect them, the countryside and its inhabitants.

Our little house looked sad. She’d had the stuffing knocked out of her and was in the process of resurrection. She had new wiring, plumbing and chimneys and her replastered walls were drying out. As we walked through the back door we found the floor a mess of rubble and dirt and in the hallway most of the spindles had disappeared from the stairs.

Poor old house. But no pain, no gain – and the painful bit was almost over. Soon new floors would be laid, decorators would arrive and she’d be transformed from a decrepit old lady to a movie star. She was getting a Hollywood-style facelift complete with teeth whitening and hair extensions and her every sinew was about to be toned and polished. 

Our flying visit was useful and although we spent most of our time planning fixtures and fittings, we regularly broke off to sit in the sunshine and admire the view, hoping to glimpse a red squirrel in one of the trees.

Twenty-four hours later we left for our six-hour journey home, only to discover on arrival that a farming accident had broken the electricity cable and, although the energy company was swift to make repairs, the power surge had blown the electric Aga. The beef fillet we’d bought in the Lake District looked destined for the freezer and supper was likely to consist of cheese and crackers.

I went to check on the ponies and found Max not himself. The girls had bathed him to keep him cool but he was rolling then standing in the corner of his stable, uninterested in food. Fearing colic, I fetched his head collar and we started walking.

After a few hours and lots of tummy rubs he made loud noises from his back end and the twinkle in his eye (and nudge from his nose) told me he was better – and I could feed the family.

I was determined to make us all a decent meal and remembered the old electric cooker in the barn. I flicked the switch and prayed. It smelt a bit as the heat surged through it, but it worked. So after preparing everything in the kitchen, Richard and I ferried it to the barn ready for an unusual Sunday roast.

Izzy wasn’t home, but Willow, Richard and I lined up three bar tables in front of the TV and sat on stools to eat roast beef with all the trimmings while watching dinosaurs attack in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

My version of “camping” didn’t mean cooking in a leaky tent and was so successful that TV dinners in the barn are likely to become a habit. But I’ll pass on the colic appetiser next time… 

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