Last weekend I headed up to the English Lakes for a spot of feral spinning (I didn't know it was a thing either!) and rustic camping. I admit I hadn't the faintest idea what I was letting myself in for and I decided to go on a bit of a whim. To be honest the lure of the Lake District was enough - it's been far too long since I was last there, plus the weekend was being organised by the lovely Lucy Locket, a long time friend and blogger and the chance for a get together sounded too good to miss.
After a long seven hour drive I eventually arrived at the beautiful Dodson Wood on the east side of Coniston Water. Our home for the weekend was this amazing off-grid eco barn. No electricity, no washing facilities and compostable toilets but surprisingly cosy and comfortable. After depositing my bags and picking out my mattress I headed back to the lakeside with a couple of the other women where we paddled in the cool water as the sun set. After a delicious meal and an evening getting to know each other (I had only met Lucy before) we put out the candles and turned off our solar lights and settled down in our sleeping bags to cries of "Good night John Boy..." , each of us hoping we might make it through the night without unzipping, finding a torch and venturing outside for a wee. None of us managed it!
In the morning we split into two groups and I went out with the amazing Debbie Zawinsky author of In The Footsteps of Sheep, who took us on a circular walk foraging for dye stuffs such as lichen, heather, gorse flowers and oak leaves etc. We cut our own hazel sticks to make spindles and gathered sheep's wool from the fences. We also climbed a few gates and stiles and let's just say I'm not as young and agile as I used to be!
It was great to be out with someone so knowledgeable about the trees and countryside.
In the afternoon we swapped groups and I had an afternoon soap making with Maria from the Soap Dairy and came back with a bag of deliciously scented natural soaps.
In the evening after another hearty meal Debbie showed us how to cut and whittle our sticks to turn them into spinning sticks, nostepinnes, spindles and niddy noddies!
The next day Debbie demonstrated how to use our collected dye stuffs to make dye baths for the fleece we had collected and we produced a range of colours from yellows, to olive greens and browns. At lunchtime we ventured on a short hike up the hillside where we were rewarded with magnificent views.
At the top of the hill we arrived at Low Parkamore Cottage, a grade II listed 16th century farmhouse where gathered around the wood burning stove and Debbie demonstrated spinning using our hand made tools. It was like taking a step back in time.
On our last evening a few of us ventured back down to the Lake where three brave souls actually went for a swim. I was very tempted, never having tried wild swimming before but I didn't have a cossie with me and although I would have happily swum in underwear more importantly I had no cosy towel to dry off with. My small hand towel just didn't really feel adequate. Plus my niggly cough that I had come away with felt like it was building into something more than just a niggle! So I rolled up my trousers and made do with another paddle.
The rest of the evening was spent eating and singing when Debbie and her friend each a produced eukulele and entertained us all evening with their songs and playing. We joined in and sang, we knitted and spun and there was even some basket making but most of all we laughed. I can't remember laughing so much.
I came home on Monday after a much better journey armed not only with a new skill - I have never tried spinning before - but also with new friends and lovely memories. I have spun two tiny skeins of yarn but I think it might be a while before I manage enough to knit a pair of socks. At least I have Debbie's book to inspire me.
I also treated myself to a couple of Lucy's beautiful knitting kits
And of course, I have my lovely soaps to try too.
I might have left my voice behind, it was full blown laryngitis by the time I arrived home, but it was a wonderful weekend and I am so glad I went. Although I have to admit the flushing loo and a hot shower at home were heavenly!