And so here it is! Steve’s monthly blog about all things in and #aroundcotehow.
To be honest, Caroline has been asking me to write something for quite a while now and I’ve been trying my best to put it off. Anyway, here goes and please bear with me as this will be my first blogging experience and I’m sure I’ll break all the blogging rules this month……are there blogging rules?
I thought I’d break things down into a few sections, sorry if that seems all a bit too ordered but it’s the way my brain works. So, I’ll probably write about things that go on behind the scenes at Cote How, some of the creatures that we encounter here, lots of pictures from my wanders on the local fells, an update on what’s going on in the garden and whatever else pops into mind. What I won’t be doing is blogging about specific weddings; that’s very much Caroline’s domain!
Behind the scenes
When wedding couples arrive, they want everything to be perfect and I’d say most of my time is spent trying to achieve perfection. However, as I am a bit OCD with things being tidy, I’d say our biggest critic is me, perfection is something that can only be aspired to and never achieved. That all sounds a bit deep perhaps, but I guess it’s the thing that keeps both me and Caroline on our toes and prevents the venue from ever standing still.
So what’s been happening during April in our attempt to strive for perfection…..?
It’s been a busy month, when aren’t they, and the glorious weather has meant lots of time outside. Many don’t realise but we have a couple of acres of paddock adjacent to the venue that’s had little use for many years. I think the last occupants were a few horses and since that time the paddock has lain fairly dormant. A while back, I was looking at some old photo’s of Cote How and one particular photo caught my eye. It showed a front view of the house, taken from the paddock. In this was a lower fence line, with a set of stone steps through the middle of it leading up to the terrace in front of the house. This got me thinking and after a bit of poking around I realised that the steps were still there, hidden under many years of turf creep. Two hours work had the turf stripped back and the old steps revealed. This started of our thinking that we really should make more use of the paddock.
Exciting New Woodland Walk
Some eighteen months on, plans are still being formulated but the exciting bit is about to start. Since July last year I have been using spare hours (not that there’s many of these) to attack the undergrowth in the paddock to get an idea of the shape of the land and how best we can incorporate it into the venue. Our current ideas include a woodland style walk and flower meadow with plenty of seats for guests to sit and take in the views. There is a wet area where we think we’ll use the old Dipper Footbridge. The bridge used to be over the Rothay River but was washed out in Storm Desmond in December 2016 and has been sitting in our back garden in sections since the summer of 2017 when the new bridge was installed. I think it will be a nice thing to re-use this old bridge and should provide a great addition to the photo opportunities here at Cote How.
Old Dipper Bridge - Photo Derwent Photography
The paddock in 2018 - The brambles were 12 feet tall!
The paddock in April 2019 bathed in early evening sunshine
Having cleared back the undergrowth and removed many years of fallen leaves we are already starting to see the benefits. For the first time we have seen bluebells under the shade of the mature trees. We’re hoping for a great display next year as we’re currently installing stock fencing to limit the visits of the local fell sheep that like to drop in on a regular basis and nibble everything in sight.
As part of developing the paddock we have also been removing lots of fallen timber, including a couple of very large trunks from a fallen beech tree. To tackle this job I was forced to go out and buy a new chain saw to add to my ever expanding garden machinery collection! Some years ago, I had a boss that spent most lunchtimes looking at garden tractors. How I used to laugh, but then I guess my legs were a lot nimbler back then. Of course, as the paddock is around 2 acres, I definitely need a garden tractor, don’t I Caroline?
As our busy part of the year rapidly approaches there’s always lots of tidy-up work to do to clean away the ravages of winter. Last winter was very warm and wet; a great winter for moss it seems and much of the fencing needed a repaint.
The Wedding Barn
The barn has been through a bit of a spring clean and freshen up and there are a few time-lapse videos for your amusement in my feed on Instagram at ‘Lake_District_Weddings’. Our barn weddings won ‘UK Barn Venue of the Year 2019’ in the recent Bridebook awards. This is something we’re very proud of, especially so as it was our first entry to any wedding award competition and it was judged entirely on client feedback, the thing that matters most to us.
On the subject of awards, we’ve just been shortlisted to finalist in the ‘Wedding Venue of the Year’ in the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2109. We are delighted by this and have reached the final four, the outcome being announced in June. Fingers crossed!
The main lawn needed a heavy scarify after a winter that has definitely favoured moss. Typically, as soon as I’d reseeded the lawn, the rain stopped pouring and I’ve had to water it every day for the last two weeks. The lawn isn’t at its best yet, but it is coming back to good shape now that the occasional rain has returned and the new seed has started to grow. I did the first striped cut on it yesterday and it’s looking a whole lot better.
Lake District Lawn Weddings at Cote How
Everything seems to have sprung to life in the garden all at once, but I guess that’s why they call it ‘spring’. Last year we planted around 400 bulbs in a new bed so that it would be visible from our new Wordsworth Ceremony Room. I have to say that I’m ‘chuffed’ with the outcome so far as its been a riot of colour for the last month. In the next few weeks there should be a second flush of colour with alliums taking centre stage, finishing off with some perennial over-planting that will keep the colour flowing until around the end of October.
The Spring Bulb Bed in front of the house windows
The snowdrops, daffodils and early tulips are all finished now for another year, how time flies! The brilliant pink cherry blossom has also almost gone too but was a beautiful sight for our April weddings. Bluebells are the thing of the moment and I’d say it’s a much better display than last year. The rhododendrons are also just coming into flower and will be a main feature during May.
As ever, we’ve been buying lots of new plants with dwarf rhododendron featuring heavily for some additional vibrant splashes of early colour next year. We’ve not decided where to plant them yet, but I’ll take a few photos once I’ve put them in and I’m sure they’ll appear in next months’ blog.
Burburis at Cote How
Wildlife has been a bit hard to spot in recent weeks but maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough? While sat in the garden a frog did come hoping along, posed for a photo and then went on its way. I’ve encountered a few unusual creepy crawlies while chain sawing the old tree trunks and yesterday uncovered a slowworm during the fencing work. About three days ago I also spotted my first red squirrel of the year, but it was too quick, and I couldn’t get a picture. Magnificent creatures!
A Happy Hoppy frog
A Weevil found near the fallen tree stumps
A Slow Worm - We find lots of these especially when the sun is out as they like to warm up. They are a legless reptile!
Out and about
As usual I’ve been out on the local fells with our two labradoodles. I like to get out early whenever possible as the light is always so much better and its always peaceful. I often spend a couple of hours out without seeing a sole. Here are a few snaps taken on my trusty, but slightly broken iPhone.
Sunrise on Loughrigg Fell - Just metres from our front gateway
Bess and Alfie enjoying their early morning stomp on Loughrigg
Partnering with other Businesses
Caroline and I had the pleasure of taking a steam launch on Lake Windermere the other day. A lovely experience, very relaxing and all in the name of research. I’d highly recommend a visit to Windermere Jetty, their boat museum and of course, a trip in Osprey, their steam launch. Watch this space for new developments!
So that’s about it, the end of my first blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update of all things in and around Cote How and I hope to see at least a few of you again next month. Time to get back to mowing! :o)
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Steve ...the Reluctant Blogger