A Home away from Home
I have arrived in Shap! The quaint town of Shap sits in the northwestern corner of England in the county of Cumbria, an area of the country celebrated for its beautiful lakes and vast green countryside. Lucky for me, I am here to stay for the weekend! After what seemed like the shortest two hour drive (I suppose since we slept most of the way), we crossed the border and were welcomed just as kindly by our English hostess, Judith, as we were by the people of Scotland in early January. She has been hospitable enough to open up her home to myself and three other girls on the IFSA Butler program for the next couple of days.
A piece of the stunning Cumbria countryside and its painted sky
We have truly been blessed because Judith has no ordinary home. She lives in large estate built in the 17th century that is more unique and wonderful than words can describe. The outside is built of entirely stone and right beside it are some lovely stables where Judith keeps her prized, albeit retired, show pony. Beyond the house, hills roll into the horizon and provide pasture for the family’s flock of sheep. Aside from the pony and over three-dozen head of sheep, Judith also has a few hens, two cats, Jack and Johnny (although both are female), and the most enthusiastic black spaniel, Jaunty, who likes to run off with your shoes in his mouth.
The back part of Judith’s lovely 17th century home
Tucked away in a corner of the back court was a bench covered in moss and framed by two vases and leafless, weeping vines. In my eyes, this stands as a representation to the rustic feel of the estate.
Judith’s prize pony peering out of his stall in the morning. Having won many a competition in his life he is now happily retired
The view of the estates pastures from the barnyard
Upon my arrival to the pasture nearest the house, I was greeted most readily by the sheep, who poked their heads through the mossy gates to say “hello”
Breathtaking, rustic, quaint, cozy: this place is truly indescribable. An amazing farm could not be run by any ordinary woman. I would barely be doing justice to Judith in saying that she is extraordinary. With her husband having died seven years ago, she runs the farm nearly single-handedly. Joanna, a previous architecture student and recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh, keeps her company and works in the nearby town of Penrith. She is quite an amazing cook and made for us the most delicious meal upon our arrival: curry, cucumber sauce, garlic naan, lentils, and cauliflower. For dessert, we indulged in Judith’s homemade ice cream dripping in sweet toffee syrup.
Judith, a potrait
Judith has two children in their mid-twenties, but we will unfortunately not be able to meet them seeing as they live in London. However, I have been given her daughter’s room and from the many pictures of her riding and soaring over jumps, I can already see that we have a lot in common.
My room for the weekend
Collage of Judith’s daughter competing in the equestrian world
After soaking in a bath for half an hour (that’s a bath and not a shower – the house has no showerheads), and being officially converted to preferring the act of bathing as opposed to showering, I climbed into what possibly may be the warmest and most comfortable bed I have ever been in, and this is where I am writing you from. With that said, I must be off to sleep – tomorrow we get to see the rest of the farm and officially meet the other animals. Furthermore, Joanna has a special hike planned for us across the countryside as well and a trip up to a number of the many lakes that line this region of the country.
I can say without a doubt that tonight I will fall easily to sleep counting sheep.