Sunday, 29 September 2019

Inspiration from Ambleside

Although the main purpose of our overseas trip was for me to return to Scotland, each of us had some specific ideas of what wanted to do and places we wanted to visit while we were in that part of the world. My son was keen to see his favourite football (soccer) team, Chelsea, playing in London and he ended up booking tickets to three different matches, one on Glasgow & two in London. We all went to the Glasgow Celtic game which was on while we were there and it was just how I remembered Scottish football - fanatical & noisy with plenty of police on duty! Loved it!
The Chelsea game was on at the time we'd planned to be in Ambleside so we dropped him at the station in Carlisle so he could take the train to Stamford Bridge in London for the game and we continued on to the Lakes District.

Obviously, having an interest in Charlotte Mason's ideas and practice was one of my main reasons for wanting to visit the area, but I was also intrigued by a place that appeared to have been a mecca for some very influential, intelligent, and gifted people - Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin being notable examples besides Charlotte Mason.

In 1891 Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) started a training institute for governesses, which became the House of Education at Ambleside in 1892. After her death it became known as the Charlotte Mason College and was managed by the county until the 1990’s when it became part of Lancaster University. St. Martin’s College took over its management in the late 1990s (Charlotte Mason/St. Martins College in Ambleside).
The site of the Charlotte Mason college in Ambleside is now occupied by the University of Cumbria which was formed in 2007. 
In 2017 The University of Cumbria signed an agreement with the Armitt Library and Museum Centre, one of the UK’s rarest small museums. The Armitt is in the same location as the university (to the right of the sign pictured below) and first opened in 1912 as a museum, library and gallery 'devoted to preserving and sharing the cultural heritage of the Lake District.'
Founded in memory of sisters Mary Louisa and Sophia Armitt, Beatrix Potter was one of its early supporters and its greatest benefactor. It is now being established as the national centre for all Charlotte Mason archives.




What was it about this little spot in England?
Well, it was obvious as we drove down from the north that the Lakes District is very beautiful and the town of Ambleside itself is very quaint, but there are plenty of delightful little places all over Britain.
Although the second half of the 19th Century was a time of rapid innovation and technological advancement for Britain, Ambleside remained isolated from the general hubbub. It had no electricity until 1930, and it was some distance from the trainline so its comparative tranquillity made it a sought after retreat for intellectuals - artists, writers, and academics. They in turn had ties to numerous other poets, artists & novelists who also spent time in the area.
Surprisingly, there has also always been industry in the Lakes District with quarrying, a gunpowder factory, watermills, and copper mining. Up until the 1970's bobbin mills were operating there also.
We arrived at the end of the peak season and the centre of the town was a busy little place but it was peaceful & quiet in the Armitt. There are lovely little tea shops everywhere and there was a gentle intermittent drizzle of rain - perfect!









The Armitt building also hosts a gift shop and sells a wide variety of secondhand books that I thought were very reasonably priced.





The Bridge House, said to have been built on an arch over the Stock (? Stream) Beck so the owner could avoid land tax, was built in the 17th Century:




Moozle pays a visit...





Although samples of Charlotte Mason's students' Nature Notebooks and other material may be viewed online via The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection at Redeemer College, I was so pleased to see and handle some original work at The Armitt. Photographs aren't permitted in the library but I was told I could photograph the samples I looked through so here are some of them. The library has a Charlotte Mason 'sample' box and I looked through this and also a couple of Nature Notebooks (pictured below).



I was asked by a fellow home educator if the nature notebooks looked at all 'like the intensive sort of things we sometimes see in CM curriculum these days' and I would have to say that I thought they were quite simple and seemed to reflect the different personalities and inclinations of the owners. One I looked at was predominantly a journal with more text than actual brush drawing or sketching. Another concentrated more on drawing with less writing but observations were clearly labelled.


Dated 1929


A close up view


Frontispiece of a Nature Notebook


Record of Plants








Moozle expressed her surprise that the notebooks weren't as artistic or professional as she thought they would be. Maybe that's because that's what she often sees when we look at nature notebooks online.
This was a positive aspect for me - seeing what the students of Charlotte Mason's schools actually did rather than 'making them the intensive things we sometimes see.'











Poetry quotations were used as well as diagrams



I think this one was dated ? 1938



These look relaxed and do-able




Amongst the items in the sample box was a  more recent PNEU programme for Years 9 & 10 which was just up my alley as Moozle is finishing year 9 this year. This schedule was included too:




Free or Leisure Reading - this book list reflects a more British audience (except for the O'Dell book):


And so do the novels


Ambleside, United Kingdom







Some websites of interest:

Charlotte Mason College, Ambleside: memories from the 60's

Charlotte Mason Digital Collection (CMDC)

Charlotte Mason - Armitt

Ambleside's History

Images from Ambleside's History

Pictures of Old Ambleside

Bridge House








Sunday, 22 September 2019

HIghlights from Scotland

We've just returned from a long-awaited (for me, at least) trip to Scotland. I was born there and came out to Australia with my family when I was 8 years old. For the first four years in Australia we lived in a migrant town in South Australia and I was about 12 years old before we really tasted Aussie culture. That happened when we moved interstate to Western Australia.
Even then Scottish culture was predominant at home. My Granny lived with us and I had to act as interpreter whenever I had friends visit! She had a very thick Glaswegian accent bespattered with Gaelic and colourful colloquialisms.
We took two of our children with us on this trip - Moozle, the youngest, and Hoggy, who's the middle of our seven children.
We flew into Edinburgh and stayed in the New Town for four nights during which we went to the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo. We'd been to this a couple of times when it was held in Sydney but it was pretty special to be at Edinburgh Castle for it.




Edinburgh Castle


Street music is alive and well in Edinburgh & Glasgow


Since I've lived in Sydney, I've rarely heard a Scottish accent, apart from family, and one of my delights was to be immersed in it again: 'Nae bother,' 'How are ye the noo?' A sign in a local bookshop, 'Books for the Weans,' (i.e. children, or little ones).

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was on while we were there and the place was buzzing. We mostly walked everywhere as we decided not to hire a car until we left Edinburgh - we were close to the centre so parking is expensive and limited but there's much within easy reach. We went through Edinburgh Castle, took a bus around the city and out to Leith, the port to the north of Edinburgh where we went aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Then it was a visit to Holyrood Palace, the official Scottish residence of the Queen and where Mary Queen of Scots resided along with Lord Darnley.
Later, a stiff walk up Arthur's Seat where you get a lovely panoramic view of the city. Thankfully it wasn't raining or the path would have been a bit treacherous on the way down.

The View From Arthur's Seat

The Summit

We picked up a hire car just before we left Edinburgh, drove to Bannockburn and Stirling Castle, and from there to Glasgow. The gardens at the castle were magnificent. In fact, the whole of Scotland was in flower - hanging baskets throughout the cities & towns were beautiful.


Stirling Castle


 Greenock on the Clyde where I was born - I have family who live here and my cousin showed us around and pointed out where we used to go swimming once a week (an indoor heated pool) and one of the houses where we lived. An earlier home had been knocked down not that long ago.






Eilean Donan Castle in the Western Highlands - this is such a fairy tale place!


Dunvegan Castle in the Hebrides - again, magnificent gardens here! 


Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland - the remains of a Neolithic village




A Hairy Coo

Scotland is expensive, at least if you're coming from Australia with the exchange rate as low as it is at present. We had to pay for parking everywhere, even in little pokey towns. Generally you also have to pay to use the loos unless you're on a tour of a castle or something similar where you've already paid an entry fee. This was a problem when we first arrived and didn't have any local currency.

The food is terrible - I can say that because I hated it when I lived there! Now I know why I was such a fussy eater. Just about everything is battered and deep fried, even haggis, for goodness sake.

My uncle ordered some haggis on the side so everyone could try it and we all had a wee bit of the  inside...but nae black pudding



We went out for breakfast one day and Moozle was shocked that her 'toast' was fried. I remember my Granny eating bread with dripping. My husband couldn't get over the fried mars bars, although he's a Kiwi & I think it was something that took off over there. I did indulge with some tablet when I was in Edinburgh but I didn't remember it being so sweet! I remembered some sweets we had when we were kids but I didn't remember what they were called. My cousin told me we used to have fondant rolled in cinnamon in the shape of cigarettes and we'd pretend we were smoking them.
It wasn't until we got to Inverness that I had some grilled (not battered & deep fried) chicken and salad and I had to go to Maccas for that. My kids thought that was hilarious because I only ever go there just for coffee if I'm desperate.
I'd never seen e-cigarettes before but they are very common in Scotland, as is smoking generally. It's almost a crime here in Australia so it was very noticeable to us over there.


We passed by this bonnie wee hoose as we were driving up to Inverness. Isn't it a work of art?!


I'll post some more about our trip later but I thought I'd say hello, have a catch up and let my lovely readers see what I've been up to. I managed to get through a few books during the many hours we were flying or travelling by train and a couple of them were set in the places we visited. I also visited some seriously good bookshops in the UK and Paris and had to be dragged out. So sad. I really could have spend another four weeks perusing some of those.
The only downside to a trip like this is coming home after 4 weeks in a different time zone and trying to adjust and get on with normal life. If I've written anything that sounds garbled you'll know why.