First, let me locate Kendal for you. It’s on the southeastern edge of the UK’s famous Lake District (in Northwest England), 19 miles north of Lancaster, 8 miles southeast of Windermere, in the
valley of the River Kent.
I give you these distances as a reality check for me, because as we venture out on
they seem so much greater. For example, a few days ago we went to Lancaster for lunch. That 19-mile journey took 75 minutes. Of course, we didn’t go directly, having to make stops in little hamlets in this direction and that direction off Highway A591. But still, 75 minutes to cover 19 miles! (It’s fun to mention oh so casually that we once moved from Oregon to Tennessee, putting nearly 3,000 miles on the odometer. These folks have very expressive eyes.)
The population is 28,586. The town seems much bigger—but that may be because we walk everywhere, even when grocery shopping and having to return home toting heavy bags. Then the town seems quite big. Kendal is, truth to tell, the third largest town in Cumbria. I pay careful attention to see if I can detect the distinctive Kendal accent, but I can’t; many people here are from elsewhere in England, and one thing England has in abundance is accents. I listen first, then try to guess where the person I just met is from. Then I ask. I’m always wrong.
Kendal is our favorite of the Lake District towns. It doesn’t have a lake, but it can boast of its Kent River.
Almost every morning I have walked the footpaths along its banks,
shaking my head that this quietly flowing water could have wreaked such havoc here in December, when the great flood drove thousands from their homes, some of whom haven’t yet been able to return. The resilience of the residents is evident, though. Almost everything seems back to normal. If we hadn’t been told of the flood we wouldn’t have guessed there had been one, although the knowing resident’s eye can pick out the unfinished home. “Insurance,” is how they explain the delays.
We live at 50 Stramongate Street, Yard 44
.We haven’t seen such numbered Yards before. I’ve seen such numbers up to the 150s; there are probably others even higher. Ours is typical, with the iron gates to keep out the unwanted. Centuries ago the natives could hide in them from raiding parties from the north and south (Scotland and England). That’s back when the major industry was textiles, woolen goods specifically, referred to as Kendal Green from their distinctive color. Sheep could be hidden in these yards. Now the Yards are alleys with shops in them, access to parking areas, or like ours lined with small flats (apartments).
Speaking of our flat.
We are comfortable here. It’s like new inside. We were told this building used to be a pub, but now it houses several newly-remodeled apartments like ours. We wondered one evening whether it was haunted, though. We heard talking and music coming from my bedroom (we have two; seemed a shame to waste one). I trained my one good ear on every nook and cranny but couldn’t locate the source. Then I summoned Joy. (I do this often. I’m terrible at finding things.) She couldn’t locate it, either. Then, almost accidentally, I spotted light coming out of a crack in the bed’s footboard. And sound. Then I looked under the bed and found electrical stuff. Aha! Turns out that the unusually thick footboard houses a TV. A TV? Then I checked the unused remote controls on the stand beside the bed. Pushed a button.
A TV ascended from the foot of the bed.
You’ll notice in the picture that Joy immediately laid claim to it. So much for thinking of ourselves as sophisticated travelers. We’ve never seen a hidden telly before.
Oh, we thought you’d like to see the view of the Majestic Wine Warehouse from our kitchen window.
The flat is conveniently located, don’t you think?
Back to the Yards. A cab driver said he thought they served “back when” as sheepfolds. That makes sense in an area where the sheep are so valuable. But there are probably as many explanations as there are taxi drivers.
We also have our own castle, Kendal Castle. It’s just a pile of rocks now, though. Built in the late 1100s, rumor has it that the Parr family inherited it and that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, was born here. There’s no evidence that this happened but it’s a great tourist tidbit. (The truth is that when she was born the castle had already fallen into disrepair and her family didn’t live in the area.)
We have lots and lots of churches. I had every intention of getting better acquainted with them until we got waylaid by St. George’s hospitality. Their buildings are old but there’s lots of life in them, we’re told.
Speaking of old: We see an abundance of old people in town. The population here is older than the national average—and I think the national average of England is pretty high. One chart I saw says almost a quarter of the people in Kendal are over 65. As I’ve said before, we feel right at home here.
Today (Wednesday) we visited the town’s excellent Museum where we experienced another first:
we toured the wildlife section by torch
(that’s a flashlight with a British accent). Art students sat in the darkness before various windows, sketching the birds and beasts and butterflies on exhibit. Who’d have thought? I strained to see the displays, wondering what was so special about the experience. My artistic wife was disappointed when the lights came on; what before had seemed mysterious and intriguing now seemed like any other array of stuffed animals.
One final comment about the town and the museum. We saw the sign for Kendall Grammar School with its founding date: 1525. What a contrast between this culture with its gray stone row houses and
ancient spired churches,
and our American throw-away society, where old is bad and should be torn down and only the new is to be desired. Here deteriorating
buildings are propped up and refurbished.
In America valued properties are torn down to make way for new condos or a parking lot.
On my morning walk I discovered a previously overlook un-spired church. The building is relatively new by the standards here, but the congregation of the
Stricklandgate Methodist Church has been meeting since the 16th century.
The plaque is a testimony to the abiding influence of John Wesley–who preached in Kendal once on a Monday (not even Sunday!) in 1753.
I’ve preached in lots of places, with nary even any scribbled graffiti to commemorate the occasion. Sigh!
Okay. I must quit. The point of this post is to assure you we like our new old home.