Farewell to Red Kite

Huge wrench to leave but lots of good memories and off to pastures new. Hopefully left in good hands with a young couple who will build on what we did
and enjoy it.

Bluebells in the Chilterns

The Chilterns is arguably one of the best places in the UK for these beautiful native plants and this year has been amazing. We were so lucky to be allowed access to some private bluebell woodlands where not only were the flowers spectacular but the peace and tranquility lifted the spirits even more.

The images speak for themselves and I am grateful to my walkers for their photography skills

Farewell to Patrick of the Hills

What an amazing achievement to get to nearly 91 with hardly any illness and still have a twinkle in your eye and a huge circle of friends from all walks of life.

Patrick Thomas Gordon-Duff-Pennington written by Peter Frost-Pennington
Born 12 January 1930 (Patrick Gordon-Duff) Died 9 January 2021

Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, aka “Patrick of the Hills” who has died aged 90 was the booming voice of Muncaster Castle in the Western Lake District and the hard-working hill farmers of Scotland and Cumbria for many years.

Patrick was a brilliant communicator who could talk to anyone and bring a smile to their faces. He loved to be controversial and would say the most outrageous statements with such a charming twinkle in his eye and his tongue firmly in his cheek that most recipients thought he was joking. Usually, he was deadly serious. An amazing memory and fierce determination were gifts from his mother and his education mainly taught him that “diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths without giving offence.”

Patrick delighted in standing up against any government or those in authority, firing off letters or calling politicians of all persuasions on the telephone to bend their ear to the plight of whichever dispossessed group he was fighting for at the time, usually those with an agricultural or rural agenda. Emails, social media and smart ‘phones he never understood and he has now achieved his long-held ambition of dying without ever having turned on a computer.

Patrick grew up in Moray in the northeast of Scotland and was educated at Eton and Oxford before National Service in the Cameron Highlanders. He carried the Regimental Colours at the Queen’s Coronation Parade in 1953 through the rain. His parents disapproved of him becoming a shepherd in the wilds of Scotland and in 1955 he married Phyllida, adding her surname of Pennington to the two fine Scottish surnames already in his possession. Many years later he made the mistake of accepting a reverse charge call at 3am in the morning from a rather drunk Scottish gentleman residing in Fort William who had been reading the telephone directory and demanded to know what right he had to three surnames? Patrick couldn’t answer him but ever after refused to accept reverse charge calls.

His marriage produced four highly independent daughters who he brought up on a mixed hill farm in Dumfriesshire before moving with his beloved wife to her ancestral home of Muncaster Castle in the Lake District in the early 1980’s. While Phyllida and their daughter Iona made an excellent job of turning it through sheer determination and hard work into one of Cumbria’s leading tourist attractions he promoted it brilliantly in between working in the gardens and travelling throughout Scotland and Cumbria working for various agencies.

Patrick has been at various times Hill Farming Convenor of the Scottish National Farmers Union (NFU) Convenor of the Scottish Landowners Federation and Chairman of the Deer Commission for Scotland. Somewhere in between he was County Chairman of the Cumbrian NFU and for many years an appointed member of the Lake District Special Planning Board. He wrote to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 just after the Chernobyl disaster deposited clouds of radioactive dust on the Cumbrian Fells but the Russian Embassy refused to accept his letter as they didn’t believe anyone had three surnames and thought it was a hoax. Nevertheless, Patrick persisted which resulted in a long association with the British Soviet Friendship Society and a tour of collective farms in Siberia followed by a return visit with two Russian farmers to Cumbria who spoke no English. No matter; Patrick drove them round the Cumbrian Fells introducing them to various farmers, laughing and singing all the way.

Patrick also had a lengthy connection with another family concern, Ardverikie Estate in Scotland, serving for quite some time as Managing Director. Ardverikie starred as Glenbogle House in the BBC TV series “Monarch of the Glen” and stood in as Balmoral in the film “Mrs Brown” and more recently “The Crown” TV series. Along with Factor Geordie Chalmers in the 1980’s Patrick was instrumental in installing an hydro-electric scheme at Ardverikie which saved the Estate.

Patrick would light up any room he entered with his amusing tales and irreverent outlook on life. His brilliant memory and party tricks of ambidextrous mirror writing ensured guests forgave his usually shabby apparel. He was especially proud of an ancient coat held together with orange binder twine and with more holes than tweed. He even once became the centre fold in one edition of Japanese Playboy fully clothed in this dishevelled coat standing with the magnificence of Muncaster behind him. Although worried that his father-in-law would have disapproved of finding his castle’s photograph surrounded by tasteful pictures of naked oriental ladies, Patrick was more concerned that he had been described as an “English Eccentric” despite his Scottish Heritage.

Regardless of his prickliness in dealing with those in authority he was awarded the MBE and later the OBE for services to agriculture and served for many years as a Deputy Lieutenant for Cumbria. All a bit at odds with some of his profuse poetry which he resolutely took every opportunity to sell to unsuspecting Muncaster visitors whom he enjoyed ambushing while thinly disguised as a hard-working gardener. For example, in “The Home of Lost Causes” he ends;

“It clings to me tenaciously,
The wish to dig a pin
In any set establishment
Which thinks it’s sure to win.
I do not like the Tories,
Dislike the Labour Left,
The SDP & Liberals,
Of policies bereft.

So because I’m always guaranteed
To say what can’t be said,
I think I’d better stick to being –
An anarchist instead.”

Patrick always had a boyish enthusiasm for life and an interest in people which never left him. He worked hard for crofters, farmers, artists and tourism. He was a wonderful communicator particularly with young people, advising them to be true to themselves, treat others as you would wish to be treated yet always to stick two fingers up at those in authority and keep them on their toes. Patrick did much to bring people together and made a lot of peoples’ lives easier. A commonly held view of those he met was that they were lucky to have known him and he brought light and laughter to many.

He will be fondly missed with a smile on their faces by his four daughters, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren and a myriad of folk all over the world and far beyond the bounds of his close family and friends.

Dream on, Patrick of the Hills. Whether in Heaven or Hell you will be entertaining once more those who have gone before you and will now be glad of your company again. Bless you and thank you.

Beannaicheadh Let
(Blessings upon you)

Tetsworth and the Malvern Hills

A trip to Tewkesbury for a late birthday celebration for Tim. He was brought up in Broadway and wanted a trip down memory lane – Malvern Hills, Cotswolds etc.
we found a lovely little cottage on the banks of the Avon at Tewkesbury, overlooking the Severn Ham

The cottage was tiny and beautifully restored with the owners living next door https://www.tewkesbury-cottage.co.uk/
It was once home to a family of 9 children – unthinkable to us who all need ensuite and creature comforts.

We were blessed with dry weather and, although pretty cold especially on top of the Malverns, with the lovely fire in the cottage we had a lovely time.
Everywhere was eerily quiet due to the pandemic and it was not tempting to go to restaurants except for a lovely farm shop at Chadbury for lunch and restocking
Tim was able to visit Broadway – home for much of his childhood and reminisce about those days so all in all a very good break.
Plus Eileen kindly looked after Jock so not dog walking required!

The Walk in the Malverns started from Beacon Road car park where co-incidentally a group from Worcestershire Nordic Walking led by Carolyn were setting off on a walk.
We walked up to the beacon and the Queen Victoria Memorial and back via St Anne’s well and Earnslaw Pool – so many people happy to be in the wonderful ‘green gym’ of nature – dog walkers,
runners, mountain bikers, Nordic walkers and everything in between.

At Earnslaw Pool we met a wonderful woman who told us that because of the pandemic she had lost her job and therefore her home so was homeless and sofa surfing until the council could find her somewhere to live. She was so accepting and sure that everything will be Ok – very humbling

Views from the top were worth the climb and the mist cleared so you could see across the vale of Evesham and over towards Worcester

Another Chapter opens for Glynis

On a beautiful sunny day in September we ended our walks with coffee and cake at the farm Kitchen at Swiss Farm in Henley https://farmkitchen.cafe/
It had been a challenge to find somewhere with outdoor space that could be covered if the weather was inclement, could accommodate us
and we trusted to be following the Covid rules. It turned out to be a good choice with the added benefit of introducing some of the group to
Bosley Patch farm Shop – recently featured in Countryfile with Mary Berry https://bosleypatch.co.uk/
They sell mainly organic produce grown in the nearby ‘patch’ so completely fresh and their shop is open 24 hours a day – self service.

It is our loss that after 5 years Glynis and her husband have left the area to pursue a housebuilding dream and be more involved in the care of their new grandson but we are hoping that they
will be back occasionally, join us on some of our long distance walks when circumstances allow these to resume, and join us in Austria in 2021.

Photos are courtesy of those present who are all far better photographers than I am so thank you to those contributors

Walks with Jock during Corona – where my poles took me

Walking with my dog is an opportunity for outdoor exercise and also to enjoy nature and the beautiful Chilterns.

Keeping up my fitness and Nordic walking technique are vital for the post Corona era and as we hopefully near an easing of restrictions it will soon be possible to once again share my knowledge of the area and assist others in enjoying Nordic Walking in the Chilterns https://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/


Last weekend we walked from home, down through Henley, Pack and Prime Lane, Greys Green golf course, Rotherfield Greys and back via Badgemore. The sun was glorious and we saw very few people

a couple of dog walkers and joggers easy to keep our distance.

Dawn Chorus with my Nordic Walking poles

This morning was International Dawn Chorus Day which meant an early start at 5.30am

It was a beautiful morning with a pink sky – from the garden I could watch the deer grazing contentedly

while I listened to the countryside awakening. The birdsong continued for more than 2 hours so we were able to make recordings from our ancient Chiltern wood, the Thames riverbank and Culden Faw woods above Hambleden

For the birdsong and videos copy and paste the link


Nordic walking round Henley

What a wonderful spring we have had with blue skies and warm sunshine – everything has been looking amazing. The lockdown with Corona virus has meant less air and road traffic and sights rarely seen like a deserted riverside at 8am. The birdsong is incredible and the night skies so bright.

Scents that I rarely notice like hawthorn blossom, cow parsley and horse chestnut flowers make you want to stop and sniff them. Foraging too has been a real bonus as we try to avoid supermarkets.

Ways to use nettle shoots apart from soup – nettle souffle was quite a hit, Dandelion leaves instead of rocket, wild garlic adorning salads, risottos and anything else. http://www.foragingcoursecompany.co.uk

No boats on the river means many more swans and other birds. Last year at swan upping there were very few swans so this is good news.

Pictures in the Quaker garden – a haven of tranquility

Henley is supporting key workers and vulnerable people during this pandemic. there are many gestures that raise a smile and the town has been divided up so that each neighbourhood has a support network

to support those self isolating or vulnerable in other ways. Surrounding villages are doing similar things

and many local suppliers are rising to the challenge. We are lucky to live in a beautiful and community spirited place – well done Henley https://www.henleytowncouncil.gov.uk/