I've just spent almost two months back home where I was born in Cumbria.
It's a farming county in the top northwest corner of England in the Eden Valley, I lived there for the first 30 years of my life and I love going back because it's home. Many important people and aspects of my life still remain there.
I was born in the house my Dad built in a tiny village called Winton, (population around 350) in the Eden Valley. There's a village green, village hall and a fantastic pub, The Bay Horse Inn where the locals hang out.
One and a half miles south is the busy market town of Kirkby Stephen (population around 2000), where we have owned a small house since 1993. It's a relatively small town but it boasts five pubs and three fish & chip shops!! St. Stephen's church is beautifully situated in the centre of the town, I got married there almost twenty-six years ago and my eldest son was Christened there.
Even though I've been gone for over 20 years, every time I return it's like I've never been away. My parents and ancestors for generations back were all born in or around the Eden Valley so there's a deep-rooted sense of belonging that I feel every time I return. I am always surrounded by close and extended family and people I have known most of my life. When my son goes to the pubs in Kirkby Stephen, he is frequently asked who he is, when he tells them he is my son they say "Oh so your Steph's son, I know Steph!"
There's a strong sense of community within Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding villages, locals look out for each other but not in an obtrusive way, they are strong characters with a great sense of humour. They are hard working and fun loving 'salt of the earth' people.
Cumbria has one of the wettest places in England, Seathwaite, which receives between two and three metres of rainfall a year, so inevitably there are some wet days!
"There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!"
A favorite hike of mine which is popular with the locals & tourists is the 'Nine Standards' They are nine standing stones 2172 feet above sea
level (662m) which are part of the famous Coast to Coast walk. They are thought to have been built by the Roman army to resemble soldiers. The area marks a watershed divide across England where rivers flow to the Irish Sea towards the West and North Sea to the East.
There's a fell run to the top every New Years Day when a group of us, usually a bit worse for wear, hike up to watch the runners, it's a rugged race that goes ahead rain, hail or snow!
I looked up at the Nine Standards from the family home I grew up in and I still look up at them from our own house today.
When I tell people I live in England they often ask if I live in London! Cumbria is a long way from London in UK terms but to a North American, it's a relatively short drive!!
Cumbria is part of who I am and I am proud of that!
"You can take the lass out of Cumbria, but you can't take Cumbria out of the lass!"