“That’s a 100 tonne crane,” he said, looking at the jacked up crane lorry on the river bank.
“The bridge will be lifted in by a 1200 tonne crane,” he viewed us expectantly, “the second biggest in the country, for the UK’s first stainless steel bridge.”
He finished triumphantly and leant on his broom, waiting.
I provided the hoped for reaction.
“Wow, that will be some sight,” I remarked.
Graham was a little less impressed.
“Any idea when that will be?” he asked.
We weren’t quite sure exactly who the man with the broom was. Clad in building site uniform of hard hat, boots and luminous vest, he looked part of the Pooley Bridge construction team and was possibly in charge of sweeping up. However, he appeared to have assumed the role of unofficial PR and was, instead, chatting with the curious and passers by on the footbridge over the river as they watched the crane at work. We were two of them. It was clearly a more enjoyable pastime.
“Well,” he said, fingers finding his chin, “there is a dedicated part on the Cumbria County Council website that gives a projected time frame.”
“Ah,” replied Graham, “I shall follow that up. It looks like it could be a while though.”
He waved his hand towards the digging work on both banks. Pumps were busy keeping water the right side of the enclosed foundation pits that were being developed for the abutments that the suspension bridge would sit on. The farthest bank had already added one hiccup with the bedrock being 4m deeper than initially thought. Things were a little delayed as a result.
“Yes,” PR broom man agreed.
We left him to a waiting cyclist and headed back to the warmth of the car and the journey home.
We had intended a day on Place Fell above Ullswater but the forecast and my late arrival after early emails suggested a more prudent use of our time. It was a glorious winter morning; Ullswater sapphire mirrored the sky where the sun hung midway between earth and heaven. A bonfire lit in Martindale valley sent a purple grey plume of smoke vertically upwards until it met the horizontal airstream blasting across the hause. Turning a neat right angle before us, the smoke headed lakewards and vanished in the breeze.
These high winds along with subzero fell top conditions had called for plan B and I requested two lower lying hills as an alternative. Hallin Fell is a well known tourist top and another that I had avoided climbing, simply because it is invariably busy. Steel Knotts sits opposite. Both Wainwrights, the two hills guard the valley of Martindale beyond, with St Peter’s church sheltered between them. It is a lovely spot that offers views in all directions.
We decided on wandering up Hallin Fell before lunch at the car by the church and then climbing its sentinel sibling afterwards. There were few folk about and the hills were ours as a result. It always feels a humbling luxury, rambling well trod paths with our own private fell views and, for once, despite the reduced winter day length, we had time on our side as the walks are short.
So we sat and savoured the summits, absorbing the sights and sounds of Monday fells as the sunlight wrapped itself around the contours. We talked of Christmas plans and I found myself pondering the next few weeks. I enjoy Advent, a season of preparation and anticipation, and have already eaten two Christmas celebration meals with friends and attended the first carol service since it started. There is too a comfort in the familiar rituals of card writing, present buying and meal planning.
Graham showed me the beautiful red party dress he had bought for his granddaughter. It was just one of many gifts he would be showering on her during the holidays as a proud grandad. His face lit up as he waved it under my nose, along with some matching brightly coloured Christmas tights for the 3 year old. She would look wonderful in it all.
I do also have an Advent calendar. it isn’t filled with chocolate or gin though. It’s one I get out each year that has characters from the Christmas story gradually added to the Nativity tableau. I like it.
It also means I always have an excuse to eat the brick sized Chocolate Tiffin from Granny Dowbekins cafe any day in Advent.
Or at any other point in the year for that matter. Wizzard sings “I wish it could be Christmas every day.” I wonder what it would be like if it was?