Wythop: Mike Saunders 1948-2010


Looking over the valley from above Wythop Church

On the beautiful hillside of Sale Fell is this simple memorial bench to Mike Saunders.  Mike Saunders lived in the Cumbrian coastal town of Workington and died at the age of 62-years in the West Cumberland Hospital after an ‘illness bravely borne’.

The memorial plaque told me that Mike Saunders was a good cricketer and a good golfer.  Research revealed that he was an excellent amateur cricket player, playing for Haverigg Cricket Club where he eventually became Captain and for the Cumberland team.  This memorial bench left me with the sense of a much loved man and his obituaries paint a picture of a well thought of man who loved cricket and later golf.  In his working life Mike Saunders started out his working life as a teacher and later worked at nearby Sellafield  Nuclear site.  Mike Saunders was a ‘great husband’ to Val Saunders and in retirement he generously gave his time to the Meals on Wheels service.


In Memory of Mike Saunders Good Cricketer, Good Golfer, Great Husband 1948 – 2010

Sale Fell is one of the smaller Wainwrights, that is the 214 hills listed by Alfred Wainwright in his guidebooks.  The Wainwright Fells range from Scafell Pike at 3,210 feet above sea level down to Castle Crag at just 985 feet.  Between Keswick and Cockermouth, Sale Fell might be small but it is a stunning viewpoint and its steep slopes make it an excellent site for a memorial bench to rest on.  We walked from Wythop Mill’s lovely Church of St Margaret of Antioch that is tucked in to the fellside.  From the fell we had glorious views of the flanks of Skiddaw and on the ridge above Wythop Woods we had a lofty view along the length of Bassenthwaite Lake that glistened blue in the sunshine.


Knaresborough: Dame Thora Hird Actress



Dame Thora Hird Actress

Walking in the Woodland Trusts’ lovely Nidd Gorge on our way to Knaresborough we came across this memorial bench to the actress Dame Thora Hird (28 May 1911 – 15 March 2005).  A much loved and hard working actor, Thora Hird was born across the Pennines from Knaresborough in Morecambe, Lancashire.  On the stage and TV Thora Hird was a versatile actor who worked until the age of 90-years and won three BAFTAs.

We were lucky to have a beautiful day to visit the paths through the stunning Nidd Gorge, the sunshine filtered through the trees on to the lively river and the network of paths.  We had walked from the handsome Ripley Castle where romance was in the air with a wedding, along the old railway line to the river.  Once we were at the bottom of the gorge, the overhanging trees provided plenty of resting spots for the kingfisher that followed our progress along the River Nidd.


Dappled sunshine along the River Nidd near Knaresborough

I was intrigued to find this bench as I had always associated Thora Hird with Lancashire not Yorkshire and I took the photographs for the blog to prompt me to find out more.  Despite searches I am no wiser and have not been able to find any link between Thora Hird and the lovely town of Knaresborough.  Thora Hird does have links with the county of Yorkshire; she played Edith ‘Edie’ Pegden from 1986 to 2003 in the Yorkshire comedy sitcom ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ filmed in Holmfirth in West Yorkshire and many of her finest performances were in roles created by the Yorkshire playwright Alan Bennett, including starring in two of his dramatic monologues Talking Heads.


Port Isaac: Archie Thomas 1969 – 1985


Port Isaac Cornwall

Memorial benches are in the news, not a phrase I ever expected to write on this blog.  The memorial bench for Archie Thomas was placed in Port Isaac following his death at just 15-years of age in 1985.  In December 2016 the bench was caught by heavy waves and washed away in to the sea.  Fortunately, this story has a happy ending as rather than being lost in the ocean the bench was washed up on the Saunton Beach in North Devon; miraculously surviving a trip along the Cornish and Devon coastline.  Kathryn Challis found the bench while walking on the beach on New Year’s Day this year, took photographs and enlisted a friend to help her move it to her home.


Kathryn Challis understood how important memorial benches are to families and shared the story of the bench on Facebook to try and find the family of  Archie Thomas.  With the help of social media and local newspapers the story reached Worcester and people who knew Archie Thomas’ family and  very soon the boy’s father and sister were found.

Unfortunately, the storm at Port Isaac in December 2016 took a total of three memorial benches but only Archie Thomas’ bench has been recovered and returned to Port Isaac.  The plaque on the bench remembering Archie Thomas reads;



1969 – 1985


This lovely story has now also made the national news and it was the Guardian article that alerted me to the tale.  Jasper Rees’ article starts, ‘no one talks about memorial benches much’, well of course here on this blog I talk about them all the time!



Culcharry: Archie Morrison 1916 – 2005

Culcharry is a small group of houses and a very pretty spot near to Cawdor and just a few miles from Nairn on the Moray Firth in Scotland.

We had followed a beautiful spring walk to Nairn, stopping for lunch overlooking Nairn’s attractive harbour and then followed the river Nairn to Cawdor, with its medieval castle.    Cawdor Castle is an impressive building full of legends, the 14th century tower of the castle is intriguingly built around a holly tree but it was built too late for King Duncan and Lady Macbeth to walk its corridors.  We walked through Culcharry as we were taking the lanes back to our starting point, enjoying the fine weather and the sense of summer to come.


In memory of Archie Morrison Culcharry 1916 – 2005

This lovely bench overlooks the group of houses and has a clump of cheerful daffodils behind it.  The commemorative plaque tells us that Archie Morrison of Culcharry lived a long life, which must be testament to the clean air in this part of Scotland.  An obituary adds to the story by telling us that Archie Morrison’s wife Annie Morrison lived even longer, dying peacefully  ten-years after her husband at the age of 100-years.  I am sure she got chance to sit on this bench and remember her husband.


Culcharry near Cawdor in Highland

Sale Fell: Margaret Anne Brown 14/4/1934 – 10/9/2008

The small mound of Sale Fell (359m) has a view that many larger hills would be proud to call their own.  From the flanks of Sale Fell the walker can see along Bassenthwaite Lake over Wythop Woods and to Skiddaw; on a sunny day there are few places to beat it.  We had started our walk from the pretty church of St Margaret’s that is tucked in to the fell on the narrow lane between Wythop Mill and the Pheasant Inn.  Sale Fell is a Wainwright, that is one of the 214 fells listed by Alfred Wainwright in his seven volumes of guides to the Lake District fells.  We were walking on this lovely hill because my partner is collecting his Wainwrights.


Looking over Bassenthwaite Lake from the edges of Sale Fell

This simple memorial bench has a plaque with a lovely dedication to Margaret Anne Brown; ‘For those who love our land to rest awhile and dream their dreams’.  This dedication suggests that Margaret Brown had a contemplative nature and also loved the beauty of the Lake District.

Sale Fell (2).JPG

In Beloved Memory of Margaret Anne Brown 14/4/1934 – 10/9/2008 For Those Who Love Our Land To Rest Awhile and Dream Their Dreams

I have no doubt that many walkers have been grateful for the opportunity to rest a while on this beautifully positioned bench and I certainly took the opportunity to dream my dreams while I took in the view.