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The past is never where you think you left it

Uncle Bill, Auntie Maggie and Margaret at Low Bowkerstead Cottage in 1946/47 and Margaret outside Low Bowkerstead Cottage on her 90th birthday

[J]anuary saw an exciting beginning at Grizedale Forest with a very special first guest in the new holiday cottage at Low Bowkerstead Cottage.

Grizedale Forest is a place of art, healing and play, which holds a unique position as a ‘true forest of firsts’ – the UK’s first forest for sculpture, the first forest trails, the first wildlife ranger, the first deer interpretation centre.

Margaret Gabriel (nee Backhouse) had not stayed in the cottage since 1940 and has a very moving story to tell.

Margaret’s granddaughter, Emma Bird of Barrow-in-Furness, couldn’t believe it when she saw Low Bowkerstead Cottage advertised on Facebook as a new holiday cottage, just as she was struggling with ideas for her Grandma’s 90th birthday. She booked the cottage immediately and kept it secret from Margaret.

When the family pulled up to Low Bowkerstead, Margaret burst into tears as she realised what was going on. And here’s why:

In 1940, Margaret and her family were in the air raid shelter at their home in Barrow-in-Furness when a German bomb dropped and their house was damaged. Their parents decided to take Margaret and younger sister, Edna, to their aunt and uncle, Maggie and Bill Wilson, in Satterthwaite.

Their mother packed a suitcase and they caught the train to Ulverston, a bus to Newby Bridge, then walked from Newby Bridge to Satterthwaite – a very long walk for two young children. Luckily, a man drove past and offered to take Edna as his car was full. He delivered Edna to Low Bowkerstead Cottage and Margaret and their mother arrived later on foot.

Bill Wilson worked as a woodsman and charcoal burner at Grizedale Forest and they rented Low Bowkerstead Cottage from The Forestry Commission.

The girls were enrolled at Satterthwaite School. They loved attending school there and spent their spare time spent their spare time playing in the outdoors of Grizedale Forest. Margaret speaks fondly of playing shop with the hens in the garden, selling them worms.

Satterthwaite School Register – Margaret and Edna’s entries 679 & 680 in the register

Margaret returned home to Barrow-in-Furness when she left school at 14 and started work, but still visited at weekends. Edna stayed until she was ready to start secondary school.

Later, Margaret and Edna returned to Satterthwaite when the village school closed in 2006.

3rd January 2018 was Margaret’s 90th birthday. Her family had not arranged anything special as her dearly loved sister, Edna, was very poorly in late 2017 and sadly lost her battle to cancer on 26th November.

Margaret’s granddaughter, Emma Bird, then saw Low Bowkerstead Cottage opening on Facebook. The family sprang into action and booked the cottage for the weekend. On Sunday 7th January, Margaret was taken on a surprise trip to Satterthwaite to meet up with her family for afternoon tea in the cottage. There were a few tears, lots of reminiscing and new memories made.

Margaret’s granddaughter, Emma Bird said: “Grandma often talks very fondly of her time at Low Bowkerstead Cottage and has an oil painting of the cottage on her wall at home, which is why I recognised it when it popped up on Facebook!

When Grandma arrived at the cottage, she had a good look around and spent the afternoon reminiscing about her time there. We heard stories of pigs in the barn and hens in the orchard, about her time at Satterthwaite school, and about how the cottage had changed since she was last there. Overall she had a wonderful time – bringing back memories and reliving her history with us all”.

Dave Lowe, Recreation and Business Manager of Grizedale Forest says; “Grizedale Forest a place for people: a top-ten Lake District tourist attraction, a cultural hotspot, and a sanctuary for relaxation, for exercise and play. We are just so happy that through welcoming guests to stay in our onsite cottage, special moments have been created in a very special place.”

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