THE LITTLE ASBY HAWTHORN
On a limestone escarpment overlooking Little Asby Common stands a solitary hawthorn silhouetted against the sky. Dramatic and inspiring, the landscape is more Icelandic than English and the rocks take on strange formations if you stare at them long enough. "It's a really special upland common, devoid of trees and rare in Cumbria," says Jan. "Except this amazing little hawthorn, growing out of the rock and clinging to life." Probably about 200 years old, it is a powerful symbol of the hardy upland Cumbrian spirit. On the day of our visit, a crisp October day, the only other visitors were crows curious at our presence. For Jan, the isolation is comforting. "Who could not love being up here?" she asks. "Being out in the fresh air away from concrete and crowds lifts the spirits," she says. The hawthorn tree is inspiring. Seemingly lifeless having shed its leaves, come spring and once again new shoots will sprout, followed by flowers in summer and red berries in autumn. "It's actually doing quite well as there's not much dead wood on the tree despite its age," she says.