6 days of walking, 70 miles, 11,000 feet uphill and feel full of energy. And a blister or 2.
No one here. Our last day and we didn’t see another walker at all. A person having got out of her car and waddled 30m up a hill to have a wee, yes, but no one else. Very changeable weather, warm, wet, dry, windy, still, and that was the first hour. This area seems so remote and almost untouched by human development. Even fewer shaggy sheep. The landscape is punctuated by little nooks carved onto the hillside by the sheep – scant protection from the elements. The lambs must be pretty hardy as well as cute.
Sometimes difficult to know if we’re following a sheep trail or proper path, and very steep at times. Coming down is harder for us than going up – on knees, and as Linda will know – elbows and bottoms. Only a small amount of blood lost, but a bit more pride.
No cuckoos until our slippy descent down into the valley. Such a change of view from stark steep hillsides to the edge of Derwent water and all the activity of groups paddling and kayaking from Nichol End Marina. Suddenly into crowds of holidaymakers and their dogs. And Lakes ice creams, so not all bad. Back to the real world. We will miss this rugged landscape. Having seen it at its most benign we look forward to a return trip.
The planning starts now. Not sure when, how, where or even if. But it starts.
The mist from Wasdale Head chased us up the valley as we climbed towards Black Sail pass, together with the drizzle. First time in a week to don our waterproofs – probably pretty unheard of in the Lakes. We sense that this is more ‘real’, The Lakes being formed by rain somewhere. Otherwise it would be The Dry Patches. The higher peaks disappeared covered by clouds and mist as we scrambled down into Ennerdale.
Black Sail Hut is a pretty amazing YHA place, miles away from the beaten track. And closed at present cos of covid. Thanks virus.
The woods shown on the map have been chopped down – cropping or from ash or larch disease? Loved the sound of the cuckoo – (haven’t heard any down in Hampshire ) was drowned by the sound of chainsaws. Up and over Scarth Gap Pass and into Buttermere valley. Met a chap from Essex who’s been wild camping for the past week and now considering a change of life and moving up into the hills. Maybe the pandemic has focused peoples minds to follow different paths.
Into Keswick for the night – best B and B so far – West View. Everything works – yeh!
This day was meant to be ‘easy’. Gentle 5km climb over into Wasdale Beck, gentle walk along Wast Water. In fact the ‘climb’ into Wasdale was 350m, and hot. The start of the climb was the train line, so Paul wasted 20 mins waiting for a train – kept on ‘peeping’ it’s whistle – which induced a frenzy of action in Paul, but then.. no train. Eventually it arrived for the photo opportunity Phew!
The peace around here is piercing. Nothing, then skylarks, then nothing, then a group of F15 jets practicing taking out the sheep on the side of the fell. Over in a blink but odd, as we hadn’t thought about outside events almost at all. Have we been invaded? Probably not, but good to have a few of those jets on our side.
The walk up Wast Water should have been peaceful. In fact a bit of a pain- hot, hard on the feet and lots of cars. Many parked in the smallest hole. We hear later that emergency services couldn’t get through because of these cars: bloody idiots. Hope they were ritually humiliated in a significant way.
The Wasdale Head Inn – humming spot. Access to some of the highest peaks with a campsite and its heaving here with families, fell runners and youth groups. Busy bar serving hearty grub (best Lakeland lamb chops) and a good bottle of wine. We’ve become less discerning about our rooms – a bed is perfect.
We ordered Lamb chops and a lamb shank. Then felt a bit guilty having seen so many live versions of our supper all week. They do have better lives than many sheep, so we gave thanks, and tucked in.
Tomorrow we go over Black Sail, a bit daunting, and rain forecast. Bring it on!
Our longest day so far, so an early breakfast. Er, nope. Hotel say no. ‘8.30 is the earliest’. Really?? Yep. Hey ho.
A great day’s walking. Hard in the heat and no where to have lunch. Disaster! But anticipated so chewy bars, apples and nuts are a feast. The route started with the Walna Scar track, easy navigation – made for the mining, long since gone. Views are amazing, the sound of moorland birds lovely. A few people around, but within 1km of a car park the people all go. As we leave the scar track navigation becomes a bit challenging. ‘Permissive route’ means ‘not marked on the map, or on the route itself’ and ‘ swept away last year by the river’. We wobbled a bit, tramped through bog but eventually came onto a path. 2nd mistake was following someone else on the fells. I’m not sure they knew where they were going, but certainly not the same was as I had planned! 50 m of climb later to get back onto our path. They appeared to be going into a dead end quarry. 15 mins later, calm restored and lesson learnt!
From the top a gentle walk down inter dispersed with vertical bouldery sections. Dramatic. The ubiquitous sheep laugh at us.
We arrived into The Boot Inn at 5.30. Apparently if we havn’t arrived by 6 they send out a rescue party. It was close, but the Boot is hugely welcoming, warm shower, and water. Yea!!
Welcome to the Lake District, full of holidaying families, lots of potty spaniels, fell walkers, all shapes and sizes of generally very happy people, out and about and enjoying the most amazing sunshine. Except. Some local farmers not quite so happy for hikers to inadvertently enter their bull field (following a footpath sign) and attempting (probably inappropriately) to climb over a fence and wall. Loud expletives were bellowed in our direction and pretty much told to bugger off home! Oh dear. But, it didn’t spoil a truly splendid hike from Windermere to Ambleside following some fairly gentle contours hiking in amongst the fell sheep and cattle. Spring has just come to this area and it is gloriously bursting with bright greens of new leaves and emerging ferns.
Ambleside appears to be totally devoted to tourism with the streets taken over by B and B’s. The town is full of all hiking and climbing paraphinalia and some lovely little independent restaurants and bistros. Of note, and highly recommended is Lucy’s. Not inexpensive but we were all made to feel special and welcome. A delicious menu and great wine list, even including some Bauduc wines (Gavin Quinney, owner of Bauduc is Lucy’s brother!) Lucy, a southerner who made her way up north with her Cumbrian chap some decades ago, writes a little missive together with the menu, mentioning all the guests for the day for dinner, by name! The restaurant is fully booked for the next number of weeks, a little spaced out right now due to social distancing but Linda was quite happy to be sat next to a cardboard cut out of David Attenborough.
Day 2. Gosh. 3 days with sunshine, no rain and light winds. Some sort of Lake District record. And we hope they keep coming.
Today was a bit harder, longer and more hills. Just as fab. And the sheep, well just as sheepy.
Coniston has a great past, copper ore, slate and over 5,000 years of human habitation. Impressive stuff. But Coniston isn’t Ambleside for food. Nice cafe’s but just a few pubs doing the usual ‘pie and’ for an evening meal. We seeked out…. a curry house, Sara’s. Rather good, cash only (gosh, we had cash!) and bring your own beer / wine – no corkage! And the food was properly good! Some not great reviews on Trip advisor, but the ‘best’ restaurant was closed for ‘unforseen’ reasons. I would enjoy going back to Sara’s – with a bottle!
Gentle walk town to Lake Coniston. Odd. Amazing scenery, but no one there. There should be a really good restaurant, or even a smart pub. But, nothing. I guess ‘policy’ but done well, tourism can add not take away.
Tomorrow our hardest day. And a broken walking pole. Hope the weather is kind.
Our next adventure. 6 days of walking from Windemere via Ambleside, Coniston, Boot, Wasdale, Buttermere and finally Keswick. We think about 100Km, but not allowing for detours, getting lost, forgetting a glove on some remote pike or general incompetence.
Our Longest day will be hard: 24Km and over 3000feet of climbing. But some spectacular views.
Already we have a flavour. Windermere and Ambleside are 10 miles appart, but so different. We are staying in a B+B 2, Cambridge Villas. V friendly and lovely. Looking forward to breakfast!
2 Thai restaurants in Ambleside, and a Fat Face and Rohan. And not to forget Tesco metro. Very smart. Just seen 2 folk from Home so far!
Now to use embrocation on my feet, that are already painful.
Alaskan Huskies. Keen, and soo much better that their Siberian brothers. Apparently.
Gosh, what a day. Early – well, 7.45am – walk, breakfast and then a snow shoe around the sea. Actually across a bit of it. Goran, our guide, was fab. Lovely coffee and then lunch in the Sami house tent. Just the 3 of us and smoked reindeer. Yum.
After lunch, dog sledging. 6 dogs, all keen, and seem to know how to do it, as we don’t!. Only a few panic moments, then we started. Golly, amazing. We both had a chance to ‘drive’ which means holding on with a death grip and praying to your god or gods. They answered, as all survived. Even if the person in the sledge was gripping with his/ her bottom as tightly as the one gripping the sledge driving.
Sami tent. Rather splendid place for lunch.
Supper: steak with pepper sauce. Fab day. And a glass of (very very expensive) wine. Argentinian Malbec has never been more expensive.
We have arrived in Lapland in Sweden. A mere -5c, apparently quite warm for this time of year! We come in search of snow, huskies, ice fishing, and, of course, the Northern Lights. In the above photo a ‘hint’ of green can be seen. Ish.
Jolly cold, SAS bumped our flights by 3 hours, so 6.30pm arrival became 10pm, groan. The kindly Brandon Lodge had left us out supper and a bottle of wine! Yea.
Adventure starts tomorrow. Nordic Winter Skills at 10.00 am. Does it involve rape, pillage or plunder? Maybe not. Perhaps just ice fishing. Might even eat our catch!