Helen and I had a few days in the Lake District last week, staying in a lovely flat above the Wheatsheaf Inn in Lorton. Lorton is nicely situated in between Keswick and Buttermere, so all my favourite places to walk were within easy reach.
I spent lots of childhood holidays staying in Keswick, as a family we spent a fortnight each August in a guest house in Keswick, walking each day in the area. I first walked up Catbells under my own steam when I was four years old, bribed with squares of Kendal Mint Cake! In my late teens and early twenties I went up for a holiday each year with a friend of mine, spreading our wings a bit further to climb mountains like Great Gable and Helvellyn. Once I moved back to Yorkshire I could just about do it as a day trip with friends…Keswick and Derwentwater is my special place, it’s where I run to when things are bad, but also where I go to celebrate the good things!
Our first climb was Haystacks which is at the bottom end of Buttermere. It’s a great walk, it’s not big but it’s still quite a challenge. We planned to park in a little carpark at the end of the lake but when we got there there was a notice that it was closed for a couple of weeks. It turned out it was for a film crew, they were filming part of Mission Impossible there! Now I can’t say I’ve ever watched a Mission Impossible but we still waited a couple of minutes when we heard a helicopter coming in to land with Tom Cruise inside. Unfortunately they took off as soon as they landed, though he did wave through the window!
It’s a steady uphill climb to the top of Haystacks, a bit rocky but manageable. At the top it’s quite craggy, so it’s hands and feet time, I quite like that kind of scrambling. There’s about three small tarns on the top too. We found a spot with a good view for our lunch, the photo shows Buttermere in the foreground and Crummock Water behind…
On the other side was Great Gable, hiding behind a little cloud.
We descended down the other side, making a circular walk, a good walk though a bit of a challenge.
On Wednesday we spent the morning mooching round Keswick, walked through Hope Park so we could see the lovely statue of Max the springer spaniel. Max helped his owner Kerry through a really bad depression and eventually Kerry started sharing photos of Max and their walks on facebook and he has become quite a local celebrity. Kerry has three springers now, Max, Paddy and Harry and he shares his walks with the dogs on facebook, they love jetty jumping! He organises charity dog walks and has raised a lot of money and a lot of awareness of mental health issues.. The statue is lovely.
We sat on the benches overlooking the launch jetty for our lunch, Catbells is just behind the island, the one in the middle with a bobble on top is Causey Pike and the triangular one behind is Grisedale Pike.
We decided to walk up Catbells in the afternoon, I’ve been up many times, it’s very popular as it’s not too big but has amazing views. This also means that there’s a lot of erosion of the paths so every so often the National Park authority do some work to slightly re-route the zigzag up the fell. It may be my imagination (it’s about 5 years since I last climbed Catbells) but it felt a much more challenging route. There’s a lot of scrambling up craggy bits, but it’s so popular that the rocks have been polished smooth, so it was difficult to get a good grip or foot hole. We eventually climbed to the final section of the ascent, we saw a couple following a little path to the side which did look easier…at the beginning!
The path got narrower and narrower, but it also came over to the front of Catbells, rather than above the ridge, so if I looked down there was just a very steep hill drop to the bottom of the mountain and nothing to stop a fall! To add to my concerns, there was no firm rocks to hold onto, just grass and the path had little grip…it was one of those times when you don’t want to move forward but you know you have no choice as we couldn’t go backwards. Eventually I crawled over the final few rocks to the summit, very relieved to be able to sit on the top and eat my lunch.
The view from the top is amazing, I climbed up there in my younger days to watch the sunrise, it rose over Blencathra (to the right) as mist settled over the lake.
The walk down the other side was uneventful, in future I’ll have to go up and down the same way. I have to admit it has completely knocked my confidence at walking the Lakeland fells, I felt it was too much of a responsibility for my walking companions. It probably didn’t help that it was Catbells, which I’ve walked so many times and have a special little place for in my heart. I love walking in the lakes, it has a completely different feel to walking in the dales, I love that feeling of being on top of the world, but we’re thinking in future of using a mountain guide as they will know the more accessible routes.
On Thursday we did a much easier walk, we parked near Ashness Gate by Derwentwater and walked up the steep and winding road to Ashness bridge, stopping briefly at Surprise View…
The little packhorse bridge at Ashness is one of the most photographed views in the Lakes, with it’s backdrop of Derwentwater and Skiddaw. Unfortunately it was full of photographers standing in the way with their tripods and long lenses!!
We carried on walking along the hanging valley to Watendlath, a lovely little hamlet next to a tarn. We didn’t linger too much there either as there’s a hydro-electric pump being built so it wasn’t particularly peaceful! We continued over the fell and down to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale.
From there we could follow the Cumbrian Way path to Grange, where we had a very welcome cup of tea before walking across the duckboards to Lodore and back to the car. The weather was a bit moody but we didn’t need to put our waterproofs on all day. Despite our grumblings about the photographers etc we had a lovely walk, it was a great circular route without the scary craggy bits!
I was amazed to find we had walked nearly 11 miles. It’s the furthest I’ve walked since my operation and subsequent infection, so I was well chuffed with myself. Usually my friend and I find that however long the walk is, the last mile is hard work, but this time I still had some energy in reserve!
Of course we did manage to do a little fabric shopping! On the way home we stopped in Kendal to visit Cool Crafting – the home of Luna Lapin! It’s a lovely shop, much bigger than I expected, of course we couldn’t come away empty-handed, I bought a shirt length in a soft striped cotton – and I’ve already cut out a shirt!
It was lovely to have a few days with my daughter, I’ve managed to pass on my love of the Lakes as she has now set herself the challenge of walking all the Wainrights! I had a bit of a ‘woe is me’ day afterwards as sometimes it does feel like everything I enjoy doing is either bad for my neck or not safe due to my balance, I gave myself a good talking to, helped by my friend being keen to use the mountain guides too, and picked myself up again…I think it’s Ingleborough next 🙂