Langdale to Borrowdale: My Second Encounter With Mountain Rescue.

I caught the bus from Ambleside to The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, a place I’ve heard a lot about as it appears on many UK hiking blogs. Because the first bus didn’t leave Ambleside until 9:30 and didn’t get to TODG until 10:30ish I didn’t go inside and now I’m kind of sorry. At the same time that day turned out to be the hardest slog yet so I’m glad I didn’t hang around.

The Langdale Valley on a sunny bank holiday Saturday is less a peaceful stroll through a stunning valley and more a walk along a busy high street. So many people! More than I’d seen on all the walks I’d done previously put together. At the end of the valley the track splits off in several directions though so that helped thin the hordes. Also at the end of the valley were a trio of mountain rescue vehicles and I learned from a conversation later in the day that it definitely wasn’t a drill and they’d been there since 8am. No idea what happened though.

As I faced the steep wall of Stake Pass I stopped thinking about other people and mainly started feeling sorry for myself. No one else was carrying a huge pack and it looked like maybe 1000 steps or more to the top, most of them moderately steep and all of them uneven.

I did find, once I got going, that is wasn’t so bad. Because the path had water running down it (they almost all do) and I had to look at every step for footing, I only ended up stopping a few times and with the view getting better and better, it was exciting to climb higher. I’ve never been great with heights but I think this experience is definitely helping me take more risks and be brave. I know some people would bound up stairs like that but for me it was a challenge. When I got to the top I felt like I’d conquered the world.

Over the top was an open grassland area for a short space. It was up here I met a group of uni students from Preston University. We swapped Instagram details at their insistence, then it was down into Borrowdale. Instead of uneven stone steps the path was loose gravel, which is my least favourite surface. I ended up walking on the grass edges on the narrow path that wiggled back and forth. I stopped halfway down and cooked some pasta (taking the advice of several people to actually have decent break when I felt tired) and while I did a man from, of all places, Redcar, came past. This was funny for me because Redcar is a tiny town in Yorkshire and Luke and I stayed in the nearby town of Saltburn last time we were here. The people we stayed with had nothing good to say about Redcar and made this point quite a number of times. Then I meet this guy and he said exactly the same thing.

We had a chat about things other than Redcar and he told me I should definitely do some wild camping at some stage and I agreed (we’ll see) then he moved on. I slowly inched my way down the slope and then struggled along the rocky and muddy valley floor. This was the point that I finally gave up trying to keep my feet dry and just walked through the mud. Within about two kilometres there were about 20 streams to cross and I managed most ok but it was slow going. I met an older couple (I should start tracking how many times I use that phrase) who told me this was as dry as it gets and quite often water is sheeting down the valley walls. Christ almighty.

The water was beautifully clear though.

I decided, as I always do, to stop at the first campsite I came to. It was pretty basic and so busy it looked like there was a music festival going on. I pitched my tent then went in search of the closest pub and had a pint of cider in their sunny beer garden. Lovely!

One Day In Ambleside

Today I once again woke up at stupid o’clock so I walked the mile down to the lake to have a look before breakfast. At least it’s a chance for photos without hoards of tourists.

This is one of the most famous buildings in the area, imaginatively named Bridge House. How do they come up with these things?

I also looked in the window of the realtor’s and picked out a few places that were just what I’d like for a holiday cottage if I sold everything I owned. This area is not cheap!

I also noticed this intriguing display. An unusual way of rounding up the mentally ill, but no doubt it works.

At breakfast I discovered that my American friend from The Sun in Coniston also happens to be staying at The Queen, so we ate breakfast together again and talked about our plans.

Soon after I set off across Ambleside walking without my big backpack and it was marvellous! I headed east out of town, thinking I might just wander around and end up on Loughrigg Fell. I have learned, since I got back, that it is pronounced ‘luffrig’, which is probably the only pronunciation I didn’t try out on other walkers on my way back.

First I walked toward Lily Tarn, or I thought I did. I found a small tarn, then another and then another. I wasn’t sure which was actually the one on the map, but it didn’t really matter. The whole area of Loughrigg Fell is surrounded by roads and villages, it’s pretty difficult to get lost for more than ten minutes.

I walked up to Todd Crag and between two rocky outcrops that perfectly framed an outstanding view south over Windermere, with Ambleside to my east. It was truly breathtaking and yet another walk where I hadn’t seen a soul.

I then struck out towards Loughrigg, which was pretty easy to get up. Although there was a place marked, rather ominously, ‘Black Mire’ near the path. The views from the other side were equally splendid – over to the Langdales and all the shades of green and rusty red. The weather held out and I had a good wander around taking photos.

As I headed down at about 11am I passed the first of dozens of groups heading up the hill. Several people were even fooled, by my serious-looking coat, map and sticks, into asking me for advice and directions, which I spread around liberally without hesitation.

After a pub lunch of fish and chips I visited the laundromat to get the worst of the mud and stench out of my clothes. It’s the first laundromat I’ve ever been in that didn’t sell laundry powder. Luckily there was a machine that still had quite a bit in the slot – I wasn’t about to buy a whole box for one wash. Then I bought a few bits of food for the next leg – which is a bit up in the air at the moment as I’m waiting to hear back from Australasian friends who happen to be in Ravenglass at this very moment, and I’m trying to convince them that a trip to the Muncaster Cumberland Sausage Festival would be a good idea. We’ll see how it pans out tomorrow. I’d be happy to spend another day in Ambleside walking over the hills on the other side of town.

Dinner in the pub, some blogging and reading The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. A surprisingly readable book about rhetoric but not enthralling enough to keep me awake. There’s only so much I can take in about anadiplosis, hyperbatons an aposiopesis. Especially after a pint of quite strong scrumpy.

Good night!

Coniston to Ambleside

Keen observers will note that Ambleside isn’t anywhere near the Cumbria Way – I made a diversion late in the day via bus because there was no accommodation in Elterwater. But I shall begin at the beginning!

I had a mostly lovely day’s walking. When I set out from Coniston the sun was out, the birds were singing and I stopped far too frequently to take photos of the countryside and listen to fighter jets zoom overhead as I passed through Tarn How Wood. I watched one come up the valley, flying really low. Another classic Lakeland experience!

I met a group of ladies who were also doing the Cumbria Way and they goggled at my pack. They told me they were stopping at The Old Dungeon Ghyll, probably the most famous walkers’ pub in the Lakes (well, in my limited understanding) but I had a strong feeling I wouldn’t get that far that day, which turned out to be correct.

At some point I took a wrong turn. For most of the walk I had assiduously checked my map every five minutes but I walked through a field of adorable sheep and terrific views and I think I missed a turn.

I ended up heading back south towards Coniston Water instead of north to Tarn How. Fortunately I found a local in my wandering and he looked at my map and set me right and I wasn’t too far out of the way. I ended up walking through a beautiful forest and saying hello to a lady who was also off on a solo camping expedition, the only differences being that she was on a horse and also (I imagine) not suddenly filled with raging jealousy, like I was. Then I remembered that I’m allergic to horses so it’s probably just as well I didn’t try to mug her.

Eventually I made it through the forest and found public toilets, right after spending the previous hour wishing I could find one. How fortuitous! Also it turned out that Tarn How is a super popular spot that people can even get around in wheelchairs so it’s not surprising that there were public toilets. I was grateful anyhow, and walked around a corner of the lake. I’ve heard it described as one of the prettiest tarns in the Lake District. Personally I think it was ok, but maybe the weather wasn’t doing it justice and it didn’t really compare to the magnificence I’d walked through on the previous four days.

I talked to a man who bore a startling resemblance to his bulldog and we discussed dog training for a while then I headed off again, away from civilisation.

This was the bit where the rain started, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the walk. I decided to cut a section off and walk alongside the road for a bit. At one point I heard a loud ‘HELLO,’ and who should I see cycling past but the landlord of the Stan Laurel where I stayed in Ulverston. I literally know two people by face in this whole corner of England and I walk right by one. What are the chances?

I found that the combination of nice solid and flat road surface and rain really sped up my progress and I made it Elterwalter fairly early in the afternoon. I’d set off from Coniston at about 10 and got to Elterwater at about 2:30. I stopped at a fancy hotel, the Eltermere, for a rest stop and had a nice scone with jam and clotted cream, made even more pleasant by their open fire right next to me.

I looked up the accommodation nearby and realised Luke and I stayed at The Britannia in Elterwater last time we were here, but nowhere had rooms and the bus to Ambleside left in five minutes so the choice was made.

I ended up at The Queen’s Hotel, and it was much cheaper than The Sun, although also not quite as nice. I ended up sitting at the bar and chatting to the dour barman and the upbeat barmaid all evening. Well, when I say ‘all evening’ I mean until 7:30, when I went to bed to read and then was asleep by 8:30.

Travelling is tiring! Even though I’m not working I feel exhausted by the middle of every afternoon. Do you find this when you’re on holidays? Maybe I need to develop a coffee addiction so I can push through 🙂 .

Here Comes The Planet 34 – England 08

Our UK camping and road trip special! We buy a whole heap of camping gear and take Van Failen through the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and all manner of places in between.


(Baby Weasels… baby weasels… hiding in a wall, baby weasels…)

The Lake District

This post should really be called ‘Amanda accidentally stays in a place of extreme luxury’ because that’s what happened.

Yesterday I booked accommodation for Mum and I. We’d decided one night at the south-ish end of the Lake District and one at the north, giving us a day to drive around or, in the unlikely event that the weather smile on the British public during the half term school break, do some walking.

I searched for something moderately nice and under 100 pounds a night and there was nothing decent in Kendal or Windermere so I booked the Merewood Country Hotel, which is closer to Ambleside (as an aside, how adorable are English place names? We drove through Pudding Norton the other day and there’s a suburb of Birmingham called Mouse Sweet. Seriously.). It was cheaper than the place we stayed in Warrington (Best Western-type establishment next to a motorway) and included a full breakfast. But check this out.

the bar, where I’m sitting now. The view from the windows is over Windermere. Well, mostly it’s rain but there’s definitely some lake-like thing in the distance.

This place has a library, for god’s sake. Every room has a functioning fireplace. If I was denied the Lebua in Bangkok I would accept this place as a strong substitute.

The entrance hall. It’s pretty much every Georgette Heyer book come to life. And if you don’t know who Georgette Heyer is, you’re missing out on the best Georgian/Victorian romance novels since Jane Austin.

It was the country home of some lord and his much more posh hunting lodge is just up the hill. More posh than this! Needless to say I having nothing appropriate to wear but neither does Mum… in fact none of the guests are dressed as nicely as the staff here. I’m slightly concerned about what to wear to dinner in the dining room, which looks more fancy than the rest of the house. I think my dream holiday would involve swanning around somewhere like this in some extremely large and swishy gowns (think Dangerous Liaisons), flirting with handsome men and eating extremely small cakes from large silver platters. Tell me I’m not alone in this.

The Library.

To finish off my massive post-a-thon for today, here’s a picture of Mum from this morning. We drove through Manchester on the way here and stopped in Burnage Lane, where Mum grew up. The house she lived in has been replaced but the street was familiar and so were the shops and the place names.

My mum is great :-).