Despite the bus breakdown, the ride to Cockermouth was stunning, with mountain, lake and forest views along the way.

I did find a big mural with the history of the place. The town has been around for over 1000 years, which is pretty incredible!

Cockermouth is an ancient town, the first written record of it is almost 1000 years ago so it’s probably been around even longer. Apart from the castle it doesn’t look very old though and unfortunately the castle is a private home.

I walked around the Main Street and saw a new history mural.

There was an historical walking route so I decided to follow that around the town.

I noticed one of those historical plaques above a doorway.
If you notice this notice you’ll notice this notice is not worth noticing.
Somehow I crossed the wrong bridge and ended up on the other side of the river.

Cockermouth is most famous (to me, anyway) for being the home of William Wordsworth. I thought it was peak daffodil season because there were white daffodils everywhere, which felt like an odd choice, considering the famous poem is about a host of yellow daffodils. A lady I met on my detour told me that I’d missed the yellow ones by a couple of weeks.

We talked about how many times her house has flooded since she moved here from the south (twice) as she lives by the river. We also talked about how small towns like this are being affected by things like Airbnb, online shopping and younger people moving away. It’s the same story everywhere, really. The towns that are thriving are too expensive for locals and the smaller quiet places feel dead because the houses are empty except on weekends.

We also talked about the largest building on the river, the brewery, which was now for sale. The locals want a museum but it all depends on who buys it.

I returned to the trail, which took me through the main courtyard of the brewery.

A man saw me taking photos and jokingly asked if I’d like to buy it and I said I was just seeing how much I had on me. He said if I had three quarters of a million pounds it could be mine! Well, I said I’d have to ask my husband but why not?

Next was around the castle wall to have a peek through the bars, then down some back lanes. I quite like the name of this pub.

‘The Bitter End’

Next was the churchyard.

It’s always worth pushing on a church door, just in case you can get in and have a look. The stained glass looked like it might be worth a view from the correct side.


Very nice! But I think my favourite part was where it looked like they had the local primary school kids do a project on the church then put the beet one on display.


The buildings in Cockermouth are quite brightly coloured, which is interesting (well, to me!).

It was a nice day for a wander about. The little blister on my toe is getting better but I’d like it to be gone by the time I get to Spain so I’m having a couple of easy days. Plus it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

The last thing I did before I caught the bus back was have a chocolate eclair from a very nice bakery. I sat in the sun at the bus stop with an older lady and got chatting about chocolate eclairs and the weather and the buses and she said ‘You look very familiar,’ and I replied that there was no chance of her seeing me before as I’d never been to Cockermouth. Then we worked out that she had been on the bus that had picked me up from the broken down bus earlier that day.

When the bus arrived I once again got the front seat at the top (woo hoo!) and, since it was a different numbered bus it went back along the other side of the lake and I got to see the train cafe where Luke and his family and I have booked for an afternoon tea when we come back to the area in late May.

Before returning to the campsite I went back to Mrs F’s Cafe for some lunch. Pea and mint soup.


I asked what soup would be on tomorrow – curries butternut squash. I can’t wait!

Back to the campsite to enjoy the sun. The wind that had been predicted wasn’t affecting my little spot but, with two days of rain predicted, I decided to pack up and book a bed and breakfast.

Enjoying the view for the last time (this trip).
These people take their dogs EVERYWHERE!

As I was rolling up my gear another camper arrived, Chris, who was doing the Cumbria Way so we had quite a long talk. I had some time to fill before the 4pm check in at the B&B and it was nice standing in the sun.

On the way across town.

The bed and breakfast was only about 600 metres from the entrance to the campsite – Keswick isn’t very big, but I haven’t stayed in this area before, close to the lake park near the theatre (for anyone who knows the place). Also about 100 steps from The Wainwright, one of the best pubs in town.

The outside.
The inside.
The view from the room.
The pub!

I had a lovely dinner of steak and ale pie and read my book. A lady at another table asked me what I was reading so we talked about that.

She was there with her mum and the two of them looked like they were having a whale of a time, like a two person hen’s party, laughing at everything.

I returned to hop into bed reasonably early and it’s amazing how even just one night of camping can make getting into a real bed seem like one of life’s great pleasures!

Someone’s sticker collection in a shop window.

Threlkeld to Keswick

With the opening of the Threlkeld to Keswick railway footpath, today was definitely going to be my easiest day of walking yet.

The pub Id stayed at in Threlkeld was even more dog-friendly than all the other places I’ve been; treats, water and towels to wipe the dogs down.

I had a perfect Cumbrian breakfast at the Horse and Farrier and would love to return there on my next trip. The service was so good and the food was excellent! I’d highly recommend it to anyone coming to the area. Also it was the first place I’ve stayed to have USB points in the room, which was very handy. On the way out of town I took photos of some of the classic Lakeland buildings.

Some cute yarn-bombing at the local cafe.

The rail trail is 5km long and very flat but winds through some gorgeous scenery. It wasn’t open last time I was here due to storm damage, so I’m glad it was part of the trip this time.

Near the start I walked past two older gentlemen who stood gazing at the view. I stopped for a moment and said ‘It’s perfect,’ and one of them turned around and solemnly nodded and said in a very northern accent ‘Aye, it is,’ and I felt like we understood each other perfectly. Japan has popularised the concept of ‘tree bathing’ – going out in forests and soaking in nature. There’s definitely a similar feeling here. Just people staring at the scenery and soaking it up like they’re a battery being recharged.

I was definitely heading against the flow as the number of people walking towards me increased towards Keswick, the tourism hub of the northern lakes. For the first time I got a bit over saying ‘Good morning’ to everyone I passed. Well, except to one older fellow and his elderly dog. Somehow we managed to be walking in the same direction and first I passed him while he was giving his dog a break, then he passed me while I was fixing my socks, then I passed him while he was having a rest, then again he passed me and then finally I passed him at the end of the walk and said ‘Fancy seeing you here!’ And we both laughed. Possibly you had to be there, but it was just a ‘laughing with strangers’ kind of day.

The rail trail ends at one of the highest points in town and walking down into the town feels a bit like coming home. I must have looked like I knew where I was going because a lady watched several people pass before she jumped out of her car and asked me for directions. I think my giant backpack makes people think I know where everything is. I mean, I do know where most things are, and she wanted to walk up Latrigg so I confidently pointed out where to go and told her about the car park behind the hill.

Market day! I somehow managed to capture an image with hardly any people but I actually had to dodge and weave my way down the footpaths.

I walked straight to the campsite on the lake and put up my tent. There were only two other little tents in the large space next to the water, however the line of caravans waiting to get in stretched out of sight. I was later told that caravans need to book at least six months, if not 18 months in advance, and here I was just walking in.

The reception was closed when I arrived but when I went back to pay later on they still had my details in their system and I found that very satisfying for no reason at all.

I walked to Booths, which is a fancy supermarket around the corner, and gazed wistfully at all the posh food before buying some hand cream. Being blasted by the wind all day is starting to take its toll.

Then I walked to one of my favourite cafes, Mrs F’s.

I had an amazing zucchini soup there last time (there is such a thing!) and, despite the whole town being rammed with people, there was no one in the cafe except the son of the owner, who told me his mum would be back in a minute. I was in no hurry so I sat down. The owner came back and I had some tea and a intimidatingly large slice of coffee and walnut cake. I wouldn’t have chosen that flavour usually, but I’ve been reading Stephanie Plum novels and the characters are always talking about coffee cake.


The cafe is a delightfully eclectic mix of old furniture, Knick knacks and mismatched stuff. The owner is from London, although she had been to Australia. She had bought a car with some friends and driven from Melbourne to Perth and loved it. Today was her daughter’s 16th birthday and she was expected imminently, school having just finished for the day. Sadly I left before the daughter and her friends appeared – my impression from the discussion between mother and son was that her arrival was going to be quite dramatic and possibly full of teenage attitude, but I finished my cake and tea too quickly and decided to move on.

Afterwards I bought a couple of postcards, a book, and went to have a drink and sit in the Dog and Gun, a place Luke and I enjoyed on our last trip.

A couple came in with two very calm Siberian huskies and sat next to me. We had a little chat about their beautiful dogs and then everyone else who walked past also stopped to chat about their dogs and compliment them. People even pulled dog treats out of their pockets to give them. Initially I thought ‘how nice’ and then I thought ‘what a pain in the bum’ – it must be annoying to only have people want to talk to you about one topic (that being said, most people only want to talk to me about their relations in Perth). I said this to them but they graciously said they didn’t mind.

Not my photo but this is pretty much what they looked like.

I guess it’s to be expected in this dog-obsessed country, and if you’re going to walk around with two canine supermodels you can’t be surprised when the paparazzi follow you everywhere.

Next was back to the campsite to have a shower before the cold set in. Apart from going to bed clean, the other benefit of an afternoon shower is that the block has just been cleaned. Also there was no one else using it, which was nice!

There’s a really lovely garden around the shower building and it has a pair of pheasants living in it!

After I was dressed and dry I wandered down to the water and got talking to a couple from Liverpool (Caroline and Dave) with a cute little fluffy dog (Milo). We talked about travel – they had bought a camper van recently and we’re testing it out before taking a month long trip to Scotland in May. We chatted for ages but then the wind picked up and I walked back into town for a dinner of Thai, during which I was happy to have my noise canceling AirPods to hand in order to drown out the extremely loud table of tourists that sat down very close to me (and they ordered CHIPS. In a Thai restaurant!). The other couple nearby looked like they wished they’d brought their AirPods too.

That’s them, behind my delicious fish cakes.

Back at the campsite the sun was slowly going down. I spent a while watching the colours change before getting into my sleeping bag (where I am writing this) to discover that someone in one of the neighbouring tents is snoring so loudly I think the people in the caravans must be able to hear him. Thank god for noise canceling earbuds… again!

View of Skiddaw on the way back to the campsite.
Stupid Canada geese on the lake. One of them attacked me on my last trip here. I mean, I don’t know if it was one of these specific geese but they all have that look about them.

So, my first night actually camping. Dave told me there’s supposed to be an hour of extremely high winds tomorrow during the day so we’ll see how that goes!

I nearly forgot: I saw a guy swimming today. Hopefully someone has alerted the nearest asylum to let them know one of the inmates has escaped.

A Windy Walk Across Matterdale Common

After a late start I finally left the cosy confines of the Royal Hotel and set out uphill (as always) and on the way to Threlkeld.

Try saying ‘Threlkeld’ out loud five times quickly. On paper it looks like a perfectly normal name for a place but I feel like an idiot when I try to say it out loud. Ridiculous. I was afraid to meet anyone along the way in case they asked me where I was going, and considered changing my destination to avoid the awkwardness but the route I’d plotted looked so good I decided to stick to my plan.

OK, so it doesn’t look very exciting on paper and I seem to have added an extra pink line, but the point is, it goes through nowhere.

The skies darkened as I headed up hill and the wind picked up. Not good, but the meteorological wizards said it wasn’t supposed to rain and I chose, against all previous experience, to believe them.

Catkins, or pussy willow. Haven’t seen this since I was a kid!

Farmland gave way to Matterdale Common, which seemed very wide but there were a few cars in the car park right before the gate, so I thought I’d probably see a few people.

I did not, in fact, see anyone.
Over a little bridge and onto the common.

Up to this point I’d thought of commons as small green bits in the middle of villages, but this is the other kind.

Can you see the tiny path in the distance? It was about 6km away.

While walking across the common could’ve been dramatically improved by a severe reduction in gale-force, freezing cold winds, it was also magnificent to be out in such beautiful, open landscape alone.

I had bought a packed lunch from the Royal Hotel so I got to enjoy another uranium-enriched curry chicken sandwich and all the accompanying bits.

I did eat my lunch crouched over in a ditch to get out of the wind, but I still enjoyed it enormously.

I don’t know how something can look so bad but taste so good.

Walking is like meditation and it’s interesting to see where my mind wanders. I spend a lot of time re-writing song lyrics to suit my situation. I wish I could remember some of them now! I’ve never thought of myself as musical so I don’t know why this is where my brain goes.

All the grass is brown, and the sky was grey. I went for a walk on an April day. 🎶

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I like doing this so much (the walking, not the song lyrics). Being in this landscape is like walking through an art gallery all day, every day. Every flower is beautiful, every mountain spectacular, and I feel like it suits me and I fit in. No matter how the weather changes it just shows the landscape in a new light and damp and misty or bright and sunny, it’s as close to perfect as anywhere I’ve ever been.

I was talking to the family yesterday about Switzerland, as that is where their son lives. Switzerland is incredible. It’s the most dramatic scenery I’ve ever seen – but it’s inaccessible to me. I’ll never be fit enough or have the skills to climb those mountains. I don’t speak the language. Here it’s just right.

The long and winding road.

Eventually I made it across the common and met my first person of the day, another solo woman who was heading to Helvellyn YHA. We had a chat and moaned about the wind before parting ways.

The only other people I saw were some guys with dirt bikes.

Walking towards Blencathra felt like coming home, I’ve walked through the valley behind it several times.

Blencathra on the horizon.

After the common it was all downhill into Threlkeld and to the Horse and Farrier, a quite fancy pub that has been going since 1688, although probably not with nachos and waffles on the menu.

My feet were a bit sore from the rocky, uneven path and my knees had a few minor twinges so I spent the late afternoon off my feet on my room then had a delicious dinner downstairs, followed by zoom with Daniel to discuss the Spanish adventure in a bit over a week.

Super low beams.

Tomorrow a walk to Keswick. Can I actually be bothered to camp? It’ll come down to the price of accommodation and the likelihood of rain. Either way, I’ll enjoy it!

Cumberland River Camping 2023

Cumberland River sits in the Otway National Park, just west of the (somewhat exclusive) beach town of Lorne. It is situated on the Great Ocean Road, about three hours south west (or five hours if you’re going in Summer while every man and his dog is heading to their 3 million dollar beach house) of Melbourne.

Jess and Leah have been going there for years, but I took my first trip last Summer. The campsites have to be booked by the previous March as it’s a super popular campsite and it’s easy to see why.

View from our campsite.
Kids enjoying the deep spot in the river while the mum in the foreground told us about the tiger snake they saw there once, that swam down the length of the pool while everyone leapt out as fast as they could.

Jess takes her nephew, Jett, while Leah takes her son, Jiah. They are pretty close in age, so when they aren’t arguing they are having a ball.

We book the campsite for seven nights each year and last year I went for four nights, this time I only managed one. I’d come back from the cruise to find that our friend who had been minding the house was still recovering from Covid and somewhat worse for wear, then when I got to the campsite I got a request to return to help look after a friend who is in Melbourne but is suffering from long Covid.

Luke’s station wagon.

Rather than set up a tent, I take Luke’s car, which has ample room for one person to sleep when I add in a couple of foam mattresses. Sleeping in the car is great as it is a nice flat surface and the car body cuts out some of the sounds of the campsite. this year we camped close to the river, which meant nice water sounds rather than people talking.

After I arrived I walked down to the deeper bit of the river with Leah to watch the boys mess around in their little blow-up boat. Unfortunately the water was quite cold or I would’ve waded in.

Our campsite. Since the boys are obsessed with fire (what child isn’t??) Jess bought them boxes of matches to experiment in the fire drum that the campsite provides. needless to say, they didn’t last long!

In the evening Leah made dinner with jackfruit (a meat substitute), which I’d never tried before, and then we walked to the beach, which is just across the road from the campsite.

Kind of looks like tuna but the taste is a bit sweet. We had it in burritos with bbq sauce. Tasty!

The waves at the beach are way too rough for swimming but it’s the only place where phones have reception so we walked down and the boys entertained themselves by doing what kids do: smashing things.

Hopefully no one misses those rocks.

After a bit of texting with Luke I headed back and despite the early hour I ended up in bed by 9:30.

In the morning I woke up surprisingly late to find a small mob of kangaroos eating grass quite close to the car. Leah and I watched them for a bit and a huge male hopped over and then, rather annoyingly, decided to sit right next to my car door just as I decided to go to Lorne. I waited him out and eventually got away.

I had breakfast in a bakery in town and was joined by a very polite cockatoo, who sat very close to me but kept quiet while edging gently forward.

Look at this distinguished gentleman!

Then I took a walk along the much longer and safer Lorne beach. I took some photos of the rocks and seagulls.

I mean, they are pretty great rocks!

Halfway down the beach I got the call to come back to Melbourne. I initially decided to wait until the following day, but by the time I got back to the campsite I’d changed my mind. It would be nice to have a full day at home before packing up once more, so I left. On the drive back I spotted an echidna crossing a fairly quiet country road. It’s little waddling run was super cute, but when I see something like this I spend the rest of the trip praying that the wee beast doesn’t get run over.

I did feel somewhat refreshed from the tree-bathing and beach-walking, however being at home was lovely too. All the moving around I’ve done lately makes me appreciate home anew every time I return, and that’s definitely one of the pleasures of travel!

Luke and I Hike Up Skiddaw, Cumbria

Two days before we left Keswick I had an attack of the sads and felt like I hadn’t done enough while I’d been there. I know Luke isn’t obsessed with walking like I am and while he was with me I didn’t want to torture him with huge days of walking. I ended up feeling a bit resentful, which was obviously unfair but I knew I wouldn’t be back for years and there was so much left to do! It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d bought a Wainwright map and realised I’d only bagged seven peaks.

Not that it’s all about ticking things off, but the days I had climbed high I’d been rewarded with amazing views and feelings of accomplishment and I was jonesing for more.

Luke very kindly and generously agreed that our last day, if the weather was decent, would be spent attacking Skiddaw, the fourth highest peak in Cumbria and the closest major mountain to Keswick.

I was both pleased and daunted so I planned a route that was longer but not so steep, as I’d tried to attempt the climb on my last visit but was scared off by the loose gravel.

We took a taxi to the Latrigg car park then headed around between Lonscale Fell and Blencathra and walked along the valley to Skiddaw House YHA.

This way is mostly flat and mostly dry until the walk up behind Skiddaw House which then is a fairly steady, grassy gradient to the saddle between Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw.

As we climbed higher it seemed that the whole of the northern fells were visible and I think I could see as far as Scotland!

We reached the saddle and at this point the wind, which had been picking up gradually, became a freezing arctic gale. We each put on a jumper and what few layers we had, astonished at the ferocity of it. Still, the view was excellent. It felt almost like we were standing over Keswick. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

We walked up to the cairns, quickly admired the view and then decided to head down via the steep path to Latrigg car park. We both felt very accomplished for making it to the top, even though it had been a pretty easy walk. Little did we realise that the worst was to come!

We started down and at first the track was a wide bridleway but it narrowed and became steep loose gravel. I genuinely cannot comprehend how people run this track, even though I saw people doing it. I don’t understand how people can manage it either going up or down.

We crept down the path at at snail’s pace and it took us almost as long to travel the one kilometre down as it took us to travel the five or so kilometres up. We had to stop to rest several times because of pain in our knees – and I never get pain in my knees. I was very, very glad I’d bought replacement hiking poles and that Luke had one as well.

The soles of my feet stung from sliding in my shoes and at one point we found a grassy stretch and attempted to slide down it using my plastic-coated map as a toboggan but it didn’t really work. We did have a laugh though!

The attempted toboggan slope.

Luke says ‘why not?’

Despite the pain it was certainly an achievement. As Luke said afterwards: I’ve done something I thought I couldn’t do so now I can be more confident with other things. He was right!

My weeks of walking in the Lakes have shown me that I have no problems with camping alone in the wild (if you can consider anywhere in England ‘wild’), that I can walk a fair way carrying all my gear, that I actually enjoy scrambling over rock faces (as long as they’re not too steep) and that I enjoy my own company for days on end. These are all good things of know!

When I get home I will start planning some Tasmanian walks and finally do the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. Maybe one day I could even aim for something really huge!

Have you ever conquered a physical challenge? Have you done something you thought was not possible? I’d love to hear about other’s achievements!