Sept 5, Grasmere
Leaving London for the Lake District I had a pretty full load in my Duffel bag /packsack; full because I have been unsuccessful in securing hostel type rooms for tomorrow (Saturday). And so I have my tent, sleeping bag, mat, that I would have left behind if it looked like space was available. I have resisted buying more appropriate trekking type bag because heaven knows I do not need any more packs, and because I do not want to carry this kind of load through the hills here. If I was going hut or hostel to hostel I might have bought a small bag that would handle the smaller load. But with the big load I will try to get into places, hike for a few days and then go by bus onto the next place. I assume that some of those places I may be camping. All of my bike stuff has been left in London, and if I am able to bike on this trip I will need to make a trip back to London to change loads.
It took 4 hours and a high speed train then a short slow connector train to Windermere, where I bought a week long ticket on the bus system that runs up many of the valleys. My first bus ride took me about 15 kms to Grasmere, the only place that had hostel space when I was searching the last few days. I still don’t know where I will be tomorrow. The villages are idyllic, with stone buildings and narrow winding roads at the bottom of valleys (dales) with streams (becks) feeding little lakes. It is all very touristy and I am still in the height of the tourist season, and so the smaller villages are a bit more appealing. It is a mystery to me that the old norse words have remained after 1000 years. I wonder if fell is the old word for mountain and fjell, the modern Norwegian word an evolution. At any rate I hope to spend some time enjoying the features of the Lakes whatever they are called.
By the time I was settled into my hostel, it was about 3:30, and off I went on my first walk, about 10 km around Grasmere Lake. With every step the tension of the last days fell away. The deep forest, first along a quiet road, and then along a well trod trail, no doubt used by Wordsworth and his contemporaries, soothed my woes away. Returning to Grasemere I went by Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth did much of his best stuff. Being in a large city, even as rich as London just does not mean as much to me. I hope I can get settled in somewhere so that I can find a way to do some good hiking. This area is so attractive.
I ended up in a beer festival, attached to a large pub. In a big tent they had about 40 kinds of beer on tap. I selected two half-pints to start and joined four old guys at a picnic table on the lawn. We talked Rugby, bike stealing, beer drinking, creaky body parts and such things that old men talk about. They did not seem to be hikers, but one of them could do deep knee bends to the amazement of the rest of us. Most importantly I learned that rugby starts this week and so I may be searching for some TV pubs in the future.
Sept 6, Keswick
I had high hopes for this day, but it was not to be. I started out with a couple of ideas of how I would hike up the 3rd highest fell; both fell through. The first idea was dropped because of poor bus connections, the second because I got on the wrong road. I did get on the bus back to Windermere and had a nice visit with a woman who had moved to the area ten years ago. Not a hiker but in love with the fells. I took a ferry across Windermere and walked to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, having a pub beer to ease my disappointment in not being in a more isolated place. I then had Tea in a hotel near the farm, and then made my way back Grasmere. Not a bad day, except that I was in a bus too much of the time.
Back at the hostel, there was no room for me and they could find no place that would let me put a tent up. I walked down to the beer festival where I had seen a number of tents. Asking other tenters I got the notion that they just put up their tent in an available space. So that’s what I did. While I was doing my tent a motorcyclist came in and started doing his. Then a loud, big-butted woman with a beer in hand came along and demanded to know who I was and what I was doing. So I, politely introduced myself, and asked who she was. She claimed to own the hotel and indicated that only entertainers were allowed here and that I should take off. I entertained the notion of offering to entertain her, but wasn’t sure that that would have been much fun. Besides she had moved on and was working on the motorcyclist.
I packed up and headed off, thinking about getting on a bus, but I was stopped by a nice couple who had witnessed the whipping I had received. They offered to take me down the road to near Keswick (pronounced Kezik), where they knew of a campground.
So, out of the nice part of the mountains and into a large caravan type campground, but at least I had a place to sleep. To assuage my disappointment I went to a pub nearby.
Sept 7, Longthwaite Hostel at Rosthwaite
I started this day with low expectations, but it turned out great. From the campground I had to get a bus into Keswick, thinking that I would get into the hostel there and have them find me a place to stay and suggest things to do. But, in the Keswick bus depot there was a bus labelled Borrowdale, and rather than walking around Keswick, I decided to see what Borrowdale was about. The advantage of having a bus pass is I don’t have to think about this, just jump on the bus. Borrowdale turned out to be a valley of course and one of the villages, Rothwaite, has a hostel called Longthwaite that had space for me. There are numerous “thwaites” around here, from old Norsk meaning roughly crossing.
After dropping my bag I headed down the river on a part of the Cumbian Way Coast to Coast hike. After some time I turned off heading up, hoping to get onto the fells. The trail I picked out go more and more sparse, and then ended up hanging over the valley with a 2 m wide trail going up. Rather than falling down the cliff I turned around and made my way back down and around to this trail. Past something called Castle Crag and then onto Honister Pass, before I made my way back down, picking of the Coast to Coast again, completing a nice 4 hr cycle walk. I had beer and dinner with a nice couple from Manitoba who are on the third of 17 days doing the Coast to Coast., and then later talked with an old guy who has done many of the walks I am interested in.
A fine day, finally.
Sept 8, Longthwaite
The weather is holding and so I headed out to try Scafell Pike, the highest mtn in England. With no car, I had an hour’s extra walk to get to the parking lot normally the start of the hike, but I got away early, and so was not too worried. From the parking lot, the trail almost immediately was paved with dinner plate sized stones that makes for a very stable erosion free trail, but at the end of the day tend to catch your boots putting you on your nose. I did appreciate the big stones on the steeper section where they became random steps and made for fast going early in the day.
I was soon out of the trees and shared the grass and rocky meadows with sheep and the odd other hiker. Because of its height Scaffell Pike is very popular. I caught and passed about 20 hikers and was passed by one fell runner. I need to go fast up, because I am slow coming down, particularly in the boulder fields of which there were about three small ones. I was surprised the top was not more spiky, as Pike refers to a pointed mountain. At the top there was a fair amount of mist floating about, blocking the views, but not enough to appear rain threatening.
It took me about 8 hours from hostel to top to hostel. Tiring enough for me to plan a less ambitious day tomorrow. I think I will find a short walk and just relax and plan my next days. I do have to get a bike here and hopefully before I leave here I will have a plan.