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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Visit to the Lake District

I've come down to visit my friend Colin in North Yorkshire for a few days, arriving on Saturday evening just before sunset. On Sunday we took a run out in the car over the Pennines to the Lake District - a favourite area of mine in the north of England. I love it when you're driving along the A66 and can see the Lakeland mountains in the distance. Then you pass Blencathra with its fingers of ridges radiating from the main ridge - Colin and I were climbing that in 1985 or so, when the famous climber Chris Bonnington strolled past us with his hands in his pockets, and disappeared towards the summit way ahead! - then conical Skiddaw towers ahead, and the road arrives in Keswick, which was hoaching with people - being a fine Sunday, and Mothers' Day, I suppose it was no surprise! We didn't stop but continued down Borrowdale alongside Derwentwater, taking a detour up the narrow, climbing Watendlath road, to look at "that bridge again"!

Ashness Bridge is its real name but it's such a picturesque bridge that photos of it appear on chocolate boxes, tea towels and a fair amount of other Lakeland souvenirs, so that you tend to look at something and recall that it's "that bridge again" in the picture! The view today wasn't as clear, with the mist hanging low over Skiddaw, in the distance behind Derwentwater.

A bit further uphill is Surprise View, where the road runs close to the top of the cliff edge, affording a fabulous view up and across the lake, as well as down to the road and the Borrowdale hotel looking like a dollshouse way below. We had intended to stop at a cafe the rockclimbers use at the hotel but when we had driven back downhill and joined the road again we found it was closed - still winter! It will probably open again for Easter.

However Colin knew of another cafe - at the top of the Honister Pass, a road that must surely have been constructed first for the slate miners up on the mountain. The road over the pass climbs up a 1 in 4 gradient to a high point of nearly 1500 feet, one of the highest passes in the area, though not the steepest! The old slate workings can still be seen, and tours underground are organised for visitors. Not that we did one of those! A mug of tea and a sandwich was all we needed, and after having a quick look at the surface workings we were on our way again. Twisting downhill again we turned off at Buttermere to continue back to Keswick by the Newlands valley, passing the back of one of my very early hill climbs with my dad, Cat Bells. I love some of the Lakeland mountain names - Haystack, High Street, CatBells...... I wonder where they came from.

Back in Keswick it was still busy, and even at the Lakeside there were folk feeding the ducks, swans and geese;

waiting for the Derwentwater motor-launch for a trip around the lake;

taking a walk along the well worn track to the viewpoint of Friars Crag. We opted for the crag, and took the short walk to view the length of the lake towards Borrowdale.......

........and Cat Bells across it.

Then there was the drive back through the town and on down to Ambleside, passing another of my childhood hillclimbs, Helm Crag, above Grasmere village. Climbing again we looked back at the small lake of the same name.

Then we were off over another climbing and twisting wee road to the Langdales, pausing for a few photos of the hills - The Langdale Pikes.....

and the hardy little Lakeland Herdwick sheep with their distinctive grey fleeces.

At last we arrived at Ambleside, like Keswick always bustling with visitors, and made for Hayes Garden Centre - a paradise for those into "homes and gardens". I restrained myself from buying any more plants for my already overplanted wee garden space, but came away with a pair of loppers and a small hedge trimmer! Now I've no excuse to let the leylandii bushes get too high or the buddleia not to get cut back when I get home! I think I'm looking forward to semi retirement next month so I can actually get outside and do a few of the jobs I can't get round to doing just now.

After a cuppie in the busy cafe we were off again, up and over the Kirkstone Pass this time heading for Ullswater and the A66 back home again.

This is another of the area's high passes, with the old inn for weary travellers at the top!

Do you remember last year I lost three people close to me in the space of a few weeks? One was John, who died of a heart attack at the age of 60, and whose funeral I couldn't attend because I was attending my cousin Leslie's funeral the same day. I was keen to see where John was buried so we detoured to Arkengarthdale, and the Methodist church cemetery, where I said goodbye to my good friend.

Being near teatime we decided to call in at the CB Inn where I worked about 28 years ago. The current owners have done a lot of work to it over the years since then, restoring the old and extending in a very sympathetic traditional way - well you have to in the National Park! I doubt if you'd get permission to do anything very avant garde! It all looks very nice, inside and out. Our meal was wonderful, and I met some old friends in the bar. I had to laugh to realise that the older folk were the ones I knew and the youngsters were kids I remember from the primary school. When I worked there WE were the youngsters!

And so ended a lovely day. It was dark when we left t'CB (as they'd say down here) for Colin's again to be welcomed home by Esme the cat, waiting for something to eat!

Talk again soon.

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