Back to Windermere/ Gummer's How

Lake District Travel Blog

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The dinner from the night before hadn't settled, but I feel I ought to put Malcolm and Doreen's hospitality to the test so I chase it down with cereal, a full English breakfast, orange juice and 2 coffees. Mmmmmm :)

I head back to Windermere in the car, todays intention to head over water (not in the car of course) to the south part of the lake and stroll around.  I'm in rugged, fell-walking lands.  I expect the company, if any at all at this fairly early Sunday morning hour, to be of the girzzled, bestubbled, rugged and unwashed hiking variety so I'm slightly shocked to be greated by two staggering, drunken 'nymphs' in danger of catching hypothermia unless they're thongs are of a special lakeland thermal variety unknown upon the drunken, tottering-morning-after streets of my adoptive city Birmingham.

Windermere.
  Maybe they're a hardier species of girl up here?!

No rain today, but it's cold and windy. I stroll down to Bowness again and catch the first boat of the day, I and a couple of others braving the view from the open-top deck of the boat as it saunters down the water.  The wind is pretty severe and icy up there, and soon we have to concede defeat and retreat below decks, where I stare hypnotically out of the plexi-glass windows as the wind-whipped waves and spray are dashed against the ship-sides.  Certain small islands are pass by mid-stream and rather impressive private shore-side residences trail past in the distance with their wooden beams, white walls and private boat houses.

Disembarking at Lakeside dock, it's straight into The Aquarium of the Lakes, entry to which I've included in my boat ticket to kill an hour or so.
  It's early doors but me and some over-excitable kids head stright on in, the promise of otters and other such moments of tourist-catering cuteness putting a skip in our steps.  The Aquarium's an enjoyable enough place, but clearly not at its best out of season and in need of some TLC.  I amuse myself briefly whilst walking through the various ecologically incongrous exhibits (rain forest Poison Arrow Frogs next to fresh water lake fish next to scorpions etc, etc...).  Sadly the highlight of the show, the "oh-sooooo cute" otters clearly and wisely were all still in bed and had no interest in coming out to amuse gawping tourists as we stared glibly at their abandonned, glass-fronted artificial environ.  They are not alone, and various other four-legged furry thinga-ma-jigs (ferrets etc) have seconded the otters motion to stay out of sight and between the bedsheets.
A shoal of Pirhannas find themselves a long way from home and staring at me like I'm food ro somethin'!
  I'm momentarily caught in the stares of a tank full of Pirhannas (not indiginous to the Lakes around here we presume!)... a shoal of these can strip a man to the bone in a matter of minutes in their natural environ... I ponder whether they'd got the otters too, thus explaining their absence.  Serves the lazy, unaccommodating tikes right!

There ia a groovy sub-aquatic tunnel to stroll through where fishes swim about you and Tufted Ducks put in another showing, diving down towards you to tussle with the pond-weed.  All fine and well and probably more enjoyable with kids in tow to be bedazzled and shriek at the various animals, but as it was me and my camera headed out after waving goodbye to a lonely looking Conger Eel in the 'marine' section of the Aquarium.

One victim of the bad weather that had preceded my trip to the region were the famous steam trains that still run a 4 mile stretch of the scenic Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway line.
My first punk-rocker, wool-dyed Cumbrian sheep!
  Today they are being protected under cover in their sheds... so I head off south on foot to
Newby Bridge, the one point that people and cars alike can cross the narrower southern tip of Windermere.

En route to The National Trust's Fell Foot Park by the lakeside I have my first close encounter with individuals whom would become my recurrent companions upon my treks... the
Cumberland punk-rock clan Sheep!!  As you can imagine in such rural surrounds these chaps and chapesses are nearly everywhere you go, no matter how high, low, wind-swept or wet.
Newby Bridge crossing the southern tip of Windermere.
.. they'll be around, chewing the cud and silently mocking your vain efforts to conquer their landscape.  They seem to have become victims of a certain style trend within woolen fashion circles, to dye their hair/wool rather flamboyant streaks of colour. "maybe" I figure "punk rock didn't die in the early eighties but merely retreated to the fells to dissist looking mean and counter-cultural, but instead to look dopey and indifferent whilst chewing grass for evermore?"  Maybe they are stripes and colours of clan distinction or gang rivalry? Who knows?

Fell Foot Park is pretty, but slightly eery in its out of season abandonment.  Empty playgrounds, benches and swaithes of carefully cultivated grass abound where clearly there must be thronging masses of picknickers in the spring and summertime.  You can feel the absence of childrens' laughter tangibly.
The southern end of Windermere seen from atop a blustery Gummer's How.
  As it is, one family with their kids feed the ducks by the waters edge.  I head back to the road, map in hand, and head up an exceedingly steep side road towards the start of what will be my first proper little fell-ascent to the top of Gummer's How (1,054 feet, or approx 204 Weselbys high) to admire the view it offers over the southern half of Windermere.  Having walked several miles already my left-knee, in it's industrial strength velcro strap is holding up surprisingly well. The tarmac climb up the road though is punishing and two struggling cyclists coming up behind me grind to a halt, give up and head back down.

After recharging with a Snickers Bar and some water in a car park at the beginning of the footpath, it's a fairly unchallenging, if uneven, walk towards the peak of Gummer's How.  As I near the base of the final peak the wind whipping around me is reaching very noticeable force and by the time I have clambered on to the undulating, grassy mound of the exposed peak I am getting my first experience of the full-on
Lake District peak-wind!  I'm sure it's nothing at all to the hardened fell walker.
Windermere seen from atop Gummer's How.
.. but despite my coastal up-bringing I have a rather city-slicker conception of strong wind being the kind that merely turns your brolly frustratingly inside out... let alone the sort that given half a chance could probably turn you inside out!  I am laughing like an idiot at the sheer joy of it, as the wind courses through my body and almost literally blows tears back out of my ducts... moronically I have worn glasses today and they are threatened with being blown irretrievably off my face and into the heather at any second leaving me to grope my way blindly home if I'm not careful.  BUT I have an objective to achieve in striving to reach my first 'Trig Point'.  These iron-topped, stone markers are placed upon the point that represents the highest elevation of each respective fell or mountain peak and touching the Trig Point is the only way to truly claim you've 'made it to the top'.
The wind-battered 'Trig Point' marking the highest point of Gummer's How.
  Unremarkable though they be, they do help in providing orientation on the climb (if you can spot them) and an overblown sense of achievement when you reach them.

I was practically blown up the final mound to the Trig Point... I struggled mightily to get in position for a photo of the top of it but the combination of the damn thing being nearly taller than me and the danger of losing my glasses to the elements if I gave up both hands to the art of photography mean that I have to bottle the shot on this occasion and start to head back down.

Back to the road, I walk another couple of miles along to a pub I've been enticed to by my guide called The Masons Arms for a bite to eat and a choice of (a couple of) it's alleged 200 beers on offer!  This walk is longer than anticipated, and involving as it does many inclines and declines, begins to take its toll upon my pegs, my aunty's warnings of the day before "not to overdo things" plays around my mind as I try to forget the fact that I am now upwards of a 10 mile walk just to get back to my car, the last return boat at 15.
Reasons to be happy... 200 reasons to be precise! :D
00 an impossibility for me to catch now.  Still the thought of a warm meal and a chance to sample the famous Cartmell Sticky Toffee Pudding draw me on, siren-like by the nose, my legs following where my stomach doth lead.

I settle down in the rustic warmth of the wooden-beamed, fire-hearth heated Masons Arms with my book and a bottle of locally produced Damson-plum beer, this soon being joined by wild-boar and cranberry sausages, veg and think onion gravy.  Eating ANYTHING wild-boar (an animal extinct on British soil for some time, but now reintroduced and voraciously resurgent in the countryside) has been a desire harboured since childhood being a huge fan as I am of the cartoon adventures of the genocidally boar-scrunching Gauls Asterix and Obelix.  The sausages are very nice, but this little dream clearly won't be satisfied until I can clasp a whole, honey-glazed and logfire roasted boar carcass between my hands, to be washed down with a pint of magic-potion! :)  The Sticky Toffee Pudding here is absoluuuutely to DIE FOR!!!  Just deeeelicious and worth the trek out to the pub for this alone.
Local Damson Beer. Yummy slurp whilst I recovered by the fire at The Masons Arms.
I am once again a happy, and drastically overfed hiker.

A couple of hours, another pint and some drousy chapters of Conrad pass before I condede that I am faaaaar from home and ought to come up with a plan of return. I am shattered, tucked miles away from civilisation in a now pitch-black darkened valley. Hmmm?... "TAXI!"  Much though I hated to admit it to myself, this was the only sensible option beyond this point without doing myself serious damage.  The barman warns me the fare could be quite a stinger as the taxi has to come from Windermere to fetch me, and neither does he offer me the phone to use to call one forth. English hospitality at its finest! "No bother good man etc, etc... for I have a phone of my own."   Shit, shit, shit! Not one iota of reception on my mobile out here!... okay, okay.
The legendary and gorgeous Cartmell Village sticky-toffee pudding... "mmmmmmm!" :))
.. pride dictates irrationally that I can't go back over and make him hand over the bar phone... I pretend like, maybe the phone I've got IS working "but heeeeey, what the hell, I'm a hardened fell-walker, so why don't I just stroll on back over hill and dale anyways after all"... yes, why not! I'll show ya.  No taxis for this one Mr Bar Man... smell ya later!  Almost sensing my impending idiocy a nice couple ask me which way I'm heading as they're about to depart, but sadly they are "heading the other way"... f**k it... This statement strangely emphasises to my mind how far from where I need to be I am, with the darkness down an' all around and other people (with cars the lucky buggers) heading "the OTHER way".  The sensible way.  Hey, never mind, "thanks, I fancied the walk anyway".
.. YEAH RIGHT! Who am I trying to kid.

Nevertheless, I button and zip up, determined to tough this one out and I stroll right outta the pub.

It's raining lightly, I suddenly realise how bewitchingly, menacingly, all-consumingly pitch black life beyond the reach of a single street light or shop-window city light pollution is... darkness never falls in Birmingham, the stars do not exist there above the ochre glow of collective insomniac nightlife.  Whilst this is a pretty (and pretty obvious!) observation, one minutes walk up the road I realise that dressed in black from top to toe, in the drisle and cold, and miiiiiiles away from 'home', this is a fools errand and likely to get me run over in the darkness if nothing else.  I check the time on my phone... it's getting on, and, AND I HAVE TWO BARS OF SIGNAL RECEPTION!!! "Yippeeee! TAXIIIII!"  I wait outside in the cold for 20 minutes.
Taking 'Miss Lakeland' down lake Windermere... the stillness of the photo belies the flippin' freezin'-ass wind conditions sat up top!
  The rest of the evening is a fatigued, contented, taxi-chauffeured history that the barman at The Masons Arms need never know about.

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Windermere.
Windermere.
A shoal of Pirhannas find themselv…
A shoal of Pirhannas find themsel…
My first punk-rocker, wool-dyed Cu…
My first punk-rocker, wool-dyed C…
Newby Bridge crossing the southern…
Newby Bridge crossing the souther…
The southern end of Windermere see…
The southern end of Windermere se…
Windermere seen from atop Gummers…
Windermere seen from atop Gummer'…
The wind-battered Trig Point mar…
The wind-battered 'Trig Point' ma…
Reasons to be happy... 200 reasons…
Reasons to be happy... 200 reason…
Local Damson Beer. Yummy slurp whi…
Local Damson Beer. Yummy slurp wh…
The legendary and gorgeous Cartmel…
The legendary and gorgeous Cartme…
Taking Miss Lakeland down lake W…
Taking 'Miss Lakeland' down lake …
The no-show set for the lakeland o…
The no-show set for the lakeland …
Some ghecko-lizardy things forced …
Some ghecko-lizardy things forced…
Your chance to play spot the radi…
Your chance to play 'spot the rad…
FISHIES!
FISHIES!
Tufted Ducks dive down to chomp on…
Tufted Ducks dive down to chomp o…
a ray eye-balls me at the aquarium.
a ray eye-balls me at the aquarium.
An abandoned sea-monster in The Na…
An abandoned sea-monster in The N…
The Lake District abounds with nat…
The Lake District abounds with na…
Lake District
photo by: toniiixx