Cat Bells looms in the distance.
One Week. Knee-strap's beginning to go slack from over-strain and sweat. Let's hope I don't start going the same way!... although I'm resigned to the fact that man and bandage smell equally offensive at 1000 feet climb above sea level this far into the trip. Beautiful weather today which is nice 'cos I've planned to do the most popular walk on the shores of Derwent Water, that being the climb and stroll along the top of Cat Bells (1,481 ft or 247 Weselbys high). This peculiar sounding name apparently derives from an oooold Norse belief that the mountain was a den for wild cats, the Norse word for Den 'bield' later being changed to 'Bells'.
The day starts with a pleasant stroll through the north end of Keswick, then skirting through Frew Park, and around the northern curvature of the lake with sun cascading down upon sheep and hiker alike.
This is followed by a serene stroll through a wooded area leading to the foot of Cat Bells, and I encounter not a soul excepting a solitary and beautiful peach-coloured Jay with it's blue-flashed wings amidst the leafless woodland. This being one of my favourite birds in field guides as a budding young ornathologist, I am chuffed to bits.
One of the easier, more picturesque parts of my Cat Bells clamber.
At the base of the fell, human traffic is picking up and a healthy host of walkers can be seen at various stages of ascent ahead of me. This is comforting to me as this, although mild to the experienced walker, is looking like the most precipitous of my strolls yet. Again I recognise that I am giving in to the strange psychological crutch that has accompanied me throughout this trip, that being the rather irrational belief that "it'd be alright to fall and roll a thousand feet into a lake and/or grave so long as there are witnesses" ???!! Weird I know.
My look of rigor-mortis terror finally evapourates on the summit :)
The clamber to the peak of Cat Bells at a couple of points I find genuinely scary, my memory's defence mechanisms are finally beginning to fail, and I am rapidly regressing to the 12 year old Steve who used to be sh*t scared of heights and once had a debilitating asthma attack on the FIRST flight of steps of the Eiffel Tower at the mere thought of what vertiginous heights lay ahead. "Yikes, yikes, yikes, I am NO LONGER scared of heights!" is the mantra that I chant internally for the next half hour as at two points on the ascent I amazed that for such a 'gentle' family Lake District favourite how you are forced into some genuine down on your knees, gripping carefully with hands rock clambering to get to where you need to go... I'm sweating buckets, can barely retain my grip on my walking pole which is proving more of a hinderance than a help.
.. "I am NOT scared of heights... everythin's gonna be alright, I am not, I repeat NOT afraid of heights anymore!!!". The Japanese wife of a middle-aged Englishman who seems to take a strange pleasure from taking the riskiest path to his destination, is similarly uneasy as me and again I strangely take comfort from this.
A diddy little Westie conquers Cat Bells too... and sticks his tongue out mockingly at me, knowing he was waaaay less phased in achieving this than I was.
Once I scrabble over the lip of the summit, there is moment of profound calm and relief, as the fell-top spreads out to form a sizeable rocky plateau area almost perfectly presented by Nature as a well deserved resting zone for struggling nearly-30-something hikers that have just shat themselves all the way to the top. Joking aside, it also provides one of the most pleasing ponoramas of a sun-drenched Derwent Water, the motor-launch boat (that I will later catch) can be seen far below, drawing a smooth white line of foam in it's wake as it heads on it's circular route.
Many people are gathered up on the peak, as a combination of fine weather and it being a weekend has caused a good volume of people to tackle the walk today... and they come in all shapes and ages... with children as young as 5 seemingly having clambered up with no fears or inhibitions in a manner that puts me to shame... even a little West Highland Terrier dog scampers gleefully around, having conquered the climb even without the aid of the super-cool doogy-hiking-boots I'd seen in a shop in town earlier that day!
Newlands Valley from atop Cat Bells.
After resting it's time to go onwards. The option is either to carry onwards and upwards over Maidens Mount and drop down to a little lakeside village (as recommended by my landlord over breakfast) or to continue to follow the step-by-step guide notes from my little 60pence guide for the day... I boringly stick to the guide if only for the fact that sadly I've used up my full quota of bravery for the day and the thought of going even higher into the unknown doesn't really appeal.
Plus I figure I'm getting nearer to a much needed toilet stop if I head down rather than up! :)
The Derwent Launch arrives to take me back to Keswick.
The weather remains pleasant and the stroll down into, and through the rural Newlands Valley is extremely healing after the earllier adrenaline overload of the earlier part of my trek. The path across open farm fields venetually brings me all the way back around the base of Cat Bells and onwards to the shore of Derwent where I catch the Derwent Water Lauch Boat back around the lake via various other jetty landings to Keswick for just a couple of quid.
The lake as seen from inside the Launch.
The day's trekking is not over yet though so I recharge with a lakeside coffee and a MASSIVE wodge of carrot cake at the very nice Tea Gardens by The Lake before heading off for a viewpoint emphatically recommended to me by Pete (the pub landlord's father) the other night called Castlehead. Problem is that I'm not sure which of the minor mounts'n' hillocks around here it is, so desperate to get to the top before the sun sets I dash off at quite a pace... in the direction of what turns out, after questioning some helpful members of the public, not to be Castlehead whatsoever... the true destination is duly pointed out and I am quite glad to see that it's neither too far away, nor anywheer near as high as the monster I was actually heading for. In fact Castlehead clocks in at a modest 530 ft (only 88 Weselbys), which leads me to be quite sceptical as to it's reputations as one of the "best" vantage points in the area.
.. uintil I get to the top, and am indeed presented with a most captivating view of the lake as the sun commences it's descent. Well worth the mad dash.
A bearings-finding reference plaque atop Castlehead, looking out over Derwent Water.
Dinner comprises a GIANT yorkshire pudding filled with meat and veg, accompanied by a pint of Cumbria Ale, and I then pop along to the local independent cinema, quaintly called the Al Hambra, and watch one of the films in their Keswick Music & Film festival... a fantastic tour film, Heima, by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros, documenting their return to their homeland, with lots of the footage focussing on the beautiful, if often cold and bleak natural landscapes of the country... a belly full of fine food, beautiful music, cinema AND my wanderlust charged to the max before bedtime... result!