"Oh joyous morn!" Yes, although on the whole (and the wind aside) the weather's been pretty good to me so far this is the first truly blue sky morning I've awoken to. After yesterday's gazillion mile circuit walk I have decided (in theory) to have a less strenous day, so I am off to Grizedale Forest. This involves extricating my car from it's 60 degree angle car parking space out back of the Walmar for an 8 mile or so drive through gently winding, picturesque dry-stone collared roads all the way to the Grizedale Visitor Centre.
I'm not much of a car person really, but in this haven of natural-meets-manmade beauty I have to say I am genuinely in love with this driving experience... necessarily I try to forget the presumably massively deliterious effect my carbon emmissions are having on this very envrionment as I chug along with a grin upon my moosh.
At the Visitor Centre I pick up a map of the various walks that can be undertaken through the sweeping Grizedale Forest. Different colours demarcate walks of differing lengths betweens 1.5 to 10 miles long. This being a supposed 'day off' from strain I plump for the White & Blue trail which sits at a comfortable 3-4 miles or so.
The beauty of this excursion is that lining the various trails throughout the Forest, sometimes overtly and sometimes slightly hidden and in perfect harmony with their natural surroundings, are sculptures made by various artists. Several are added by new artists every year, and a guidebook can be taken that offers you the possibility to try and spot them upon your trek, and gives them their names and creators.
It is a beautiful day with barely a cloud in the sky or a soul in sight. I have been told, and it certainly feels to be true, that this is a perfect time of year to come to The Lakes and really experience all it has to offer without even a hint of the vast tidal-swaithes of tourists who will descend in only a week or so's time for the school holidays and then like a swarm of locusts throughout the summer season.
Grizedale today epitomises everything serene, and charming that I hoped to find in coming to this part of my own 'back yard'. A lot of the trees are still wintery bare, but I have always been captivated by the spidery silhouettes that bare twigs and branches make when stared at against the skyline, and it means the views for miles around on many of my walks are relatively unimpeded by foliage. That said, I cannot begin to imagine how beautiful the Lakes must look whilst draped in Autumns fiery pallette, the death of a billion leaves curiously celebrated in nature by the most vibrant of colours reflected in the waters... next time maybe?
A red sandstone fox, one of my favourite sculptures on my stroll through Grizedale Forest.
Some way behind me is a small band of middle-aged ramblers, consulting their map as closely as I and keeping a weather eye for the next wooden marker post with a white or blue dawb upon it that shows the route ahead. Eventually (stopping as I do for photos every now and then) they catch up with me and we have a pleasant natter.
Turns out they're up north from my home-town region of the South coast. We compare opinions of our homelands and The Lakes and, worryingly, being as I am half their ages, I find myself comparing knee complaints, injuries and strappping-up strategies! "Yikes! Someone please assure me that I'm not getting too old before my time!"
There's a pause for thought and photos at the beautifully serene Grizedale Tarn, a perfectly undisturbed waterhole enfolded within the elevated Forest ground. The sky remains clear, and I cannot resist the naughty school-boy impulse (once my co-hikers move on) to start casting stones into the deeps to watch the ripples fan out and artfully break-up the reflections of the trees and clouds. Magic stuff. Again I muse how impressive this place must also be when in spring it reaches full leaf and bloom.
Reflection in Grizedale Tarn.
Towards the end of my stroll through Grizedale I realise that like a right twit my camera battery is going to die on me and I've left the other one back in my bedroom! With such a captivating drive in prospect though I little begrudge skipping back to the Walmar to grab it before heading back to the outskirts of Grizedale Forest and lunch at The Drunken Duck Inn. This venue has quite a reputation for quality (& expense). A comforting pit-stop, however it was a lot more 'modern' and slightly less rusticly welcoming than I'd expected...possibly suffering from a recent refurb? Anyways, the on site brewery allows The Duck to produce a wide range of it's own bitters and ales, all of which are named after pets of the pub past and present. I sit down to a pint of Cracker (a former canine resident) and a divine chicken club door-stop sandwich made entirely from locally sourced farm produce. This thing is bigger than a DOOR let alone a door-stop and fills me to the gills! But I make sure to polish it off before heading off in m'car to Coniston Water.
En route I have to suddenly pull my car to a halt whilst a venerable limping old ram asserts his right of way on the road, stopping to stare at me momentarily before rounding my car and letting me continue.
A gathering of ducks as I approach the north-easterly tip of lake Coniston Water.
Coniston Water is of course most famous for being the site of Donald Campbell's ill-fated attempt to re-set the world water-speed record in his Bluebird K7 power boat. On 4th January 1967 he made his final fatal attempt. The average speed over two runs was hoped to be 300 miles per hour (480 km/h). Having clocked 297.6 mph (478.9 km/h) on the north-south run up the lake whilst travelling at at least 315 mph (507 km/h) on his immediate return run Bluebird lifted, sumersaulted out of the water and smashed back down nose first into the water killing Campbell instantly.
The boat and it's pilot were not recoverd from their watery graves until 2001.
One of my faves, a little over exposure of the setting sun accidentally highlights the vivid colours of the landscape.
With this tragedy in the hinterland of my considerations, and with the weather remaining clear and still, Coniston is mesmerisngly, disarmingly empty and serene. I only skirt around the northern tip of the sizeable lake (5 miles long) and along the shoreline until parallel with the village that shares its name, but am very taken my brief stroll around Coniston nevertheless. I head away from the lake into Coniston village for a brief wander around. It's unfortunately a little late in the day to visit the John Ruskin Museum (apparently one of the most interesting in the District) but I was this time going to take the time out to visit the famous writer and thinker's grave in the rear of St Andrew's Church yard.
I've never as yet gotten around (ashamed to admit) to any of the man's writings and teachings but knowing that he was a deeply formative inspiration to the early musings of m'main man Gandhi, I figure "he's gonna be aaaalright by me" so I go pay my respects.
I head back around the northern shoreline of the lake which only seems to get prettier as the sun begins to descend behind the tree and fell-line to the west.
This evening I decide to kill time by checking out another movie at Zefferelli's and buy a ticket for Cronenberg's new flick Eastern Promise. This is being screened at their 'other screen' which is housed down the road at a separate site in what appears to be a converted schoolhouse that shoulders the town church. All very quaint and the film is very good... although a worrying theme of my week's cultural intake prevails when the opening scene has a man's throat garishly slit Sweeney Todd stylee by a barber's blade.
Zeferelli's second cinema screen. No neon-lit razzmatazz here.