Rothay Bridge over the River Rothay, in Ambleside as I commence my days walking.
The Guiding Lights having extolled the virtues of walking sticks yesterday (apparently the force upon your knee joints as you descend a hill is equivilent to the weight of an elephant or something rediculous like that... or were they just tryin' to say I'm fat?!). Either way I cough up £7.50 for something I'm assured "will do the job" and head off to a large rise on the west side of Ambleside called Loughrigg Fell (1,101ft : 213 Weselbys).
Sheep abound, the weather's fine enough if windy, my stick is firm, the knee complains not and the 60p guide I've purchased is clear. I cross the River Rothay and head on up, a mile or so into the walk I am a little confused as to the direction up the fell I need to take to locate the Trig Point.
A small group of hikers are following behind me... it's at this point that my climbing stick mysteriously decides to "Sprrrrrroing!" into several different spring-loaded pieces! "How the f**k did that happen?!" I stand by the path side in what is now increasingly strong wind with my dismembered stick. The other hikers pass on smirking (probably), and I'm sure the punk-rock sheep are giggling at my vain attempts to stab the thing into the ground and get it back into one useful piece. Dammit! I push and twist and bend without success and, physical straining aside, expend even more mental effort in thinking of the numerous ways and means of implanting each part of the pole into the torso or the grinning idiot that sold it to me not more than an hour ago!!! Still, this is what you get for £7.50 I suppose? Fortunately for my knee joints (and the life of the stick-seller) I am able to mend the offending article and backtrack ('cos yes, I've gone the wrong way too!) and head further up the fellside into the ever increasing wind.
Mercifully today after much cursing and swearing I have managed to coax my contact lenses into my eyes so at least I won't be losing my specs in a sudden gust.
A break in the clouds.
I reallly have no clue where I'm going and can't get a fix on the Trig Point,the guide referencing the presence of several 'false peaks' on the undulating roof of Loughrigg. I scan ahead with my binoculers. As with many of the walks I will undertake in my stay I envisage the placid, sun-drenched unstrenuous beauty that these fell-top walks must provide in a calmer summertime even for the uninitiated like myself... however, back to my reality and now the wind has reached quite astonishing speeds and is becoming capable of near knocking me off my feet as I stroll and bumble along in no general direction! The Trig Point has been spotted but periodically disappears from view in the distance. In a grassy mid-fell undulation amidst the various 'peaks' there is a sudden almost revelatory blast of golden sunshine that blazes across the land revealing - if only momentarily - the many different patchwork colourschemes that must exist within these lands, any weather, any time of year.
The felltop is transformed from a form of wind-battered battle-grey-green moodiness to sun-bathed pastoral shades of gold, russet and verdent green. Both equally pleasing in their different ways.
A flash of light casts shades of gold and green in to brief relief.
As I head towards the true Trig Point peak the wind gives me one last supreme pummelling, and my fear levels rise irrationally again. I actually have to sit right down on my ass, my back against the peak-rise, facing the wind to get my centre of gravity low enough so as not to be blown over. I commence shuffling around the base of the peak on my butt and giggle as I recall that this (family legend would have it) was my preferred form of modus-operandi for motion as a baby that earned me the affectionate nickname of Shuffle-Bum from my parents back in the day. If only I could have justified it as an essential mountaineering skill to them then!... but I think I was only really capable of saying "doo-doo" and harassing the cat Jupiter and my baby sister in equal measure at the time to be fair.
The Trig Point is sighted not far ahead of me as I struggle along on my hands, knees AND bottom for safety's sake!
I figure as long as I keep the stone mound of the Trig between me and the path the wind would like to project me along I have a chance of remaining upright and so manage to clamber up and get my first proper Trig Point 'conquest' photo. Looking at this unremarkable snap now amuses me, in thinking about the extreme windy conditions that were buffeting me body and soul whilst trying to get the shot... but the stillness of the photo removes all this tempestous context and replaces is it with mundane calm. Hey ho.
I now commence the descent of Loughrigg's north face towards the calmer surrounds of Grasmere (lake and village), a very picturesque rock and cobblestone descent mercifully shielded from the worst of the wind.
I laugh and warn a few hikers I pass, just starting their walk in the opposite direction up the fell, about the maelstrom that awaits them over the ridge. Nice to know my own trial is over. Grasmere is a very beautiful little expanse of water (with an islet at it's heart) and I am pleased to have it in sight as having read Forster's 'A Passage to India' not so long ago it is the memories of verdant Grasmere that Adela nostalgically, and hopefully conjours up for her fiance as her sun-parched sojourn to India begins to descend into a nightmare.
Finally! A photo of the iron triangulation marker 'Trig Point' at the peak of Loughrigg Fell. Winds of approximately a zillion miles an hour (honest!) are battering me as I take this snap.
I walk around the western shoreline of Grasmere heading to the village of the same name on the northern shore.
In doing so I bump into a couple coming the other way, the lady of which exclaims "Flippin' heck, you're doing well! I remember seeing you in Ambleside this morning." She suggests that I "have a brew" in Grasmere before heading on. I state my intention to imbibe something with a little more kick (a pint) as soon as I arrive.
Grasmere lake appear5s as if a heart floating in the distance to sooth me after my wind-blown trek across Loughrigg to get to this view.
First off in Grasmere I clock St Oswald's church where William Wordworth's buried (the famous Lakeland poet of daffodil fame) next to a fair number of his family members... poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's son Hartley, a friend of the Wordsworths also lies buried here. More than any literary obescences today though I am more interested in a brief visit to the famous Sarah Nelson's Gingerbread Shop that resides in a tiny rustic little cubby-hole of a building abutted to the church cemetary.
Legendarily scrumptious gingerbread is made here by a lady dressed in 19th Century pinafore and dress (not the original sarah Nelson we presume!) where I pick up some yummy treats (crafted from an apparently 'secret recipe') for my friends and family before heading for a restorative pint of Guinness. Given the rediculous number of 'au naturale' tree stump toilet stops this pint will later induce, it is in hindsight a most regrettable choice of refresher... but pleasant in the consumption of course! :)
St Oswald's church in Grasmere where William Wordsworth and family lie at rest.
An hour or so's reading later I head back along the path that hugs the opposite shoreline of Grasmere, with the road to my left. Eventually I am at Dove Cottage, one of the two historic residences of William Wordsworth. The day is getting along and I only have marginal interest (on this my first trip to the District) in entering the property, so I don't this time.
.. of two poems I was once made to painstakingly memorise at primary school THAT daffodil poem by What's-iz-worth was one of them, and not being of much poetic inclination anyway, this experience has always left me with little desire to return to his work, wonderful though I'm sure it may be. The other poem was Roald Dahl's naughty rhyming take on Red Riding Hood which contains the lines "The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. She whips a pistol from her knickers. She aims it at the creature's head, and bang bang bang she shoots him dead." Which frankly I always found more entertaining than a host of golden daffodils.
I shortly bump into the strolling couple an apparent third time and they again congratulate me on my progress, informing me how far the walk still remaining back to Ambleside via Rydal Water is likely to take. It sounds manageable but I have walked an aweful long today at this stage.
By the time I actually arrive at the village of Rydal, with Rydal Water stretching away to my right, the sun is fast declining and finally my legs are beginning to complain at the effort so I throw my towel into the ring and stand at one of the sporadic regional bus stops and await for four wheels to come and cart me the remainder of the way home. Pheeeeeeeewey!
Dove Cottage, where old Will Wordsworth penned many of his most renowned poems, the 'Daffodil' thingamy included.
I have dinner at a very pleasant Thai resaurant called Doi Intanon where I chat with an amiable thai waitress who's up here from her studies in Brighton before returning home to Bangkok. I state that in a roundabout way I am also up here from Brighton (it being my soul-town back home) and thinking of a trip to Thailand so she offers me some tavel suggestions.
I heartily consume my duck in tamarind sauce, and speciality thai desert (some take on semolina the name of which I forget) chased down with a Singha beer whilst reading the opening chapters of 'The Rough Guide to your First Trip Around the World'. (ooooh yes, watch this space people! :).
Rydal Water as the sun begins to drop.