The Great and the Legendary
Buttermere Travel Blog› entry 4 of 9 › view all entries
Whilst everybody else was busy packing their kit into their cars I was busy feeling smug as I packed mine and left the campsite with it all on my back. Half way up Great Gable though that smugness had evaporated in the warm sun on a steep and long climb up the slopes of this guardian of the valley. Overlooking Wasdale Great Gable dominates the skyline along with its close neighbour Kirk Fell. Even in almost the clearest day Great Gable seems to have its head thrust into a cloud and today was not to be any exception, apart from a very short slight clearing visibility on the top was restricted to a short distance. I shared the summit with a local couple sheltering on the top just taking a day walk and after a quick chat I decided to be on my way, it was going to be quite a long day.
My route meandered its way towards Buttermere and from Green Gable to Haystacks was relatively quiet with only a few other people enjoying these particular fells. I did bump into a couple of guys who were also out camping and after a brief exchange of routes one seemed to get strangely competitive, explaining the distance that they had travelled the previous day as if he needed to prove the authenticity of his walking credentials. When I mentioned I had camped at Sprinkling Tarn the other night, he replied dismissively
“There is only one good spot to camp there”
“Well I obviously found that spot” I countered
We parted company and I walked on slightly bemused, although I also think his friend felt a little embarrassed.
I passed a group of young guys a few of which were wearing football shirts, we exchanged nods and waves, but about fifteen minutes later I found a Manchester United tracksuit top. I concluded that one of them had probably dropped it, but they were now thirty minutes in the opposite direction from me. I decided to ‘hang’ it conspicuously on some heather and make a large arrow with white rocks pointing to it. I hoped that they would be able to see this from some distance once they realised it was missing and if they returned. I was however a little perplexed that a number of people walking past whilst I was building my direction arrow, did not seem to notice it, even though it was several feet long!
I continued on, enjoying the bright sunny day, although remaining covered up as I was still suffering from the sunburn which I had from a few days previous. Haystacks is another fell that I have not been over before, it cannot really be described as a summit as it is really a collection of summits with tarns sprinkled throughout its elongated peak. It is an extremely pretty fell though and if the moon should ever suddenly spring to life with water and plants, it would probably look a little like this.
It was about this time that I started to toy with the idea of changing my route to take in the Pillar which can be plainly seen on the opposite side the valley to my left, I could stay near the Black Sail hut overnight and cross back over into Buttermere the next day, this became even more attractive when I began to contemplate the steepness of High Crag, which was my next planned target. In the end though I stuck to the original plan and headed up the steady climb towards my next peak.
As I dropped to the pass I met a female carrying a pack that dwarfed mine, we chatted awhile and when I told her I was out for about ten days her eyes widened sharply.
The tops of High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike were soon behind me, the views had been picturesque if not extraordinary. The descent to Bleaberry Tarn my intended campsite was a little unpleasant, a nasty scree path which required a great deal of care to negotiate the upper slopes. Even on the modest hills of Cumbria the climb is not complete until you get down safely.
I spent awhile looking for a good spot to pitch my tent and settled upon a little spot some fifty metres from the tarn, after getting my act together I decided upon a swim in the tarn before I cooked dinner. As I arrived at a suitable place two guys arrived and it became evident they were staying to fish, they encouraged me to carry on with my swimming plan as it would not disturb them, they were moving to the far end of the tarn and working their way back.
I stripped down and inched my way into the water, the shallow water was quite warm, the only problem was it got deep very quickly and that was cold. I had a bit of an all over wash in the shallows and then swam around in the deeper water for a short while, short being the operative word here! I dried myself off and dressed before wandering around to where the guys were fishing, it seems they were local and had been thinking about fishing here for years, unsure if the tarn was even inhabited with fish.
After awhile I headed back to the tent to cook my meal, tomato fusilli was planned, but with a few minutes one of the fishermen came across with one of the larger brown trout they had caught. He had dispatched it and was offering me it for dinner, I was not quite sure how I was going to cook it on my little gas stove, but I gratefully accepted. They stayed awhile longer and we chatted some more as I gutted the fish and thoroughly cleaned it.
I opted for poaching the fish whole and then whilst the pasta cooked I stripped all the flesh off and then added it to my pasta; fresh brown trout and fusilli in tomato and herb sauce, I went to bed very happy and totally satisfied that night. Like I said this camping lark is easy!
Talking of which I was up with the larks the next morning and after a leisurely ready mixed porridge breakfast I packed up my campsite and headed down the path to Buttermere village. It was a lovely morning and despite being a Monday there was already a steady trickle of walkers huffing and panting their way up the path, letting me know that it was easier coming down and enquiring whether the tarn was worth a visit. I personally prefer going up, but I kept that to myself.
Buttermere is a pretty little village with two pubs, which is almost as many as it has inhabitants, there is also a coffee and farm shop. There is also a campsite which is where I was intending to stay, and had to book in at Syke Farm. The lady was very pleasant but I found the pricing a little strange I got a whole one pound discount for not having a car.
I stopped at the cafe on the way to the campsite and bought an ice cream, apple crumble flavour turned out to be really really delicious. A little while later I had picked out a good spot and pitched the tent, so now time for that shower. As well as the shower block there was also a little shelter called ‘Charlie’s Shelter’ which also had a shower, a place to wash my kit and some rails to dry them out. Two fifty pence pieces later and a little all purpose soap and I was feeling human again.
I returned to the cafe to give the coffee a try, but I am afraid it does not get any recommendation from me, the carrot cake was okay though, so I sat outside in the afternoon sun and made the most of it. There were two mature couples who shared my table, we had a little chat, one guy kind of endearingly kept referring to returning to Kendal when he actually meant Keswick. We also shared our table with a mob of sparrows, one or two of which were obviously recently fledged and learning from their elders where to find a good meal and how to look their most appealing to the customers!
I had a look around for a shop as I was still feeling a little sunburnt and some after sun would have been welcome, but there was not any sign of one. So I took a wander around the lake as I was intending to have a ‘rest’ day. Part way around it started to rain quite heavily, probably just a shower, but although I waited for awhile undercover it persisted so there was nothing else for it than put my waterproofs on.
I had decided on treating myself to a meal at one of the pubs in the village, although spoilt for choice I opted for the Fish Hotel purely because it has a legend behind it.
A little scandal and gossip is good for you all, so the story goes like this; it seems in 1802 a local beauty named Mary Robinson who worked as a barmaid at the Fish Inn attracted the attentions of a visiting dignitary called Colonel Hope MP. He used his wealth and connections to sweep our heroine off her feet and eventually they married.
There is not a happy ending however as no sooner had they returned from their honeymoon touring the Lake District than he was revealed as an imposter and bigamist. He was actually arrested for forgery and after a subsequent trial he was found guilty and in 1803 Mr John Hatfield was hanged in Carlisle. A bit harsh I guess, but ‘Personation’ was considered a very serious crime at that time. I am not totally sure what happened to Mary although she appears to have remained a barmaid at the Fish Inn and became something of a national figure for sometime afterwards. She did eventually marry and apparently died 7 February, 1837 greatly respected.
The Fish Hotel is one of the oldest public houses in the Lake District and enjoys a good reputation. It was pretty busy and deservedly so, as I thoroughly enjoyed my food and all the meals I saw being carried out looked equally appetising.
I decided to take a wander down to the lake again before returning to the tent and was glad I did. The evening was very still and the light just amazing as the sun dropped out of the sky. The lake was as flat as the proverbial mill pond and the reflections of the mountains were simply stunning, there were a number of other photographers there including a couple of professionals making the most of the jaw dropping scenes.
I returned to the campsite and scrambled into my sleeping bag, the second night in a row I went to sleep with a huge smile on my face!.