London and I are permanently in a love/hate relationship.
The more I travel, the more I realise how comfortable I feel in mountainous landscapes. The incredible view below and ones like it relax me like nothing else and are wholeheartedly one of the reasons I chose to go to Stirling for my degree. But London, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, looks nothing like those rolling hills. London has enough culture, icons and landmarks to rival all of mainland Europe (as well as being the home of my friends and family) but it’s also polluted, overpopulated and flat. Very, very flat. Flat is okay for a while but I get a true yearning for hills and mountains after too long.
This trip to the Lake District was slap bang in the middle of my summer break from uni so it has thankfully been able to tide me over until I’m back in bonnie Scotland. I got to see some incredible feats of nature and it didn’t rain half as much as we thought it would! To top it all off, this was my first real trip without the input of parents, with just my uni friends. It was great to see everyone again even if it was only for a few days with some people. In this post I’ll lay down what I got up to while I was there but save my favourite part of the holiday for the following post.
Little Langdale is a small village up in the hills just west of Ambleside at the north tip of Lake Windermere. My uni friend, Greg, proposed we all rented out his aunt’s house this summer back in May so we all came from all corners of the UK to Langdale. Greg from Kent, me from London, Kate (and her little Westie dog, Lexi!) from Yorkshire and Carolyn and her brother from Brechin up in Scotland.
Despite carpooling from Beaconsfield to Little Langdale with relative ease (if you can call driving 260 miles in Greg’s second hand Ford Ka ‘ease’), navigating the winding roads with little problem and following the given instructions on how to work the house without setting it alight, the trip was not without its pitfalls. Of course I was expecting some things to go wrong but we encountered every possible cliché you can imagine (ten points for each one you guess).
Firstly, once we had arrived, unloaded our bags and inspected the pantry, fridge and freezer for food, most edible things were out of date. We did the kind gesture of chucking everything that smelt questionable and could be considered a biological weapon. Once this had been completed, Greg and I resolved to hop in the car and hit the shops in Ambleside or Windermere for foodstuffs that could be considered nutritional even for us mere students. Easy enough, you might think. You’d be wrong.
We got over the steeper hills and out of Langdale no problem but then came over this one little hill, barely an incline, and TWANCK! Oh no. Ohhhh no. We pull over and get out to investigate. But there’s no smoke, nothing trailing along the road and no part of the engine lying helplessly behind us. It’s an enormous puzzle. The car can clearly still drive and recently had an MOT so what could it be? Luckily for us, a lovely guy and his wife pulled up next to us. He seemed very mechanically minded and immediately notes that the rear spring has snapped in the suspension. (Another ten points if you guessed that).
Fantastic. It was Saturday, and around 5pm so we couldn’t very well drive it out to a mechanic. We slowly crawled our way back to the house, wincing our way over potholes and rang Kate to see if she could pick up some bread and milk. There was dry pasta and a few sauces that seemed to be in date so we didn’t have too much trouble feeding ourselves and the aga seemed to behave itself.
The next day, we went to Ambleside in Kate’s car, picked up food and scoped out the mechanics and played a little crazy golf in the sun. When we got back to the house, we grabbed Lexi and went on an incredible walk near Slater’s Bridge, which I’ll talk about in the next post (don’t want to waste it!). The day after that it was back to Ambleside to hand over the car and take a hike up to Stock Ghyll Force.
This week was the second half of the heat wave so any kind of strenuous activity we took part in had us huffing and puffing (apart from Lexi, who took it upon herself to race up the path and terrorise some Japanese tourists who were just trying to appreciate the waterfall in its quiet woodland enclosure). The waterfall ran down into a twisting river and the coolness from the water was greatly appreciated.
We awoke to a thunderstorm on Wednesday. Wrapped up warm in a double duvet hearing the rain rattle the panes, I found it very hard to care about the outside world but it became apparent after hearing the crack of lightning very close to the house that something might be up. When the bad weather had subsided, we did a quick once over and found that the electricity had been tripped. Once we’d found the scorch mark on the router’s socket, it became apparent that the house had been struck directly by lightning and also that we’d have to live without internet. (Fifty points and a gold star if you guessed that!).
Kate had to nip back home for the day so Greg and I decided to head over to Grizedale Forest for a walk. Lexi sat patiently on my lap and licked me constantly which made the journey there entertaining but once we parked up, the walk slowly turned into something more akin to the beginning of a horror movie. The muggy, hot day sat heavy over us, rain trying to push it’s way down but the skies never opened. Greg and I battled with Lexi, who will bark at anything that looks even vaguely like a dog until she gets to greet and smell it, past the quiet families to quite possibly the furthest point from civilisation possible.
All over the forest were these bizarre wooden sculptures and I can’t for the life of me work out what this one is meant to be. It was off the beaten track in a narrow clearing and looks to me like a cross between ferns and the carcass of a stegosaurus. Seeing things like this coupled with no other human contact made for a strange day out! We encountered maybe two other people on that walk and the contact I did have was getting intimately acquainted with horseflies for the first time. They swarmed me (and only me), leaving me a distraught blood-dotted hysterical mess of a person. They are, in my opinion, on par with mosquitoes for most evil insect of all time – at least mozzie bites don’t hurt!
That evening, Kate returned and Carolyn and her brother Jamie arrived not long after. We talked late into the night about what we had got up to over the holiday and planned to do the Slater’s Bridge walk the next day. We had a long swim in the river and messed about on a little island by the bridge. We got back to the house and had a barbecue, then moved over to the firepit to have s’mores. In the house were these little copper sulphate covered pine cones so we through them on and watched the fire turn blue.
Once it was dark enough, we lit three sky lanterns I had got Carolyn for Christmas. Once by the house and then the other two back on a late night walk. Apparently I become fearless when it’s dark, because I was storming ahead, leading our drunken group to safety when we could no longer see. Many games of drunk chess were played back at the house and Greg discovered when and where he was conceived by examining the his parents’ first entry in the guestbook (“lovely weekend alone – but I expect it will be our last!”) before we all retired to bed.
On our last day as a group, we struck out to see Windermere. As we got to the shore at Brockhole Visitor Centre, it seemed like an great idea to rent a rowing boat. Despite freaking out every time the boat rocked, I had a great time out on the water (partly due to the fact I didn’t have to row – I left that to Greg, as you can see in the photo below). The water was remarkably warm and we returned to the dock just as the rain started.
I had a wonderful week away in the Lakes and truly hope we can all go again next year. Look out for the next post where I’ll do a play by play of the incredible walk around Slater’s Bridge!
Lake District 2013
Part One | Part Two