I love Cornwall, period. I am a born and bred Cornish lass whose whole life has been about this small county to which I adore absolutely everything about; the beaches, the countryside, the pasties, the accents, the towns, the people, the ice cream…everything. So when asked to send across my first adventure for The Outdoor Guide, I was almost certain I would begin with an adventure I’d had in Cornwall. However, after just getting back from The Lake District yesterday (and I mean literally yesterday as I am still surrounded by endless pairs of walking socks that seem to be making their own way to the washing machine, and bags still to rummage through and unpack!) I thought I’d shake it up a little and decide my first adventure would start there.
The first time I made the 420-mile trip to The Lakes was in June 2016 and it was then that I completely lost my heart to this place. For the entire 4 days I walked around with my mouth wide open, eyes staring in absolute wonder, feet itching to get out there and touch every mountain I could see – what a sight I must have been. But I didn’t care one bit because I was too busy having my own private love affair with The Lake District to worry about the gormless expression plastered across my face. I have always been an advocate for Cornwall and rave on and on about my love for my home county at every given opportunity, whether it be on Twitter or to a stranger I meet at a coffee shop. But it was yesterday whilst Sade’s ‘By Your Side’ was blaring out, with me staring longingly at the mountains and then proceeding to burst into tears as I drove away from The Lake District for the second time this year, that I realised I had serious issues – I was in love!! Now, let me explain it a bit more before you write me off as a crazy mountain lady.
Being a country bumpkin, I have always craved open spaces. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting cities, but after a few days I start to get shaky knees and an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia sets in which can only be treated by running through a field, arms splayed whilst gasping in large mouthfuls of clean air like a goldfish breathing through the water. I had always longed to visit The Lake District after seeing pictures in books and, of course, watching Wainwright Walks with Julia Bradbury nearly 9 years ago (where it all began eh Bradders!). So when I got the opportunity to go again in August, I snapped it up in a heartbeat. Last week, after talking about it non-stop to everyone I know for at least 3 months (apologies to all those involved) I finally packed up my car and made my way to Hassness House in Buttermere on behalf of The Ramblers Worldwide Holidays.
As soon as I saw the gargantuan shadowy mountains in the distance, I knew I was driving towards familiarity; a home away from home. I got that excited feeling right in the pit of my stomach that makes you rapidly blink and swallow twice as much to try and hold all the happiness, (which in my case is usually glitter, rainbows and bubbles) from pouring out and exploding all over the car. I even let out a whoop and cheer when I saw the sign for The Lakes; the only time I ever do this is when I drive past the Welcome to Cornwall sign. After feeling two seconds of remorse for cheating on Cornwall with The Lakes, I proceeded to turn up the music, open the windows and let myself enjoy the feeling of being crazily happy. However, the nerves started to set in the closer I got to Buttermere. For the first time in my 30 years of existence, I was holidaying all on my own and about to partake in an activity/walking holiday where I spend 7 days in The Lake District with a group of woman I had never met! Eek! Fast forward to arriving and eventually meeting everyone, my nerves soon flew out the window. Not only was the location like something out of a movie, but the friendliness that radiated through the door as I opened it was overwhelming. I met a couple of the ladies (one who already had a glass of red wine in her hand which immediately put me at ease) before being shown to my room. The first thing I do after star-fishing across the bed to try it out, is open the window and take in a deep breath of clean air. Que my jaw dropping to the floor as I realise the view from my window is breathtaking; I overlooked Buttermere lake and the stunning Red Pike and High Stile mountains; what a view to wake up to every morning whilst sipping my peppermint tea!
The following seven days went by in a blur of laughing, walking, swimming, climbing and overcoming fears. We had no access to TV, radio or WiFi in any of our bedrooms (which slightly panicked me seeing as I am a self-confessed social media junkie) but by the end of the week, I realised I hadn’t even missed it. Getting to the know the 17 ladies I was spending the week with was more important than catching up on The Great British Bake-Off (which I was recording FYI) and sitting together in the lounge talking and laughing with the occasional glass of wine, was so magical. Hearing snippets of a stranger’s life at the beginning of the week to becoming friends with these beautiful souls by the end of the week is an experience I will never forget. Spending our days walking miles across the vast city of mountains and around the twinkling lakes, occasionally stopping to stare in wonder at the views with all of us appreciating the same thing; the majestic beauty of The Lake District. I wasn’t alone in my love affair of The Lakes and could see my fellow walkers falling in love, even those of us who had a fear of heights!!But who could blame us?
One of the memories I shall keep with me forever is the day some of us decided to swim in Buttermere Lake! Now, for me this is a feat in itself for I am not the most confident of person in the water. But the sun was shining and I was drunk on love so thought, what the heck, and jumped straight in! Swimming across the crystal clear blue lake I lay on my back for a moment and stared at the sky thinking how lucky I was to be experiencing this right now. It almost felt like the mountains that surrounded us were smiling down and enjoying our moment of glee alongside us. I’d never felt so alive and hearing my new found friends laughing around me, I did think smugly to myself ‘does it really get any better than this?’
After spending the beginning of the week getting to know each other and taking part in various activities, (for it was a Woman’s Activity Week after all) from Nordic Walking and working out at 7am to drinking a pint of local ale in the pub to swimming in the lake, our wonderful Leader Clare mentioned that the Wednesday would be a ‘rest day’ where we could go off and do something not so strenuous. Some went to see Beatrix Potter’s first house in Hawkshead, some went into Cockermouth to search for chicken baskets (don’t ask!) and others went for a casual stroll around Buttermere Lake. I, alongside 5 other ladies, decided against the rest day and proceeded to join Clare, her husband Ian and their dog Moss for a really challenging 11 mile walk up a waterfall along Langstrath Valley from Seathwaite in the Borrowdale Valley! Do I regret this decision? As I scrambled up an almost sheer drop on my hands and knees towards the top with a waterfall gushing along beside me or whilst almost losing my boots in the craggy bog…yes! But at the end, when we were all smiling through the aches and laughing at the point where Ian looked at us, then down at the sheer drop beside of us and said with a straight face ‘don’t fall down there’, and how when I told my new walking buddy Kerry we had walked a staggering 11 miles and her response was just a casual ‘cool’ which ended up with us both keeling over with laughter, and how we all looked at each other thinking ‘we just did something momentous’, I knew it was all worth it and my answer would have to be a resounding no to having any regrets! It was a tough challenge that I’m glad I did. After my first visit to The Lake District in June where me and 2 of my friends took part in a mountain challenge that included reaching the summit of Scafell Pike (next instalment of my Lakes Adventures!) I knew I could conquer just about anything, and making it back to the car with the other ladies after conquering Langstrath Valley is another tick in the box for my Lake District Challenges.
The following day when I woke at 6:30am ready for our usual 7am workout before breakfast, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk. But my legs pulled through and I managed to get ready for the next adventure; walking up Rannderdale Knotts! Clare mentioned that for those of us who made it around Langstrath Valley, Rannerdale Knotts would be a walk in the park! I didn’t believe her! After making our way along Buttermere Lake, we crossed the road and started our ascent. On and on we went, climbing up and up with the occasional swear word as a boot slipped or a shout as someone stumbled. It was a hard slog with moments where even I couldn’t look behind me without feeling slight vertigo set in. But we made it to the top and the view was un-be-lievable!! Well worth the swearing, sweat and occasional tears (well done to Gail who, regardless of being terrified of heights, made it to the top) to have this view as we tucked into our Hassness Homemade sarnies!
One of the things I loved most about my time in The Lakes was not only the fantastic views, the crazy challenges or the hearty food we had cooked for us each night, but it was in meeting a wonderful group of ladies who came from near and far across the UK and how quickly we all became one team. Never did you feel alone, even if you did travel by yourself like I and others did. Not once did I feel that I couldn’t do something that seemed out of my depth because I had 17 women behind pushing me on and telling one another ‘you can do this’ or ‘I’m right behind you’. The comradery between us all was touching to the point that I remember looking up as one person struggled to make it up a steep climb, and we all ran to help with arms stretched out ready to catch or push; it was incredibly heart-warming how so many different women from all ages and backgrounds never felt they couldn’t ask for help or offer a hand. Those that did come with someone didn’t shy away from the rest of us and just stick together, but merged into the team and forged friendships that I don’t think will ever be forgotten. I also didn’t realise how many ladies in a relatively small team would be so obsessed with listening to The Archers; the plot was discussed with such passion to the point I now want to start listening to it myself!! This holiday was more than walking for me, it was about finding myself again and redefining my outlook in life. I realised quite quickly that if I set my mind to something, I can do it and it was thanks to those 17 wonderful ladies that I realised, life is there to be lived and to be lived well. I know for sure that I will never forget any of the people I met on this trip and that for me, The Lake District will be somewhere I’ll treasure for a lifetime. I will be back soon to create new memories and relive old ones but for now, I will reminisce through the pictures I took, the emails I send to those I met, the stories I tell my friends and family and the memories I hold in my heart.
“The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body”
The great Alfred Wainwright.