Those people who know me, know I like a challenge. I always have a plan, and approach any such plan with much gusto and enthusiasm.
Last weekend, however, tested my mental fortitude to the full. Looking at Sharp Edge, Blencathra, in the rain.
Now, to put this in context, I currently have a lovely project of touching as many of the waters/tarns in the Lakes as I can. We were approaching Scales Tarn at the foot of Sharp Edge, and our plan had been to traverse back under the edge to a col, then on to Bowscale Tarn. It was wet, and we could see the ridge dotted with people. I felt sick.
The reason for this is that seven years ago, I fell from Sharp Edge. So easily done, no matter how competent you are. I sustained multiple injuries, and I am forever grateful to the Keswick Mountain Rescue team who came out to retrieve me from the deep gully I had wedged myself into.
All those men and women had to stop what they were doing to come to my rescue. They are all volunteers, they have families, jobs and lives; lives which they also must risk, lowering themselves into precarious positions to rescue the unfortunate. I'm lucky I lived. I'm lucky they volunteer.
Above is Thirlmere
I now choose more calculated routes. It’s not that I don't go on ridges or scrambling in gullies, it’s just that I am more mindful of consequences; I change plans and don't feel regrets.
Last weekend we changed our plan, and went up Scales Fell with our backs to the edge. I didn't look back. The run over to Bowscale Tarn on the soft boggy ground was spectacular, and the subsequent paddle in the tranquil tarn diluted any feeling of sickness.
Since visiting all the Wainwright summits last winter, a new little obsession has developed; running around the shore of each of the Lakes. Is that one lake, or sixteen? Yes, Bassenthwaite is the only true Lake in the Lake District – all the others are Meres or Waters! Who would have thought I'd fall in love with a flatter, non-mountainous challenge? I really recommend it to anyone; I've been asked which was my favourite, but they're all beautiful.
Above is Esthwaite Water
Our little project started with Bassenthwaite, and it was raining. The highlight must be looking back towards Keswick with Skiddaw’s mighty shoulder on our left. Be prepared for bogs and mud, but you could easily find yourself watching an osprey soar above your head and seeing otters play in the shallows. Derwentwater; to me this is home, the Chinese bridge and boardwalk to the spit at High Brandlehow overlooking Skiddaw, Blencathra and Walla. I never tire of this lake, whatever the weather.
Thirlmere and the trees, I love the Monkey Puzzle tree. The west side now has a new track, but I'll miss tripping on the tree roots! I always love running back down, with that view of St John’s in the Vale and Blencathra.
Haweswater; yes half of this is now road only, but it’s quiet and the views are well worth it; we saw lots of deer. The highlight was coming around a bend to a view of the head of Mardale and trotting along the old village tracks.
By Ullswater, I had really started to enjoy my challenge. I followed the Ullswater Way, this marked route took me on tracks I'd never been on before. The way takes you to the hills to avoid the road section of the lake. We hardly saw any people, only at the honeypots of Aira Force, Howtown and Pooley Bridge. I loved so much of this lake and route; it’s probably a cheat to say Gowbarrow Fell as its not technically on the lake shore but they are my rules, the track and views from here are stunning.
We were on Buttermere and Crummock when the bluebells were out; stunning. I've run many times on the back side of Buttermere, but never on its northeastern shore. I felt ashamed that I'd never treated my children to the stone tunnel! What a brilliant family walk, especially with the ice cream farm to finish. Be warned, you do have to be a bog lover to enjoy the back side of Crummock.
Above is Ennerdale
Wastwater on a Sunday afternoon, what better place? You have to concentrate on the screes, they're much easier traversed in the dry. At the head of the valley we were treated to a Bob Graham Round transition and all its excitement. They were toiling up the steep front of Yewbarrow as we headed along the rolling valley road. I think we were passed by a total of three cars. The lakes aren’t always busy.
Loweswater in the evening light, with the huge mound of Mellbreak standing over the swooshing summer grass.
Windermere, epic, it's huge. I know we started early, but I was stunned how few people we saw on this route. We chose to not run the road on the east side but to take to paths and bridleways, which significantly extended the route but we saw no-one. Well we did see one man, who thought we were lost when I said we were running around the lake! We came off Gummers How in the heat of the day to Newby Bridge and people. There was a tricky bit of road here to Lakeside but it was soon over, and as a bonus I got to see the steam train. We had the whole of the next section to ourselves, only finding people at the ferry and Wray Castle. Thirty three miles of beautiful countryside.
Coniston Water I enjoyed, as one side was through forest and trees while the other was past tarns and over rolling hills. We watched a dragonfly lay her eggs in the water. The final stretch past the magnificent Coniston Hall along the lakeshore we did have to share with others, but as we'd seen only a handful of people before that I didn't mind.
Ennerdale, and another sunny Sunday evening. Coming around the open end of the valley first and up the southern shoreline, a warm wind blowing waves and the lake glistening in late evening sun. Take care on the tree roots but if you have a sun hat on, remember tree branches can be quite low… my head knows that now.
Grasmere and Rydal Water, simply stunning and so different to the beauties in the west. You can see why Wordsworth became so lyrical.
Above is Rydal
Esthwaite Water, an early morning road trot up its west side, the hedges filled with honeysuckle and fields with their stone flagged edges. We then went into the woods and up to the tarns above Near Sawrey. The water and the lily pads, which were the inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher. I thought this lake might be the least interesting of all, but it won me over and I'll visit again.
Lovely Elterwater on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it was busy. It was late July on a lovely day and it’s so pretty and accessible…
The Lakes are here for everyone, you don't have to go up high to find beauty. Most people go to the same places, where the guidebooks tell them, but look at a map and go beyond those areas and you can have the Lakes to yourself.
Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them. Also take a whistle and a survival bag; you never know when you might need them, they could help save your life.
The rescue teams are manned by voluntary members. Of course, call them out if you've had an accident, but don't call them just because you have failed to take a map and are now lost.