Easter is a 4-day holiday in the UK – both Friday and Monday are free. Eric and I have a bit of a tradition (all of five years now!) of using the Easter weekend for exploring beautiful parts of Britain. We’ve been to Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Wight, and now this year the Lakes.
As usual, we took the train to roughly the right part of the country, and then rented a car. If we owned a car, we’d probably feel obliged to drive all the way from London, and back again, which would be exhausting and take forever, since half of London probably heads out of the city for the long weekend. But since we don’t have one, we can relax in a comfortable train seat for a few hours instead, and leave the traffic jams to others.
We stay in B&Bs most of the time. In the past we’ve just printed out a list of potential B&B places and had no firm plans at all. Every day around midday we’d decide roughly which direction we would go in the afternoon, and where we might end up for the night, and called around until we found something in the area. It’s always worked well. This time we planned to do less driving and more walking, and were happy to stay in one place all nights, so we actually booked in advance – and besides, the Lake District is a bit more popular for holidays than Scotland for example. In fact, if we hadn’t, we might well have had trouble finding some place to stay. Almost all places we passed had their “No Vacancies” signs out. We stayed at the Elder Grove in Ambleside. Nice place, and quite professional – I’m not even sure why they call themselves a B&B and not a hotel. Very decent breakfast (home made jams!) and very helpful hosts – they even helped us find a veggie restaurant nearby.
In addition to a car and a roof over the head, a walking holiday requires maps and/or books. We had two books this time – one Pathfinder Guide to More Lake District Walks with what looked like relatively leisurely strolls, and Frank Duerden’s Best Walks in the Lake District, which seemed to have slightly more demanding walks. Duerden did have more interesting walks, in general, but its maps were horrible. All in black and white, they use his own symbols instead of conventional ones, and they only show features that lie directly along the path, i.e. walls, streams, hedges etc. There is no context, apart from crude contour lines – for a circular walk the middle of the circle is left blank on the map! This makes navigation far harder than necessary, because it ignores most of the surroundings, including such obvious navigation aids as peaks and ridges. Luckily I had also bought OS Explorer maps for most of the Lake District region, so we didn’t have to rely much on the book’s maps. Apart from our first walk, we only used them to figure out the general plan, and then used the OS maps and the book’s description to find our way.
The Pathfinder book on the other hand had detailed Ordnance Survey maps in full colour, and could be used without any additional maps at all.
We had a soft start on Friday, with a long drive and two short walks. In the morning we drove from Ambleside towards Wast Water, over Wrynose Pass and Hard Knott Pass. Interesting roads, to say the least! Very twisty and with 30% slopes. We then walked around the south end of Wast Water (Duerden, walk 4) and in the afternoon around Dunnerdale Fells (Pathfinder, #17). Both pleasant enough but not very memorable.
Feeling all warmed up, we undertook a slightly longer walk on Saturday: Place Fell and Ullswater (Duerden #17). 13 km and 700m of ascent, rough map here. From Patterdale (which is just outside the map, in the south) across the small river to the farm, then up to Boredale Hause, then up up up to Round How and on to the top of Place Fell. Then slowly descending towards the northeast while passing some smaller peaks, dropping down to Sandwick, and ambling back along the coast of Ullswater. The paths marked on the map are pretty close to where we actually walked. Good paths and good views, and the lakeside path back was very pretty – but the landscape up on the fells was pretty desolate.
Almost nicer than the walk itself was, again, the road there and back through Kirkstone pass.
It’s well past bedtime here so this will have to do for today. More to come soon, including photos of course.