Memories and impressions from the Lake District
Thank you to all our contributors!
Please send your own thoughts to email@example.com
Over the course of my life I have holidayed in Lakeland nearly every year. My first visit occurred back in 1956. I was 11 years old. I was on a camping trip with my family. We stayed on a farm between Barngates and Hawkshead Hill. Back then we did the usual sightseeing trips, but my most abiding memory of that first holiday occurred on the penultimate day of the holiday when we went to Tarn Hows. I was spellbound by the magnificent scenery all around me.
Since that day I have tramped over most of the fells and along the valleys, in all seasons, yet I have never tired of the ever changing scenes influenced by the weather patterns and the seasonal variations and their impact on the area. No wonder people travel from all over the world to admire the magnificent and spiritually inspiring landscape of the Lake District.
A perfect Lakeland day
My adoration of the Lakes first began some 68 years ago at the age of 11, walking up Bowfell with my Father and eldest sister. It was Easter, the weather was glorious and there was snow on the top of Bowfell.
My parents hired a cottage at Far Sawrey , which became the family’s Easter Holiday home for some 20 years thereafter.
My memories are endless covering both walking and rock climbing adventures with family (walking) and boyhood friends (climbing).
Living in Southport, access was fairly easy and sometimes I would pop up with my Father on a day trip and just hike up a fell and return home after the usual pint in one of the Lakes’ welcoming pubs. The Queens Head in Hawks Head was a favourite.
Read the reste of John Allen's memories here ...
A walk to the Tarn
“When I was young” I was going to start, or “When I was a boy”, but even that is far from precise, and I realize that this one walk is a compilation of so many walks that I can no longer separate them out into their geological strata. So many people have come with us, they fade in and out of my memories, but when I walk this path they are still there, enduring in the enduring landscape. So this is a generic expedition, some unspecified day from my youth in what is now sufficiently far in the past to be considered historic by the young.
It is the natural walk for us, the path immediately outside our door. Whenever we reach boots down from their shelf my grandfather’s black Labrador, Tess, goes and sits anxiously by the door to be sure not to be forgotten. We step outside, where my grandmother will line us up for a photograph. She uses one of those cameras that you held at waist height and peered into the top of, and arranges us directly in the sunshine, so that when the photograph comes out, tiny and more grey than black and white, there will always be someone squinting or looking at the camera sideways.
This ceremony over, off we troop up the yard and past the disused stables, formerly an inn, this being an old packhorse route. Into the walled lonnin (green lane) between fields of different heights we process, and across Raypot Haws, known to us as ‘The Horse Field’ because of its former occupant. It’s a hilly, rocky piece of ground, enclosed from the fell in 1748 to help pay for the re-building of the chapel and schoolhouse. ...
Read the rest of Ross Baxter's recollections here ...
I have always loved the Lakes. Spent many happy times, in recovery from cancer, enjoying the scenery and peace, along with my wonderful companion, my Tibetan Mastiff.
In 2010 I met a lovely couple, he, just diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He had been a bush pilot in Canada, an Engineer, and an avid canoeist. He decided to build a canoe and travel the length of Ullswater. They asked me to help them; this made our friendship deeper with time.
As he built it with friends, his condition started to deteriorate. We managed to get up to the Authorities and get necessary permits and agree dates. The canoe was finished and painted and he was conscious of the water testing we did.
Sadly he never made it back up there, but, on his instructions, the canoe was auctioned and proceeds donated to Parkinson’s UK, who had been so supportive.
Bittersweet memories, but he saw the launch of his works!
We must not loose that precious district. We need it and it attracts so many from other countries.
An Everest Challenge in the Lakes
I must have walked in the Lakes over a score of times, occasionally on my own but usually with a variety of very good friends - wonderful memories, every one! One of the best weeks of my life was in 1999 aged 55 with my wife Jenny, cousin Graham and best friend Chris in pursuit of the Oxfam Everest Challenge - 30 of the very best fells over 6 days, totalling more than 29,000 ft of ascent. A dream come true!
Among earlier contributors I must agree absolutely with Anna Rose in praise of peace and freedom, and Michael Denholm about reopening the line to Keswick. Absolutely, absolutely!
With rucksack and papoose
When my son was a baby we lived in Carlisle, I had never lived in a City and couldn't take to it. The lakes were just a bus ride away though. So I would pack a rucksack pop the baby in a papoose and head off to Coniston. We need wild spaces and places in our lives.
Youth hostelling in the Lakes
I have spent many hrs and days hiking in the Lake district. I have hiked with my Scout troop. Wonderful times. Since I have retired from Scouting I have with a few of my friends hiked and stayed in some of the wonderful YHA properties. In particular Borrowdale, Honister and Patterdale YHAs. Great places, wonderful staff and great food. Whenever we have been in the Lakes we have been warmly welcomed by the locals. It is a very special area of our country and we must preserve this for our children and their children. I have also found it rewarding to offer something back. My Mates and i have volunteered in a few YHA hostels. Along with many other volunteers we have refurbished many rooms and communal areas of the Hostels. The area deserves it’s status and we should all try and keep it as it is now.
The Sound of Music on the hills
Some of my very favourite memories are from my first holiday in the Lake District. Holidays were always especially precious because my wonderful father was there with me all the time. However, I wasn’t used to sleeping in the same room as my parents and my 1st night was spent on a most uncomfortable camp bed squeezed between their 2 single beds, the only room available in Rydal. My wonderful father snored...... I had no sleep that first night. But that’s quite enough of the bad memories!
I can’t now remember exactly where we went, when, but I was in heaven. Every mile we travelled in that small - borrowed from my great Aunt - green car I gazed and gazed - dare I say “but little thought what wealth to me the show had brought”? Hopefully William Wordsworth and you reader, will forgive me.
Born in south Manchester, I had never spent so much time in such fantastic open scenery. I‘m absolutely certain we were not the only visitors that week but that’s how it felt to me! Windermere, Coniston, Ambleside and Grasmere. So much space, so much green, blue and yellow, courtesy of the sun - it only rained once that week! My father would always find some quiet place where we could be alone and have our picnic lunch.
This particular day, having eaten, I jumped up and started climbing further up the endless natural and imaginary path before me. Having reached a safe haven from where I couldn’t be seen or heard by anyone, and having so recently been treated to a night at the cinema, I started running and burst into song with a very poor rendition of Julie Andrews singing The Sound of Music. I was alone, free and in such an absolutely stunningly beautiful place. What could possibly be better than solitude in such a fabulous setting. The Lakes were shimmering in the glorious sunshine and I was totally enthralled!
I have been back to the Lake District many times since then, including a honeymoon and it has such a very special place in my heart and memory.
I am 78. When I was about 9, my parents rented a wooden chalet above lake Coniston. My father was recovering from a breakdown. In those days, children had more freedom to roam. I vividly remember walking up a valley, past derelict copper mine buildings, to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston. Beneath me was the tarn, almost black. In bright sunshine, I think I saw the sea. I started to head for home. Suddenly, I was overtaken by panic. I ran! Later, I was told that these were the pipes of Pan.
Years later, on my B.S.A. Bantam, I revisited Coniston and across the water, John Ruskin’s house. By then , I was at Art School. Wonderful memories. Donald Campbell was yet to attempt to break the water speed record, on the lake.
The view from Low Fell
My first visit to the Lakes was on a field course from Durham University in 1960. We walked up the Newlands Valley in early spring, when that apricot-coloured light, unique to the Lakes, shines off the dead bracken. Turning round to look down the valley, I was hit with the wonder of it all - it felt just like falling in love. I later moved to the Lakes to work, to Penrith, and lived with Blencathra in view through the living room window. One Midsummer's Day, as the sun rose, family and friends played barefoot footie in the wet grass at Castle Rigg. I moved away, then back again to near Kendal, where I looked out from the attic window to Shap Fells. Over the years, I've ticked off all the Wainwrights: my last one - Great Gable - on my 70th birthday last year. My favourite view of all is from Low Fell, looking up Crummock Water and Buttermere to Haystacks. I now live in Norfolk ("Very flat, Norfolk", as Noel Coward once remarked), and I miss the fells. A painting of Innominate Tarn hangs at the foot of my bed, and a painting by my father of the Langdales is at the top of the stairs: two lively reminders. I was born in the Himalayas, so perhaps I have mountains inside me somewhere.
50+ years in love with the Lake District
Back in the 1960s with what would turn out to be my wife in my Hillman Super Imp we explored ‘up north’ from our homes in flat East Anglia. We didn’t have a plan or itinerary and just went where the road took us staying at Bed and Breakfasts which were not like the en-suite accommodation you find nowadays.
One such trip that started with stays in the Yorkshire Dales then we headed over to the Lakes and ended up in the Langdale village of Elterwater in the Langdale valley. We stayed with a young couple, one of whom was a teacher if I recall correctly. They had two young children and were doing B&B to help the household budget. From that visit onwards we were sold on the Lakes and visited many times over the years usually staying in quieter areas and continued to explore the hills and dales.
Some decades later we were staying with relations in Preston Lancs who suggested a day trip to the lakes so I asked if we could go back to Elterwater to try to find where we stayed on our first visit and discover what happened to our hosts all those years ago. We did and it turned out the couple now owned a lot of holiday cottages in the area and also hosted a once a week dining experience in the village.
Although it appeared they had been successful they had also endured tragedy along the way as one of their children had been killed in a road accident. On another similar exploration from East Anglia we ended up at Buttermere. Now able to afford hotels rather than B&B we stayed at the Bridge Hotel and returned many times to roam the tops.
Sadly age and health have caught with us so we can no longer climb the hilltops and have to make do with a walk around Crummock Water and Buttermere but having travelled extensively throughout the world during our married life The Lakes is up there with the best.
Mike and Diana Shave
Listen to Ian McKellen reading The Prelude
Anyone with any connection to The Lakes, real or through the arts, who heard Ian McKellen reading Wordsworth’s Prelude on Radio 4 this last week, will have had this special landscape brought vividly to mind whether there in person or miles away.
The Prelude (lines 270-282)
Was it for this That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved
To blend his murmurs with my nurse’s song,
And, from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou, O Derwent! winding among grassy holms
Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,
Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts To more than infant softness, giving me
Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind
A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.
The landscape embeds itself deeply within many of us. For me it is the place of half my childhood, spent in the 50s in a remote valley in the Northern Lakes, the place where I fell in love and where I had my first child. After moving away I have ever since visited family, friends and the beloved landscape a few times a year. To me it is one of the most precious wild places in Britain and I desperately want what I have loved to remain as wild as it can be for all the generations to come.
We’ve revamped the Lake District towns, some of the villages and so many roads to encourage more tourists. And where they are coming to enjoy the peace and quite and beauty of the landscape and contribute to the livelihoods of local people, that’s wonderful. But please please could we stop at that and leave the wild countryside in peace? In a very noisy world, these corners are far too precious to simply become yet another playground for noise junkies.
Freedom is freedom where others are not affected. But where one person’s freedom is inescapably another’s nightmare, could we redress the balance a little before too late and protect a few corners of Britain, especially the National Parks, from invasive activities? Thank you.LDGLA for working so hard to achieve this in the unique and deeply loved Lake District.
Re-open the railway line to Keswick
Restoration of the railway (the former Penrith, Keswick & Cockermouth line) from at least Penrith to Keswick - and eventually through to Workington as once was, would'nt half be helpful in removing lots of polluting road traffic from the fragile environment around Troutbeck, Threlkeld, Keswick, Bassenthwaite Lake and and provide an environmentally friendly means of access to the northern lakes for all. The beauty of the route could also be enjoyed - unlike the 'road rage' so common among motorists virtually every weekend.
I'm sure the line would attract custom. The re-opened 'Borders Railway' from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank has exceeded all projected usage. It also serves an area rich in tourist attractions and is particularly busy during 'peak' commuter times. Keswick to/from Carlisle via Penrith would mirror the Borders Railway - the 'Northern Lakes Railway'?
The Terrace at High Nibthwaite
We always called the track from Nibthwaite to Parkamoor The Terrace. It could be that my grandparents, or even great grandparents, took the name from Wordsworth’s Prelude where he mentions The Terrace Walk near the Derwent. My grandmother - who must have walked with her own children there - took me looking for flowers and taught me their names and habits. Butterwort and sundew, intriguingly carnivorous, grew in damp edges of the track and– the sticky drops on the sundew being particularly interesting especially if a tiny gnat got caught and folded into the plant. Grass of Parnassus – the relatively rare saxifrage with the curious vase shaped ovaries – hid in special spots, bog asphodel and cotton grass flourished in marshy spots. I guess I was particularly interested in what was around my feet, as at that stage I was too short to look over the walls to see the views that the adults were appreciating. That came a bit later and was a source of endless pleasure as the terrace parallels the Lake and rises to allow eventual distant views.
Coming to the Lakes from Bradford
Coming from a South Asian background and growing up in Bradford, my love for the Lake District began whilst I was at school over 50 years ago, when we would go rambling. After I left school these trips continued, the most memorable visits being to the beautiful Lake Windermere, Helvellyn and Ambleside.
After my marriage I took my husband for a mini break to Windermere, and over the years my son has also been drawn to the Lakes. For the last ten years or so, he along with his wife, two children and myself in tow, spend at least a week in the Lakes every year. We always look forward to this break with excitement. The children have become great walkers!
All of us have experienced the Lakes in all their glory come rain, snow, or sunshine. We love this landscape because it’s so beautiful and peaceful. It is wonderful to get out and see the beauty of the English countryside in all its glory.
The last thing we want to see on the tracks are 4WDs or trailbikes with their noise and pollution. The peace and beauty of the Lake District belongs to all of us – long may it continue.
Camping on Red Bank in the 1950s
Some time during the mid-1950s, when I was about fifteen, my Scout Troop, the 11th Finchley, went to the Lake District for its summer camp. I recall that we travelled there, from North London, in the back of the local greengrocer’s lorry. We were urban, working class Londoners. None of us knew anything about mountains. None of us had boots, or anything remotely waterproof, and I recall no maps. Plimsolls were the standard footwear. We set up camp in a farmer’s field on Red Bank, just south of Grasmere Lake. Our tents were green canvas, with no groundsheets: water could therefore flow freely under the walls. I don’t think that there was even a tap in the field. We dug our own latrine. There we stayed for a couple of weeks, cooking on open fires, burning whatever wood we could collect as we rambled about.
By today’s standards, camping holidays 60 years ago were primitive, but I am not setting my memories down in the spirit of the Monty Python Yorkshiremen sketch: (Tents! You had tents? When I were a lad we dreamed of tents. When we went camping we had to just lie down on t’wet mud when it got dark.’) Rather, I’m recording these early memories in order to remind ourselves just how little we need in order to enjoy the landscape and the outdoors. Nobody reading this will need convincing, but the idea that, to enjoy the mountains, you need to be sitting in a 4x4, or astride a motorbike, is simply ludicrous.
It never occurred to us that we were under-equipped, as we set off, not even in an organised group, but in ones and twos, roaming wherever the fancy took us, heading perhaps for an outcrop of rocks that we could see from camp, or down to the lake, where the intrepid (not including me) swam. We didn’t ascend any peaks, or follow what are now well-marked trails. We didn’t have Wordsworthian moments, but what registered, and has never left me, was the feeling that the landscape of the Lakes – its walls, its sheep (which only much later did I come to know as Herdwicks), its fells, its farms - is special. I’ve been back every year since that first summer camp, and aim to continue to do so. I’m especially looking forward to the day when we gather to celebrate the prohibition of unnecessary motor vehicles from the green lanes – a prohibition that will surely come.
Patterdale means … freedom
I was brought up in beautiful countryside near the north east Yorkshire coast, but nothing had prepared me for my first experience of the Lakes. A schoolfriend invited me to join him and his family in a cottage where they were staying in Patterdale one Summer holidays. We were both 14. The gaunt beauty of those fells was a complete revelation to me. There were many memorable things: pony trekking around Ullswater, climbing Helvellyn in the pouring rain, the gorgeous girlfriend of his sister who was also staying!… But the one that stands out above the others was simply loading up our rucksacks with provisions, tent and sleeping bags and setting off one afternoon for a small lake called Lanty Tarn. It was no great athletic challenge – the Tarn was not much more than a mile away. We found a good spot by the side of the water (only to find when we later tried to sleep, it was extraordinarily rough and tussocky!), we pulled out our paraffin stove, cooked up some beans and pasta and chatted till the sun dipped behind the mountains.
I’ve had many far more dramatic walks and seen more stunning Lake District scenery in the years since, but then it was all so new. That feeling of utter freedom and delight is something I’ll never forget.
From Canada to the Lakes
Born and raised in Canada, I was fortunate in my life’s trajectory to have enjoyed a career which took me to Northern England and Lancaster. I’ve lived here for 44 years, 27 of them as a British citizen. It seems to reflect the reverse pattern of my grandfather who left Yorkshire for Canada as a young man in the 1880’s and established the farm where my own father was born and raised.
What a change from my endless, flat prairie upbringing in Manitoba to the rolling fells and charming lakes of Britain’s famous Lake District just north of Lancaster. When I had a car, it was easy to go shopping in Windermere and have lunch in one of the several restaurants. Better still, celebrate one’s 50th doing the ‘Buttermere Round’ of Victorian fame, requiring gentle recovery in a local pub. The foreign visitor’s first visit, however, requires some adjustment; getting used to apparent errors in names. Several Lakes are not lakes at all: for example Coniston is a Water, as is Hawes and Ulls. But stunningly beautiful nonetheless. Nothing, however, compares with the much smaller Rydal Water adjacent to Grasmere and the one-time home, Dove Cottage, of the poet William Wordsworth (d.1850) where he wrote his poetical biography, “The Prelude” and other famous works. This captures the enduring attraction of the Lakes, natural beauty and the home of modern English poetry.
August 2000 - Langdale Valley News
Many residents will be familiar with the stony track which links the villages of Elterwater and Little Langdale. Starting opposite the Eltermere Hotel, it ascends into Little Langdale via Birch Hill and Dale End Farm.
This route is used by hundreds of walkers every year, many on holiday, re-charging their batteries in the tranquil atmosphere as an antidote the their busy, often noisy, city lives. It is particularly suitable for older folk, less able to climb the higher fells.
The surroundings are visually pleasing, with lichen encrusted stone walls, long abandoned slate quarries – now colonised by an abundance of variegated ferns. There are wooded slopes, flower filled meadows and upon attaining the crest of the hill, one sees the backdrop of the mountains surrounding Little Langdale.
There are no noxious car fumes along the whole length of this walk, just the pure fresh air with a hint of blossom and honeysuckle in season. The rare commodity of silence is ever present, broken only by bird song or the rustling of leaves in the wind.
Al this could soon be a distant memory. The Lake District National Park Authority has appointed a Trails Manager. After consultation with his Trails Management Advisory Team it has been decided to include this route, with others in the area, in a Hierarchy of Trails Experiment. Consequently notices have been put up at both ends of the track advising drivers of four wheel drives to limit their numbers to four in a group, and motorcyclists to a top limit of six.
There won’t be much chance to admire the scenery as walkers scuttle into the ditches to make way for the four wheel drives, nor will the scent of the country air compete with diesel fumes. It will be a strong bird indeed which make its notes heard above the revving of motorbikes.
Landscapes are inseparable from human emotion.
Two childhood vistas. The bus to Greenodd and the walk through the woods from Bouth up to Colton Heights. The Coniston Fells were suddenly there like a revelation of the world’s glory. Then in a richness of discovery – the Duddon valley and the sublimity of the Scafells rising above Eskdale and the desire that sang through your wires to get there, to be there, to be nowhere else. The tracks were silent; social isolation the wartime norm. How silent the fells were but they filled up richly with people. Jim Cameron, the Birketts, the Bulmans at the New, the Banners at the Bield, Heaton Cooper and much later climbing friends in one of many finales on East Buttress, Scafell. Last week the Helvellyn plateau defined by snow. The tracks in blazing glorious sunlight silent - social isolation. Desire undimmed.
An antidote to insomnia
Like many others our 10-year old daughter has found it difficult to get to sleep during these strange and unsettled times. For her I have found no better sleep remedy than getting her to imagine that we’re both in our 'happy place', Little Langdale. So we both close our eyes and walk down to the ford, enjoying the fresh, cold air.
On the other side of the bridge, we breathe in the smell of the woods: lush, green moss, oaks and wet slates, rotting leaves and sticks on the woodland floor. We turn right along the track and then take the stone stile in the wall, up the rough path towards the Cathedral Cave in the old slate quarry. From here we take in the view of bracken-covered Lingmoor and the cottages of Little Langdale, and looking left, of Little Langdale Tarn with Wrynose Pass and Pike O'Blisco beyond.
Following the path down from the quarry we continue through the gate to the next stile on the right. This takes us down a footpath towards the river and Slater's Bridge. Here we perch on the big boulder and drink in the scenery, soothed by the sounds of water rushing past and the occasional bleating from the sheep in the field above. After a while, we continue across the bridge, walking up the path and turning right across the field and up, past some craggy rocks on our left and through an old metal gate that leads to a rocky field. We pick our way around bogs and sheep droppings and hop across stones,………… and by this point she is usually asleep. Conjuring up memories of this beautiful part of the world is a wonderful antidote to insomnia. Try it!