The Lakes


and a pair of Stripy boy socks.

I’ve finally finished processing all the photos that we took on holiday and I tried, I really tried not to make this post a complete photo splat. It is anyway. We all knew that was always going to be the case. If you have a really slow internet I’m truly truly sorry and I send you calming thoughts and suggest you go and look for a fairy cake or something to take the edge off.

A little while ago, H had asked me for some more ‘work-appropriate’ socks and so duly authorised to go wild in Anna’s magical emporium of yarn and general fibery goodness I tried, I really tried to pick calm, neutral colours, … and came home with a new arrival, Knitcol Trends in the excitingly named colour 053. It’s a DK weight yarn and before we had left I’d knit up the first sock. The second sock was tucked into the bag for knitting on the move and it really came into its own when we arrived in the Lakes.

Lake Windemere, heading north from Lakeside (the very bottom of the lake)
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As a plain vanilla sock I could knit with my fingers and watch the beautiful scenery with my eyes so it was a perfect combination, not even marred when I dropped the tail end of a ball of yarn in a still damp gutter around the edge of the boat!

The steamer goes from Lakeside to Bowness-on-Windemere, from Bowness to Ambleside and then reverses the journey and you can stop off as often as you like along the way. We were on one of the later steamers so went all the way up to Ambleside for a quick stop off, and then all the way back.

By the time we reached Bowness on the way back the sock had grown!

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(you can see the pier in the background).

I’d done all but the Kitchener by the time we docked in Lakeside and H snuggled into them the same evening as he read extracts of the Wainwright guides while I cooked supper. I think they were a hit.

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They’ve been through the wash two or three times since and are much loved.

I think this yarn would also make fabulous baby surprise jackets – I’ll have to remember it for the next baby boom.

As these are DK socks and the husband has man-sized feet I took a good dip into a third ball of yarn. These are knit on 3.25mm needles, over 56sts with long cuffs so if you had more delicate feet I think you should be able to get a pair out of two 50g balls but don’t quote me on it!

So, the Lakes …… after three days exploring we were loath to leave and entertained serious plans of selling up, moving to Cumbria and running a cake shop with ice-cream on the side (a daydream usually reserved for the Western Isles of Scotland). Wherever it is, one thing I know, my dream house is in the middle of nowhere!

Our first day was the steamer trip, a gorgeous sunny day, warm and soft with just a sniff of curling leaves.

Lakes 1
From the top left; the Swan approaches Lakeside, looking up the lake, the hills behind Coniston, a yacht off the approach to Bowness, the Teal (our steamer from Ambleside to Bowness on the return trip), and my favourite, a Swallows and Amazon-esque dinghy crewed to the gunwales, tacking laboriously by Belle Isle (just opposite Bowness).

Lakes 2
Bowness pier, islands off Bowness looking north, the top of the lake reveals itself, yachts and mountains, Bowness boat dock, and more yachts.

The building behind the rowing boats is the hotel that we stayed in when we stopped over in the Lakes in July, with a room looking out onto the lake. The hotel itself has a wonderful lounge full of old fashioned comfy sofas and wing-backed arm chairs, perfect for curling up into and watching the sun set into the mountains.
Lakes 3
Another Swallows and Amazons dinghy, hills to the north west, Ambleside (the lake part of it, the village is a good 15 minute walk away but well worth it for the mint choc chip ice-cream), perfect September sky, hills above Ambleside, and a very Beckfoot boathouse.
Lakes 4
As we travelled back on the boat the sun started to sink, casting the ridge between Coniston and Windermere into deep shadow and pointing a long sparkly finger of light at us across the water. A twilight boat trip on the lake with the Tern almost deserted – we had the entire quarter-deck to ourselves to look back at the hills.

If day 1 was about water (and ice-cream), day 2 was for mountains (and Kendal mint-cake), and one mountain to be precise.

The Old Man of Coniston; Kachenjunga to the residents of Swallowdale, or the Matterhorn to their olders and betters. This is quite some mountain – looming 803 metres above the little village of Coniston like a gentle giant – big and beautiful

Lakes 5

These are all views of the way up the mountain, and the way down again! We went up the quarry route, although not the path most trodden, we detoured via the quarry road and the track to the Youth Hostel for pretty views of the valleys, and picked up the main path as it headed up past the slate mines.

When you arrive at the ruins of the mine buildings and clamber over the neverending piles of slate, it’s staggering to consider that mine workers climbed up here every day, and then started work. It’s a level of fitness that I can only aspire to.

Climbing this route gives you the chance to stop for lunch at Low Water, a deeply ironic name for the puddle that you can see in the middle picture, which is at all of 600 metres elevation, if not more. That central picture is taken from the summit, after a zig zag ascent of an insanely steep face. That cream line in the photo, that would be the path! It’s a case of take a few steps and pause, take a few steps and pause, all the way up.

I know there were some fellow mountaineers who zoomed past me, head down, legs pumping, but I’m not going up to the top without spending every second looking at the view so it’s a tortoise’s life for me. I teamed up with a couple of fellow tortoises and we all got to the top in the end!

We came down a slightly gentler route, with views out across Coniston to the south and some very crazy sheep perched precariously on the furthest possible edge of every outcrop and I loved every minute of it (unlike my heels which are only just recovering!)

As a finale to Day 2 I present the following photos which I think provide an accurate sliding scale of the exertion required to climb a mountain:

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Exhibit A: Carie, pale as only an office slave can be, at the bottom of the climb with a lovely view of the mines in the background.
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Half way up – distinctly pinker! These are the heaps of leftover slate that cover this side of the mountain, making climbing all the steeper.
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Pink pink pink – at Low Water eating lunch. I am a glowing beacon of hot hillwalker, and I match my hat!

I don’t have a picture of me at the top – too many flying ants to want to linger long enough for a photo.
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Back at the edge of Coniston with VERY tired feet and an expression that can only be translated as ‘please take me home and pop me into a nice warm bath with lots of bubbles’.

I’m told that it’s usually a good idea to leave a day between one mountain and the next and it’s definitely a good idea not to walk on your blisters but when you only have a few days ….. well we went for another walk.

On our final day we headed into the woolly wilds of the western Lakes, driving up alongside Wastwater with the original intention of trying for Great Gable. With the vast numbers of hikers out and about on a very lovely Saturday it wasn’t exactly quiet but the valley walk is magnificent in the way that only a wide open space far away from hustle and bustle can be. It was awe inspiring
Lakes 6

We missed the path that I had wanted to take to Great Gable and ended up on a slightly lower route that went first to Styhead Tarn and then up whichever flavour of mountain you fancied, and when we got there we decided that actually for us, this was enough. So we didn’t go to the top of Great Gable, we looked at it in the sunshine, and the little orange worker ant sized people slowly creeping up the face, and lay back and basked on our little rocky outcrop; people watching the fell runners, the families on a day out, people being pulled by dogs, tired dogs peeking out of a rucksack pocket.

We climbed a little higher in a different direction, searching for a new view and hiked as far as Sprinkling Tarn, which is teeming with very tiny fish, and then we turned around and headed back down a different valley path, cutting down to the river much earlier in the route and running along side it for the rest of the way home.

If you’ve coped with the pictures so far I have two more for you.
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This is the sunset from our holiday cottage the day we climbed the Old Man of Coniston; radiant and glorious, we sat in the window seat watching it for ages.

And last, but by no means least, H, bringing a new interpretation to the phrase ‘a little muddy’
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Rather than detour round a very damp and peaty bog (like someone else did), the boy decided that he could leap it. The run up went well, the first foot sank more than he expected, the back foot pushed off to compensate and started to slide. In a balletic tumble he flipped onto his side, rolled right over his back and bounded up, moss clinging. It was the funniest thing I’d seen in years!

  • Caroline M 01/10/2009 at 10:38 am

    The sunset is lovely, it’s a pity that I can’t dye red successfully because that would look lovely in yarn.

  • mandycharlie 01/10/2009 at 7:03 pm

    The path from low water up the hill, that is so much more than a steeper climb than I could have managed.

    Oh to be young again!!!

    Wonderful photo’s, it is so nice to see such beautiful picutes.

  • Rachel 02/10/2009 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing all those pictures and the details of your adventure–beautiful and looks like such an amazing trip. I had to laugh at your sequence of pictures showing face color as you climbed the mountain!! And laughed even harder at the story of the boy jumping over the bog. So very typical male isn’t it?!