Windermere, December 2018
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary English Lake District
In early autumn The walking club organised a low level walking weekend to Windermere in the English Lake District. Established in 1951,the English Lake District is England’s largest National Park and home to thriving communities such as Bowness-on-Windermere. The Lake District is also known as Lakeland and is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level lies within the National Park. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wast Water and Windermere.
Wading in Windermere
We were based in Windermere, which was easily reached by train from Glasgow, and stayed in a very comfortable hotel. As low level walkers, we have reached the stage in life where we no longer stay in bunkhouses and hostels! I have climbed the higher fells in the Lakes although the only one I still want to do is Scafell and its neighbour Scafell Pike. They will have to wait for another time. As the Lakes are a mountainous area, there tends to be a lot of rain. The weekend we were there was one of the wettest I have ever experienced. We planned to walk from Windermere to Ambleside but the very wet weather made things difficult. Windermere town lies about half a mile (1 km) away from the lake. Although the town Windermere does not touch the lake (it took the name of the lake when the railway line was built in 1847 and the station was called “Windermere”).
We set off in the rain to climb to Orrest Head – optimistic the weather would clear. Windermere to Orrest Head was Wainwright’s introduction to the Lake District. On a clear day, the ratio of views to effort put in probably cannot be beaten. Wainwright said of Orrest “Orrest Head for many of us, is ‘where we came in’ – our first ascent in Lakeland, our first sight of mountains in tumultuous array across glittering waters, our awakening to beauty. Could not put it better myself! Alfred Wainwright (17 January 1907 – 20 January 1991) was a British Fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lakeland District. A bit like the Munro Book in Scotland.
The walk from the hotel up to the top of Orrest Head was a gentle climb but it was misty and we could see the lake but not the mountains. We descended on the far side and continued walking in the countryside but it still rained. We could hear the sirens from the road near the lake and we discovered later that the main road in to Windermere had been closed due to flooding. We were walking on country roads which had very deep puddles we could not avoid and very soon we nearly all had wet feet as the water went over the tops of our boots. It felt unpleasant and a decision was made to go back to Windermere by a circular route rather than continuing to Ambleside and take the bus back to Windermere. Despite being very wet, I enjoyed being in the fresh air. Perhaps I could have avoided the wet feet by wearing gaiters over my boots. My own fault for not bringing them with me! We had a lovely evening in the hotel that night with an entertainer and as a group most of us were up dancing and singing along. We walkers know how to enjoy ourselves!
On the second day we took the bus down to Bowness to catch the boat north to Ambleside. At the quay we were greeted by a flock of swans and ducks looking for food. They even stuck their beaks in our rucksacks. They were obviously very used to people and not at all afraid. It was still misty and raining and although the commentary on the boat mentioned the islands on the lake we were passing, we could not see them for the mist! When we reached Ambleside we transferred to a smaller wooden boat to take us over to Wray Castle on the west side of the lake. The house was built in 1840 for a retired Liverpudlian surgeon, James Dawson, who built it along with the neighbouring Wray Church using his wife’s fortune. The house has an association with another key player in Beatrix Potter, who spent a summer holiday there when she was 16 in 1882. From the castle we walked along the shore of the lake to Ferry House to catch the boat back to Bowness and had the weather been drier we would have walked the two miles up to the hilltop home of Beatrix Potter. Bowness is a delightful little town with a myriad of tourist shops and good cafes.
Although the weekend was unusually wet, we enjoyed the trip as a group. Thanks as ever to Stephen for organising the weekend.
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Thanks to Eleanor Watson for the photos.
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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