My walk through Cumbria, in England, has been everything I hoped and the weather smiled benevolently for the whole journey. Unbelievably, my goretex remained in the pack for the whole 8 days as the temperatures soared and the country experienced a heatwave (by British standards). Mostly the walk provided reflective time alone, as well as extended exercise in beautiful scenery and a chance to recharge my batteries in this 45th year of my life.
The section of the Cumbria Way I strolled – from Ulverston to Keswick – was delightful and the four days spent exploring the fells in Langdale Valley will feature in my imagination for a very long while. Ulverston, where the Cumbria Walk commences, reminded me of Denmark. The decorations at front doors of cottages were very similar to those spied in Skane. The language trail, almost as interesting as my walking one, certainly has deeply Old Norse roots (fell, tarn, ghyll, stickle, beck, etc.).
The Langdale Valley is a place for superlatives. Magnificent is the simplest and best description of this walker’s paradise. The visual impact of leaving the village of Elterwater and first seeing the valley, in my case walking a mile or so to the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel is, without a doubt, one of the best walking experiences along the Cumbria Way. I spent four days in the valley ascending the Langdale Pikes, the largest being Harrison Stickle, most of which truly gives grand perspectives of the valley. The view often extended to Lake Windermere and beyond.
The most rewarding day, spent with Julian ascending Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, just had the most magnificent views of several valleys and one can see why Alfred Wainright rated the experience so highly:
…the ridge being amongst the grandest mountain walks in Lakeland and strenuous effort will be recompensed by superlative views. Timid walkers will be less happy and may find the mountain hostile but should attempt it: other mountains are climbed and forgotten but Crinkle Crags will always be remembered.”
It is possible to experience the walk vicariously viewing this BBC program
David showed more of the Langdale Valley the day after my walk with Julian. He is aged 74 and amazingly ran in a “seven fells race” two days prior to our 10 hour walk. Pretty impressive for his age, any age, to say the least. David is a local historian (he wrote an interesting book recently about the impact of 63 public houses on his small village in the 19th century) and seems to be involved in a gazillion community based projects. I met him via Catherine who volunteers at Vindolanda as a guide and we organised our walk last year. He is with his dog, Stanley, in the picture below.
One of my favourite stretches of the walk was the very long, remote Langstrath Valley, accessed via Stakes Pass as one leaves the Langdale Valley behind. By this stage I felt rests were no longer needed and one could walk forever.
By the final day of my walk it was time to ascend Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in England, via Striding Edge. Amazingly, there were guys with mountain bikes at the summit.
At heart I am a reader, history and English teacher, so listening to the gentle pace of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals in the evenings, after the exertions of the day, rewarded with description of places I’d walked and anecdotes about William and Coleridge that were particularly amusing. My favourite, Dorothy’s quip that Coleridge was to visit but was running quite late. When he arrived they discovered he’d come via a small detour – Helvellyn. What a poet!
In conclusion, I’d like to mention, for the uninitiated, that cooked breakfasts at the local B&Bs feature Cumberland sausages and the legendary black pudding to fuel your day of walking the local fells.
PS Here’s my Cumbria set of photos.
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/9317395954/