We awake to sunshine streaming into our airy room. I am too happy to consider getting up, but G is in the kitchen whipping up pancakes before I’ve even remembered where we are. He brings them to me in bed along with the folder of ‘walks from the door’ provided by the owners of Manesty. I want to make the most of the sunny weather as it’s likely that it won’t last the week, so it makes sense for us to head upwards; as such, I flick through the routes until I find the route up Catbells, termed ‘everyone’s favourite walk’. Judging by the fact that the pink sheet is more crinkled and heavily folded than all of the other routes in the pack, it seems a good choice. G agrees, and we spend too long getting ready before we head out.
We take a scout around our surroundings before heading up the footpath, and the joyful feeling of Lakeland beneath my feet returns. Some of the ground is wet and slippery, and G makes the fatal mistake of saying “ten points to the first person to fall over!” and then, “whoever has the most points at the end of the day pays for dinner!” It is a grand total of forty-five seconds before he gloriously slips over; I almost follow as I double up laughing.
Eventually we find ourselves on the Catbells path, making way for fellow walkers who are heading down. Rain threatens but doesn’t make its presence known, though it gets colder and more breezy the higher we go. We step aside to allow a group of primary school children on a school trip down the path. The groups of younger kids have an older child leading each one. One in particular impresses me with his instruction to his smaller charges of how to walk down the steep paths properly; these are children who have been brought up here.
We are repeatedly struck by the view as Derwentwater becomes more visible on the other side of Manesty Woods. Sunlight dapples the valley and fellsides and glitters in patches on the lake, defying the cloud-capped Skiddaw on the opposite side.
We reach the top of the path at the centre of Hause Gate, the saddle between Catbells to the right and the higher Maiden Moor to the left. The wind is fierce and biting, and the calm sunlight of Manesty seems another world. Most walkers are heading right towards Catbells, which is the path our paper route would take, but we decide to be more adventurous and take the left path. We don’t know it at this point, but it will take us scrambling over Bull Crag, where we pause for lunch, and up to the top of Maiden Moor.
Catbells from the path up Maiden Moor. To the far left is Bassenthwaite Lake; to the right is Derwentwater, with Keswick on the far shore. Skiddaw is just to the right of Catbells’ peak, but shrouded in cloud.
From the summit, Newlands Valley streams below us, and the path beckons us towards the next fell along. However, the weather looks less promising than it did this morning and we both agree that we don’t want to end up stranded too far away from home. So we spot a path down from Hause Gate that leads around Catbells and decide to follow it.
The walk back takes less time and is punctuated with stories of past adventures. G and I have only known each other for just over seven months and are constantly surprised at how much more we have to learn about each other, despite our closeness. One walker passes us with a full-face goggles/mask combination that makes them appear they are climbing Everest, not the friendly Lakes fells. I feel young and free and adventurous, because today nothing else matters but that my feet continue to carry me through this familiar yet totally new world. (I consider whether it is the Lake District making me feel this way, or G, since I often feel this way when we are together.)
We find the path, which is directly opposite the route we came up but far less trodden. This is exciting; though we are following a pair of hikers ahead of us, it feels as though we are off the beaten track a little. We trip and stumble down past an old mine, which I later discover to be Yewthwaite (thanks Wainwright!).
We are heading towards a waterfall glittering in the irregular sunshine, but pause for a moment to lie in a large crater on a bed of mine-rock and take in the sky. I often cite that one of my favourite things about Norfolk is its huge sky which seems to stretch for miles and is always changing. In the summer, it provides the most stunning sunsets over the barley field next to my house. Here, from the ground, it is completely different: blue directly above us, but interrupted by the felltops clamouring for our attention.
We draw towards Yewthwaite Ghyll as the sun reappears; it is the first proper waterfall of our trip and is nothing short of beautiful in its secluded corner of Newlands.
We cross the stream and continue to follow the path towards the old mine, stopping for photographs (even, dare I say it, selfies). We take a shortcut and find ourselves cross the river again over a very narrow, sloped bridge, which G must first, naturally, turn into a piece of gym equipment.
We keep walking; the ground here is almost flat, until we spot from the path what looks like a door, up a hill in the side of the fell. On closer inspection, it looks as though it is part of the mine (as well as a hobbit hole!). At the bottom of the metal ‘door’, other passers by have left their names scratched into slate along with gifts of sweets. We decline the offering of food but add our own slate – ‘GC, LF ’14’ – so if you ever walk this path have a look to see if it’s still there for us!
The walk continues, as does the conversation. God knows what we talk about; G is reduced to fits of giggles on more than one occasion – by the end of the day I can’t remember what I said, but it almost doesn’t matter.
Our walk takes us right around the lowlands of Catbells with views over Newlands. The ground undulates but is not difficult underfoot. We see no people for a very long time, only sheep, but this does not matter. The views are beautiful and the sun is warm, and everything is perfect.
The walk is longer than we anticipate (this doesn’t matter either, but we start to think we should have brought more food), and eventually we end up back on the road up to Manesty. However, the opportunity to cut through woodland is presented and our adventurous-ness takes over. We clamber stiles and meet some friendly dogs and ultimately end up back on the same road we started on, having paused on a log to eat the leftovers of last night’s pasta in the woodland next to Manesty Woods. The light is golden as we speak, our voices mingling with the soft ripple of the lakeshore.
Home, eventually. We recover a little and later head out to get food; neither of us feel up to cooking. We drive to Keswick listening to Classic FM to an entire symphony I am sure I recognise and cannot place. We sit in the car park whilst I desperately try to get an internet connection to find out; now, typically, I forget what it was.
We queue for chips (I pay, despite the fact that G has earned far more points than me acr0ss the day) and take them to the beach Mum and I discovered on our first trip here in 2006. We eat and name the two mallard ducks on the shore (Jack and Pat); Grant shows off his stone-skimming skills as the sun sets.
Home again. A beautiful, beautiful day with sights and sounds and laughter which I know will remain imprinted on my heart forever.