Thursday 4th June, 2015
I woke at five-forty-five, but managed to get back to sleep until my seven-am alarm. I tidied the kitchen a little and woke G, and we made plans for kayaking over a light breakfast. It wasn’t long before we’d donned our wetsuits, put the kayak on the car’s roof and were heading to the nearby Kettlewell car park.
Kettlewell is actually a very small beach on the edge of Derwentwater. Mum and I discovered it back in 2006 on our first visit to the Lake District together, where we watched the sun set over Catbells and Maiden Moor whilst eating fish and chips from Keswick. It’s a National Trust car park and is often heaving with cars, so we were surprised to find it totally empty. As we set up the kayak we were joined by a kitted out Land Rover with a National Trust logo on the side, so we thought we’d better pay for parking before we were given a fine. I passed G some change and he went off to pay whilst I strapped on the kayak’s seats.
He seemed to be taking a while so I glanced over to see if I could spot him; he was chatting to the National Trust rep, so I assumed they were talking about the car. A few minutes later G returned, grinning and clutching a National Trust tote bag. “Free parking!” he said, happily, “For only £2.50 a month!”
It turned out that Paul had such a brilliant sales pitch that it had taken almost no time at all for G to give in and sign up to National Trust membership at the grand old age of twenty-three. “I put your name on there too…” he laughed nervously. “Funny,” I said, “I didn’t realise we were a retired couple…”
Chuffed with our free parking, and resolving to find as many National Trust car parks as we could over the next two days, we hauled the kayak to the shore and pushed off into Derwentwater, the Queen of the English Lakes. We paddled around a little, admiring the early morning emptiness, before making our way over to a cove directly opposite the car park, where we had a picnic of Grasmere gingerbread and fruit, and were joined by a pack of ducks.
We set off again when we spotted two other paddlers as well as the launch, which takes guests on a tour of the Lake and sent enormous ripples heading in my direction – I was sitting at the front of the kayak and consequently got soaked, providing G much entertainment. Eventually we made our way around the shore and back to the car, where we dried off and headed home to get warm.
G made a delicious cooked brunch as I warmed up in the shower, and we started planning for the afternoon. The weather was absolutely glorious and it seemed mad not to get out and upwards, so we picked another of the Walks from the Door and set out back to Grange Fell, which we visited on day two; we were climbing to the summit of King’s How.
This time we took the route backwards, following Troutdale Beck up from the road, and when we reached the waterfalls we found that day we kept going up, rather than heading to the track we’d taken previously. The route was steep and rocky, but totally beautiful. We made our way over a stile in the fence and glanced back at the view towards Derwentwater. As we followed the track, however, we were met with a paved set of rocky steps. From the foot of them, it was impossible to see where they ended, so we began to climb.
As we walked, we could hear voices from below, or around, or close by, and it took us minutes to work out that they were coming from a rocky face across the valley, where we could see three climbers making their way up to the top. There were points in our journey that I thought they were probably having an easier time than we were; the steps just never stopped. We took a short break at what we hoped was halfway up, and when the path finally began to level out I found a new burst of energy.
We passed the edge of Long Moss, only to find there was yet more to climb. Now, though, it was more of a scramble which was much more fun than never-ending steps.We spiralled slowly to the summit, passing the Edward VII memorial plaque and pulling ourselves up to the top, to the most extraordinary views.
the borrowdale valley from the summit of king’s how
To the west was the Helvellyn range, with the mountain’s summit peeping above the rest; southwards was the Pike of Stickle, Glaramara, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Great Gable, High Spy and Dale Head, and to the north was familiar Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man. We ate and took photographs, feeling on top of the world.
G indulged in what he called ‘high altitude training’ –
– but mostly we sat quietly, just watching life unfold below whilst time seemed to have stopped, just for us.
Eventually we started making our way down, passing a pair of beautiful deer and eventually reaching a dry stone wall. Here we were passed by a buzzard, flying surprisingly low and being chased by an angry crow which repeatedly tried to lash out at the bigger bird. Our directions provided two possible routes here; we were both tempted by longer route which would take us up to the top of Brund Fell and then down into Rosthwaite, but we planned to go out for dinner tonight so decided we didn’t have time and elected to go straight down to the road.
The path was steep downwards and at times difficult to find. At one point we discovered a silver birch had fallen over the path, and G decided he had to lift it up so I could get past. But before long we found ourselves at the gate which led to the road, perhaps a mile or so away from our little bridge over the River Derwent. Not keen on the idea of walking down the winding road, we found a track which led us down by the river itself, and followed it for as long as we could.
Aside from the road noise, the track was (like so much of the Lake District) like something out of a fantasy story. The light dappled through the woodland on the other side of the river, lighting up the leafy canopies in every shade of green, yellow and gold imaginable. The path took us to a stony beach, so I filled up my water bottle from the fresh river water and we skimmed stones for a while.
Our track got a little more adventurous, requiring us to clamber over tree roots and boulders, and eventually ran out altogether, so we made our way back to the road. Luckily it wasn’t far to go before we reached our bridge. Another fifteen minutes of steady trekking and we were home, collapsing on the wooden picnic chairs outside the bay windows to take off our boots and decide where to eat out.
I jumped in the shower and we headed out to the beautiful Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite, which spoiled us with portion sizes so big we couldn’t even manage to share dessert (that’s a big deal for the two of us!). G had slow-roasted leg of herdwick lamb, and we watched the very much alive herdwick lambs frolic in the fields outside as we ate. It was a quiet meal though, talking about the week past and the upcoming weekend.
Home and a little bit of writing, tinged with sadness.