A weekend break in Grasmere (kindly sponsored by generous parents celebrating their Golden Wedding) gave a great opportunity to do some Lakeland walking. For some bizarre reason the Lake District is somewhere I’ve never really been 1 even though it is only 3 hours from home. This weekend was a revelation: we’ll be back soon and often. Our first walk was to Easedale Tarn: an easy one given it was post-Golden Wedding party and the Missus was joining us.
Morning: Easedale Tarn
The big advantage of the Lake District is that there are great walks everywhere and so we could start from the hotel leaving the car alone. However, we were immediately brought to a halt as a herd of cows ambled through the village. Now they could have been heading for a nearby milking byre, but there was a definite English Tourist Board feel about it all: cows shouldn’t pose for the massed tourists’ cameras, surely? They did a very effective job of blocking the village and gained extra points by annoying a whole bunch of drivers.
The path to Easedale Tarn starts along an attractive lane. Like everywhere in the Lake District this was full of holiday cottages and they are uniformly attractive in a lovely setting. No wonder the place gets so many tourists. And here lies the problem: too many people. The path we were on was being strengthened to cope with all the feet it gets. It was a ribbon of stone stretching all the way to the Tarn. All this path maintenance is a monstrous task that the National Trust seems to be just-about winning but I couldn’t help think just how much material was been quarried to supply it – did they just decide to sacrifice one entire hill so that all the others would survive? All along the path we could spot people. There were more people here on one small walk than I’ve seen in D&G all year. And they all seem to have bought their clothing in the Fluorescent Outdoor Shop 2 to help them not blend in to the environment: the hill looked as it was covered in M&Ms 3.
The path climbs along the side of the wonderfully named Sour Milk Gill. Cumbria seems to have had the same rainfall as Scotland this spring and so all the rivers and waterfalls were full and spectacular. All this water made the valley incredibly verdant and lush. This clearly met with the approval of the local Herdwick Sheep: a breed that obviously won the contract from the Tourist Board for extreme photogenic appeal. The path has a few steep sections so you quickly get a good view back down into Easedale.
The Tarn itself sits in a attractive bowl of hills. Today the mist was down covering the higher tops. However, everywhere we looked we could see the M&Ms walking along paths and ridges: it’s a blight of fluorescence. We crossed the Gill where it leaves the Tarn and descended on the path on the other side. This was much quieter (relative to the tourist path) and drops down to join Far Easedale Gill: a very attractive river that flows past Lancrigg. This hotel used to be a favourite spot of “Daffodils” Wordsworth. He was a local lad and you can’t escape him in these parts. I never “got” his poetry at school and so it seems a bit hypocritical to get too excited about him now. However, it’s a gorgeous part of the world and he’s partly responsible for putting it on the map. The path then wanders back along the lane to Grasmere. Conveniently there is a ford in the stream 4 which makes a convenient Spaniel washing point 5.
So this was a lovely few hours’ walk in gorgeous scenery only spoilt by the herds of people: if I could arrange an exclusive visit it would be sublime.
After a lovely lunch in one of Grasmere’s many eating houses we headed off for a flat walk around Grasmere and Rydal Lakes. At the start this involved following a small lane on the west side that had more traffic on it than many A-roads in the Highlands. It’s obviously a rat-run because there’s a sign at the start warning people not to blindly follow their sat-nav devices. Fortunately there are lots of paths that allowed us to escape the traffic (but not the hordes). The path along the lake-side was fenced which meant Jazz could get off the lead and play, including a rather pathetic attempt at hunting a Mallard. She claimed she was just admiring the view from the Lake.
The path goes past the lovely woodland connecting the two lakes. The only problem we encountered was confusion over which path to follow: there are so many. We had a 1:50000 map and it didn’t show them all. So for future walks in the Lake District we’ll definitely be upgrading to the 1:25000 scale: there’s just too much detail here. This became apparent in Rydal village where we had trouble finding the path heading back to Grasmere because the start of the path was obscured by a National Trust symbol on the map. After a bit of frustrating backtracking we eventually found it 6.
This is the old Coffin Road where coffins from Ambleside were carried to the nearest consecrated church in Grasmere. That must have been tough work and you can still see some of the “rest stones” where the coffin was placed while the pall-bearers had a rest. Along this path we found a “money tree” where hundreds of coins had been (securely) hammered into a dead tree. 7 The path continues back to Grasmere via Wordsworth’s old home at Dove Cottage (now a tasteful museum).
Today showed how easy it is to put together walks to fill an entire day with variety in stunning scenery. You can easily spend a week in Grasmere and not cover all the available paths and you wouldn’t need a car. Unfortunately lots of other people do like to use their car or coach and the road through the valley and villages was very busy. I can’t imagine how awful it would be on an August bank holiday (and I’ll never find out!).
- Ignoring a brief stay in Ambleside as a teenager ↩
- Other over-priced outdoor rip-off emporia are available throughout Lakeland. ↩
- Or Smarties if you are feeling particularly British: I’ll happily eat both. ↩
- With some of cleanest water I’ve seen outside Blair Atholl ↩
- And so ruining its clarity. ↩
- It’s behind another house, Rydal Mount, owned by one W. Wordsworth (naturally) and where he wrote the “Wandered lonely as a cloud…” poem that everyone has heard of. ↩
- As the parent of off-spring heading for University in the autumn I’m always on the lookout for extra funding, and so if you think I didn’t try prizing out the higher value coins then you are a bigger fool than you look. ↩
|Do It Again:|