Monday, 11 September 2017

The Lake District, Part Two: Hiking the Langdale Valley

It's been almost a month since we left for our Lake District trip, but I have only just found time and motivation to sit down to edit photos and write a bit more about our holiday in the incomparable Cumbria.


I was keen to do some walking whilst we were in Cumbria, after all, that is one of the main reasons the Lakes are such a popular destination. We're not outdoorsy people, or at least we weren't before we moved to England. So it shouldn't shock anyone (who knows me at least) that about 72 hours before we left for the Lakes I reached the realisation that I probably couldn't hike miles and miles in Hunter wellies and that my very well worn suede ankle boots were likely not the best footwear for hiking the rocky, muddy and steep footpaths of the fells either. Yes, I had managed to live almost a whole year in England without a decent pair of outdoor, weather resistant, warm, supportive shoes. That could continue no longer! The remedy was some last minute internet shopping. Thank goodness for express post, and warehouses & courier services that work round the clock! I chose a pair of Panama Jacks, which I highly recommend if you're looking for an outdoorsy winter shoe. I am confident that I will wear them a lot, and that they will hold up for a decade or two, probably more, which is really important to me. Even Alex was jealous.


It took us a good 15 to 20 minutes just to make it out of the carpark at Elterwater. Deciding how many layers to wear, which camera to take or to leave, tying shoe laces, a stop at the public toilets, a trip back to the car for loose change because the toilets cost 20p each... 
Then at the carpark entrance, we stood for another good 5 minutes trying to work out if our map was indicating a left or right. The first fork in the road caused similar confusion. Like I said, we're not the most outdoorsy people. So of course it was inevitable that we took a big wrong turn and had to hike back up a hill to correct our route. I think it added around a half mile or so to our total hike, but at the time it felt more like 2 miles. Of steep, and incredibly rocky, climbing.

Still, I am glad that we corrected ourselves because the Langdale valley is breathtaking! You can see from these pictures that the weather looked rather threatening, with the light shifting constantly, and the clouds building before being blown swiftly away for the sun to burst through. And repeat. We were incredibly lucky, we stayed dry, and smiling for the entire 8 or so miles. No mean feat for a person who hates being even slightly taxed or inconvenienced. Me, not Alex. Alex would smile and remain unfazed through a nuclear holocaust.




The above is the view as you descend to Slaters Bridge. Crossing this bridge was one of the main reasons we chose this route. It is picture perfect.


It is an old pack horse bridge, built across the River Brathay, slightly downstream from Little Langdale. We took quite a few photographs here, I thought it was the prettiest place, and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere! 


As well as posing thoughtfully for photos, he also carried the backpack the entire way!



Just beyond the bridge is an old disused quarry, worth a slight detour- but only if you're not irrationally afraid of being entombed in a rock fall like I am. I didn't stay inside for very long!



It really does feel very remote in these sparsely populated valleys, and I suppose relative to other parts of England, they are remote. But it is surprising how many of the footpaths skirt close to, or even through, private property. Often we'd walk through a gate and straight past someones kitchen window. I am so in awe of the people who farm the fells. It is an extreme and ruthless corner of the country, exposed and battered by all weather conditions without respite.



The path cut straight through this farm, walking right up to the farmhouse door almost. The property was clearly owned by an enterprising Lakeland farmer as they've capitalised on the passing foot traffic and sell ice creams from their barn. That is some interesting diversification! Herdwick wool and ice lollies. The chickens were very interested in us, I think they hoped Alex had food and not a camera.


In the latter part of the hike there are some amazing and powerful waterfalls. We sat next to one for a while listening to the deafening roar of water. My feet were a little sore by mile 6 or 7.

We finished the hike with a pub lunch at Elterwater, very proud of our efforts on our first ever hike, and discussing when we could come back to do more. We began as complete tramping rookies, were converted to the walking way of life along the way, and finished as experts in our own minds. I am sure the story would have been entirely different had we got rained on, or had I not worn the correct footwear. By the time we got to our B&B in Grasmere that afternoon the weather had truly set in. It made for a spectacular walk to dinner. We sunk into a sofa, G&Ts in hand, at the Grasmere Hotel planning future walks, before gobbling up a four course dinner and walking home in the rain.


The fell sides were turning purple when we were there. I wish I'd hiked closer to some patches of heather to capture the blanket of purple. In certain light it looks like grey rock, but when the sun hits it there's no mistaking the rich purple of the fell heather. The best I could get was a picture from the moving car as we drove near Keswick before rejoining the southbound motorway traffic on the M6, heading for home.


Until next time Lake District!


Kate  x