6 August 2015

The Lake District, Wet Walks in Windermere Part 1

And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
 Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I don't think I've ever mentioned my job on here before but I'm a biochemist in the simplest of terms (it's not worth saying in complicated ones!). Before I 'settled' onto biochemistry I was considering a career in art. I've always been a creative person and now my blog's my main outlook for this. At school I was into making big conceptual statement pieces (think 2 metre high chicken) and my main focus was on what our species negative effects have been on the planet (unsurprisingly as I'm a wannabe eco warrior). There were a lot of factors that influenced my mindset but one that stands out is the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth who I learnt about when I was studying in sixth form.

With the fear you're already asleep from that first paragraph, you'll be pleased to hear this isn't a post entirely about my love of poetry and a summary of Wordsworth and Coleridge's work. This is actually a travel post about the Lake District (so called for it's multitude of lakes), another thing that W&C got me excited about from their time spent roaming the hills and writing about it, as that too was my dream just not writing about poetry on parchment but writing for my blog using my laptop. We're one and the same.  I like to think it's W,C & FB (my initials) but I don't want to leave anyone out, so feel free to throw your initials in too.

This in mind, Dan, my main man and camping lover, my mum, seen here looking gorge, and my mum's boyfriend all took a trip up to the Lake District with big plans for lots of walking, lots of eating, and lots of relaxation and recuperation. We certainly did eat and relax a lot, but there's a reason why it's called the Lake District. It rains. A lot. It rained pretty much everyday we were there. We did manage to get out and do a little bit of walking most days, alongside one or two longish walks, but Dan, the walking fan, was left feeling like it wasn't enough and I have to agree. It's just another excuse to go back or maybe take a trip up to the Isle of Skye really soon.

I've only ever gone on one holiday which wasn't self catered (Egypt last year if you were was also lovely if you're wondering that too, lots of diving, eating and lounging in the sun), mostly because I normally visit places where I want to eat out and try the local cuisine, and do a bit of our own cooking because let's face it, it's the cheapest way to eat while you travel. We rented a self catering cottage in Bowness-on-Windermere, we've stayed in this area before, but this cottage was perfect; very homely with cute country touches that weren't lost on us. The real log fire came in handy as well, with all the bad weather we had we'd light it up as soon as we got in, and just chill out with wine and cheese, playing board games. Typical family activities, which living far enough away from my parents we don't get to take part in that often so it was nice. 

I really like Windermere. It's very touristy but that's not always a bad thing, it means it's the liveliest town in the heart of the Lakes. There's plenty of shops and a supermarket (Booths, the Northern equivalent of Waitrose which I'm campaigning for to expand down South) which is always handy if you're self catering. On holiday you don't want to be driving to the supermarket to do your food shopping. Keep it local and stress free (especially if you're with your parents!). The town edges right on to the lake and you can get the ferry across for 50p to Hawkshead, which is another pretty town where Beatrix Potter lived with plenty of walks to choose from that I'm going to be blogging about in part II. That's right guys we're part II-ing this holiday. Get excited.

Windermere is the longest lake in the UK. The original plan was for Dan and I to camp round it, but given the weather I'm pretty happy that didn't happen. We would have been destroyed. Although a couple of roads completely flooded while we were there, we managed to get all the way round the lake by car stopping off at various towns along the way. It stretches out so far it's impossible to see the lake end to end. I know Windermere would be shamed by some of the lakes in America and would end up looking like a small puddle, but we've got to be proud of what we've got. The water's super clear and you can swim in it in specific zones, to be honest, I really wanted to go for a swim but it was far too cold. Even with my wetsuit on I chickened out.

Where the lake meets the town in Windermere, there are always swans, geese and gulls standing by to greet the tourists in the hopes of being fed. Beware of getting too close though, they may look pretty tame but they're wild animals, and they could give you a nasty nip or eat your dog (topical news reference, it happened guys, do not leave your dog unattended) if you got all up in their beaks. Wildlife wise, apart from the occasional rabbit and of course the numerous herds of sheep that roam everywhere, birds were our only friends. You don't go to the Lake District for safari though, it's the walks and the views that pull you in.

One of the easiest walks we did was from Windermere to Orrest Head. It's only a few miles long and if you want you can just go to the summit and head straight back down the same way for a shorter trip. This walk provides some of the best views of Lake Windermere. The whole way up to the top of the summit you can see the lake through gaps in the trees and you think it can't get any better, then you get to the top and it's just breathtaking. We went on an overcast day hoping to beat the rain before it got to the summit (we won) and despite this the view was still spectacular.

We ate a picnic at the top of the hill admiring the view. I took enough photos for my family to get annoyed, then I lent my lens to someone else and then I ran to catch up with the rest of my clan as they'd started the long descent. The descent goes through farms and pastures which is how we ended up seeing a cow being born. I don't know whether it was more traumatic for the cows or us watching, but calf and mum were fine in the end.
After the horror of the live birth, the rain came and made us forget all about it. It literally poured down and we were halfway back to Windermere. Trodding through mud, hiding my camera under my anorak, we plodded on slipping and sliding as we went. Dan was having a whale of a time, if there's one thing he loves more than walking it's walking in the rain. Which is when the smell of wild garlic truly hit us, literally there were fields of the stuff. Mum and I foraged quite a lot while we were there, and used it in pretty much every dish we made that week (oh hey wild garlic pesto and wild garlic, beetroot and goats cheese tart), excluding breakfast. Although eggs royale with wild garlic is sounding pretty good right now.

The rain finally died down and we walked about the little streams that had been born out of nowhere, which made the pastures look like little fairy glens. As we were already soaked we thought we might as well do a bit of exploring off track, jumping over streams. My mum and her boyfriend, were less clean and just wandered round the National Trust paths, while we stormed off as wilderness explorers. I made friends with a Golden Retriever, I called him Ben, we had to stop Ben following us and send him back to his owners much to my disappointment.
By the time we finished our walk, Dan and I were pretty grateful for the wood fire at our cottage and a glass of red wine after being soaking wet and covered in mud. That could sum up the entire holiday, maybe one post is enough...maybe not. It's not a bad way to spend a week away, providing towels are on hand!

Do you think I need to see someone about my photo obsession, when does a collection become compulsive? I love the Lake District and have so much more to share so I hope you can bear with me on these posts. If anyone has any other walk recommendations in the Lake District or Isle of Skye, please let me know as we'll probably be heading back to one of them next year. In addition, if anyone has any recommendations for Reykjavik drop me a comment below as that'll be our next trip this year, be it food, walks or where to go I want the lo' down.  

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