Was it really nearly a fortnight ago to the day we made it up to the Lake District, heart lifting again at the sight of the Kirkby Lonsdale M6 turn-off? Checked in to where we were staying and made the ritual visit to Castlerigg Stone Circle? Not for an actual ritual, you understand, but because it’s such a great place to be. You can see and feel why they built it here. And for once hardly anyone else around. Had never quite seen it in this light before. Is why I love the Lake District. Things can change, the landscape shifts within a hundred paces, in the passing of a cloud. And again on the way back.
And on the way back, as it happens, was lucky to catch this colourful little scene:
The Lake District you say? OK, here’s a sunset over Derwent Water, after which a decent pint of Keswick Brewing Company’s basic bitter:
Having learnt the lesson of previous visits – not to hammer one’s body on the first full day’s outing – we settle for an ascent of Latrigg, an outlying foothill of Skiddaw, the peak we never quite managed a previous time, when we might have been able to, because of the cloud which engulfed us. Half-way up Latrigg, painfully mounting a stile watched by a large walking group having a rest, Andy says, We’re not what we used to be. If we ever were, say I. It’s a decent view from the top over the north end of Derwent Water though, with a sight too of Bassenthwaite Lake; which is – as seasoned pub quizzers will well know – the only lake in the Lake District. And in the evening we go to the theatre, of which more later.
Next day we perambulate the peaceful Buttermere, which the guide books say is a gentle introduction to Lake District walking. Not that we’ve ever been the hardiest of the breed, you understand, but even this is more strenuous than the amble we remember. The view beyond the south end of the lake is deeply satisfying but pretty much impossible to get a decent photo of at the time of year and day we’ve ever managed because of either haze or drizzle. But anyway:
For this relief, much thanks (that’s not me; the drying would have been too much bother). I shared the thought and visualised:
And so back to where we started that fine day, at The Fish Inn, where there are splendidly 8 (eight!) local real ales to choose from, 4 of them from Jennings. I opt for Hesket Newmarket’s ruby Red Pike, because it’s named for a nearby Pike that nearly finished us on a previous visit (map-reading fail, a joint-jangling descent as darkness encroached, what a day to forget one’s blue puffers), about which – the beer – I have nothing to say. Only a half because I’ve got to negotiate the scary Honister Pass back.
Next day – another fine day: 5 days in The Lakes, staying on the edge of Borrowdale, the wettest place in the land, and we had 2 whole minutes of the lightest drizzle; the rain gear and heavy-duty walking boots stay in the car boot for the duration. And so to the sea, the sea, and new territory for us – the Solway Coast, heading north of Maryport. Long empty stretches of beach to ourselves. Jack’s Surf Bar on the edge of Allanby suggests it’s different in season, though the two old men sitting on the bench outside looked to be supping the same pints they’d always supped in days of yore, when it was just another pub. Maryport itself yielded an enormous prawn baguette and chips in a pub with a Bob Dylan soundtrack, and walking through poetry on the promenade, an imaginative project built into the upping of the sea defences’ capabilities:
Just some of the phrases selected from the work of local children writing about their town and the sea front. Can’t resist playing fridge poetry here. Clicking on the images will enlarge them, but reading left to right that’s Blown away; French kisses & dead soldiers (there is a Great War memorial nearby); Dead crabs stare at passing cars; Stephanie laughs.
Saturday it feels like we’re in a book, following in the footsteps of historian turned sleuth Daniel Kind in Martin Edwards’ latest Lake District Mystery, to be precise. Renovation has not dimmed the charm and fascination of the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, which retains its Victorian chamber of curiosities ambience. I had feared the fossilised cat would be behind glass, but no – it’s still in its trunk and you can still lift the lid. There’s now a small room dedicated to the early rock climbers that’s a bit of an eye opener too, what with the gear (think old leather football boots), the enormous cameras, the pipe smoking. I played a bit of Louie Louie and Please don’t let me be misunderstood on the enormous xylophone made of local stone – the rock music of its day.
Staying in the book, in the evening went to the great little Theatre by the Lake. Or should that be impressive. Proper theatre with a rep of real plays and proper actors, not the corny musicals and crap comedies we seem to be stuck with in MK these days. Could have gone to six different plays in the week if we’d wanted (and people do, apparently) – ‘Fun, frolics, menace and mystery’ as it says on the brochure, including a Shakespeare and a Harold Pinter. Earlier in the week, in the main theatre, we’d seen a stunning production of Liz Lochhead’s adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, sparely but imaginatively staged with some outstanding performances. And some great music – Wim Mertens? Shoulda brought a programme – before things started and carried through into the action. This company of actors really earn their crust – incredible energy and stamina. And some familiar faces in Jez Butterworth’s The winterling in the small studio, which was an experience in itself. We entered under some scaffolding that was part of the set with the small stage area in the centre with banks of seating either side. Talk about the whites of their eyes. I’ll let the Independent’s theatre critic do the talking: “Like Harold Pinter crossed with Guy Ritchie plus Withnail and I.” Two splendid evenings’ entertainments with the added bonus if you arrive in good time of – this time of the year – it being The Theatre by the Lake, of the sun setting behind the mountains the other side of the lake.
Stepping out of the places visited in Martin Edwards’ book, in between the above, the discovery of the great Dog and Gun pub too late because we’d already eaten, so their famous vegetarian goulash will have to wait for next time. And a walk along and over the bridges over the bubbling river of the old railway line, which must have been a spectacular journey in its time. Then a divert up the hill back via the Stone Circle again. On which walk we did espy:
Stayed overnight in Colne coming back to the flatlands, but later for that.