Gandalf the VW is parked up in Keswick, on the highly anticipated C&CC Club site which sits proudly on the banks of Derwentwater in the Lake District. This is our 4th attempt at getting here this trip has been rescheduled time after time since it’s original booking for Easter 2020 thanks to Covid. But even before Covid, we’d tried unsuccessfully to book this club site many times before- it’s Fabulous location means getting a booking during school hols is nigh impossible unless you’re a super duper early bird.
Our journey here was easy and passed relatively quickly thanks to the Tom Allen autobiography that we listened to on Audible (it’s really very good by the way) and before we knew it we were pulling onto our pitch just before 4pm in the dry. Seeing as our welcome from the wardens included a “by the way we’re on flood alert, stay local, be prepared to evacuate” my heart just dropped. Almost three years we’ve waited to stay here and now I can’t fully relax for fear of having to move off site. “Can I have a beer tonight?” I asked them. “Tonight’s fine but tomorrow brings rain, and that is likely to change us up to red alert, which means someone needs to be responsible for your vehicle”. Groan. Not the ideal start to our adventure, and I was cross with myself for not preempting it as I’ve seen enough people online posting about getting evacuated from Keswick over the years.
Still. We were here and had a pass to have some drinks tonight so, that’s what we did. As soon as Gandalf was set up – a record of 12 mins- we made the short walk into Keswick.
Keswick is a really lovely Lakeland town. It has a very large amount of pubs and we enjoyed trying most of them on Friday evening!
Other than pubs, there are a significant amount of walking and outdoor shops and of course lots of very interesting folk to chat to over a pint, which we enjoyed doing in a couple of pubs on Friday. We had considered having dinner out but never got round to it, so made our way back to Gandalf a bit later than probably wise, and despite being a bit merry, managed to rustle up a chilli con carne.
Those who know me (and Keith) know that we have to have a plan at all times, even for trivial stuff. Not that this was trivial but in my mind we needed to prepare for evacuation at any point from when I had sobered up! This meant keeping Gandalf especially ship shape and as such as well as cooking a chilli con carne and rice after 9pm, I still went off for a full wash up afterwards despite being ..somewhat merry thanks to a few pints of old peculiar to finish off my gin sesh!
By the time we made it to bed I truly thought we’d sleep like logs. We normally do on the first night away. Tonight however we got caught up in the middle of gale force winds with our pop top up. We both laid awake from 3am- and because the roof was coping well with the wind didn’t think to lower it. The noise however , and the added height meant we were being rocked and sleep was just impossible. For some reason- I have no idea why- it took until 5:15am for us to muster up the “can we be bothered to move items off the roof shelves to under the bed so we can lower the roof” “yes, let’s lower the roof” . So we did and what a difference that made- we slept like logs til 9am!
Saturday morning brought with it rain, rain and more rain. We were unsure of what to do regarding the info that the site may need to be evacuated. After a duvet morning we had a quick chat with a warden who felt sure today would be ok. So we had a walk into town, a few drinks and lunch. Then made our way back for a big chill.
At about 4pm the eye of the storm brought with it a moment of dry and even a small amount of blue sky. We quickly grabbed Jazz for a a loop of the campsite!
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chilling- Keefy enjoying some programmes on his iPad and I demolished a book. To be honest, we’d said all along that we needed to spend some time at the beginning of this trip relaxing so the bad weather had forced our hand on that, and we didn’t mind too much at all.
We enjoyed a fabulous local cheese/deli board along with some local Gins, ales and even a Lakes Whiskey, all of which we’d picked up in town.
We made the decision to drop the roof before bed and as such had a much better nights sleep. Phew!
The rain did not stop so it wasn’t a surprise when at 9 am on Sunday we got a knock on our door to say the campsite was going into the red alert. If we had an awning up it was to come down (we didn’t), we needed to stay in Keswick and prepare to have to move imminently. Me being me had anticipated this since Friday and had prepared a list of our options so sprung into action. We could have stayed / waited but to be honest, would have felt like we were just sat twiddling our thumbs waiting for the inevitable. We had planned a slow cooker stew for dinner and this along with the fact it’s too cold for us to be off electric meant we felt we needed to abandon the site before everyone else HAD to. I’d made a list of options yesterday and so hit the phone to nearby Castlerigg Farm- I then did a jigg when they said yes they have space for us to move up there.
Castlerigg Farm is only 3 miles away from the Keswick club site but the main difference is it’s up high so doesn’t flood. We don’t mind the rain or the wind. Snow, heatwave or whatever. But we can’t stand uncertainty! And I wanted a gin with my lunch!
Decision made, we de camped and shot up the hill to Castlerigg Farm. A warm welcome awaited us and the site is lovely. I’m sure when the rain stops there will be tremendous views. The facilities are modern and clean.
We celebrated with a fry up brunch. And then our one and only heater broke!
Hmm. This wasn’t ideal. We were headed up for a duvet day. It wasn’t to be. We donned our wet weather clothes and walked down the hill 2 miles into Keswick.
The path down to the Keswick from Castlerigg was picturesque as it followed a swelled up stream and brought us into the outskirts of Keswick passing pretty houses and shepherds huts.
THANKFULLY there was a hardware store open and with electric fan heaters in stock- although we paid a premium for it!
We celebrated with a pint in the only pub we hadn’t been in, and a celebratory ice cream by the lake – yes it was still raining- and yes I think we’ve lost our minds before making our way along the lake path a little and then grabbing a taxi back up to the campsite where we resumed our duvet day!
Dinner was a delicious beef and ale slow cooker stew. Local diced beef with Keswick ale. Just delicious!
Tomorrow the rain is forecast to be lighter so who knows, we may even try a proper walk!
Monday – Valentines Day
After more rain overnight and into the morning at 10am sharp, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted. Suddenly we could see the most beautiful scenery surrounding our new campsite. We enjoyed smoked haddock hollandaise for breakfast before getting our boots on in super speed as… shock horror… the sun had come out (albeit briefly.. beggars can’t be choosers!)
Our route to the lake today was slightly different to yesterday, following signs from the campsite to The Great Wood. We saw phenomenal views over the lake. We could not be happier!
The path through the Great Wood was lovely. Great big tall trees lined the steep bank down to lake level and the good path weaved its way through.
Once at the lake side path we drank in the views as we walked along the lake – the tall imposing mountains stood tall around the lake although the tops were hidden by light cloud.
It was lovely and a very easy walk which is good as my broken big toe is still not completely recovered. The path continues around the whole lake at 10 miles of “easy ” walking and although I did fancy it, equally we were enjoying a slower pace and taking in the views with lots of picture stops along the way.
Plus we were hearing that some parts after Lodore Falls were flooded so we decided to stop at Lodore Falls, which was beautiful, and have a drink at both hotel bars, which despite both being very posh, allowed muddy walkers and dogs in! And served food practically all day. That’s how you run a business up here 👏. A drink turned into lunch- well it was Valentine’s Day- and a very nice lunch it was too- in the Mount Mary hotel.
From here, somehow without trying we had managed to coincide the end of our lunch with the last boat of the day back to Keswick. So we waited with a selection of other walkers as our small wooden ferry boat, operated by Keswick Launch, came to retrieve us. The light turned spectacular. Just breathtaking.
We then enjoyed a lovely trip back to Keswick in the boat, via the now CLOSED club site, and a taxi back up the hill to our campsite. We’d notched up 5.5 miles and enjoyed every step.
Dinner was a nice treat- Keefy cooked us a steak dinner, served with potatoes, stuffed mushrooms and veg, before we settled down to watch The Power of the Dog, downloaded from Netflix.
Even if we didn’t manage much more here in the Lakes – the weather looked abysmal for the remainder of the week, we would be happy with our day here today.
Tuesday– after a night of rain and wind, amazingly we woke to a dry morning and even the sun graced us with its presence briefly! We said thanks to the weather gods for allowing us a dry pack away- it was time to move on from Keswick and Castlerigg Farm, and move further west into the the hidden valley of Wasdale, about 1.5 hours drive despite being only 12 miles away as the crow flies.
Before we left Keswick we made a stop at the Castlerigg Stone Circle, built over 4500 years ago by prehistoric farming communities, this dramatic set of stone circles was said to have been an important area for fertility and the natural drama of the surrounding fells was chosen to impress. Well impress us it did. It was stunning.
We were lucky, as we arrived (there is limited on road parking beside the stones) the light became magical. Absolutely wonderful. We both left Keswick with a spring in our step and it will remain a special place for us to revisit in the future.
Moving onwards we took a slow route across the fells to Wasdale. The final approach to Wasdale is a 20 mile single track dead end road, unsuitable for anything too large and the final 3 miles follow the shore of Wast water, the deepest lake in England.
We’ve visited before staying in Bluebell the Motorhome at the National Trust Campsite; and I’ve visited countless times in my childhood- our family friends had a farm just 20 mins away from Wasdale and we visited numerous times a year. It really is an incredible road and place. Wast water is surrounded by huge mountains, reaching up from the shore. It oozes drama and intensity. I just adore it here.
Our home for the next (supposed) 4 nights (although we had heard on our journey there that this was not be – stayed tuned for why) was The National Trust campsite at the head of the lake and directly underneath Englands highest mountain. Scafell Pike. It is so incredibly remote here- no phone signal and no WiFi. Since our last visit 10 years ago the campsite has invested in several more Campervan electric pitches, and there are decent facilities here. Plus a pub just a mile down the road.
We had a cheese board for lunch after setting up, with views of Scafell Pike out of our pop top roof. We then made the walk down to the pub, on the footpath which was flooded by the river- so we crossed it 3 times by wading through up to our thighs! We had a beer and took a wander around the base of Great Gable, another imposing mountain just behind the pub. If remoteness is what you’re after, you’d be hard stretched to find better than here!
We walked back to the site via the site for track road, not being able to face a triple soaking on the footpath back to the site. We had intended on walking back to the pub for our evening meal but in the end we just couldn’t be bothered! It’s a bit of a walk in the dark and the dark of night here is more intense than anywhere I’ve ever experienced. So, we raised the small campsite shop and our store cupboard essentials and made an improvised dinner of spicy chorizo and hot dog sausage Ragu. Keith took charge of this project and I must say it was rather nice! A ton of chopped tomatoes, lots of herbs and chilli flakes, garlic, a can of Princes hot dog sausages sliced and some leftover chorizo from our fridge. Served on penne pasta!
We spent the evening reading – in fact I read a whole book! And embracing the no access to the internet and peace and quiet. But – it was filled with a bit of sadness too. As we’d been told en route here our 4 night stay was being changed to one night due to the campsite having to close at midday Wednesday due to the impending Storm whatsit, being 90+ mph winds and it being unsafe therefore to be open. Understandable but disappointing- this was the reason we’d turned up to a campsite 30+ miles away with not enough food to cook a complete meal, we’d assumed we’d eat at The Wasdale Head but got the timings wrong for food.
We’d discussed booking somewhere else but in reality we had to admit defeat. The forecast was grim everywhere. We would retreat home after breakfast on Wednesday.
So, Wednesday morning arrived and we quietly packed away for one last time on this trip. A trip that had been full of improvisation! Despite the challenges of the weather and things outside of our control, we’d had a blast. A really great change of scenery. I’ve said it time and time again. I just LOVE being around hills and mountains.
Incredibly we managed to pack away in the dry and moved along the lake to a scenic parking spot for our final breakfast before making our way back home.
We arrived home just before 5:30pm and the wind was already picking up dramatically. Whilst we were disappointed to be home we couldn’t deny it was the right thing to do.
The Lake District will always be special to me and I can’t wait to get up there again!
Until next time