Adventures in The Lake District

Feb 11th

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

Lx

Cumbrian adventures; Part 3. February Half Term. Great Langdale

Ruby the VW campervan is parked in the spectacular Langdale Valley, our home for the next three nights is the National Trust Campsite Great Langdale.

We packed away at Coniston in damp and drizzly conditions and made our way to Ambleside for provisions- I was fairly confident we wouldn’t even find a shop in Langdale valley. On the way to Ambleside we made a stop at Yew Tree Farm which was filming location for the 2009 Blockbuster, Mrs Potter.

We used the opportunity in Ambleside to visit the local butchers for some sausages and steak, (and another sausage roll) in the hope we may manage a sneaky bbq tomorrow- the weather was set to improve.

Ambleside is a pretty little town, however it was swimming in tourists – which is off putting for us, so we didn’t stay too long at all. It was then only a short drive to Great Langdale. As soon as you arrive into the valley the grandeur of the mountains that surround you almost overwhelm you. I’ve visited here before when I was young and even despite the drizzle, I was thrilled to be back with Keefy and Jazz.

Our pitch on the campsite was one of the best on site. This was because we’d booked one of only 5 electric pitches back in October. The rest of the site is a kind of free for all. Fine when it’s quiet but by the end of the weekend parts of it resembled a car park and we would not have wanted to pay to pitch up like that. There are new facilities on site including lovely hot showers in a heated block. Again, perhaps not enough for a full site, but we managed well.

We enjoyed a ploughman’s lunch whilst we waited for those clouds to dry up, which they did and we were able to have a wander to a couple of the pubs – there are 3 within 15 mins walk. I remember many a (soft) drink in the Old Dungeon Gyll Hikers Bar when I was growing up on family trips to the Lake District. But it was pretty special to be having my first alcoholic drink here – a pint of Old Peculiar for us both went down a treat.

We took the footpath half a mile along to the next pub, Sticklebarn, a National Trust run pub and restaurant and enjoyed the local Lake District Pilsner lager before heading back to Ruby for our slow cooker Beef and Tomato Stew which was delicious and a night reading (no phone signal or Wi-fi!)

Friday dawned a stunning morning, and we enjoyed a lazy morning with our first al fresco breakfast of the year, a simple beans and sausages on toast. We opted for a lower valley walk today despite the weather being smashing as we were gearing up for a BBQ and to make the most of the glorious out of season weather we felt a lunchtime feast would be best. We stopped for a couple of beers at Sticklebarn as the route passed it, before winding our way back towards the campsite. We still clocked up 3.5 miles and the views were stunning.

Keith prepared the most fantastic bbq- consisting of local steak, and pheasant sausages and venison sausages. The backdrop was stunning and rivalled the top spot on our list of the best bbq locations of all time.

We made our way back to the pub for another beer – the lure of their free wifi too much for us!

Saturday was another beautiful day. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it’s only February, and we’re in the lakes! An area that is usually more familiar with rain!

We were going to walk up and have a picnic at Blea Tarn, but from our pitch we could already see some walkers up on the top of Langdale pikes and we just couldn’t resist, so after a quick omelette for breakfast we threw together a packed lunch and set off towards Sticklebarn to begin the ascent up to Stickle Tarn. The path was surprisingly good, and therefore resembled the m25! However it was lovely to see so many families out enjoying the great British outdoors – and it was boiling!

The first stop, stickle tarn was about 1.25 miles uphill from stickle barn, but with the easy path we breezed up with no problems at all.

The next stage of our route took us over Harrison Pike, which was less easy, however the views were absolutely breathtaking. In fact Keith announced it was the best view he’d seen in England.

The route carried on towards the pike of stickle, which took us rock climbing in several places and hanging on for dear life at one point. We managed the pike of stickle, I nearly bottled it, but I was proud that I carried on, before the long steep and terrifying descent back to the start. It was a fabulous walk but really challenging, and by the time we got down dusk was starting to fall as was some drizzle. We’d made it in good time but a 5.5 mile walk still took us 6 hours!

We had a couple of beers which didn’t touch the sides and then went for an Old Peculiar at the Old Dungeon Gyll, one for the road. Dinner was chicken fajitas at Ruby which was delicious, however I’m certain that if the chicken hadn’t have defrosted during the day we may well have indulged in a meal at the Old Dungeon Gyll as their fish and chips looked amazing!

Our time in the Lake District was sadly at the end, we got up early on Sunday and made the journey back south and then east. With aching legs and rosy cheeks we are returning feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the next half term.

Until next time

Lx

Cumbrian Adventures, Part 2; February Half Term

Ruby the VW Campervan is nestled underneath the Old Man of Coniston, right in the heart of the spectacular Lake District National Park. Our home for the next three nights is Conniston Coppice Park, a Caravan and Motorhome Club site just outside of Coniston.

Our journey from Dufton was only meant to be a short one of just over an hour, however however we made a number of stops so it ended up taking us several hours. Our first stop was at the butchers in Appleby, Low Howgill’s, which were the butchers that supplied the meat to The Stag in Dufton. When Keefy couldn’t decide which meal to have on Saturday night because everything looked so tempting, I promised to cook a traditional Cumberland cassoulet using their sausages so he could eliminate that off the menu!

The butchers/deli was outstanding, I could have had everything in the shop! We picked up homemade sausage rolls for breakfast, along with lots of local Appleby cheese, sausages, bread, local Cumbrian coffee, and pork pies!

We enjoyed a wander around Appleby doing the town heritage trail before picking up some fresh veg for the greengrocers and then making our way towards Penrith for more supplies.

Shopping procured we soon crossed into the Lake District National Park passing through Grasmere and into Coniston.

It took us a while to set up as we couldn’t decide which pitch to choose! The layout of the site is lovely, with lots of individual little glades, and as such we had the opportunity to park side on, a rarity on club sites. We’ve got our own private stream running alongside the side door, it’s lovely.

We needed to get our chocks out to level up- the first time since we downsized to Ruby and as such they were buried right at the back!

Once set up we enjoyed a late lunch, a delicious ploughman’s filled with local treats from our farm shop haul this morning, before a little stroll around the huge site.

Only half of it is open at this time of year, but it stretches right down the bank to almost the edge of Coniston Water,with the majority of the pitches entirely private on their own glade.

Dinner was a homemade carbonara before settling down to watch a film on Netflix.


Tuesday arrived dry but overcast. We began our day with bacon and sausage sandwiches, and I prepared the long awaited Sausage Cassoulet in the slow cooker, before joining the Cumbrian Way which runs at the bottom of the site towards Coniston. It’s a pleasant 2 mile walk and we were rewarded with views of The Old Man of Coniston and also Coniston Moor.

The weather seemed a little unsettled so we decided not to attempt the Old Man today, we’re not a fan of starting strenuous walks with a low chance of the rewarding view! Instead we opted for a lower level walk over Consiton Moor, yewdale fell and across the Coppermines.

It was a lovely walk, still quite strenuous in areas, however we were rewarded with great views all the way.

We enjoyed a couple of beers at the Sun Hotel and then the Bull – we got to try the local Coniston Brewery Bluebird and Old Man Ale.

Another stop at the local butchers for some more local sausage and of course a sausage roll, (not as good as the Appleby one!) and then we set off back to Ruby. We were surprised to see we’d clocked up 11.5 miles, but we’d escaped the rain which started just as we finished our ruby duties – loo, water etc!

Dinner tonight was a homemade leek and potato soup, made in my compact soup maker, which made light work of it, and then sausage cassoulet which was delicious!


Wednesday~ Rain stopped play today. Well we are in the Lake District where rain is to be expected- but we decided to use it as an excuse to have a rest and therefore declared a duvet day!

We therefore stayed in bed reading and drinking tea till almost midday! It is half term and we need to recharge, so recharged we did. Better weather is possibly on its way tomorrow – however you never know in the Lakes!

We had an amazing Cumbrian brunch which Keefy cooked- all produce from the local butchers in Coniston. Those sausages were amazing!

We then decided to have a small leg stretch to the local pub in Torver – despite the driving rain which drenched us even with all our waterproofs!

We were thankful for the prime spot in front of the log fire to dry out. Just in time to get drenched for the walk back to Ruby! Still, we clocked up another 4 miles for our target of 1000 miles in 2019 and we felt not quite so lazy as we had three hours earlier.

Dinner was a lovely chicken Balti before we watched a film on Netflix.

It didn’t stop raining all night and morning so sadly we decided to leave The Old Man of Coniston for this time. Next stop just over the valley- Great Langdale National Trust Campsite. Promise of finer weather is there!

Until next time

Lx

Our annual Pilgrimage to Scotland Part 3: A quick stopover at the Lake District 

Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside  Gillside Beck- we arrived here yesterday, Friday, after a fairly longish journey from our Loch Ness Brit Stop. The reason for departing Scotland a day early is stood proudly behind us, and frankly looks scary as hell- perhaps that’s where the name Helvellyn comes from! For a couple of years now, Keith and I have talked about how we’d like to tackle Helvellyn and Striding Edge. For both of us, it’s a personal challenge. Neither of us particularly like hill walking, and I’m terrified of drops, yet I have spent hours marvelling at people’s instagram pics of Striding Edge. I just knew I had to go and give it my best foot forward. Luckily, my husband is also crazy so despite his hatred of walking up hills agreed to attempt it with me, if he weather looked ok on or way home from Scotland. 

So back in February we booked our pitch at Gillside Farm, knowing there was a hefty chance we’d cancel if weather looked bad. We’d been about internet for well over 24 hours and finally picked up 4g as passed through Fort William. Keith as driving and I checked Patterdale – well il be blowed it was only showing full sun for tomorrow. “Off we go then”, I said, feeling the colour draining from my chops! 

Gillside Farm is nestled right at the bottom of the main path from Glenriding up to Helvellyn- so on arrival we decided to check where our oath started, before prepping our rucksacks, making a packed lunch and enjoying a simply cook Murgh Kari curry for tea. The mood in the Ruby was certainly of apprehension! We watched the live election debate before calling it a night. I dreamt that we got stuck on Helvellyn! What a great dream- not! 

Saturday dawned as promised, absolutely glorious. There really is nowhere as beautiful as the Lakes in this weather! Apprehension was again strife! We moved around our daily routine almost in silence- I chucked some venison and a few bits of stray veg into the slow cooker to bubble away ready for our return. Keith packed, double packed and triple checked the rucksacks. By 09:15 we’d had our porridge and cereal bars and were ready to go. I was BRICKING it. 


The first mile is literally uphill. There is no relief from it – it is hard. Really really hard. Loads of people passed us, we were both puffing like a steam train and I was almost ready to chuck the towel in. However-the  views were stunning and that really kept us going. The views to Ullswater were sensational. 

 

After over an hour and exactly a mile- the uphillness became easier! I thought I’d suddenly become super fit but Keith declared “hurray, we are now following the contours rather than crossing them” We were rewarded with great views of Helvellyn and red tarn and actually started enjoying ourselves! 

Before we knew it we were reaching the start of Striding Edge. I gave myself one last talking to and before I know it we were across! Striding Edge if you are not familiar, is a ridge that leads to Helvellyn, England’s 3rd  highest behind Scafell and Sca. It was really, really hard- in fact a man in front of us stopped and turned round- he said he couldn’t cope with it any more- so was going to find the easier path. Keith and I (and jazz!) kept our heads down,took it very slowly and carefully and stopped regularly for photos – AND I DIDNT HAVE A PANIC ATTACK! 

I still can’t believe we walked across that ridge!!!

Getting to the other side my legs were like Jelly. Then we realised we had nasty scramble ahead to get to the summit. It wasn’t a scramble it it literally was rock climbing. Omg. 😳 However the camoradory between all the walkers was fantastic – and as we crossed the last ridge before the summit I had a tear in my eye! We’d done it! Bucket list ticked ✅




After a cheese roll or three we discovered it was as steep if not worse on the way down! Off we set, taking so much care- we even had to carry Jazz over a couple of bits as he refused and dug his claws in! Slowly we descended and 3 hours later we were back at Ruby feeling immensely proud of ourselves! 


We had a swift dram before continuing to the pub for a couple( including a Lake District Gin!!) and returning to Ruby for our venison stew.


Tomorrow we head home (sad face!) we have had a blast and couldn’t have wished for an sweet finish today. We’ve survived 10 whole days in our downsized campervan with no pop top. Ruby is working for us! Hurrah! 

Until next time 

Lx