26 May Borrowdale and beyond
26 May and Day 3 dawned overcast and cool but dry. A day of adventure when I realised that memory is extremely episodic – well mine is anyway. You see, it’s just 9 miles from Rosthwaite to Grasmere, today’s destination. Not a breeze but our recollection was of a steady ‘up’ for a about two miles, a short and exciting scramble and then a cruise down a couple of long and lovely valleys. Perfect after the last two tough days. So certain were we that a day of relative respite was in store that this morning, over a breakfast of perfectly poached eggs at Nook Farm, we reassured a couple of Canadians (he fit and eager; she anything but) that they should persevere as the going gets easier. Ho hum…
We left them on the doorstep of Nook Farm, still looking doubtful. We set out meeting up, as tends to happen, with a little gaggle of hikers on the same schedule as us. We are generally un-clubbable hikers; not anti-social but definitely not gregarious, preferring our solitude. So we tend to steer clear of groups. Today was an exception as 10 of us, a disparate bunch of hikers, teamed up for a hugely enjoyable and eventful day. We were: a group of four Aussies-cum-Kiwis (genuinely, a mixture) full of friendly banter; Liam and Jilly (he of the flowing beard – I called him Paddy in an earlier blog but now we’ve been introduced!); an English couple easily recognisable each day on the trail thanks to his pronounced limp; and us (just us, regular, normal people).
Starting off gently beside the river that runs through bucolic Borrowdale, a gem of a valley and our favourite by far, after about a mile you start to climb. I had forgotten that this climbing goes on and on, in an unrelenting way for a good couple of hours. Then, there’s Lining Crag to tackle. On good days this scramble is great fun: lots of little rocky nooks for toe- and finger-holds; a bit of adventure to get the adrenalin pumping. Less appetising when the cloud is low as it was today and the agile Jim disappears into the mist up ahead – especially as he’s carrying the lunch! Up top, the route guide helpfully tells you that the path is a little ‘indistinct’ across some boggy ground for about half a mile. Hmm – visibility at about 15 yards means imperceptible not just indistinct! We were glad to be in a boisterous noisy group of 10 as we struggled to work out which way to go. At least when you fell behind (as I did) and couldn’t see them any more you could hear them – usually laughing! Compasses in hand, we thrashed around looking for an elusive pair of posts and a couple of cairns. I thought I spotted one of the cairns and we headed towards it triumphantly only to watch it move – it was a big dark woolly Herdwick sheep heaving itself across the hillside! Not sure I’ll live that one down but I did redeem myself a little when the mist cleared briefly and I spotted the trail about 100 metres to our right.
Alas this was not the ‘cruise’ I remembered but a long downhill slog over rocky terrain. But a joy nonetheless as the fabulously green Easdale and then Grasmere Common opened up and the mist and cloud receded. The vegetation is sparse – none of the colourful array of wild flowers here where the climate is harsher than over near St Bee’s. But lots of ferns are unfurling their fresh fronds along the lower reaches and near the village you’re back among trees and shrubs and gardens filled with the exuberant colours of azalea and rhododendron, bright against old stone-built houses. So many worlds in a single day. A memorable day’s walking in the company of some whacky and entertaining people! And the good news is, we get to do more tomorrow!
We’ve checked into Butharlyp youth hostel and have struck lucky with a four-bedded room to ourselves – so we both get a bottom bunk. Phew! Top bunks are the last and shortest straw after a long day in the hills. Just a quick update on the injury situation. Muscles are no longer perpetually aching. Indeed they’re starting to feel pretty good. A blister on the end of a toe is adding to the torrid state of my right foot. I really must take my feet in hand (if you get my drift) when I get home!