06 Jun And it rained
Well! Looks like Noah is hereabouts. Last night as we walked the short distance from the Fox and Hounds pub, where we had dinner and exchanged raucous stories with fellow travellers (mostly Aussies with a smattering of Yanks), rainwater was streaming down the road, rivulets forming in the tiny ridges in the tarmac. It rained and rained all night, and it was still raining in the morning. We persuaded ourselves that it was falling less thunderously, now simply steady and unrelenting. We even imagined that the sky was just that bit brighter, the clouds were lifting. You know how it is when you just won’t believe it’s not going to improve. Today the rain was what the professional weather forecasters call ‘persistent’, a quality one admires in people perhaps but not in weeds, toothache, noise and, most especially, rain!
It was a shame because today’s walk is tough enough on a fine day when the views of lake, river and fell compensate for the effort required to make it from Ennerdale to Borrowdale. For each of the first five days of the C2C you must get over some great hilly barrier and into the next valley to find nourishment and a bed for the night. On Day 2 you coast along the edge of Ennerdale Water and by the bank of the River Lisa for about 7 miles. Then there are choices: all of the high route, a bit of the high route, or the low route. ‘Low route’ simply describes something marginally less high than the high route. It’s a relative concept, as it were. Because even the low route is a hard slog uphill from the valley floor where the river races westwards full to bursting with water whooshing off the hills. Up a steep stone path alongside Loft Beck, 50 minutes of thigh-throbbing, heart-pumping, fighting the rain and wind. When we reached the top our relief was brief. Up there as you look across to the slate mines of Honister you’re in a wide bowl between high peaks that today funnelled wind straight across us. 40-50 mph gusts bearing rain and a wind chill that took the temperature to single figures. June became October. We became weary and cold.
And then, of course, there are the things that can only happen when the weather is wild and harsh. Only then do you hear the sounds of water rushing through narrow channels to spill into the river or the lake. Only then do you see fresh new ferns, their perfect fronds glistening with a green you don’t encounter when it’s dry and sunny. Grey summer skies throw a very particular light, clear and pure and gentle on the eyes. A day of greens and greys and browns, of wet clothes and damp boots, aching muscles and rosy cheeks. There are moments when your body is tired and you’re fighting the elements when you vow you’ll never do this again. Then, down in the pub over an early evening beer, after a soak in a hot bath it looks different again. You feel the thrill of having done it, having made it despite nature’s conspiracy and your own uncertainty. You’ve done it so, maybe, you’d do it again.