12 February, 2014

Even a hobbit would have found it tricksy

We've just been for an overnight stay at The Borrowdale hotel at Grange in Borrowdale, Keswick. We decided to go back to see if it had changed since we last stayed there, about 30 years ago!  

Linked from Hotels.com
The decor has changed but the rest seemed very familiar: welcoming, comfortable and good food. We were very pleased to find that it was unspoilt but hadn't overlooked a few modern implementations like WiFi. So all this meant that on arrival we settled into one of the lounges with crumpets and a glass of warm orange & Pimms. That might seem hard to imagine but actually it was lovely and warming which with the bitter wind blowing outside was just right.

We then settled down to studying online and paper OS maps to plan a walk the next day. We had hoped to just take a low level walk across the bottom of Derwent Water towards Manesty then back through Grange Village but the high water level of Derwent Water made that route impassible, so we decided to follow a path around Greatend Cragg then up Kings Howe and back to the car at the hotel via the Bowder Stone.

Having sorted that out it was time for dinner and very good it was too. I had duck and my wife had roast beef washed down with a bottle chateau bottled beaujolais, the last measure of which went very nicely with a generous helping of cheese, biscuits, celery and grapes. Needles to say it was a good night and we slept well.

Not too steep... yet.
So the next day was time to spend some energy. We were surprised as we left the hotel to feel a few raindrops in the air because the weather forecast was very favourable: cold (feels like 1.2 degrees) dry, light winds and sunny spells. Thankfully the raindrops soon disappeared and that was the end of it, though the wind still felt very cold on our faces and our exhaled breath floated away down wind in a cloud of vapour. Still we had come prepared, dressed in multiple layers of suitable warm clothing, hats and boots so of we set. 

Once we left the road we were on sodden ground that just about supported us if we picked our way carefully and once the ground started to rise a little this improved immensely. The walk didn't get any easier though as the path became steeper and was formed by rocks in layers like steps which were wet. It required a great deal of care and effort; even a hobbit would have found it tricksy. We soon found we were too hot. Yes too hot, the wind had disappeared completely, we were working hard and getting very, hot! Hats, fingerless gloves and jumpers were soon removed as the labours of the climb went on; it was worth it though because the wonderful views around us were starting show.

Derwent Water and beyond.

Soon we were high enough to see over the tree line and down onto Derwent Water. Beyond the water was the Saddle Back and a snow topped Skiddaw which, as with many of the peaks around us, I had climbed when youth hostelling with my primary school. Cat Bells was to my left which though not considered to be particularly hard I was proud to have climbed again a couple of years ago.

Eventually we reached the top of the path where we had a well deserved rest and glug of water before moving on along a more level but once again very wet path. Even though we had OS maps and satellite navigation we then ran into a query as to which way to go. The satnav showed us at a Y junction of two paths which matched what we could see on the map but the path branching to the right stopped at a fence, there was no stile and no evidence of it having ever been crossed. The path branching to the left didn't really seem the way to go but it crossed the same fence slightly lower down, had a style and a clear path ahead. We went left, the satnav soon revealed this was wrong but it was a good path to follow and we picked up it's trace on the map so we were happy. It probably added about half a mile to our route, however it was more open, the sun was shining and there were no wet rocks to contend with. 
Great Gable was clearly visible.
There was a very light and cold breeze at this point but it did not present any problems. Ahead and rising up from the valley bellow were the snow topped mountains of Great & Green Gable which looked absolutely spectacular. When we stopped for a hot drink and a bite to eat I tried to photograph the scene but couldn't really catch the mood I wanted to portray. Perhaps I'll have to go back and do it again! Shortly after this we met up with our originally planned path and headed towards the top of Kings Howe. 

At 392 metres Kings Howe is not huge but it was plenty for us to be dealing with and as we drew nearer to the peak we found that our hobbit skills were needed again to get up to the rocky top. It wasn't a hands and knees job, as before it was just a case of choosing each footing carefully.

As expected the views were marvellous, my feeling was that I was seeing the lake district as it should be. Peaks, valleys, smaller hills, grassy areas, golden bracken and occasionally some trees - all lit up by bright sunshine giving the whole area a glowing 3 dimensional look that made me feel that I belonged right in there. 

Oh well enough of that stuff, it was time to head down and to be honest I wasn't looking forward to it. My legs were tired and my knees were feeling the strain and the thought of making our way down a similar rocky mountain path to the ascent wasn't filling me with joy. 

The path down was wet and sometimes steep.
As it turned out the descent was steep in parts but not rocky. In fact it was mostly soggy, so some care was needed but it wasn't as troublesome as I had feared. We missed the path that should have taken us very close to the Bowder Stone though and ended up emerging onto the road about 1/4 mile further south than we had intended. By this point time was against us because we needed to be back at the hotel to pick the car up by 4 p.m. and it was already 3.30pm with about 2 miles to walk, so we had to pass on the visit to the bowder stone which would have made us later than we were already going to be.

We arrived back at the car very satisfied with our walk of 5.21 miles, very good considering there are times when my legs can hardly get me up the stairs at home. Many other people would have trotted around in no time but for us the enjoyment is in not rushing. Taking time to appreciate the scenery, voles, ravens, kestrels, goldfinches and other birds we didn't see long enough to identify is more our thing. These are the good things in life.