The Lake District was the first place that Ian and I went on holiday together. We stayed in a small log cabin in Ulverston, so it wasn’t technically ‘the Lake District’, but it was all we could afford at the time. By night, we snuggled up under a blanket in front of the TV to keep warm and by day we drove up to Ambleside to go walking. I think the very first walk we did was Stock Ghyll Force (or, the waterfall walk) and we didn’t have a clue, about anything. Walking gear, backpacks, food, water…..nada. We bought the cheapest rucksack we could find then walked into the tourist information centre where we bought a small book: ‘Walks around Ambleside. 10 Walks Each Under 6 Miles’. It did what it said on the tin and helped us on our way to exploring the great outdoors. This book is now dog eared and torn, it’s also been sellotaped back together too many times to mention.
12 years later and many, many walks under our belt, including some of the Lake District’s finest, such as Helvellyn, The Fairfield Horseshoe and Red Screes, each time we return to the Lakes it feels more and more like coming home. Rain or shine, it’s a place that fills my heart with joy and gives me a smile big enough to rival the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Upon arrival, a great sense of relief washes over me and I’m pretty sure my shoulders drop by about an inch.
The Lake District is our sanctuary; the place where we go to breathe, refocus and talk about the future. We slow down, watch the world go by and spend quality time together in nature. When we leave I do so with a heavy heart, but at least I leave filled with inspiration and a clear head; something I never arrive with.
After all these years the Rothay Circuit is still one of my favourite walks. Starting and ending in Ambleside the walk takes in some historic sites like Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, both of which were once home to the English poet William Wordsworth. That being said, we’ve never visited either of them. We always become too absorbed in our surroundings and pass them by, making a mental note that we should ‘make an effort to visit them, next time’.
The village of Grasmere acts as the half-way point of the walk and we always use this opportunity to head to the village green and eat our sandwiches, or depending on the time of year, drink hot soup from a flask. Sometimes we like to find a cafe where we can grab a cup of tea or coffee and a slice of homemade cake. Back in May we ended up in a small coffee shop called Heidi’s Grasmere Lodge and once inside it turned out to be a treasure trove of many pretty things. We shared a piece of chocolate tiffin cake that was rich and crumbly; it tasted so good we called back for some more the following day.
On the way up to Rydal Cave, we always stop along the shores of Grasmere and Rydal water to admire the view. If we’re lucky and have some tea or coffee left, it’s at this point we crack open the flask and have a final brew before starting the ascent to the cave. Looking out over the water is peaceful and calm, although as a popular place for sunbathing, swimming and eating picnics, the shores can get pretty crowded – especially on a sunny day.
When we first visited the cave many years ago it was fully accessible, and as you looked out of the cave mouth it acted like a frame for the opposite fell. A disused quarry, it became unsafe due to falling rocks and these days there is a fence up discouraging people from going in. (photograph taken many moons ago pre-fence)
From Rydal Cave there is a descent that acts as what I call ‘the home straight’, because from here, the return to Ambleside isn’t too far. It’s along the home straight where we start winding up whatever plans we’ve been talking about and make our way to the Apple Pie shop. We always find that a green tea and a cup of coffee is the perfect way to end our walk.
Filled with inspiration and bursting with motivation, I try to hold onto these feelings as long as possible, for I know in a few days’ time my relief will be a distant memory and my heart will feel like lead as I wave goodbye to my sanctuary.