That’s what Alfred Wainwright says about his beloved Lakeland fells, and the past two days certainly proved to us that England is not wanting in dramatic scenery and very thrilling high climbs. I hadn’t actually realized how intense the climbs would be on this part of the journey: I might have prepared for it more seriously had I known. Our ascents (and, even worse) our descents have left me shaken and a bit overwhelmed. Today I fell five times, and sobbed for about twenty minutes after the last one, descending into Easedale. But eventually I got back on my feet, having managed to break one of my poles, and continued on down into Grasmere. The way up to Lining Crag had been up “a steep stony gully.” Of course water was flowing down that gully, making the rocks quite slippery; as we climbed, it started to rain, making things only that much more worse. A few moments earlier the sun had been out and we were sweating; soon we were chilled and–I for one–completely exhausted. Water was everywhere: creating huge boggy patches on the peaks, making the rocks of the path completely slippery, in fact transforming the path at numerous moments into just another stream.
When we had talked about our plans to walk in the Lake District with Bob Richardson near St. Bees, he had said, “I hope you have good weather.” “Oh, I don’t care about the rain,” I said cavalierly. “It’s beautiful when it’s sunny,” Bob said, “but when it storms, it can be menacing.” I didn’t understand, but now I do.
And I had thought that yesterday’s 14.5 miles would make it the hardest day! Today was just 8, but I think it was much more strenuous, as Rachel Dunckley, the proprietor of our wonderful bed and breakfast, the Gillercombe in Stonethwaite, had tried to tell us. “Where ha’ ye been?!” she exclaimed when we stumbled in last night around 8:30. “Take off your boots and your wet things and get yourself settled.” She had a no-nonsense way about her that immediately put us at our ease. “Take your baths before the next crew come in. They got lost and will be here soon wanting to use the bathroom.” Indeed, the next crew came in completely exhausted. They had come down off the high peaks too soon, and had had to go back up again, getting caught in a lightning storm with hail; the woman said, “I lost the will to live today!”
But in the morning, she was fine. We all sat around a long table and chatted about our journeys. Rachel, who specializes in walkers, has seen and heard it all. I’d go back to stay with her again, in that valley that was beyond exquisite.
Tonight we are settling into Banerigg, a B & B in Grasmere, overlooking the mere, in the outskirts of the village, just a quarter of a mile or so from Dove Cottage. This house too is wonderfully comfortable — and it has WiFi! We’ll be here for two nights; I’m hoping I will be restored enough to continue onward to Patterdale on Tuesday. I’ll be posting new photos tomorrow.