There are few worries in life that be put right by pointing your car in the direction of the A591 heading towards Ambleside with Wanderlust by the Delays playing loudly on the car stereo.
An hour and a half after booking into our B & B, we are on top of Wansfell pike with a perfect view of the whole length of Windemere (spell-check suggests I replace this with Wonderbra) in front of us. It is a short sharp shock of a mountain, but a mountain nonetheless, one that tests the lungs and blows the cobwebs away. After devouring our ’emergency’ chocolate on top, we take the windy side down towards Nanny Lane and the village of Troutbeck, before looping back to Ambleside via Jenkins Crag.
Monday heralds a return to the Langdale Valley, for my money the most beautiful place in the Lakes. The forecast suggests wet and windy weather, but the gods are on our side. Instead of taking to the Pikes, we opt for the more sedate attractions that the valleys can offer: up and over the zig-zig track of Side Pike to the sanctuary of Blea Tarn, across marshy land to meet the Hartknot Pass, then through farmland to the magical setting of Slater’s Bridge. Dropping down through woodland and passing by quarries, we emerge in Great Langdale again at Chapel Stile and walk back in the direction of Dungeon Ghyll. The day would not have been complete without a statutory stop at Chesters at Skelwith Bridge where the array of cakes on offer made me panic into ordering carrot cake. It arrives, enormous! (I decide mine is better.) We sit outside, unhurried, the river rolling by. After managing to drag Matt into the shop, I find that I have lost him. He is on a bench, resting his weary feet. Later, dinner. We chose an early evening offer at Matthews Bistro where the service is unpretentious (the waiters are two northern blokes, dreaming of a night off to spend with their families) and the food honest: chicken liver pate followed by game pie, washed down by a bottle of Chilean Merlot.
Matt’s birthday: we are warned that the weather will not be as ordered. I have few principles in life but one of them is never to climb a mountain if I can’t see the top of it. By the time we have eaten breakfast, the top of Loughrigg Fell has emerged from the mist, and we decide that Grasmere is not an impossibility, even if we get drenched and have to catch the bus back. Halfway up the tarmac road leading to the fell, we find that we have to stop to take our cagoules off, already too hot. The pathways confusing, we head Northwest keeping Elterwater on our left and manage to find the trig-point. From there it is a steep drop down to Loughrigg Terrace and a loop of the lake to arrive at our lunch destination (more carrot cake). Although the sky looks threatening, we decide to chance it and take the coffin route back to Ambleside (literally the route that coffin bearers were forced to tread before a church was built in Ambleside). Miraculously, we stay dry. I fall asleep reading The Lacuna. Matt sits at the window to watch the arrival of a magnificent thunder storm. The evening sees a welcome return to Lucy’s (not to be missed – you will find it hiding in Middle Street): champagne on arrival, a bottle of Californian Zindanfel to follow, figs wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with blue cheese, venison on a bed of red cabbage cooked in port, sticky toffee pudding and a glass of muscat.
Wednesday: home. I do two lots of washing and get them on the washing line. It rains.