Through Grisedale to Patterdale

May 7
I was up about 6:30, but with breakfast at 8:30, I just lay in bed and tried to catch up a bit on news and such. Erik was up before 7:30, and we both showered and did the packing: what goes in the big suitcase, what to pack on our backs. We were going to see our suitcases in two days, so were able to keep our packs pretty light. It was about this time that Erik noticed a print on our wall called “Troutbeck Postbox” – knowing that Troutbeck was where I ended up the day I got lost, he speculated that the staff was rubbing it in.
We had our breakfasts and finished packing up and headed out of the hotel in brilliant sunshine at 9:45. We went up towards the Co-op, and an old Australian fellow asked us if we knew the way. I told him that yes, I did. So he tagged along with us as we headed north out of town towards the A591, and past the Travellers’ Rest to the bridleway that heads up Tongue Gill. He stopped at the bottom, and we headed up. We chose the left path, and it was a pretty tough haul up to the stone wall just before Grisedale Tarn. The trail to St Sunday Crag diverged here. We were still geared up for a climb up Helvellyn and perhaps across the Striding Edge, but around here the clouds started to roll in on the tops of the peaks, and the wind whipped up again. Past the tarn, we had the path left to Dollywagon Pike and Helvellyn. We talked ourselves out of the attempt because of what the weather looked like – we thought we might even get our first rain.

So we stopped at the Brothers Parting Stone, where I got to tell Erik the story. It was getting cold enough that he put on his gloves and his new buff. From there, we started descending into the dale. We stopped for lunch at a little stream just before 1:00; I did the pigeon pose on the moss and had Erik take my picture. After a couple of miles, we started to see farms and buildings as we neared Patterdale. The trail brought us in just above the White Lion, so we had to stop in for a couple of pints. We then walked to the hostel where we checked in around 4:00. Showers made us feel human again.

We headed back to the White Lion for supper. Just outside, we saw Mark, the Cambridge carpenter. He was just leaving the pub. The wifi apparently did not reach to our end of the pub so once again we felt out of touch with people back home. But we chatted with a pair of women who were staying at he hostel, amd then a couple of guys who were doing some of the peaks. There again was that feeling of fellowship. We decided to go back to the hostel and test the wifi there. I finally got on, and am just trying to catch up on my blog posts. We are in the common room at the Patterdale hostel, overhearing some conversation in the dining area where Mark is talking to a young French woman and an English woman. He made it up to Helvellyn today, leaving from the hostel around 10:30 with a group of four who had done it before – otherwise, he said, he would have bailed.

As the evening winds down, Erik and I keep referring to the guide book and the map. Tomorrow is a heavy day, about 16 miles and with some significant climbing followed by the dreaded steep descent. We am for an early start, and hope not to get lost!

[As with the last few posts, I do not have all my photos on my iPad yet, so I will probably edit in a few days, or even after my return, in order to add appropriate pics.]

R & R (rest and reflection in Grasmere)

May 6

This was our rest day in Grasmere, so I awoke with two main goals: 1) find a cash machine, and 2) find some long pants at one of the many outdoor stores.

The guide book suggested that the Post Office was the only place in town where you could get cash. We knew where it was from the night before, so after breakfast (served 8:30-10:00 at the Dale Lodge) we headed straight there. The fellow in there said that we could only access British banks – when I suggested HSBC, he said to try it, but no go. He mentioned the Co-op as a place to do a credit card advance – not our preference. But we only had about £17 between us, so we headed in that direction. First, though, we went through a number of the outdoor stores, and I found some long pants for £14.99. Then, at the Co-op, right when we walked in there was an ATM, so we both got some cash out.

Erik was looking for some socks and a buff, so we went through the middle of town and into a number of other stores – he found both. We also stopped at the church so I could show Erik the Wordsworth family graves. We dropped off our purchases in our room, then went for a walk towards Ambleside that took us on the far side of Grasmere the lake, so we curved right around and headed back to town on the highway. It took us to Dove Cottage, where we stopped first for a light lunch of soup and sandwich. We did not go through the Cottage, but poked around the property. Erik found the “names on stone” in the garden.

After our walk, we first did a small bit of laundry each so we could try to get it dry before tomorrow morning. Then we went to the bar at our hotel, called Tweedie’s. We had a couple of beers (surprise!), and updated FaceBook and blog posts – sketchy wifi permitting. It was about now that I remembered why I keep my face clean-shaven: my beard itches! Oh, well. Erik got into a FB message exchange with Paul Gardner, and within about 20 minutes, Paul and Pauline had plans to meet us in Reeth to walk to Richmond with us! Look forward to that.

We stayed for dinner, both having fish and chips – nice big piece of fish. After heading back to our room, we watched a bit of TV, including the end of the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and then an episode of a cool reno show we get back home (much later, of course), and then something about mammoths in the UK. By then, I may have been dozing off.

On to Grasmere

May 5

Breakfast was not served at the Scafell until 8:00, so we reckoned we would get a later start today. It was a big buffet, with cereals and fruit, sliced meats and cheeses, and hot breakfast. I passed on the FEB in favour of scrambled egg with smoked salmon – why not?

I sent Deborah an email about banking, not expecting her to see it for hours since it was the middle of the night in Red Deer. When she answered a few minutes later, I thought I should FaceTime her while we had a wifi connection. We had a bit of a chat to catch up, so that was good.

Erik and I picked up our lunches and packed up, hitting the trail just before 10:00. Our path went north just a bit, then across a bridge onto a trail that paralleled the beck for a mile or so south to Stonethwaite (the third “-thwaite” in Borrowdale) where we turned slight left for a moderate but steady climb up the Green Gill toward Lining Crag. Beautiful views down the valley, as well as up where there were numerous waterfalls. Of course, sheep were all over the place. We met a couple from Portland and exchanged a few words before they took off past us.


As we got to the top of the valley, I could see the same topography as five years ago when Deborah saved us from getting lost: a line of drumlins going off to the right, but the trail going left up a steep climb parallel to a small beck. We hauled ourselves up and got to Lining Crag, where you could actually see things because it was so clear. An English couple was there, and we asked them to take our picture. Then it was across the boggy “saddle” to get over to Easedale for our walk into Grasmere. With much better visibility than in 2012, when the whole top was fogged in and only Emily’s keen eyes saved us, we made it to the edge of Easedale very easily.

When we got there, though, we took a bit of a wrong turn for 400 metres or so. Erik said, “hey, dad, if we are going down a valley, how come this trail is going UP?”, so we stopped, got out both the guide book and the Ordnance Survey map, and realized we had probably made too sharp a turn. So we re-traced our steps to the real trail, and started to head down again. It was a pretty long walk, with lots of stony trail and even a fair bit of boggy ground. Near the beginning of that part of the walk, we could see dozens of big black bags full of stone dropped beside the trail. I guess they are planning some repairs. As we rounded a curve, Erik said “is that Baz?” Sure enough, our new friend was sprawled on the grass beside the beck having some lunch, so we stopped and chatted for a few minutes. It turned out that he had walked in to the Riverside pub in Rosthwaite at 9:00 last night – just after we left! He was planning to camp somewhere outside town tonight, but his last words were “the Red Lion, in the town centre” – so we took that to be a signal of where he planned to be tonight.

We stopped for lunch near a stream crossing around 1:00. Continuing down the valley, we crossed a bridge and could see farms and other buildings that made it look as if we were nearing a town. Many more walkers were converging on the trails. We met another couple from Oregon – this time, it was Corvallis. We could see that we were approaching town, and we came through and wound around one corner and there was a sign to our hotel, the Dale Lodge. We checked in, and picked up our suitcases – this was our first “sherpa” stop – and then got a pint at Tweedie’s Bar (where I am as I write this) and took some selfies out in the garden – the sun was out most of today, so it was beautiful.

We each showered in a great shower, and then we started to walk around town to get our bearings. We found the post office, for example, which the guide book said was the only place in town with a cash point (ATM). It was closed now, but we figured to come back in the morning. Right around the corner was a small restaurant called Goody Blake (Wordsworth reference) and we decided to go in. Erik was buying tonight, and for some reason we both thought red meat sounded good. Erik had a rib-eye, and I tried the special: venison steak. A bottle of shiraz made for a very fine meal. We asked the server as we left where the Red Lion was. She said that it was no longer, but that it had reborn as the 1769 pub.

We knew where that was, so we headed there. Pretty busy, but no familiar faces. As 9:00 approached, we were expecting Baz to show up – Erik looked out the door and saw Mark, the carpenter from Cambridge! So we motioned to him and he sat with us and we talked about hiking for another two hours before calling it a night – Baz never did show up. Apparently, Mark will be at Patterdale when we arrive there in two nights.

An “Easy” Day?

As we sit here on Saturday in Tweedie’s bar in Grasmere, let me try to catch up. Between exhaustion and lack of internet connection, and perhaps the distraction of sampling the local brews, it is sometimes difficult to make a post on the day. I have hiking days three and four to narrate, and then maybe a few comments from Grasmere.

May 4

Erik and I both woke early at Black Sail, in preparation for the three courses of breakfast: toast, yogurt, and cereal at 7:00; porridge at 7:45; and cooked breakfast at 8:00. We partook of all three courses – in moderation, of course. We packed up, gave Rob our details for Osmotherley, and said our goodbyes to our three hostel-mates. It’s amazing how close you become on the trail, and so quickly. There is a given level of respect for just doing what we’re doing, and everyone shares their routes, their aches and pains, their missteps, their high points of the day.

After a mile or so along the river valley, we had to attack a climb along Loft Beck up past the Grey Knotts and over Honister Pass. Once up that one climb, the rest of today was a relatively easy walk. As we approached a working quarry, we could see our right turn down towards Honister slate mine and the trail got quite wide, like a gravel road.

As we got down to the slate mine visitor centre, which still mines some slate but does a lot of other stuff too, we stopped for a coffee and a pee. Right next door is the Honister Hause YHA, where we stayed in 2012 after being driven from Ennerdale Bridge. Erik and I were headed to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale, so we kept hiking down the hill into Seatoller, then through farms and forest through Longthwaite and on to the Scafell Inn in Rosthwaite by about 1:30. We checked in and then headed to the Riverside Pub for a pint. Wifi was only accessible in the lounge right near the reception area, so we had baths (shower was disappointing) and went to the lounge to catch up on news and communication. I finished my post for the day before and posted it from here, so I was a bit behind already.

As 6:00 approached, we went back to the pub to be ready for supper. All kinds of hikers started to come in – mostly older, many locals, some doing what we were. We half expected Baz to walk in, or someone else we had met on day one. Supper was a version of cassoulet with chorizo and Cumberland sausages – tasty, but I would have liked a second helping! Sticky toffee pudding helped fill in the gaps. We left the pub around 9:00 and went back to the lounge for a bit before turning in.

Grasmere to Patterdale

July 26

After breakfast, we set out of Grasmere headed for our next stop, Patterdale. It was our earliest start yet (8:45), and Deborah and the girls had their walking sticks to try out. I still had not bought detailed Ordnance Survey maps because our guide book, the one by Henry Stedman that everyone seemed to be carrying, was so good between its small maps and its descriptions that we felt we would not get lost, even though everyone warned us that we would.

Well, we almost got lost leaving Grasmere! Luckily, Deborah’s “second set of eyes” noted the proper exit from town, so we headed up the road, across, and into the fells. Of course, it was uphill.

On the long climb up to Tongue Gill, we met an American couple for the first time, and we sort of “leap-frogged” back and forth with them for the rest of the day. I think it was also this day when we met George, a pleasant young man from Sheffield.

As we moved up Grisedale Valley toward Grisedale Tarn, we passed the point known as The Brothers Parting Stone. Somehow, this was the most moving Wordsworth association I have yet come across. Legend has it that this stone is the point at which John and William said goodbye for the last time, as John was to drown in the wreck of the Abergavenny in 1805. Of course, now I want to check the historical record, but also the poems that William wrote after learning of his brother’s death – poems which, as I recall, he did not publish for some year after. Such a remote place – but such a fortunate find.

[Postscript August 19: I looked for the poem, and it is called Elegiac Verses: In Memory of My Brother, John Wordsworth, Commander of the E. I. Company’s Ship, The Earl Of Abergavenny, in which He Perished by Calamitous Shipwreck, Feb. 6th, 1805. (Wordsworth Elegiac Verses)

Wordsworth wrote the poem in 1805, but did not publish it until 1842. At that time, his note to the poem read thus: “Composed near the Mountain track, that leads from Grasmere through Grisdale Hawes, where it descends towards Patterdale.”

Shortly thereafter, in 1843, he told Isabella Fenwick “The point is two or three yards below the outlet of Grisedale Tarn, on a foot-road by which a horse may pass to Patterdale— a ridge of Helvellyn on the left, and the summit of Fairfield on the right.”

Although the entire seven-stanza poem is worth reading, this excerpt from the final stanza seems particularly fitting, having visited the stone:

“—Brother and friend, if verse of mine
Have power to make thy virtues known,
Here let a monumental Stone
Stand—sacred as a Shrine;
And to the few who pass this way,
Traveller or Shepherd, let it say,
Long as these mighty rocks endure,—
Oh do not Thou too fondly brood,
Although deserving of all good,
On any earthly hope, however pure!”]

At the end of the valley was a cabin for local hikers. It was locked – I suppose one had to get a key from the Ullswater Hiking Club or whatever it was.

We plugged on, up and down, into Patterdale. As we neared the village, we became sort of engulfed in a sheep drive. We could hear them first: whistles and barks across the beck as about six men and twice as many dogs moved dozens of sheep down the hill, through a narrow path, across a bridge, onto our path, and then on towards another field down the road. It was quite fun to watch, and the girls got a kick out of it.

We walked through Patterdale to the youth hostel. This one was a bit run-down, especially as compared to Grasmere. Deborah’s knee was bothering her more than ever. We walked to the White Lion (there’s one in every village!) for dinner. Behind us, there was a family, and the young girl was doing impressions of Americans. I stood up in mock horror and said “do I really sound like that?”, which mortified her and we did not hear another peep from her. Not that I was trying to do that; her parents laughed, and I think they knew I was joking. But I reckon my humour is lost on an 8-10-year-old.

After dinner, we all went to the hostel’s lounge. The girls played Jenga, and giggled and laughed, while Deborah and Steve checked Facebook and checked the next day’s hike.

A Day in Grasmere

July 25

Today was a pleasant planned rest day in Grasmere. Deborah put some laundry on after breakfast, and we waited for it to finish its cycle; meanwhile, Emily and Heeyeon went into town on their own. Within minutes, I got a text message: “Heeyeon found some good socks”.

Deborah and I walked to town, and the first store we could see when we got down the lane was a Jack Wolfskin outdoor store – which, of course, was where Heeyeon got her “good socks”. There were at least three more outdoor stores in Grasmere, which emphasized what an important point it is for walkers and other outdoorsy folks who want to experience the Lakes.

We went into another of the stores to get some walking sticks for Deborah. Her right knee had been getting tender on the walk in from Borrowdale, and she thought the sticks people had been using would help make her more stable on the ruthless up-and-down of the fells. We found a good deal of £12 a pair; we actually ended up buying another pair for the girls to use, one apiece.

Of course, I had to take Emily and Heeyeon to the Wordsworth graves behind St. Oswald’s church. It really is quite an impressive grouping: William and wife Mary, sister Dorothy on one side, favoured daughter Dora (Dorothy) and her husband Edward Quillinan on the other, and then brother John Wordsworth (drowned in shipwreck in 1805), and some of the Wordsworth children.

After a light lunch at a cafe right on the river Rothay, we walked up to Dove Cottage. Deborah and I decided we should take the girls through, even though they expressed no great interest, and both claimed they had never read any Wordsworth. It was one of those things that makes one wonder how we learn, or learn deeply, or whatever: learning seems a recursive activity, and surely one can lay a bit of groundwork by visiting these sites before reading the poetry? When Heeyeon and Emily are required to read, say, “Tintern Abbey”, perhaps they will remember something of their visit to and guided tour of Dove Cottage.

It was good to be reminded of much of the detail in the cottage, including who had visited (not only Coleridge, of course, but Sir Walter Scott, for instance), the number of people who lived in there (William, Mary, Dorothy, the first few children, a servant girl, and the occasional lodger), and so forth. Not to mention the well that William had dug.

Since we had a kitchen available at the hostel, we chose to make our own dinner tonight. Steve made penne rigate with ragu sauce, while drinking a couple of the local Sneck Lifter ales. We added a salad, and everyone filled up on comfort food this night.

A couple of hours of reading, writing journals, television, and it was time for bed.

Into the Heart of Wordsworth Country

July 24

Today, we got up, had breakfast, and set out for Grasmere. Because we had stayed at the hostel at Honister Pass, we had about two miles to walk to get to the start of the day’s walk. It started on a steep descent (oh, my toes!), then went back towards Rosthwaite.

After walking through some farm areas, we climbed up out of Borrowdale along Stonethwaite Beck, then Greenup Edge which we had to get out of by climbing a rock face, then up to an extremely boggy area where the fog rolled in but we still did not get lost, thanks to Emily and her keen eyesight finding all the cairns marking the way. After that, we walked along Easedale, and finally got out and headed down into Grasmere. A full day of walking, with more up and down on the rocky trails, and the boggy ground. There were some very nice views back down Borrowdale at the beginning of the day, but when the fog rolls in, it feels as if we are being cheated of what people come to the Lakes to see.

The hostel here in Grasmere was quite fancy. We checked in, ordered our evening meals so we would not have to walk another step, got our boots and other wet stuff to the drying room, and showered up.

Dinner was very good. After, I bought some internet time, so everyone wanted to check on something.

Tomorrow is a planned rest day in Grasmere. The main objective, I think, is to get some laundry done!