Monday, 7 September 2009

Walkers Fell - a slippery night on Loughrigg

Grasmere Lake

Fell walkers are a hardy bunch. Early morning you spot them, dressed in waterproofs and hiking boots, with sticks and compasses and OS maps and bottled water dangling from hi-vis, insulated jackets. They're steady and sturdy. They're grizzled and dogged - hungry to conquer a 900-metre high mountain. They're a special breed, solid yet agile, built for the slips, slops and sludge of the slopes, pikes and peaks of the Lake District.

I am not a fell walker. My colleague Dan, who joined me on moonwalk number nine, is not a fell walker. We are fools. Brave fools but fools. Fools lucky to have our lives.

I should explain.

Dorothy Wordsworth wrote a diary while her brother William and his best mate Samuel Taylor Coleridge ("STC" to the staff at Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth's retreat-cum-gift shop) turned The Lakes into poetry. While William wander'd lonely, Dorothy told us about his dodgy stomach. And then gave descriptive accounts of her own rambles around the Lakes, often by moonlight.

So where better to research for a moonwalk on the moon in literature than the home of the Wordsworths?

My design colleague Dan joined the Lakes moonwalk. He insisted and I was glad to have the company. We'd load the weekend with walks - meeting the people of Dove Cottage in the process. But most importantly I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Dorothy and spark that feminine connection with the moon (in preparation for my planned moonwalk with a group of ladies in Cornwall in November). Plus, what could be more picturesque than the undulating hills and shimmering lakes under sunlight and moonlight? As Dorothy says in her Grasmere Journals,

A fine moonlight night. The beauty of the Moon was startling as it rose to us over Loughrigg Fell.


The moonlight shone only upon the village it did not eclipse the village lights & the sound of dancing & merriment came along the still air...

So on Friday we set off on our Wordsworthian adventure. We'd walk between towns and villages and fells and lakes, writing about what we saw, sketching here and there, and generally going a bit 19th century. All on foot of course. And, as it became clear, in the rain.

All began well. The coffin trail led us to Rydal Mount (as our cartoon map from lovely Carol and Celia, and scribbled map from Carrie in Dove Cottage promised). Over the road and Under Loughrigg appeared. Which led us to the Stepping Stones (no chance with the water rushing like this). Onwards to Ambleside - a lovely little town, which we grew to know after several trips through.

 Dan on Loughrigg Fell
And then things turned mushy.

Loughrigg Fell may only be 325 metres tall, but when you are being led by a cartoon map, have similar navigational skills to a crane fly, are tired and hungry and thirsty, and you're trying to find east to watch moonrise... And darkness cloaks your surroundings. And every step is into water or thick, gripping mud. And that enormous, black cloud begins to throw down its contents. Then, the whole experience turns a little more desperate.

It's then that you thank the guardian jogger for her directions. The couple going the wrong way for their mistake. And the full moon - oh beacon on this dark, dangerous night. As there, over Loughrigg Fell, the startlingly beautiful moon lit the scene, including Rydal Lake, and uncloaked the treachery of those balancing rocks, pools of deceptive depth and rogue sheep.

 When moonlight lit the village
Just four days. But four fantastic days. I mean I haven't even mentioned the near-slip into Grasmere Lake. The hidden waterfall. The open mouth of Loughrigg Quarry and the face in the rocks. The emergency Chinese takeaway. The pipes of the Butharlyp Howe (butterlip) hostel wedding. The queueing swan.

Let me leave you with this from Friday's Cockermouth Times & Star,

Busiest year for rescue teams

Mountain rescue teams across Cumbria are having one of their busiest years following a surge of calls from inexperienced walkers. Calls across the Lake District are up by 22 per cent thanks to more people taking holidays in Cumbria.

Keswick team leader Mark Hodgson says, "We've rescued people with mild hypothermia this August because they've gone out in nothing but a t-shirt. If you're up on the fells for a couple of hours it doesn't take long for the weather to change or for the temperature to drop."

Bet they forgot their cartoon maps as well as their trousers.

More of this adventure to follow next year in the book.


Sam said...

Certainly sounds exciting! I can't wait to read the book!

Rob Self-Pierson said...

Certainly was. If a little worrying when the rain set in.

Ah the book. Things may be happening...