Where does it go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear? – 4th April 1994

Hold on a minute while I catch my breath! We packed up our tents in the gentle rain of the morning and walked a little up the river, relieving ourselves at the top of the field. Even though it was damp and grey our hearts were filled with joy and we ran back to the car laughing and playing. This whole trip has been one big laugh so far.

We drove off through more windy mountain roads, past lakes and moors until we made major freeway and hop skipped out of Wales and back into England. Zoomed past more suburban sprawl and industrial wasteland till we made our exit. I was counting them down eagerly – Bronwyn reading the history of settlers in Britain – the surprise on her face when she looked up and I said it’s nearly time to leave the motorway!

Onwards and upwards we flew, weather still grey and wet but we gradually could make out figures of mountains in the distance. We came up to Lake Windermere and made the mistake of driving into the town. As it was Easter Sunday it was very busy. As we got down to the lake it was so grey there wasn’t really much to see so we, tired by now, thought about heading up towards Keswick.

We turned off up a road to a youth hostel to check it out but the guy in there was really miserable so we gave it a miss. We’d rather sleep in a wet tent than with someone begrudgingly putting us up. Well we drove on, balanced on roads with hundred foot drops to the side and stonewalls on the other, twisty, turny, up and over, round and across, until a long, long descent through a beautiful valley, still scenic despite the misty low-level cloud (it was probably high level – at one point we could see ourselves entering the clouds at one peak top).

Along more we drove into the picturesque village of Patterdale, shrouded by mountain ranges on every side. We stopped in the next village of Glenridding and looked for a B&B. Glenridding is right at one end of Ullswater (us not quite knowing how huge this lake was). Rain is pouring more steadily here and the wind was icy cold blowing down from snow topped Helvellyn and its icy brothers and sisters. No luck at the B&Bs so followed the sign up to a campsite. This site set on a farm with a river leading into Ullswater. We kind of grudgingly decided to stay here and we put the tent and left it to see if it would actually stop water coming in – we were quite prepared to sleep in the car this stage.

We set the tent up on a flat right next to the river – it was raging and roaring past, deafening and drowning out any other sound and it was only a small river no less than 6 foot wide in some places. We paid the chatty landowner – her thinking we were all brave and mad. We strolled upstream a way but soon returned hungry. Our tent still dry housed us as we cooked up soup and shared a beer. We packed up again and sat in the car as a hailstorm hit. The car was looking like our best option to sleep at this time.

Well, Broni went and tried to shower – stood naked waiting for hot water that didn’t arrive. Armpits clean she came back the a-shivering and we decided best course was the pub. The roaring fire warmed our cockles and revived our spirits and then to the hikers bar – a one room stonewall building that, would you believe, actually had Budweiser on draft! We played cards till tiredness took us and drove the 400 yards back to site.

Still raining I ran back and forth with drunken enthusiasm from our car to our still dry tent. Absolutely zonked we fell asleep worrying about flash floods, me with ears ringing with the deafening sound of water crashing by just precious feet away. Tucked up against my baby, rain still a-pouring, hail for all we knew. Sleepy sleep and mad dreams.

Wakey-wakey again and I spy snow outside our tent but we were so toasty warm and dry inside. We snuggled up bleary eyed and not wanting to face the weather. There was no wind and no sound of rain and I opened up the tent and looked out across a mountain whose top was not visible day before. Soon stirred, bright and bushy tailed, we packed up the tent in two minutes flat and packed it into the car – seconds before a ferocious downpour of hail, turning to snow and all melting away soon after landing.

We figured on doing the walk round Ullswater this morning but trembled at the prospects, looking up into sky, white with snow and hail. Took an age to get Broni out of the car and as she did, the hail stopped and we set off. Just yards further down the road sun spilled out over the mountaintops in the distance. We booked a B&B for that night and set off out of the village down by the road around the edge of Ullswater. As we did that, dark clouds disappeared and a beautiful azure sky made perfect silhouettes of the mountains and we stood in awe at this beautiful country.

We filled up our hearts and souls stood in the centre of this valley by a river, sunlight streaming forth and all the peaks visible with their snowy tops. The refreshing wind spurred us on in our walk and we trekked alongside the water. We decided to leave the trail in favour of a higher one and glad we did, as we saw some of the most beautiful sights ever, crossing spring waters trickling down across stone paths of old, up across marsh to a plateau of unparalleled beauty, two deer prancing across after careful study of our plastic covered bodies. This would have been a place to build a house – a sheltered plateau overlooking the mountains and lakes. Wow! And double wow!

We made our way back to the path down through more water and across slippery rocks– my new boots serving me well. On round the lake – not sure where we were. Up and over, walking, walking on and down past sheep a-wondering what we’re doing. Past waterfalls and streams and rivers, past people walking in other direction – not knowing what’s in store for them – kids in tow and all! Eventually reached Howtown and the pier for the steamer (diesel driven!) me skimming stones on the water – some 3 1/2 hours after we started. Like Bronwyn says about walking – you get time and space to think – not like the rush of humdrum life.

Got on the ferry sat up front windchill -1,000,000°! Bought hot chocolate – blown into my face but sat it out upfront with freezing fingers and looked across to where we’d walked this morning gone. Hail in the distance surprised us not but missed us we landed and ran up the road excited and laughing once again – our bodies alive with energy. We got the car and went to the B&B and warmed ourselves in our room – hanging out wet ten,t fly sheet and other wet clothes. Shower next and sweet hot water cleansing us of five days of sweat and dirt. Passion took over and quickly dispensed, dried and wrapped up in layers of cloth, loving each other deeply for our pleasures together, in body and spirit.

Drove to Keswick and checked out good shops. Bought a sleeping bag for anticipated sojourns into cold country in future (£90 pounds the less wealthy– but still happy) and an Indian restaurant and full meal for a change and we couldn’t stuff it all in but loved it, loved at all.

Back to Ullswater and B&B, our one-day home, to write this, ’til phone calls made and pub came beckoning and Budweiser on draft then back once again to sweet home rest, warmth and comfort overlooking lake and mountains, we eagerly await in the morning. Now though sleep beckons and we’ll dream good dreams that purge our old lost memories and welcome in these new.

By © The British Library Board, Public Domain,

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