Friday, May 22, 2009

Walking on Sunshine despite the rain

It all began when I purchased a pair of Mizuno trail running shoes. And these shoes were made for travelling!
After arriving in London at 5:15 A.M. on Thursday morning and a 3 1/2 hour train ride up to the Lake District, followed by an absolutely terrifying taxi ride from the train station, I finally arrived at Laurel Cottage in the town of Bowness where I would begin and end my 3 day walking holiday.

On Friday morning, after a typical English breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast, I headed up the quaint street of Bowness into the village of Windermere.

And thus began Day 1 of my adventure: A 10.5 mile walk from Windermere to Grasmere

After about 30 minutes I arrived at Orrest Head for some fabulous views down on to the lake and village of Windermere. It was a rainy day, but even the lowsy weather couldn't cloud over the beauty of this piece of the world.

I was incredibly fortunate at this point in the trip to meet up with an older English couple walking to Ambleside, the half-way point of Day 1. After leaving Orrest Head there was no clear path whatsoever - just rolling hills, stone walls and lots and lots of sheep. They helped me navigate my way over stiles through these farms , and after 4 miles with these nice, helpful people I was becoming a bit more confident in my ability to understand the maps and directions.

Below is a view of Rylant Waters which leads to Grasmere, the home of Williams Wordsworth and where I was spending the night.

Before checking in to the guest house in Grasmere, I had the opportunity to tour Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's home.

It was great fun to meet some locals for an evening of Questions (their version of trivia night) at the pub in the Wordsworth Inn.
My view from the guest house in Grasmere was amazing!

Day 2: Grasmere to Coniston, 12.5 miles. After breakfast (same thing - eggs, toast, tomatoes and mushrooms), it was time to head up into the hills again.

And along sides of mountains:

At some point looking across the way I knew I was going to have to go up and over the mountain range to get to Coniston. Hmmmm...

And when I finally headed up and over, the views were again, AMAZING!

On the way back down, however, it started to get a little dicey. I took a picture of this charming stream (or "beck" as it is called in Cumbria). Shortly after snapping this photo, the beck lost it's charm and turned into what felt like a gorge to me as the path became very steep and rocky.

There also was NO sign of life at this point in the route. My directions told me I was supposed to come upon a minor road, but this is all I could see: Do you see any sign of a road????

As it turned out there WAS a road along side the wall in the distance and I was SO relieved when I saw a car drive by along that wall. Yes, civilization!! It literally was all down hill after that scarey moment.

Whenever I was walking through a wooded area, there were lovely patches of bluebells.

I was really pooped after Day 2 and was thrilled to reach my guest house in Coniston.

Day 3: Coniston to Sawrey - 9.5 miles
The morning walk out of Coniston was quite spiritual as church bells were ringing as I hiked up the hills. I couldn't help but start to sing (to myself as not to scare the sheep! ) a favorite hymn that brings me back to my high school days at Laurel School...."And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green." And believe me...there were lots of holy lambs too

The home of Beatrix Potter who left over 4.000 acres of land she purchased to the National Trust in order to preserve the beauty of the Lake District country sid

After visiting Beatrix's house and a quick lunch in Near Sawrey, I only had a few more miles of my walking adventure as I headed over to Lake Windermere where I would be taking a ferry back to Bowness, the beginning and end of my walking holiday.

Wild garlic was in full bloom this time of year and the smell was quite powerful when you walked through a batch.

And finally, waiting for the ferry to take me back to Laurel Cottage. I MADE IT! A magical and brilliant adventure indeed!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Walking Holiday in the Lake District

I'm off for a 3 day self-guided walking holiday to the Lake District in England, described as one of the most beautiful places in the world by Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Bronte. The self-guided aspect of the trip is a bit frightening considering my horrible sense of direction, but there should be many other travellers/walkers this time of year and eventually I'll get to my destination inn/guest house by the end of the day. The distances range from 9 - 12 miles. I'd actually love to run most of this mileage, but I'll have to be checking my maps frequently in order to make sure I'm on the right path or at least heading in the right direction.

While most of the reviews of the guest houses where I'll be staying were okay/good, I did come upon these two that concern me:

"We spent 2 nights at this lovely little guest house ( it used to be a grammar school) and its winding corridors and steep staircases, - I bet the chambermaids are fit - and really enjoyed it. The room (8) was quite small but we did not have cat in need of swinging so was not an issue."

or even worse...

"The worst decision we have made, after being shown to our room/box via the very floral stairway we could not believe our eyes. The bedding was about the same age of the cottage and had many stains and human hairs on it, the carpet was stained and worn and very unclean."

I may need to upgrade when I get there!

Here's another description of one of the houses where I'll be staying:

"In 1961 the house and its grounds were bequeathed to the Society of Friends (Quakers) to be held in trust and used as a place for Quakers and others to come for purposes of religious worship, for rest, for convalescence after illness and for other activities of a charitable nature."

I'm assuming that there won't be any sort of mini-fridge with a pinot grigio for me at the Quaker guest house, so I'm hoping there is a lovely tavern near by for some post-walk refreshments. I'll be humming " Tis the gift to be simple" on this leg of the trip!