Posts Tagged ‘hill’

Hills, Lakes and Cakes

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

I am not an outdoorsy-type but I would like to be. I am amazed by people who go for long walks, have camping holidays and who own jackets that make that water-proofed swishing/crinkling sound. These people own boots that don’t matter if you walk through puddles and muddy ground, and their cheeks have a healthy red glow from outdoor activity. I want to be one of these people with their bright blue Northface jackets, fleecy beanies and thick socks. I want to go on long walks up hills, along rivers and through valleys even when it is raining and for it not to matter if I get saturated. It is freedom and adventure far beyond my usual explorations of museum galleries and city back streets. I think I will always want a clean toilet and warm shower (let’s not get too crazy) but getting back to nature looks like so much fun.

On Saturday I had a taste of this wild adventure when my cousin Les took me to the Lake District to walk up a hill. A one and a half hour drive north of Manchester, this area of England is a stunning collection of hills, lakes (although there is technically only one ‘lake’ in the Lake District – the rest are waters/meres/etc) and cute little towns with thriving tourism industries. As we left Manchester, it was, of course, raining. My mood suited the Mancunian cloud as my not-so-great week made me a not-so-great driving companion for poor Lesley. But as we drove further north both the rain and my mood lifted and soon we were surrounded by rolling hills, fluffy white clouds, golden sunshine and happy sheep. Happy sheep will always make a happy Jess. Always.

On the way we stopped at Low Sizergh Barn, an organic farm with a shop and tea room, for a cup of coffee. What would be the point of going to a tea room if you don’t sample the homemade cakes? Les and I each had a scone served with homemade jam and cream. As we sat stuffing our faces with large balls of dough, we could see into the cow milking room (the source of the cream we were happily consuming.) I think that if you can see where the fat originated from then it is good fat.

More cream? Why, yes please!

More cream? Why, yes please!

Re-energised, we continued on to the town of Grasmere where we parked the car, changed our shoes, donned our waterproof/windproof/mountain-lion-proof gear and prepared ourselves for the climb ahead. It would be tough. It would be gruelling. There was a chance we would not make it. A very, very small chance because it wasn’t a particularly large hill and there was no real danger involved.

Our aim was Silver How – a reasonably steep fell with an elevation of 359 metres. By this time the sun was shining, the wind had dropped and there were a few clouds around so it was perfect fell-climbing weather. One of the nicest aspects of the walk was the fact that for a large part we were heading up a rocky path that was also a small stream so I was able to put my second-hand hiking boots to the test as I tromped through flowing water. I could walk in water and mud without worrying about my shoes! Brilliant!

Les leads the way up the rocky path

Les leads the way up the rocky path

The views as we got higher were amazing – we were surrounded by other large hills, some of which had snow covered tops, and as we rose up above the town of Grasmere we could see down to the lake. We met other walkers along the way, exchanging nods, hellos and general good vibes. Everyone was happy to be walking up and down a hill, breathing fresh air and taking in the beautiful scenery.

We met a dog, too.

We met a dog, too.

After an hour and 15 minutes of walking we reached the summit of Silver How and were welcomed with a stunning 360 degree view of the Lake District. The hills, lakes, towns, snow, clouds and sky created a overwhelmingly beautiful display, demonstrating once again why so many painters have spent their time recording British landscapes. At the top the wind had increased and a small weather front was heading across the snow-covered Langdale hills. As the clouds passed alongside Silver How, the wind blew remnants of snow onto us and we sat at the top of our conquered fell with never ending views, patchy sunshine and snow falling on our waterproof jackets. The sound of snow on plastic hoods is fantastic. We were soon freezing and had wet bums from sitting on the soggy ground (jeans aren’t waterproof) so we headed back down the hill, eating our picnic lunch near the bottom.

Amazing views from Silver How.

Amazing views from Silver How.

After a brief exploration of Grasmere and a sample of their local gingerbread (wow.) we drove to Ambleside and to a café called Chesters where I had my second piece of cake for the day. A two-pieces-of-cake day is always a good day. Although I guess if you count the small gingerbread sample I had, then that’s a three-cake-day. My very large square of carrot cake was particularly good with large chunks of apple and walnut throughout and a marzipan carrot on the top. Delicious.

That's a big piece of carrot cake.

That’s a big piece of carrot cake.

While we sat and ate our afternoon tea, Les had the idea of visiting some of her friends who live in the area and we organised to meet them for dinner. We ate at a local pub in Ravenstonedale and went back to their house where Will showed me his vintage buses. They run a vintage coach hire company and take tours and rent out their beautiful classic coaches.

It was then time to drive back to Manchester and we arrived home just before midnight. It had been a long and adventurous day full of food, activity and good times. Being surrounded by the impressive hills and lakes of the Lake District and being out in nature reminded me of how small I am in the big picture and how there’s so much to see and do and explore in the world. Life’s little annoyances are just that – little and annoying. If you spend too much time worrying about the meaning of life, you will miss out on noticing the green-patchwork on grassy hills, the way in which  sunlight bounces off dampened ground, the sound of snow hitting plastic jacket hoods, and the wiggle of happy sheep bums.

On top of the world

On top of the world

Holiday Snaps

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

For anyone interested in seeing where I went and what I ate over Christmas and New Years, you can see my holiday photos on my Flickr site. Highlights include movies of crazy Dutch fireworks, a hill in Holland, and a GIANT spring roll.