Reflecting on Loughrigg

Views make the climb worthwhile

At the risk of sounding super-spiritual, there really is something soul-uplifting about walking on the fells and hills. I love that feeling of pushing myself to the point of being uncomfortable; of having to really exert myself to get up the slopes; to have to struggle to reach the top. I like the thought of it all the evening before; something akin to fear, but not dread, more like excitement. ‘Will I make it? Am I going to make a fool of myself’ – it’s always there, that little bit of doubt. That whiny inner voice that tries to convince you that you can’t possibly do it – and the assertive voice that states firmly, ‘oh yes, I can! Why not me?’

The joy of reaching the top!

I like the packing of the rucksack – loading in my butties and my flapjack; maps, GPS thingy, apple, water, waterproofs, woollies, hat, Buff(believe me, there is such a thing!!); mat to sit on, banana, gaiters, spare socks, compass….the list seems endless, and the pushing down of ‘stuff’, the rearranging of it all – it’s all part of the excitement of preparation. I love waking up early, stoking up with a big breakfast, the chatter with friends as we wait to go, (‘Do we put waterproofs in rucksack or wear them for now? Do I need my middle layer on? Have I put sunscreen on’)  then nipping back inside for a last quick ‘widdle’ and then the setting off.  There we go! That’s us – off for the day to conquer a small mountain!

Coffee on the shores of Grasmere

So we set off from Rydal Hall that sunny morning in early May, led by Peter and Ann, an accomplished and experienced couple, with the gentlest of natures, lots of patience and a tangible love for walking. I picked their walk as much for them as for the fell we’d be climbing. They advised using sticks – well, Lou and I always use them anyway, if there’s any chance of a climb. We both have shot knees and, especially on the descent, feel the agony. I actually swear by them after doing the Oxfam Trail-Trek 3 years ago. They do take so much pressure off the legs and knees, and using your arms gives you a more rounded workout.

We’ve got to get up there!

The walk we did is around 8.5 miles, walking along the Coffin route as far as White Moss, then crossing the road to walk along the river linking Rydal with Grasmere, through Deerbolt Woods and along the beach of Grasmere. A gentle start, watching dogs splashing in the waters, chasing balls and generally reveling in the morning sunshine. The good weather had brought a few young families out and it was pleasant having mid-morning coffee and flapjack on the lake shore.

Coffee-time!

Pressing on, we started to climb, gently at first, but gradually becoming steeper and the heart starts pumping, as we look back on views of the lake below. It’s worth the exertion always to be able to capture that view.

Maggie takes a breather

The walk then continues to traverse above Grasmere and Rydal to Loughrigg Terrace, where we meet the turn-off to the steep ascent path up the Fell. Bracing ourselves, we proceed and for me, every step I take I’m defeating all the voices that have proclaimed what I can’t do and I’m boldly stepping into what I can and love doing. I’m nearly 60 and I’m bagging a Wainwright! It’s steep and it’s rough and the path is eroded in parts, and sometimes I’m on my hands and knees pulling myself up, but, after taking a few stops to catch my breath and take a photo (always a great excuse to have a breather!) I finally make it! I’m at the summit, 340m (about 1,300ft) above sea-level. We’re delighted, Lou and I, every climb is another shout to the wind, of “we can do it!”

Not our most glamorous selfie!

We don’t care much what we look like and that’s just as well, as we’re never really at our most glamorous on these occasions. We’re just happy to be alive and high up.

The joy of reaching the top!

Of course, after the exhilaration of climbing up, there’s the business of having to get down! So, we’re off again, on the descent, poles bearing the strain of the steepness. Then there’s those moments of looking back and seeing where we’ve been. We did that!

We actually climbed that hill. Lunch in the sunshine, when we’ve descended a couple of hundred feet feels well-deserved and most enjoyable. Fruit cake tastes amazing on a hill!

 

 

 

 

 

pennies in a tree stump
Back down by the river
home via the bridge
Wisteria
Wild garlic in grounds of Rydal

 

 

 

 

Sisters do Silver How!

Lucille on Silver How, with Grasmere and Rydal behind
Lucille on Silver How, with Grasmere and Rydal behind

My sister, Lou, started walking with me in 2012, when my hubby hurt his back and couldn’t come with me on a Walking Weekend to Keswick. (I go every year with a group from my previous church, All Saints in Marple). She’s 2 years younger than me, but back then had done very little walking and I was fitter – but only because I was training for an Oxfam Trailtrekker event. She came with me and did the Easy walk, but said it nearly killed her! Nevertheless, she wasn’t put off and caught the bug. By the following year, just walking an hour every day, she had raised her game and we could longer and tougher walks together.

This year, the weekend was based at Rydal Hall, in the Lake District. I love the place. We went up early on the Friday, before meeting up with the rest of the group and walked together up Silver How, one of the smaller hills at 325m above Grasmere. It was just over 3 miles, but it’s pretty steep at the top and the paths are rough. It can be done in a couple of hours, depending on your fitness and ability, but the views are just stunning, so it’s worth taking your time and enjoying looking out to the Langdales, Bowfell, Helm Crag, Steel Fell, Heron Pike and Fairfield if you can spot them. We had the best sort of weather for our walk – sunny with clear skies, but cool we weren’t hot and flustered as we walked.

Passing Alan Bank, which was Wordsworth’s temporary home and is now owned by the National Trust, we started off on a narrow lane, climbing quickly up what seemed like a dry river bed before emerging on to the open fellside. It was hard not to keep stopping and looking back – so beautiful with the green of early foliage so bright.

Looking down from climb up Silver How
Looking down from climb up Silver How
Looking back down to Grasmere
Looking back down to Grasmere

We then passed a deep gill on the right where there were masses of juniper bushes – they look like gorse at first. I bet in the late summer the scent of gin is fabulous!

Views as we climb Silver How
Juniper bushes in the Gill

The climb is pretty strenuous all the way and paths are narrow and stony – at one point we forded a river, which was dry on the day, but I should think is tricky after rains. On the other side of it, after a steep climb up a rocky hillside, the path widens goes across a plateau where the top of Silver How can be clearly seen. The last section is quite steep and very rubbly, with cairns marking the way. It’s fabulous when you reach the summit though – even though it was “blowing a hooley” when we got up there. We managed to keep our feet for the obligatory snap though – of course!

The Walking Reader on top of Silver How, Lake District

The Walking Reader on top of Silver How, Lake District

 

Lucille on Silver How, with Grasmere and Rydal behind
Lucille on Silver How, with Grasmere and Rydal behind

The views are so worth the aching legs! Coming down is, at times, hard going as it’s really steep and stony, but some of the way is made slightly easier with engineered steps – although these can become very tedious at times. As you can see, Lou was elated to be almost at the bottom of the slope! On the whole, a really great walk made all the more special due to the great weather and being in the company of my little sister!

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