How to Survive the Lake District in Winter:
1) Take plenty of layers – if you think you got enough, you’re wrong
2) Take plenty of warm foods – with a way to cook them
3) Rub your boyfriend’s feet when he complains they are too cold – it shuts him up
Just before New Year, I wrote that I was in need of an adventure, that I really wanted a change of scenery, a break from the norm… well last weekend I got that change of scenery when the boyfriend and I headed north from our home in freezing Birmingham to the snowy mountainsides of Rydal in the Lake District, Cumbria.
As we made our exit from the motorway into the national park, I had a strong sense of coming home. Even though I was born and raised 183 miles away, my soul felt like it had been soothed as we made our way to where we were staying. The Lakes are most definitely my spiritual home; I can’t even put into words how much I love that place and I’ve only ever been 3 times! I remember on our very first date, the boyfriend asked me where my favourite place was and my answer was the Lickey Hills, a country park here in Birmingham that has some amazing views of the city; but back then I had never stepped foot in the Lakeland area, and now my answer is most certainly the Lake District.
On this particular trip as we were driving along, snow started to fall, making it feel all the more magical. We got to our final destination which had a very thick blanket of snow already and looked like a scene from Narnia; very different from the last time we stayed at this place in September 2010 when we stopped there overnight on a two day green laning adventure. This time round though, instead of pitching up a tent we stayed in an Eco Pod; this armadillo looking wooden hut. Like a tent, it didn’t have any special amenities; it was just a room to sleep in. It did have plug sockets, we noticed, but they weren’t connected to any power supply on the outside of the pod, so it was a good job we didn’t take anything electrical.
After setting up home for the weekend and wondering around the estate we were staying on, falling on my bum, taking in arty gardens, snow-capped views, and the final home of William Wordsworth at Rydal Mount (we didn’t go inside) and after having some dinner, we wondered down to a nearby pub called the Badger Bar where I was taught the basics of chess over a glass of jack and coke.
Back at the pod, the night was fff-freezing! We drank tea thinking it would warm us from the inside but it really didn’t. We woke up several times during the night, gutted that it wasn’t getting any lighter outside, and feeling very cold; the boyfriend more so as he didn’t have a liner for his sleeping bag like I did.
When Saturday morning did eventually show itself, we drove to nearby Ambleside because we had forgotten to buy bread, and you can’t have a bacon sandwich without the bread. We also brought an OS map for the area as the ones we had cut off where we actually wanted to walk. So with bacon sandwiches lining our stomachs and a map of our location to hand, we set off to walk around Rydal and Grasmere waters.
They were both pretty frozen solid, with only the water flowing between them untouched by ice. And with the amount of rocks and stones on the ice, it was pretty obvious many had attempted to break the surface; but that stuff weren’t moving. Nature provided lots of amazing sights and we eventually made our way, fall free, to Dove Cottage, the home of Wordsworth from December 1799 – May 1808.
It was truly brilliant to see where he lived when he wrote some of his best stuff, even if part of me was questioning how these curators knew that the stuff there did actually belong to the Wordsworth family. I was a little gutted that in order to preserve the house, the rooms had been painted, but patches were left of the original walls, so in my mind I tried to spread the original colours around the rooms and imagine what it was really like to live there; I even put my hand on the patch of original wall in William Wordsworth’s room, conjuring up images in my mind of him and his wife living there, squabbling about something maybe, wondering if he wrote anything in that room.
The experience of being there left me a little jealous if I’m to be entirely honest. He dedicated his whole life to writing, writing only when the fancy took him, not writing at all for the seven year period he was poet laureate, and as far as I am aware he didn’t have to work to earn money. There is no way that someone in this day and age could do what he did without becoming flat broke. Looking at his family tree, it seems he must’ve lived off his father’s money, he was a lawyer.
Coming away from Dove Cottage, somewhat anguished by my own non-writing career, the boyfriend and I headed back to the pod for some dinner; homemade chili which had been frozen before the trip and had finally thawed out enough for cooking. We headed straight back out though for a drive in order to dry and warm our feet on the truck’s blow heaters. Finding our way back to the Badger Bar, it was then we decided to come home early. Everything we had wanted to do we had actually done that day, and neither of us fancied spending another day walking through snow or wanted to spend more money on sightseeing and fuel for the car. We hadn’t planned to do anything on the Monday except come home; it seemed like a smart choice to leave on the Sunday, especially as I had planned to go to work on the Monday evening, not wanting to lose too much time. Coming home on the Sunday was starting to make sense.
So with the prospect of only one more cold night ahead of us instead of two, we hunkered down for sleep, adding more layers than we had done the night before; I even wrapped myself in a blanket before getting into my sleeping bag and liner, and the boyfriend decided to sleep in his coat. It was definitely a more comfortable night for me, I only woke once with cold feet, but the boyfriend suffered again with the cold. At the dawn, in my sleepy haze, I listened to him complaining of cold feet, so I wriggled about in my cocoon, freeing my arms, and sitting up, I rubbed his feet still encased in his sleeping bag, creating friction to try and warm them a little.
A few more bacon sandwiches later, we packed up our belongings and headed to reception to return the key to the pod and explain that we were leaving early. We then headed to the viewpoint we stopped at the night before on our drive, so we could actually see the view this time, and then we drove by Coniston water, taking in a bit more scenery before we began our long trudge Back to Birmingham.
Leaving my spiritual home and arriving at my actual home, I text my sister to let her know that I was back home safe and sound, and early, to which she replied that our granddad was definitely a part of me. Only once in his life did our granddad stay on holiday for as long as he and our grandmother had planned; every other time they left a day or two early because my granddad simply wanted to be in his own home.
I don’t care that we came home early though. We had our adventure and did what we wanted to do. And when people say that we were mad or crazy for sleeping in an un-insulated hut in the snow and cold temperatures of the Lake District, I feel somewhat pleased with myself for doing what many others wouldn’t even dream of doing; it makes me feel original and adventurous. It makes me feel like a free-spirit.