Dani and I spent a delightful Valentine’s weekend surrounded by stunning views in the Lake District. We took the Sleeper Train to Carlisle, where Dani’s friend Dave generously picked us up at 5am to drive us to his home in Caldbeck, where everyone went back to sleep for a few hours. Then, Dave and his wife led us on a 5 mile ‘walk’ up Ullock Pike. The driving sleet and ‘mild’ (30-40mph) winds were a bit of a shock but certainly drove the sleep-deprivation-cobwebs away!
The plan was to carry on up Skiddaw, but the weather closed in as we reached the top of Ullock, and they decided to be kind to me. The views in the Lake District are phenomenal, except when the weather is poor, and that is frequent. I think we were pretty fortunate with the weather on our trip– a bit of sun, a bit of snow, a bit of rain, but for February, not too cold.
We had a good lunch and a mini-tour of Keswick (it’s too small for anything else!) and then relaxed back at Dave and Claire’s, enjoying a crackling fire, the company of our hosts and their three gregarious children, and a hearty dinner.
Saturday Dave gave us a lift to Grasmere, former home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and now the Wordsworth Trust. It’s a delightful, tiny village– you can walk from the Swan Inn at one end, through town and to the Trust in about 15 minutes. We stayed at Grasmere Buthyarlp (‘Butterlip’) Howe.
At the Trust, Andrew Forster, Literature Officer and a fellow Flambard Press poet, met us and we had a really interesting tour by one of the delightful interns, through Dove Cottage where Wordsworth used to live (usually with about 10 other people, from friends to family).
Before the event, Andrew hosted lunch at the Trust’s on-site restaurant, Villa Colombina, with Flambard’s editor, Will Mackie, poet Brian Johnstone, the editor of Arc Publications Tony Ward, and other associated friends and colleagues.
We carried on to the Reading Room, where Andrew introduced, to an audience of about fifteen people, the final event in the Inpress Series, ‘Resolution and Independence.’ Will talked about the history of Flambard Press, which was particularly interesting as I had not heard a lot of it before, and then I read from Darwin’s Microscope.
Then Tony spoke about Arc, and Brian read from his collection, The Book of Belongings. Tony himself began Arc 40 years ago, so it has a long and fascinating–and entertaining!–history. Brian has been organizing the famous Stanza Poetry Festival in Scotland for 30 years, so he too has much experience in the literary world. It was really interesting to meet them both.
Dani and I met up with Will later for dinner, and stumbled upon some live music at a local pub that turned out to be really enjoyable.
The next day we headed out early to climb ‘the Lion and the Lamb,’ as locals call it, or ‘Helm Crag.’ We made it back pretty early– most walkers were heading out as we headed in– but were glad, as we had some brilliant views for about an hour before the clouds moved in and the rain/snow began. (Whether it was rain or snow depended, of course, on how high up you were.) I completed the walk by going off the track slightly and stepping into a bog– scary for a second! You sink right in and don’t know how deep you’re going to fall. Dani pulled me out. It was all very romantic–and on Valentine’s day, too.
We enjoyed a rather massive lunch at a local tea shop, and then read until it was time to enjoy a remarkable 4-course dinner at the Grasmere Hotel. One of the things I love about hillwalking is that eating like this really is justifiable.
I love the hillwalking itself, too, of course– at least when I’m not wondering what the hell I’m doing on a windy peak with ice blowing in my face and why exactly Brits call it ‘walking’ when it’s really mountaineering and maybe I need crampons because it’s getting awfully icy and I’m not going to tell my mom about what I’m doing until after and why in God’s name do people like doing this??? But most of the time, I love it.
As a final note, we have fallen in love with Grasmere Gingerbread. At first bite, it was rather a ‘hmm, I’m not sure if I like this,’ surprise. Harder and chewier than I expected, but after a moment’s consideration, absolutely delicious. I’m afraid we didn’t buy enough!